Lack of sleep, otherwise known as sleep deprivation, is a common problem. The effects of sleep deprivation can vary quite dramatically, and can in some people cause real problems.
Getting enough sleep is a critical element of survival for us human beings, however many people do not understand the negative effects of sleep deprivation – which is caused by a lack of sleep. Hopefully this will go through in enough detail what those negative effects are and how these can affect your life.
Lack of sleep affects every aspect of your life, from you personally, to your relationships and it can change the way you live your life. In extreme cases, lack of sleep can eventually lead to the loss of life, as it increases the risk of fatal illnesses and diseases. The thing about sleep is that it is a vicious circle, for example, if you miss a couple of nights sleep you will begin to suffer from side effects which could make going to sleep the next night difficult as well.
For some people, sleep comes naturally at the end of a very long day, which is what it should be like. Periods of sleep give the brain vital time to recover and process information, while at the same time allowing for the muscle’s in the body to recover and rest. Most people start off in life being able to sleep well in a routine, but most people will also experience periods where their sleep is disturbed. Again, for a lot of these people the bouts will be short lived and appear at times of intense stress, which resolve themselves. For others, sleep disturbance becomes a regular and persistent problem, that usually requires help.
There are over 85 recognized sleep disorders, each varying in type and severity, but by far the most common is insomnia. Having had trouble with insomnia myself I feel that I can aptly explain some of the short and long term effects of a sleep disorder, and also how it feels. It seems I am not alone with a sleep disorder, as in America alone, 1/3 of Americans would fit the criteria for a sleep disorder – but only 10% of those actually see a doctor.
You may not even recognize that you are suffering from sleep deprivation, or you may put your symptoms down to something else. Here are some of the short term effects of sleep deprivation:
- Reduced alertness and reactions – Studies have shown that if you are lacking just one and a half hours sleep over the course of just one night, your alertness is reduced by 32%. Try playing a computer game that requires you to have quick reactions and you will see the difference at once when you are lacking sleep.
- Proneness to accidents – Because of the reduced alertness and reactions, sleep deprived people are much more likely to be in an accident of some kind. The group that concerns people that most is car accidents caused by carelessness, slow reactions and drowsiness relating to a lack of sleep. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 100,000 accidents occur every year as a result of drowsy driving.
- Weight gain – When people can’t sleep they do other things. I personally just laid in bed and tried to think, but others may get up and smoke, drink or eat. People who have poor sleep hygiene develop unhealthy food habits, or comfort eat to make themselves feel better about the situation. Another possibility with weight gain is the involvement of cortisol, which is released more during times of stress – which can cause or make a sleep disorder worse.
- Increased irritability and agitation – Lack of sleep can cause a generalized feeling of agitation and irritability. Every little thing annoys you, and it doesn’t just affect the person with the sleep disorder, as they take it out on their partner/children/friends/work colleagues, and even customers.
- Poor concentration – Little things that we all take for granted like being able to read a book, or watch a television program all become near impossible to do when you don’t get enough sleep. Not being able to do so, will likely cause more agitation, which will lead to that vicious circle.
Other short term effects include: headaches, feeling unwell in general, blurred vision, sore muscles and an increased risk of infections. See what happened when the young man below went a week without any sleep:
It is very difficult to explain what constitutes severe sleep deprivation. It may be that someone has not slept hardly at all over a fairly short period of time. Or it may be that Someone has been having difficulty with their sleep for a long time.
In the long term , people who are sleep deprived are at an increased risk for the following:
- Heart attack or heart failure
- Mental health problems
- High blood pressure
People who sleep less than six hours per night over a long period of time have an increased risk of mortality – with some studies putting lack of sleep over other early indicators of death including smoking and heart disease. In severe insomnia, the risk of death in the long term is triple fold over those who sleep normally, and this is especially the case in elderly men.
It is really important to see a doctor if you are having trouble with your sleep. They don’t just give you sleeping pills and help you on your way, if there’s an underlying cause, they will try and find out what it is. Don’t just try and hope it will pass, because it may get worse – the effects of sleep deprivation are certainly not something to sneer about.
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