No energy drink can invigorate you more than a good night’s sleep. Sadly, our society has become too proud to acknowledge that sleep is as important as proper nutrition and regular exercise. This is evident in our overworked culture and amplified by technology that keeps us connected 24/7.
When are we going to improve our sleep habits? Let these 8 sleep deprivation side effects convince you that sufficient zzz’s matter.
1Lack of sleep is similar to getting drunk
A study published in the Harvard Business Review suggests that sleep deprivation can affect one’s performance as alcohol intoxication. “Next time you’re planning on staying up an extra few hours to finish your paper, consider that you will have the perception and judgment of a someone who is legally too drunk to drive,” wrote Brad Strelcher, editor-at-large at the University of Southern California.
Pulling an all-nighter is similar to having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08%. This can increase your risk of being involved in road accidents. The Institute of Medicine warns that drowsy driving causes 20% of all motor vehicle crashes in the US.
2Poor sleep habits and reduced mental performance
One mistake college students commit is pulling all-nighters before a major exam. Cramming is a trend that doesn’t do anybody a favor. “Sleep deprivation negatively impacts our mood, our ability to focus, and our ability to access higher-level cognitive functions,” according to Harvard Medical School.
Scientists were able to identify changes in brain activity after nights of insufficient sleep. The brain activity, measured by an electroencephalogram or EEG, showed “lower level of alertness and a general propensity to sleep.”
If you need to prepare for an exam or a presentation, make sure your brain is well-rested.
3Long-term sleep deprivation increases disease risk
A sleep-deprived body is at risk of developing diseases. Harvard Medical School’s Division of Sleep Medicine presents three types of studies about the health risks of sleep deprivation.
The first type involved the short-term impact of poor sleep that could trigger diseases, while the second type analyzed the link between habitual sleep duration and the existence of certain diseases. The third, and regarded as “the most convincing type of evidence” is the long-term assessment of sleep habits and diseases of initially healthy individuals.
The results from longitudinal epidemiological studies suggest that “adjusting one’s sleep can reduce the risk of eventually developing a disease or lessen the severity of an ongoing disease.”
4Less sleep, more weight
Losing sleep upsets the body’s hormonal balance that helps control the appetite, metabolism, and glucose processing. Studies show that people who sleep less than six hours each night, versus the recommended seven to nine hour sleep, are much more likely to have a higher body mass index.
You may have noticed that you crave carbohydrates and sugary foods when staying up late. This is because of the higher secretion of biochemical ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. Moreover, being sleep deprived can leave you too tired to burn off extra calories with exercise.
5Sleep loss and heart problems
Overworked employees who reportedly pulled all-nighters recently made global headlines following their premature deaths. Most suffered from a cardiac arrest after losing sleep for three consecutive nights. Harvard Medical School noted that “sleeping too little (less than six hours) or too much (more than nine hours) increased the risk of coronary heart disease in women.”
Sleep apnea, a chronic condition characterized by one or more pauses in breathing during sleep, is also linked to heart diseases. Apnea sufferers’ airway close up when they fall asleep and they experience surges in blood pressure when they wake up.
6Insufficient sleep causes mood disorders
Mornings can be challenging for the sleep deprived. According to experts, a single sleepless night can cause irritability and distress the following day. Regularly missing the recommended seven-to-nine-hour nightly sleep can also lead to long-term mood disorders, and depression and anxiety.
In a study published in Current Biology, the researchers found a causal relationship between impaired sleep and some psychiatric symptomatology and disorders. The amygdala, or the brain region for emotions, emotional behavior and motivation, seemed to be “rewired” in the sleep-deprived brain. People who lack sleep experience a “pendulum of emotions, going from upset and annoyed to giddy in moments,” according to Dr. Matthew Walker of the University of California, Berkeley.
7Sleep deprived people drink more alcohol
You may know family and friends who turn to whiskey or vodka to help them fall asleep at night. While alcohol can act as a mild sedative that induce sleep, its impact is only temporary. After a few hours, the alcohol begins to stimulate the brain, causing disruptions throughout the night. Alcohol dependency is linked to a number of diseases including liver inflammation and coronary heart disease.
8Losing sleep can cut down life expectancy
Neglecting sufficient sleep, which is one of the pillars of health, can lead to various physical and mental problems. It is no surprise that sleep deprivation can lead to premature death. Studies show that sleeping for five hours or less each night can increase one’s mortality risk by about 15 percent. It is imperative to seek medical assistance and undergo therapy if your sleep habits are downgrading the quality of your life.
The staggering amount of evidence on the effects of sleep loss should be enough to encourage us to rethink our lifestyle. Sleep deprivation can put your safety at risk as well as negatively affect your performance. It can lead to mood disorders, obesity, heart problems, even premature death.
One student realized the need to adjust his lifestyle to improve his sleep habits. “I enrolled in slightly less demanding classes, took on a less time-consuming job and allotted for more free time in my schedule. I’ve been more active, more happy and all around more successful,” shared US student Brad Strelcher.
When will you make the right changes in your life?