The Bad News about Sleep Deprivation

It seems that people are starting to sleep less and less.

In the early 1900’s, people slept 9 hours a night on average; now they’re getting less than 7 hours. We have so many modern conveniences that are supposed to save us time, but really they just give us more to do.

Before you accept not sleeping enough as an inevitable way of life, consider the harm that sleep deprivation could be having on your body.

Physical effects

Sleep DeprivedThe obvious short terms effects of sleep deprivation include exhaustion, fatigue, and a general lack of energy, but there are also more serious physical consequences from not sleeping enough. Sleep not only recharges and repairs your brain, it’s also necessary for repairs at your personal “body shop.”

Here are some other physical problems that can come up when you’re not getting enough sleep:

  • Inability to properly process glucose, which can lead to high blood sugar levels and other symptoms of type II diabetes. This also causes glucose to be stored as fat, which can lead to weight gain;
  • Increased symptoms of aging;
  • Core body temperature is lowered, which can impair proper functioning;
  • Irregular heart beat.

Mental effects

No matter what you’re doing, your brain is working all day long. It’s spending time inputting, processing, and outputting information. Even if you don’t think you get much done during the day, your brain does a lot of work. That’s why it’s important that it has time to rest and recharge.

Here are just a few of the mental effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Less control over speech, i.e. slurring, stuttering, speaking in monotone, and choosing repetitive words and clichés. Scientists assume this occurs because the speech center of the brain actually shuts down and another, less capable part, must take over.
  • While short term memory may be improved, there is a decreased ability to access older memories and convert long term to short term memory. It is almost impossible to learn a new skill;
  • Decreased creativity, especially when it comes to problem solving. Sleep deprived people tend to be slower and less accurate when solving problems;
  • Hallucinations and even temporary insanity can occur from a lack of REM sleep;
  • Decreased judgment abilities and reaction time. Sleep deprivation is comparable to alcohol intoxication when it comes to driving ability. (Did you know you can get a DUI ticket for driving when you’re sleep-deprived? True.)

Emotional effects

While we tend to focus on the physical and mental symptoms of sleep deprivation, there are also emotional effects, which can certainly take a toll on your personal relationships and safety.

Some emotional problems associated with sleep deprivation are:

  • Increased emotional stress and anxiety;
  • A more pessimistic attitude;
  • Extreme sadness and even depression;
  • Extreme anger. Sleep deprivation has actually been indicated to be one of the major causes of road rage.

It’s important to remember that not everyone needs the same amount of sleep. You should try to get enough sleep to make yourself feel rested; this may mean getting more than 8 hours.

If you’re getting a lot of sleep and not feeling rested, you may have a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea, and should see your doctor or health care professional.

While it may be difficult to fit a good night’s sleep into your schedule, it will not only make you feel better, it will also make you more efficient in your waking hours.

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