‘Sleep’, as easy going as it may sound, is as essential for our body’s well being, as is water and food. As is popularly thought to be, sleep is not a dormant, inert part of our everyday lives. On the contrary, the effects of sleep deprivation can be far more devastating than envisaged. There are two types of this deprivation: chronic sleep deprivation (long term insomnia) and acute sleep deprivation (short term insomnia). In this article, we look at the many possible health-related and other negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation.
Why is sleep important?
While our body is said to be ‘sleeping’, our brain is very much awake and active during the process. It is also said that our body is being ‘repaired’ during sleep and that is why it forms an essential part of our routine.
Sleep truly also helps in enhancing one’s beauty as the entire repair process of cells is done during deep sleep. Not only beauty, effects of sleep deprivation is also seen in reduced control of emotions, social interactions and decision making process apart from impaired learning and reduced memory.
How much sleep do you need?
There are many factors on which the amount of sleep every individual needs depends.
One of the factors is age. While infants need about 16 hours of sleep every day and young adults about 9 hours, most average adults need about 7 to 8 hours of daily restful sleep. There are some people who claim to want as little as 5 hours and as much as 10 hours of sleep each day as well.
Getting too little sleep or too much sleep is also an indication of a sleep disorder and should be talked about with an expert and be treated as soon as possible.
Negative effects of chronic sleep deprivation
With the kind of busy lives we lead, burning the candle at both ends, it is really no wonder that so many us are sleep deprived. Effects of sleep deprivation, according to research, are dangerous. It is worse than even intoxication, magnifying the effects of alcohol on one’s body. No amount of caffeine or any other stimulant can triumph over the effects of sleep deprivation in an individual.
There are as many as 70 types of sleep disorders but the most common are Insomnia, Restless Leg Syndrome, Sleep Apnea and Narcolepsy. Effects of sleep deprivation are lifelong and if not diagnosed and treated on time may cause severe lapses in a person’s everyday life; affecting his work, social and interpersonal relationships and mental and physical well being.
Sleep deprivation impacts on our look and feel
The first noticeable thing about not getting enough sleep may be the proverbial dark circles under the eyes, puffy or bloodshot eyes.
The skin can tell the story of a person not getting enough sleep.
Hand tremors, muscle pain, headaches, feeling extra cold, irritable and experiencing daytime sleepiness are all the side effects of being sleep deprived.
How chronic sleep deprivation affects our health
In recent times, much research has been done on the subject of how lack of sleep impairs health and wellbeing. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal imbalance and consequently many other problems.
Sleep deprivation impairs immunity apart from affecting longevity. Lack of proper sleep can negatively impact healing and immune systems of the body because it is when the body is at rest that it can repair and renew itself. It has an extremely bad impact on our nervous system apart from impairing our memory and any physical performances. The release of growth hormones in young children is the result of a deep sleep and the lack of it means impaired growth.
Lack of sleep can also suppress the growth hormone which can be detrimental to children and adults as well.
Sleep deprivation causes asthma attacks, epileptic attacks, and digestive and heart problems apart from severe mental and emotional problems. Risk of heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, fibromyalgia and even depression rises due to lack of quality sleep. Those who are chronically short of sleep tend to put on weight. They are also more likely to be irritable and may also have lapses of memory and suffer confusion.
The risk of several kinds of mental illness is seen to rise due to inadequate quality rest. Studies have shown that mental illnesses such as bipolar disorder, psychosis and conditions such as seasonal affective disorder are more common among the chronically sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation effects on work productivity and performance
You may be sleeping less so you can do more work, but this is actually counterproductive because sleep deprivation impacts productivity negatively.
Sleep deprivation is known to adversely affect cognitive function and the brain. Attention and concentration become problems and a person’s overall productivity reduces. Daytime sleepiness and memory lapses add to the problem and further lower productivity.
Among children, sleep deprivation can mean more frequent temper tantrums, poor academic performance and difficultly learning and retaining material.
Sleep deprivation affects relationships
Chronic sleep deprivation can impact a partner’s sleep negatively leading to conflict, moodiness, separate bedrooms and a lack of intimacy, thereby lowering the overall quality of life.
Severe sleep deprivation may also lead to a psychotic paranoia state, hyperactivity and agitation and hallucinations in otherwise seemingly healthy individuals.