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Sleep Loss – Impact on Your Body & Mind
In a society where productivity and hard work are valued much, many of us find ourselves ready to lose some sleep. While it is easy to view the loss of a few hours of sleep as no big deal, the lost hours build up and form a sleep debt.
After several days of sleep loss, we get upset over trivial matters and see things that are not there. We are experiencing sleep deprivation.
Our bodies give us plenty of signals when we're tired. But some of us are so used to being sleep deprived that we remain oblivious to how impaired we really are. Sleep loss is not something you can pay off in a weekend; it might take weeks of building up restorative sleep habits.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
- You are in a loud engaging place like a club and you are yawning every two minutes.
- You day-dream about your bed.
- You constantly feel like you are on the brink of getting a cold.
- Everything and everyone irritates you.
- You keep losing things.
- You misplace everything.
- You keep hallucinating.
- You have become clumsy.
- You are more emotional than usual.
- Your attention span has severely diminished.
- Your ability to converse with people is barely existent.
- Everyone keeps telling you that you need more sleep. Sometimes everyone is right.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Poor quality of sleep can lead to accidents and injuries on the job. In one study, workers who complained about excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents, particularly repeated work accidents. They also had more sick days per accident.
Makes you dumb
Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently.
Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for heart disease, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, etc. According to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia – a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep – also have another health condition.
No sex drive
Sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension could be the reasons.
Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.
Aging of skin
Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. But it turns out that chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
Makes you forgetful
Studies have determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.
Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.
Lack of sleep can affect our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make sound judgments because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them wisely. If you work in a profession where it is important to be able to judge your level of functioning, this can be a big problem.