It’s becoming more of the norm for many of us to get insufficient sleep. Stress, poor sleeping and lifestyle habits, and technology can all contribute to a lack of sleep. This can have a domino effect on our mental and physical well-being. This is because sleep is vital for so many of our bodily functions. Experiencing sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on our health. You may already be familiar with some of the effects after missing a night or two of decent sleep. You may feel groggier or more irritable than usual, for example. However, some of the other side effects of sleep deprivation may surprise you.
But first, what is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is when we don’t get enough sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, healthy adults should get somewhere between 7 and 9 hours of sleep every night. Note that there is a difference between acute and chronic sleep deprivation. Acute sleep deprivation is when we miss a couple nights of adequate sleep, whereas chronic sleep deprivation is more of a long-term issue.
It’s also important to bear in mind that sleep deprivation is not the only issue impacting our sleep. The Sleep Foundation also distinguishes between sleep deprivation and sleep deficiency. Sleep deficiency refers also to the quality of sleep, rather than just focusing on the number of hours spent asleep. So, for example, if you sleep for 9 hours but wake up constantly, this can still lead to sleep deficiency because the quality of your sleep is negatively impacted.
What can cause sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can be caused by a number of factors including:
- Increased stress
- Poor sleep hygiene
- Lifestyle factors including excessive caffeine or alcohol intake
- Voluntary lifestyle choice for example, staying up late to watch TV or read
- Technology - using electronic devices late at night
- Environmental factors like noise and light
- Work obligations such as shift work
- Medical conditions like sleep apnea
Some of us may have become so accustomed to the factors that cause sleep deprivation that we may be unaware of their effects. Read on to discover 8 side effects of sleep deprivation that should not be ignored.
Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Our Mental and Cognitive Wellbeing
There is so much that goes on inside our heads while we are asleep. In fact, the time we spend sleeping is absolutely crucial for our brains. It’s when we are asleep that the human brain creates connections that help us process and store new information. When our brain is deprived of this time, we may struggle to remember the new things that we learned or experienced during the day.
This may be a side effect of sleep deprivation that you are already familiar with. Feeling unfocused after a poor night’s sleep is a common side effect of sleep deprivation. This is because of the important role sleep plays for our cognitive function. But before you reach for that second cup of coffee, remember that drinking too much caffeine may impair your sleep later on. On some days it may be worth skipping that extra cup even if it means feeling a little bit groggier. You may find it easier to fall asleep at night if you do.
Not only can sleep deprivation cause you to feel cranky or irritable but chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to long-term mood disorders like anxiety or depression. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the majority of people with depression report having sleeping problems. While depression may be a cause of sleep deprivation, having insufficient sleep can also worsen the symptoms of depression.
If you believe depression is having a severe impact on your sleeping patterns, it is advisable to seek medical advice from a healthcare professional.
Lack of Sleep and Our Physical Well-being
When we don’t get enough sleep it has a significant impact on our immune health. This is because sleep and our circadian rhythm can influence our immune function. According to one 2012 study, prolonged periods of sleep deprivation increased the chances of having a stress response in the body which may negatively impact immune responses. Getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each night can do wonders for supporting a healthy and balanced immune system.
Sleep deprivation may lead to some people gaining weight. Recent studies have suggested that sleep plays an important role in regulating the hormones and chemicals responsible for regulating our appetite. Research suggests that those who experience sleep deprivation may have lower levels of leptin. This is the chemical that causes feelings of fullness. On the other hand, they may have higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which stimulates hunger.
The amount of sleep we get may also impact our food choices. One 2014 study, indicates that less sleep may lead to increased cravings for foods that are high in calories and carbohydrates. It may also impact the way our metabolism works, which can have an impact on weight management.
Increased risk of disease
According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of developing certain medical conditions. This includes heart disease, high blood pressure, and type 2 diabetes. All the more reason to make sure you’re doing everything you can not to miss out on that shuteye.
Low Sex Drive
Research also suggests that a prolonged lack of sleep can lower the libido of both men and women. Recent studies indicate that there may be a connection between getting more hours of sleep and an increased sex drive. Increasingly more research is also being conducted into the possible connection between sleep apnea and lower testosterone levels in men, which may also result in a lower libido.
It may not be a surprise that you don’t feel your sharpest if you’re feeling sleep deprived. But did you know that this can also cause more accidents? Experiencing extra drowsiness and sleepiness during the day may increase the chances of motor vehicle or other types of accidents. This may be because being in a state of sleep deprivation reduces our ability to respond to stimuli and may impair our visual senses, a 2017 study suggests.
Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation: The Bottom Line
Considering the possible negative side effects of both short and long-term sleep deprivation, it’s no wonder that sleep is becoming increasingly thought of as the third ‘pillar of health’, in addition to nutrition and exercise. If you feel that you are consistently missing out on getting enough sleep, you might want to consider making some changes to your sleep and lifestyle habits. Adopting a regular exercise routine, focusing on proper nutrition, and improving your sleep environment may help you improve your sleeping habits.
Some people also find that using natural supplements such as CBD helps them with sleeplessness, by inducing feelings of calm and relaxation. Check out our premium CBD range here.
All the best,