The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
There are few things that mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish have in common; sleep is one of them. Sleep is when the body completely relaxes, sensory activities are suspended, and a lack of consciousness takes effect. Humans need to sleep on a daily basis in order for our bodies to function properly.
The average adult needs seven to nine hours of sleep each day, and not getting adequate sleep can lead to sleep deprivation. Some symptoms of sleep deprivation include constant yawning, grogginess when waking up in the morning, poor concentration and mood changes.
Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on both your mental and physical health. The causes of sleep deprivation can range greatly from person to person, but most often they can be broken down in to three categories which include choosing to sleep too little, lack of time to sleep, and medical conditions that make sleeping difficult. We live in a fast-paced society that places a high value on activity. Some believe that sleep isn’t necessary, and they try to limit the amount of sleep they get.
Some people would rather stay up later to read a book, watch television, or socialize with their friends or partners instead of going to sleep at a reasonable time. Other people find that there just isn’t enough time in the day to devote to sleeping. Sometimes people who have jobs that require long hours, or who have tasks that cannot be avoided will find they are sleep deprived due to a lack of time. Medical conditions may also play a large role in sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea is a condition where the person actually wakes themselves multiple times through the night because they stop breathing.
Stress and anxiety may also play a role in insomnia, which is being able to fall asleep and stay asleep. Memory is one of the largest areas that can be affected by too little sleep. College students may stay up all night “cramming” for their exams, just to find that in the morning they really don’t remember anything. That is because your brain consolidates memories at a certain point in your sleep, which causes the memory to become stable. Without sleep it’s very difficult for your brain to retain information.
Poor judgment is also a possibility if you are lacking sleep. Have you ever heard anyone use the term “let me sleep on it”? It’s for good reason seeing as how lack of sleep can actually impair judgment. Poor Judgment also goes hand-in-hand with the lack of focus and attention caused by sleep deprivation. When you go without enough sleep, you become less and less alert to your surroundings, and your ability to think and process information is decreased because of your excessive sleepiness during the day.
Not only can too little sleep be harmful for you, it can also be harmful to those around you. If you work in a field that requires you to be on your toes at all times, yet you re significantly sleep deprived, you are more at risk for work-related injuries. Pilots, for example are now required to get a set amount of sleep before flying. People working in the medical field, or emergency services field should also be required to get set amounts of sleep due to the fact that they are protecting the lives of others and need to make sound decisions.
Automobile accidents can also be cause by sleep deprivation. Driving drowsy can produce the same hazardous effects as driving drunk, and it causes thousands of automobile accidents and fatalities every year. Sleep deprivation may also lead to risky decision-making. People who have been awake for extended periods of time can’t accurately assess risks that are associated with certain situations. Being awake for 24 hours can produce some of the same effects as a 0. 1% blood alcohol level, which would be the equivalent of having 6 glasses of wine in one hour.
No wonder getting too little sleep is so dangerous. Lack of sleep leads to many mental dysfunctions, but it has repercussions on physical appearance as well. Getting too little sleep on a consistent basis will start to alter your body’s ability to metabolize glucose, which can in turn make you look significantly older than you actually are. The amount of time we spend sleeping can drastically change our appetites and the ways we think about food. This may over time lead to sudden weight gains or losses.
These changes happen because of the peptides Ghrelin and Leptin sends signals to the brain to tell it that it’s satisfied, and suppresses appetite, while Ghrelin does the opposite and stimulates hunger. Not getting enough sleep often decreases levels of Leptin, and increases levels of Ghrelin which may cause changes in appetite resulting in weight changes. It is apparent that sleep deprivation can have serious effects on both physical and mental health, but how do we break the cycle of too little sleep?
I believe more emphasis should be put on how important it is to get your fill of shut eye every night. How many accidents can be avoided, and how many medical conditions averted just by getting adequate sleep at night? Society needs to start putting a higher value on our sleep, and in turn we may see a rise in our productivity. For the people who have medical problems and find sleep nearly impossible I urge you to seek help from a doctor. Do whatever you must do to improve your quality and quantity of sleep each night and in turn be happier, be healthier and live longer.