Why do we sleep? It is a common question that many of us have asked ourselves. Our bodies need sleep in order to perform a number of important processes. These processes require sleep in order to keep our mind and body working properly. Which is why when we are running on less sleep than we need, it can greatly affect how we feel and perform throughout the day. It can even take a toll on your health and overall wellbeing in a very serious way. We are going to share with you all of the dangers of sleep deprivation so you know what to expect as well as how to avoid it. Stick around to learn more.
Types of Sleep Deprivation
One Bad Night:
We have all had one of those nights. You have trouble getting to sleep, or staying asleep. Whether it is caused by a noisy neighbor, a bad cold, a sick child, emotional distress, stress or if there is seemingly no cause at all. Lack of sleep for one night happens to us all. However, it can still take a negative toll on your wellbeing.
Your memory, productivity, focus, energy, blood pressure, and even your immune system can be negatively impacted by one night lacking sleep. Thankfully, most of these negative impact can be rectified when you catch up on your sleep. However, it goes to show how much your body requires nightly rest.
4-5 Hour Sleep Schedule:
Many young professionals, college students, and even company executives have come to believe that working on little sleep is somehow an accomplishment and a sign that you are a driven hard worker.
While it does take an incredible amount of drive and determination to run off of little sleep. In the long run you are actually lowering productivity, focus, and quality of your work. Your brain needs more rest in order to perform at your peak. Otherwise all of your hard work that you wake up early for or the late night studying can all be a waste.
Insomnia and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand. You can’t really have one without the other. While sleep deprivation can be caused by choice, typically insomnia is more often described as lacking the ability to sleep even when you are attempting to lay down and get rest.
The sleep disorder, insomnia, make it very difficult to maintain a healthy and consistent sleep schedule. While for some this means they have an inability to fall asleep, while others have a hard time remaining asleep consistently through the night. Insomnia can range greatly in severity. Which means the affects and severity of sleep deprivation will also have a large range.
Looking to get more information on insomnia? Click the link to check out our Guide To Insomnia
Night Shift Work:
Unfortunately going on and off of night shift work, is one of the roughest things you can do to your body. Your circadian rhythm helps to moderate and control many important functions in your body. When you are completely flipping your sleep schedule periodically, this can really screw up your circadian rhythm and cause a lot of hardship on your body.
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified night shift work as a probable carcinogen. We will get more into the tie between cancer and sleep deprivation later on in this post.
Chronic Sleep Deprivation:
Most people will experience some form of sleep deprivation from time to time. However, it is normally short lived and with some kind of cause that can be rectified. Chronic Sleep Deprivation is when your lack of sleep continues to be an issue for an extended period of time. Most cases of Chronic Sleep Deprivation are a result of other conditions like anxiety, or lifestyle situations like caring for a newborn baby.
However, Chronic Sleep Deprivation can be primary, meaning it is not caused by any other conditions. If you are having significant issues getting sleep for an extended period of time, we highly recommend reaching out to your doctor for professional advice. As we are continually talking about within this article, sleep deprivation can be very dangerous for your health.
Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Lower Levels of Focus & Productivity:
Even one night of sleep deprivation can lower your ability to remain focused and productive throughout the day. This is something that is typically noticed first by those who experience a lack of sleep.
Although you may not even notice the change in your productivity or ability to focus at first. The more often you go without the proper amount of sleep that you need each night, the worse this will become. This is not simply an issue at school or work, this can become a very serious issue when it comes to situations like working heavy machinery or driving, which we will get into next.
Do you keep falling asleep in class? Click here to get our top tips for staying awake at school.
Lack of Sleep & Car Crashes:
Driving without sleep is considered to be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Mixing sleep deprivation, driving a car, and long lulling roads can be a deadly combination. The cognitive impairment caused by a lack of sleep can be so severe that it causes about 100,00 police-reported crashes every year according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
These accidents reportedly result in over 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries. These numbers are shocking and frightening. Which is why we always recommend choosing to get enough sleep before a long drive and always taking breaks when you need them. If you feel yourself getting tired or nodding off, pull over somewhere safe and get some rest.
Need help staying away while driving? Check out our post: How To Avoid Drowsy Driving
Heart Complications Caused by Sleep Deprivation:
Looking for a good reasons to get enough sleep each night? Here are just a few… Heart attacks, coronary heart disease, cardiovascular disease, and high blood pressure have all been closely linked to sleep deprivation. One of the best ways you can take care of your heart health is to get enough sleep each night.
Depriving yourself of sleep can greatly impact your heart health. Which of course is vital in order to have a long and healthy life. Those who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night are 20% more likely to have a heart attack. These numbers are shocking and should be more than enough to scare you into getting enough sleep each night.
Learn about the benefits of working out regularly in our post: Exercise and Sleep
Sleep Deprivation & Cognitive Impairment:
REM sleep is vital for your brain to recover and function properly. When you are sleep deprived, your brain function suffers and causes cognitive impairments. These impairments are especially notable within the frontal lobe. This can be seen in a lack of alertness, attention, decision making, as well as other cognitive processes.
This is one of the main arguments we have against those trying to get ahead in life and work by sleeping less. If you were to get enough sleep each night you would be able to work at your peak. Instead, when you are sleep deprived you are always working at a disadvantage because you are having to compensate for lower cognitive performance.
Struggling to stay awake at work? Check out our post: How To Stay Awake At Work All Day
Obesity & Sleep Deprivation:
Time and time again studies are done that tie obesity with sleep deprivation and/or poor sleep quality. Often times this feels like a chicken or the egg situation. We say this because obesity often can cause a number of different sleep disorders. Sleep apnea, being the most common sleep disorder triggered by obesity. However, sleep deprivation can also trigger weight gain.
This means sleep deprivation and weight gain and turn into a slippery slope with each increasing the other. As you gain weight you get less sleep, as you sleep less you gain more weight. Work on getting healthy sleep, and loosing weight. By working to combat both, you will get the best results for better sleep and weight loss.
Curious about how obesity affects your sleep? Check out our post: Complications Obesity Has On Sleep
Sleep Deprivation & Cancer:
One of the most frightening dangers of sleep deprivation, is the affect it has on cancer. We all have abnormalities in cell growth from time to time.
However, in a healthy body that gets the proper amount of rest, our bodies immune system fights to correct or eliminate the abnormal cell growth. The scary part is when you are deprived of sleep, your immune system is unable to tackle these abnormal cells in the same way that it usually does. Allowing any cancerous cells to grow at a faster rate.
This affect on your immune system can be noticed as soon as with only one night of insufficient sleep. This is arguably one of the most dangerous side effects of sleep deprivation.
Learn more about how cancer is affected by sleep deprivation in our post: Cancer & Sleep Deprivation
Life Expectancy & Sleep Deprivation:
With all of the many dangers of sleep deprivation it comes as no surprise to us that your life expectancy goes down as your sleep quality and quantity goes down. It is often wondered whether or not we truly NEED sleep to live. The answer is a resounding yes, our bodies and minds require the recover time given during sleep.
There are many valuable processes that go on in the mind and body that we need in order to function properly and stay healthy. Without sleep, our minds and bodies will eventually give out on us. Even though we can live off of very little sleep, it is believed that when you sleep less than 5 hours per night, you are shortening your life expectancy. Whether it is due to stress, poor heart health, cancer, car crash, obesity, or any of the other complications we have mentioned previously. The tole it takes on your body is bound to take a toll eventually.
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How much sleep do we really need?
In order for our mind and body to function the way we need it to, 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night for the average adult should be sufficient. However, it is important that not only are you getting this amount of sleep, but that it is quality sleep as well. Which requires going into REM sleep. It is within this stage of sleep that so many of the important processes happen.
While you may believe you are someone who can survive and thrive off of less sleep, you are more than likely incorrect. The truth of the matter is that you don’t normally even realize it when you are deprived of sleep. You may feel like you are energized and focused, when you are actually less focused and productive than you would be if you had gotten 6 hours of sleep the night before.
Still wondering why it is why need all of this sleep. You can learn more in our post: The Importance of Sleep: Why Do We Sleep?
Dangers of Sleep Deprivation – The Takeaway:
We need sleep! When we become sleep deprived, our bodies and minds suffer. Not only do we feel tired, our bodies struggle to function properly. Our vital functions begin to struggle to do what they need to do. The dangers of sleep deprivation go far beyond feeling a bit sluggish at work.
When the health of your heart, immune system, and even cancer is a potential outcome of not getting enough sleep. Which is why we recommend getting at least 6 to 8 hours of sleep each night. Naps are also encouraged when needed. We hope this article encourages you to get your best sleep possible.
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