After missing out on a goodnight’s sleep, you may feel out of sorts the next day or two. But beyond the normal grogginess that a cup of coffee sometimes solves, your entire body feels the effects of sleep deprivation.
To be more specific, sleep deprivation is when your body does not consistently get the recommended 7-9 hours. Sleep deprivation can be caused by irregular or increased caffeine consumption, sleep apnea, insomnia, stress, or poor sleep habits (like staying up late to finish binge-watching a show). Insomnia is one of the leading causes as almost 50% of American adults experience some form of insomnia in their life.
When sleep deprived, your body doesn’t get a sufficient amount of time to heal itself, restore its chemical balance, and build new brain connections to assist memory retention. This results in a drastically lower quality of life and negatively affects the body’s internal systems.
When sleeping, your brain normally forms new pathways between nerve cells (neurons) that serve as new connections where new information can be stored. Not having sufficient time to produce neurons will make it harder to concentrate and learn new information. Additionally, it could affect your emotional state, making you more susceptible to mood swings, irritability, anxiety, and depression.
The immune system is in charge of protecting your body against harmful infections, bacteria, and viruses. During sleep, your immune system normally produces antibodies and cytokines, which are two substances that make up the main components of the immune system. Being sleep deprived reduces the amount of cytokines and antibodies, which weakens the immune system. This will make it much harder for the body to fight infections and it will take longer to recover from an infection.
During sleep, the hormone leptin is produced, which signals to the brain that you are full. Without sleep, leptin production goes down and ghrelin production increases. Ghrelin is a hormone that signals to your brain that you are hungry. This is why sleep deprivation can cause overeating and obesity, especially when combined with being too tired to exercise.
Sleep helps regulate the key cardiovascular processes like blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels. Sleep deprivation can adversely affect these processes and lead to an increased risk of heart attack, stroke, and other cardiovascular diseases.
Beyond the reasons above, a lack of sleep can reduce life span and quality of life. So, how can this be prevented? Here a few tips to help your body achieve 7-9 hours of sleep every night:
- Create a sleep schedule so that your body gets comfortable going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. And stick to it!
- If you wake up, don’t look at the clock—you’ll spend the next hour making a mental calculation of how much time you have left to sleep
- Try not to take naps, especially during the day
- Avoid caffeine a few hours before bedtime (or past noon, if you can)
- Try to reduce alcohol consumption
- Exercise regularly, but not in the evening hours or before going to bed
- Don’t stare at a screen (phone, TV, or computer) an hour before bedtime. Instead try integrating relaxing activities like meditating, journaling, or reading into your bedtime routine.
If you still have trouble getting at least 7 hours of sleep every night, talk to a doctor to see if there is an underlying condition that is causing your sleep deprivation.
The material provided is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to replace the diagnosis or treatment by a qualified healthcare professional. You should always seek medical advice before consuming any new medicines or supplements.