Do you ever have difficulties falling asleep? Are you always tired, no matter how much you try to rest? Is your sleep schedule all over the place? Many people suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, and they don’t even know it.
With everything there is to do in a workday, people find less time to sleep. And even when they do, they never seem to wake up rested.
With this widespread epidemic of sleeplessness, people are becoming more irritated, less efficient, and less happy. So, what risks link to chronic sleep deprivation? And what changes can you make in your lifestyle to make sure you never have to struggle with this loss of sleep again?
What Is Chronic Sleep Deprivation?
Chronic sleep deprivation is a condition caused by getting insufficient sleep or experiencing sleeplessness over an extended period. It can vary in severity, and, in some cases, its cause could be an underlying sleep disorder.
Adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep per night, while children and teens need even more. Even if you can sleep the amount required, sleep quality can also play a role in developing this condition.
Chronic sleep deprivation can be primary or secondary. Primary means that it is an issue in and of itself caused by insomnia or anxiety. Secondary means driven by an unrelated concern, for example, certain medical conditions.
The symptoms include dark under-eye circles, inability to keep your eyes open, head nodding, being irritable, lack of energy, trouble concentrating and yawning,
While you might try to offset these issues by using stimulants, that will not solve anything. Caffeine and other stimulants can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep. This result can create a harmful cycle of night-time insomnia, followed by caffeine consumption to manage tiredness.
5 Ways Chronic Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Health And Mental Wellbeing
Sleep loss has devastating consequences on mental health. Here are a few possible outcomes of insomnia.
1. Increases Risk Of Certain Diseases
Sleep loss is the cause of many health issues people are struggling with. While lack of sleep seems like a minor issue, it can have long-lasting effects on the quality of your life. Studies have shown that lack of sleep affects all areas of people’s health, from obesity to cardiovascular issues, diabetes, and immunodeficiency.
When a person sleeps less than the necessary amount, they create a relationship between sleep loss and obesity. In fact, by the age of 27, people who struggle with insufficient sleep were 7.5 times more likely to have a higher BMI. Further research showed that there is a U-shaped relationship between duration of sleep and BMI. This means that adults who sleep 7.7 hours on average have the lowest BMI, while those who sleep more or less have a progressively higher BMI.
How Disease Complicates Chronic Sleep Deprivation
Lack of sleep was associated with lower levels of leptin (a hormone that suppresses appetite) and higher levels of ghrelin (a peptide that stimulates appetite). So, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to feel hungry. Satisfying that need means eating more than necessary, thus putting people at risk of reaching an unhealthy weight.
Obesity is an issue because it correlates with higher rates of mortality, the CDC says. It can lead to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, strokes, sleep apnea, cancer, and mental health issues.
Another issue that can be derivative of sleep loss is diabetes, or impaired glucose tolerance, which is a precursor to diabetes. Adults who reported less than five hours of sleep are 2.5 more likely to have diabetes than those who get the necessary amount. Insufficient sleep affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels, thus increasing the risk of developing metabolic conditions.
Sleep loss is also associated with heart attacks and strokes. Five hours or less of sleep leads to a 45% increase in risk after adjusting for age, BMI, hypertension, diabetes, and other factors. Similar risks are linked with sleeping nine hours or more. Potential mechanisms linking sleep loss with cardiovascular issues include blood pressure increase or impaired glucose intolerance.
As for immunodeficiency, lack of sleep links to worsened immune function, including a poorer response to vaccines, prolonged lack of sleep has a similar reaction to high levels of stress. It decreases the antibody response and makes you more vulnerable when exposed to viruses.
2. Leads To Mental Health Issues
Chronic sleep deprivation affects your mood in the short term but can lead to long-term mental health problems. Research has linked lack of sleep with depression, anxiety, and mood swings.
Adults suffering from this issue have reported increased mental distress, depressive symptoms, and a higher likelihood of alcohol consumption. Loss of sleep affects the amygdala, which is the area that handles emotions. This can make you more vulnerable to developing certain conditions or engaging in certain toxic behaviors.
Sleep cycle and mood regulation are both regulated by melatonin, so lower levels of melatonin lead to lack of sleep and depression. People struggling with lack of sleep have a lower tolerance for stressors, even mild and common ones. This leads to an increased risk of developing anxiety or having panic attacks. Poor sleep itself can often become a stressor.
Poor sleep can also lead to mood swings. The more tired you become, the less you can manage and control your emotions. There are higher chances for any stimuli to affect the way you feel immediately. That means you can go from being happy to fuming in a split second for no apparent reason. Even if you can somewhat control your mood, there is a high likelihood that you will be irritable and stressed all the time.
3. Affects Learning
While this might seem unlikely, there is a strong link between lack of sleep and your ability to learn new things. Also, sleep loss affects your thought process, rendering you unable to perform specific tasks at maximum capacity.
Sleep deprivation affects the prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning, making it harder to form the new memories needed in the learning process. Neurons can’t function normally without sleep, so you lose the ability to access previously learned information.
Cognitive abilities are also impaired by attentional lapses and slowed responses. While sleep-deprived, a person’s focus, attention, and vigilance tend to drift. Your ability to interpret events could also be affected. This outcome can lead to the loss of your ability to make accurate and logical decisions.
4. Increases Risk Of Infertility
Although they seem unrelated, infertility links to sleeplessness through hormonal means. Infertility is a severe consequence of sleep deprivation that should be acknowledged.
Sleep loss can affect fertility in both men and women. For both sexes, the same part of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones, such as melatonin, also deals with the daily release of reproductive hormones. This means that the hormones that trigger ovulation and sperm-maturation processes tie to sleep-wake patterns. For example, a woman suffering from sleep deprivation might experience issues with the release of LH (a hormone that triggers ovulation).
Besides the hormonal reasons, lack of sleep and infertility are tied through emotional and physical links. Being moody and irritable can increase stress levels, leading to developing unhealthy behaviors, such as drinking or smoking, which link to fertility issues. The physical diseases associated with lack of sleep (diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and obesity) can also increase the risk of infertility.