Whether you are sleep deprived due to insomnia or choice, sleep deprivation effects begin to manifest in as little as one day. It takes surprisingly small amounts of sleep loss to affect you physically, mentally and socially.
Getting daily adequate amounts of quality sleep is as necessary as breathing air, drinking water and eating healthy food. Without it, your health and well-being will suffer.
Some folks cheat themselves out of much needed rest because they try to squeeze extra hours out of the day. Others suffer from not enough sleep due to insomnia, even when they do their best.
Either way, it does not take long for sleep deprivation effects to manifest in your mind and body. You may not even be aware of the changes, believing all is well and you are the exception to the rule.
In truth, even one poor night of sleep affects you physically and mentally - and not for the better.
Speaking personally, after enduring three consecutive sleep deprived nights, the connection between health, well-being and sleep becomes very obvious. I feel crabby, dazed and unable to cope and function properly. It feels like my mind is separate from my body. And those are only the sleep deprivation effects I am aware of.
Stress and sleep can affect each other in positive and negative ways.
Not getting enough sleep affects your health and well-being significantly. One consequence is that lack of sleep stresses your mind and body, making you vulnerable to the negative health effects of stress. You can even make the argument that many of the effects of sleep deprivation are due to stress.
A good sleep can reduce stress, making it easier to cope and problem solve. When you are highly stressed, you stay awake, exacerbating your dis-stress. Unchecked, this can create a vicious cycle. When stress hormone levels are high, it is difficult to fall asleep because you feel wired, alert and wide awake. After a sleepless night, you feel more stressed. And so the cycle continues.
The same cycle is evident with pain. Pain interferes with sleeping well. Lack of sleep increases feelings of pain, and so you have more trouble sleeping.
With less than seven hours of sleep, you have a higher chance of gaining weight. Leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite, drops when you are sleep deprived, even after one day. Less leptin means more feelings of hunger. Plus the stress of not being tired causes you to crave sweets and fatty treats.
Regular sleep deprivation, whether by choice or because of insomnia, contributes to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and infection. Your immune system does not function as well as it could, and levels of inflammatory proteins rise. This increases risk of high blood pressure and heart attack over time. Blood sugar levels rise to that of pre-diabetes after only a few nights of not enough sleep. Your energy levels will also suffer, because muscles repair and regenerate energy supplies during deep sleep.
Your risk of injury goes way up when you are sleep deprived. Tired people are more likely to get into accidents of all kinds. One million car crashes a year are blamed on lack of sleep. When you are less alert, your chances of stubbing your toe, tripping, cutting yourself and dropping things are higher.
One of the scarier and long term sleep deprivation effects is that not getting enough sleep, or having irregular sleep habits can cause permanent damage to your brain. Research shows that in the locus coeruleus of the brainstem, mice lost 25 percent of their nuerons. This affects wakefulness, and other cognitive processes. Not getting enough sleep, and other sleep disturbances is also being linked with a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.
Even if you manage to avoid long term negative effects of not getting enough sleep, your ability to concentrate, solve logic and math problems, think clearly, remember things, and make good decisions are all immediately affected by how rested your are. Since your brain processes learning and memories at night, your ability to remember, and remember correctly is compromised with lack of sleep. Your brain is susceptible to creating false memories or leave holes in memories if it does not have enough sound sleep to process your day.
Children's brains also suffer sleep deprivation effects. Children need more sleep than adults. Just like adults, learning is impaired. Unlike adults, who act and appear tired, children may respond differently. According to a 2009 Journal of Pediatrics study, seven and eight year olds getting less than eight hours of sleep show behaviors that mimic ADHD. The children lack focus, are overly active, and impulsive.
Emotional regulation suffers when you are not well rested. You are more likely to feel irritable, depressed, and anxious. You may laugh when something is not that funny or cry more easily. It may be harder to hold your tongue.
There is an old saying that goes, "When you snooze, you lose." It appears that just the opposite is true. Getting enough sleep is one of the healthiest lifestyle habits you can have. When you get enough quality snooze time, your health and well-being wins.
If you have trouble sleeping night after night, health problems may be keeping you awake. There are several other important reasons why you can't sleep. Learn important insomnia facts here.