What Really Happens Inside Your Sleep-deprived Body

May 2, 2016

Never underestimate the power of a good night’s sleep. It’s more than just something you had to do because everybody else does. People who say “sleeping is for the weak” are just out of their minds. A restful, adequate sleep is your body’s best friend.

Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to have trouble sleeping. In America, a Gallup poll found that 40% sleep for six hours or less, which is way less than the recommended sleep. It seems lack of sleep is becoming the new normal. If you must know, in the 1940s, 84% slept so much more.

Here’s another problem: even if the majority gets the recommended hours of sleep, the struggle to get better sleep quality is evident. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 45% of Americans say that poor, disrupted sleep is affecting their daily activities.

Waking up groggy in the morning is just one of the disturbing effects of lack of sleep. The consequences of sleep deprivation are dire as it affects many aspects of your general health and well-being. Let’s break them down here.

What were you thinking? 

sleep loss
Photo courtesy of David Goehring via Flickr, Creative Commons

If you are suffering from sleep loss, you probably don’t know what you are thinking. Your cognition suffers as a result of lack of sleep. It dumbs you down and gives you trouble processing information and making decisions. When your cognitive processes are compromised, your attention, alertness, reasoning, and problem-solving skills are impaired, magnifying the link between sleep and productivity.

If you have a really important meeting, an exam, or an event the next day, make sure to sleep well or your mind won’t be able to function properly.

Over-all health deteriorates

Sleep loss has the same effect on your body as illness or physical stress, which explains why lack of sleep increases the risks for certain chronic diseases. Reuters cited how lack of sleep are linked to risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. People who get less than six hours of sleep have higher odds at getting these conditions and stroke.

Do you remember?

During the night, various sleep cycles consolidate memories in the mind. American and French researchers call these cycles “sharp wave ripples,” which occur mostly during deep levels of sleep. While your body rests, your brain is busy processing information and forming memories, whether fact-based, episodic or instructional such as riding a bike. This means that if you don’t get enough sleep, you will find it hard to remember what you learned or experienced during the day.

Reaction slows down

Reaction slows down

Slower reflexes and reaction time is what happens if you don’t get enough sleep. Notice that when you lack sleep, you don’t react as normally as you would. When sleepiness creeps in, stay out of the wheel and don’t drive as much as possible. Make sure you are not crossing the street alone. Avoid dangerous activities such as using power tools.

Emotions run high

One of the effects of sleep deprivation on the body is that it kicks emotions into high gear. When you weren’t able to sleep well the night before, getting into arguments are likely and chances are that you will be at fault for blowing things out of proportion.

Sleep deprivation causes disconnect between two brain centers responsible for our emotions. The amygdala controls basic emotions while the frontal cortex, which needs sleep to function properly, regulates them. This means if you lack sleep, your emotional center goes wild.

Depression creeps in

Depression creeps in

Sleep loss and depression feed on each other. When you’re feeling down, you find it hard to sleep and when you lack sleep, you aggravate symptoms of depression.

Lack of sleep doesn’t really cause depression but it contributes to it over time. Insomnia, the most common sleep order, has the strongest link to depression. Insomnia is also often one of its symptoms. A restful sleep puts the body in a restorative state, so much so that when it is disrupted, tension and irritability increases. Eventually, this will result in mood-related disorders.

Judgment is impaired

Before you make crucial decisions such as quitting your job, buying a car or breaking up with your partner, make sure that you had enough sleep. Sleep deprivation impairs your judgment and can affect your interpretation of events. With your mind a little blurry, you will not be able to assess situations accurately and make sound judgments.

You gain weight

Eurekalert suggested that if you lack 30 minutes of sleep per weekday, you are increasing your risk of being obese and getting diabetes.

So what does sleep have to do with your waistline? Sleep specialist Michael Breus explains that if you are sleep deprived, your stress hormones called cortisol increases, which also drives your appetite. Your other hormones also tend to go crazy. Ghrelin, that hormone that tells you are hungry gets a boost, while leptin, the hormone that tells you you’ve consumed enough, decreases.

Metabolism also slows down as one of the hidden effects of sleep deprivation. This is because your body is fooled into thinking that it needs to maintain its resources and want more fuel. So, Breus’ advice to people trying to manage their weight: “sleep is probably the most important thing a person can do if they’re ready to start a diet and lose weight.”

Skin looks dull

 

Skin looks dull
Photo courtesy of dualdflipflop via Pixabay, Creative Commons

It is easy to spot a person who lacks sleep. Is her skin radiant and glowing? Dull-looking skin is among the physical signs of sleep deprivation. You know, puffy eyes and pale skin. The culprit is the stress hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen that keeps skin smooth and elastic.

Another fact about lack of sleep is that too little human growth hormone is released. This hormone is what people need to increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones. Sleep is like part of normal tissue repair.

Drive for making love is knocked down

If you want a rockin’ love life, try to get better sleep. The Telegraph revealed that men with poor sleeping habits have lower levels of testosterone, which means lack of sex drive. This goes for women, too, since a good night’s sleep enhances a woman’s libido. Lower libidos mean less interest in sex.

There are people who wear sleep loss like a badge of honor. Functioning on less sleep seems like a thing that people yearn for in this fast-paced world. But if you think you are at your best when you are sleep-deprived, listen to your body telling you you’re wrong. Your body naturally needs to recharge and sleep. Make sure that you give it what it needs.