By Rebecca Haight
We’ve all been there – a poor night’s sleep leaves us feeling exhausted the next day. Whether by mistake or on purpose, we all skimp on adequate rest every now and again…some more than others.
But getting a poor night’s sleep can have much worse consequences than simply feeling tired throughout the day.
Your body does a lot of hard work while you sleep: restoring chemical balances, creating brain connections and forging immune defenses. Losing out on these important processes can inhibit your body from functioning properly.
Sleep is essential for memory retention. While you sleep, pathways form between nerve cells in your brain in order to help you remember information that you’ve learned. When you deprive yourself of sleep, your brain becomes exhausted and it can’t perform these tasks properly.
Lack of sleep makes it more difficult to concentrate or learn new things. It can even make you more susceptible to “suggested” memories. In other words, you may have trouble recalling the true source of your memories – like mistaking something you read somewhere for a first-hand experience. In fact, research has shown that just 24 hours worth of sleeplessness breaks down cognitive function so much that you’re actually 4.5 times more likely to sign a false confession (yikes!).
Lack of sleep can also cause the signals your body sends to your brain to come at a delay, negatively affecting your coordination skills and making your more prone to accidents.
In fact, studies have shown that going just one night without proper sleep impairs your physical movements and mental focus so much that you are comparable to someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent. This means if you haven’t slept, your impairment is similar to someone who is legally drunk.
Mood and Behavior
Of course, we’re all familiar with the emotional consequences of a lack of sleep. I’m sure we’ve all experienced a certain crankiness or irritability as a result of sleep deprivation.
Fatigue compromises the brains ability to regulate emotions, so crankiness, anxiety and unwarranted emotional outbursts are a commonplace amongst sleep-deprived individuals.
While you sleep your immune system produces cytokines – protective substances that help fight off foreign invaders like bacteria and viruses. Lack of sleep prevents your body from using cytokines to fight off foreign invaders, meaning you can get sick much easier and it can take a lot longer to recover from illness.
Sleep affects the levels of two important hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is responsible for telling your brain that you’ve had enough to eat – causing that feeling of satiety or fullness. However, a lack of sleep reduces your body’s production of leptin and increases production of ghrelin – an appetite stimulant. So not sleeping can actually make you feel much more hungry, causing you to overeat. (Familiar with late night munchies? – excessive ghrelin production may be why!)
Sleep deprivation also prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat. These higher levels of insulin promote fat storage, raise your blood pressure and increase your risk for Type 2 Diabetes.
For these reasons, sleep deprivation is a huge risk factor for obesity and weight gain.
Other Negative Effects
Consistently loosing sleep can increase cortisol, a stress hormone that breaks down collagen. Collagen is important for keeping your skin smooth, so loosing out on sleep can lead to premature wrinkling or sagging of the skin.
Long-term sleep deprivation can lead to some serious health complications like heart disease, stoke, bone loss and depression.
Even though it may not always be easy, making sleep a priority is essential for the proper functioning of your body. Do yourself a favor and catch some zzz’s!
Aratoon, Kelly. “How Losing Sleep Affects Your Body and Mind.” Sleep.Org. 24 Oct. 2016.
“The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body.” Heathline, Healthline Media, 5 June 201.
“12 Health Issues That May Be Caused by Your Lack of Sleep.” Mercola.com