The Harmful effects of Sleep Deprivation

Studies show that up to 20% of people globally are sleep deprived! This rises to a third of the population in countries like America. Those working in healthcare, transportation and warehouse industries are reported to be at most risk of sleep deprivation.

Some of the clear signs that you may be sleep deprived include:

  • Daytime fatigue / exhaustion
  • Irritability
  • Yawning
  • Loss of motivation

We all know how groggy and exhausted we feel after a night of tossing and turning in bed without any sleep. But how does a lack of sleep actually affect our bodies and minds?

1. Mood Disorders

The short term effects of not getting enough sleep include irritability and a loss of motivation. Over a longer period of time, these can manifest into mood disorders like depression.

While sleep is not the sole reason why someone may be depressed, it can certainly be a large contributing factor. Just as a lack of sleep can add to the chances of you being depressed, it can also be a symptom of depression.

2. Weight Gain

When sleep deprivation becomes habitual, our bodies have a higher level of the stress hormone cortisol, leaving us feeling agitated, stressed and a lot more likely to give in to our unhealthy food cravings. Essentially, your body tries to produce seratonin (a hormone) to calm you down when stressed and the easiest way to do that is to eat high-fat and high-carb foods.

Realistically, how likely are you to get up at 7am for a gym session before work if you’ve had 3 hours of sleep? The exhaustion and lack of motivation lead to more and more missed gym sessions, fitness classes and thus the numbers on the scale keep rising.

Finally, sleep deprivation hinders your body’s ability to break down sugars. Losing out on sleep can reduce fat cells’ ability to deal with insulin by 30%. The consequence of this is a higher blood sugar level.

3. Reduced Productivity

According to the Institute of Medical Research, over a million injuries a year are caused by preventable medical errors, many of them thought to be the result of sleep deprivation. With doctors sometimes expected to work shifts of 24-36 hours with little or no sleep, it is hardly surprising that mistakes are sometimes made. This is just one example of how inadequate sleep can affect your work.

Studies dating as far back as the 1930s show the negative effects of sleep deprivation on cognitive function, our mood and performance. Concentration, memory, mathematical capacity, and logical reasoning are all parts of cognitive function which are compromised by a lack of sleep.

4. Long-Term Health Consequences

While we’ve all experienced the tiredness after a bad nights sleep, there are also many long-term health consequences of sleep deprivation you should be aware of:

  • High-blood pressure can be caused after just one night of inadequate sleep. Over a long period of time habitual sleep deprivation is linked to cardiovascular diseases and stroke.
  • Insufficient sleep can also be a contributing factor to type 2 diabetes by affecting the way the body processes glucose. Numerous studies show that adults who regularly lose out on sleep have a much higher chance of developing diabetes.
  • You age faster if you don’t sleep right. When you sleep, your body repairs itself, strengthening bones and thickening your skin. Without adequate sleep, the process of ageing speeds up.

Considering the adverse effects on our health, it’s not surprising that sleep deprivation can make you 12% more likely to die prematurely than someone who gets 8 hours of sleep each night according to the NHS.

Judging by these facts, it’s hard to understand why so many of us would deny ourselves the luxury of sleep. Now you know the importance of getting that shuteye each night!


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