When life gets busy and your schedule is full, you may start to replace healthy habits like eating well and getting enough sleep, in favor of finishing projects. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation harms your physical, mental and emotional health.
Your body needs to cycle through the various sleep cycles to wake up restored and refreshed. This may mean sleeping seven to eight hours per night as an adult, nine to eleven hours each night for school-aged children, eight to ten hours for teenagers and seven to nine hours for young adults.
Sleeping for fewer than six hours can lead to ill effects on your health and even cause tragic accidents. Getting fewer than five hours per night actually increases your risk of death from all causes by 15 percent.
The following is a list of serious consequences you may face as a result of sleep deprivation.
- Weight Gain
Sleep deprivation is a contributing factor for obesity. Sleep is a requirement for appropriate levels of the hormone leptin and the biochemical ghrelin. When the body does not produce enough leptin, you will begin to feel hungry, even if you’ve already eaten. This unbalance occurs when combined with an increase in ghrelin levels, since it stimulates appetite.
- Leads to Accidents
Skipping sleep contributes to an increased rate of accidents. Sleeping for fewer than six hours each night consistently triples your risk of falling asleep behind the wheel of a vehicle and endangering yourself and others. As many as one in five deadly crashes are the result of drowsy driving. This is due to sleep deprivation decreasing reaction times, focus and problem-solving.
- Lack of Sleep Can Contribute to Depression
Long-term insomnia has led some people to experience hallucinations, impulsive behavior, suicidal thoughts, paranoia and depression. Your central nervous system needs to rest for a significant amount of time to balance your moods and emotions as your brain forms new neural pathways.
- Leads to Forgetfulness
When you are getting enough sleep, you can concentrate better and learn new concepts. A lack of sleep also negatively affects your long-term and short-term memories. The ability to merge memories and recall new material worsens, leading to forgetfulness at work and at home.
- Impairs Critical Thinking
Adequate sleep improves the speed and accuracy of cognitive performance throughout the day, with lower levels in the early morning and late at night. However, sleep-deprived people show a decrease in cognitive function throughout the day, which impairs their critical thinking skills and mental health. Sleep deprivation changes your brain activity, resulting in the inability to fully function regarding concentration, mathematical concepts and logical reasoning.
- Various Health Problems
People with consistent sleep deprivation are at an increased risk of chronic diseases and conditions, including heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, high blood pressure and stroke. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may experience a decrease in sex drive, an increase in colds and other viruses and even notice your skin aging at a faster pace.
If your body does not receive enough sleep, it can trigger an increase in the stress hormone cortisol that breaks down skin collagen. Collagen helps prevent the look of fine lines and lackluster skin. The body naturally releases human growth hormone during restful sleep that promotes normal tissue repair. Without enough human growth hormone production, the body’s immunity is compromised.
The National Health Service (NHS) recommends adding an extra hour or two of sleep each night to combat sleep deprivation. You can begin on a weekend and allow your body to rest as soon as you feel sleepy. Turn off your alarm and let your body wake up on its own. If you’re severely sleep-deprived, you may sleep as long as 10 hours while your mind and body heal. The number of hours you sleep will normalize to the average amount needed, based on your age.
Sleep is not a luxury. Instead, it should be a priority in your life for the sake of your health and happiness.