Lack of sleep has become somewhat normalized in this modern day and age. Almost everyone leads a hectic lifestyle and sleep is often compromised. As a result, you end up feeling grumpy and lacking energy throughout the day. This becomes a vicious cycle that health experts believe is going to be detrimental to your health in the long run. There is no shortage of evidence that shows the long term effects of lack of sleep.
To help you understand the scope of this problem, here is a breakdown of the effects of constant sleep deprivation on the body.
How much sleep do you really need?
For most people, 8 hours of quality and uninterrupted sleep is needed for them to function properly. Some may need more, some a little less. The rule of thumb is to wake up the next morning feeling fresh and ready to jump off the bed and start the day. If you are still feeling tired and longing for a nap during the day, then you are likely not getting enough sleep.
So what happens if you don’t regularly get enough sleep?
Well, there’s a lot that could happen to your body. Here are the top ten long term effects of lack of sleep.
It disrupts your central nervous system
The central nervous system controls most functions of your mind and body; it is essentially the highway of your body. It comprises the brain, cerebellum, and the spinal cord, and has the broad functions of sensory input, information processing, and motor. Sleep is vital to keep all these parts working properly.
Sleep deprivation however, can disrupt how the body usually sends and processes information. This often results in feeling exhausted, groggy, grumpy, and decreases coordination, making you more susceptible to accidents.
It seriously affects one’s mental and emotional state, making them prone to mood swings, feel more impatient, and compromises their decision-making capabilities. And long term, this could lead to:
- Impulsive behavior
- Suicidal thoughts
Increases your risk of hypertension
The body needs sleep to regulate the hormones and other bodily functions. Getting less than six hours causes hormonal imbalance that leads to the increase of stress hormones. This results is an increase in high blood pressure, making you more susceptible to hypertension, inflammation, and more.
Increases your risk of heart attack and stroke
Lack of sleep disrupts the part of the process that keeps blood vessels and heart healthy, causing disorder in the circulatory system. This leads to inflammation and the formation of blood clots, whichn causeac heart attacks and strokes.
Sleep also plays a big role in the body’s natural ability to repair blood vessels and the heart.
It wreaks havoc on your immune system
The body uses sleep to produce protective and disease-fighting substances such as antibodies and cytokines. These are what fights invaders like bacteria and viruses. Sleep deprivation keeps your immune system from building up these defense forces in your body, making you more susceptible to illnesses.
Disrupts your endocrine system
Your body’s ability to produce hormones largely depends on sleep. Testosterone production, for example, requires at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Waking often through the night could interrupt this process.
For children and teenagers that require growth hormone production for growth and development, the hormone helps build muscle mass and repair tissues and cells.
Causes problems in the respiratory system
The relationship between the respiratory system and sleep goes both ways. During sleep, breathing disorders like Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) can cause sleep interruptions and lowers the quality of sleep. Subsequently, waking often throughout the night due to breathing problems can lead to further respiratory problems. Infections like common colds and flus tend to get worse when you are not getting enough sleep. In some cases, it may even develop into chronic lung illness.
It compromises the digestive system
Sleep disorder is a risk factor for becoming overweight and obese. As said earlier, sleep affects the body’s hormone production. This includes leptin and ghrelin, the hormones responsible for the feelings of hunger and fullness. The former tells your brain you have already had enough to eat, while the latter increases your appetite. By not getting enough sleep, this balance of these hormones becomes compromised. This explains nighttime snacking or overeating later in the night.
Lack of sleep also affects insulin production, which plays an important part in controlling blood sugar (glucose) level. When this is compromised, you may be more prone to develop obesity and mellitus.
It affects your skin
Not getting enough sleep will cause your eyes to puff and your skin to sallow. Dark circles, fine lines, and lacklustre skin can all be attributed to sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation causes the body to release cortisol, the stress hormones. An excessive amount of this hormone can lead to collagen breakdown on the skin. Collagen is the protein that keeps your skin healthy.
It affects fertility
Sleep deprivation does not only affect your sex drive, it can also cause devastating impact on people trying to conceive. This goes both for men and women.
Also, not getting enough sleep on a regular basis can cause testosterone and hormones that trigger ovulation to plummet.
Consequently, those who suffer from sleep apnoea disorder that leads to interrupted sleep will also have lower body’s testosterone levels (especially for men) and libido.
It can lead to psychiatric disorders
More and more research is showing the negative long term effects of lack of sleep, this includes symptoms associated with disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations. Insomnia also plays a huge role in depression and its symptoms.
Though some people can get used to the feeling that results from sleeping for only six hours (or less) a night, health experts always recommend getting enough quality sleep. If you feel you are struggling to sleep at night, stay asleep, or wake up in the morning feeling fresh and rejuvenated, then it would be best to seek help from professionals to get the proper diagnosis and treatment.