At some point in our lives, we all experience sleep deprivation. Late night business deals, studying for an exam late into the night or an urgent report that needs to be submitted the next morning are unavoidable at times. In the process, you lack the sleep quality you would love.
We have all heard of the proverbial “at least seven hours of sleep.” You might eat well, exercise on a regular basis, but if you don’t get enough sleep for an extended period, your efforts might be in vain.
Understandably, occasional inadequate sleep might seem like no big deal. But what will happen if you lack sleep for a long time? The effects of sleep deprivation linger from some adverse effects. This post seeks to help you better understand how serious sleep loss can be.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
First of all, for you to have that feel-good factor about yourself in the morning, you need quality sleep. For this, you should have a target number of sleep hours which are always tailored based on your age. According to research, here is how much sleep you need to get for optimum health.
Older adults aged 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours
Middle-aged adults aged 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
Younger adults aged between 18 and 25 years: 7 to 9 hours
Teenagers between age 14 and 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
School going children between ages 6 and 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
Preschoolers aged between 3 and 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
Toddlers between 1 and 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
Infants between 4 and 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
Newborns up to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours
Besides the required sleeping hours, research also suggests that certain factors play a role in how many hours of sleep your body requires. Genetics, environmental (a type of foam mattress), and behavioral factors dictate to some extent your sleep requirements.
What Will Happen If You lack adequate sleeping time?
1. You Start to Have Learning Problems and Temporarily Lose Your Memory
If you are a student and you don’t get enough sleep for a long time, then you will start to experience these. Sleep studies carried out on kids in middle school show that delaying school starting hours by around an hour improves test scores in both math and reading.
The same study also shows that teens who are night owls suffer grade degradation when school starts early. It is not only teens or kids who suffer from sleep deprivation; lack of quality sleep wreaks havoc on short-term memories in adults too. You start to forget stuff quite easily.
2. You Become Highly Irritable
Here is another reason why you should not take too long before having an adequate downtime. The results of going contrary to this is an increase in complaints about those affected being emotionally volatile and irritable after a series of sleep nights.
When Israeli researchers put this theory to the test, the results to some extent proved it. These researchers found out that sleep loss amplified the negative response to a set of disruptive events. The test was carried out on a group of medical students who went through a period without sleep.
3. You Experience a Weight Gain
A hormone imbalance occurs in those who sleep less. This group of people experiences an increased appetite for high-calorie foods and indulgent treats. There ability to control impulse eating as a result of the hormonal imbalance leads to weight gain.
These combinations are very dangerous for your overall health as you rake up the fat content in your body. You naturally burn more calories when awake than when asleep. However, this consumption is not enough to offset the calorie intake as a result of severe sleep depreciation.
4. You Develop Poor Vision
Missing over 24 hours of sleep results in an impaired ability to focus. Your vision may also begin becoming dampened. Tunnel vision, dimness, and double vision are some of the vision issues associated with sleep deprivation.
These blurry vision symptoms aggravate as you continue to stay awake. Visual errors become a norm and may develop into full-blown hallucinations. It is mostly for this reason that you become more accident prone when you get fewer sleep hours for consecutive nights.
5. Toxins Linked to Alzheimer’s Build Up in the Brain
After a study carried out in 2015, scientists noticed that sleeping helps clean beta-amyloid protein from the brain. What this means is that the longer you stay awake, then the more the hormone builds up in your brain.
More alarming is the fact that this protein has been linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Rather worryingly, the study concludes that the process forms a kind of vicious cycle. The higher the amount of beta-amyloid in the brain, the harder it then becomes to get adequate sleep for cleansing the brain.
6. Your Chances of Developing a Heart Disease Increases
In an article posted in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, research has it that staying awake for a long time increases your blood pressure. For this research, the subjects were prevented from sleeping for 88 hours. Unsurprisingly, their blood pressure shot up.
In the same test, those who were allowed only 4 hours of sleep showed indications of elevated heart rates. This change is in comparison with those receiving 8 hours of sleep. Also, those receiving less sleep had increased concentration levels of C-reactive protein, a marker for heart disease.
7. Your Reaction Time Slows Down
Lacking sleep for a long time severely impedes one’s reaction times. In 2012, a study involving West Point cadets showed that staying awake for too long inhibits your ability to make quick decisions. For this, two tests were carried out.
In the course of the test, one group was allowed some sleep while the others stayed awake. The group that slept in the process performed better at decision-making in an instant. Their other counterparts were slower, probably due to the lack of sufficient sleeping hours.
8. The Body Over-Produces Urine
When you are asleep, your body usually slows down the rate at which it produces urine. It is the reason why you don’t pee as much during the night as you would do on a normal day. Being sleep deprived on the other hand means that the slowdown mechanism doesn’t happen.
A condition called excess nocturnal urine production results from lack of sleep for a long time. It’s a condition that has in recent times been linked to wetting of the bed in children and adults. The condition is called nocturia, meaning the urge to use the bathroom several times.
9. A Weaker Immune System
Are you becoming sick of late? Then it could be down to the countless sleepless nights you have been having of late. Sleep deprived individuals tend to easily come down with flu and colds due to a weaker immune system.
Other studies also show an apparent ineffectiveness of vaccines in those who lacked sleep for a long time. At the same time, open wounds become infected at a faster rate in those who have less sleeping hours.
10. The Number of Bad Decisions You Make Rises
If you are planning on making a serious decision the next day, it would be advisable to have the recommended sleeping hours. Making changes to your portfolio? Get enough sleep, or you might evoke a strategy shift that could be risky for your future.
According to research, even a single night’s lack of sleep could be risky for your decisions. You could be defending losses the very next morning. Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to make go or no-go decisions. It is this effect of lack of sleep that is thought to have led to the Chernobyl meltdown, Challenger explosion or the Exxon Valdez disaster.
11. Reduced Libido
The testosterone hormone largely controls the sexual drive in both men and women. This hormone is produced when you sleep while being awake causes the level to reduce. Either sleep deprivation or disturbance limits your sexual urge.
This effect is particularly apparent in those with a sleep apnea condition. Sexual dysfunction and reduced libido become more pronounced the more you miss hours of sleep. To help you have a better sleep at night, you could consider investing in the best memory foam pillow.
Tons of researches show how sleep is great for your overall well-being. It is, therefore, no coincidence that what will happen if you lack sleep for a long time sounds not good at all. In as much as sometimes getting an appropriate amount of sleep is not possible, you should make efforts to compensate for the lost sleep.