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Short-Term and Long-Term Sleep Deprivation Effects

We’ve all been there—looking forward to hitting the hay only to find ourselves unable to fall asleep and staying up all night again. And then the next morning, with bags under our eyes and yawning incessantly, we promise ourselves again that we'll go to bed early. It’s a vicious cycle we find ourselves in. Perhaps you need a new bed or mattress for better sleep? If you’re looking for more reasons as to why we need sleep, think about these sleep-deprivation effects that you'll experience.

So what happens when you’re sleep deprived?

Weight gain

Find yourself reaching for the cookie jar when that afternoon slump hits? You'll have a little less resistance to it if you haven’t had your beauty sleep the night before. There are several reasons for this.

The first concerns cortisol, that is, the stress hormone. Your cortisol levels rise when you don’t get enough sleep, triggering your reward centre in the brain. This makes you crave food even more.

Plus, your body will also have trouble controlling the hormones leptin and ghrelin. Leptin is what helps you feel full while grehlin is what makes you feel hungry. Without adequate sleep, you’ll actually produce more grehlin and less leptin, which means you’ll most likely to eat more when running on lack of sleep.

Sleep deprivation effects on weight management is less about losing or gaining fat while you’re sleeping. It’s more about being in the right mindset and having better ability to control your choices the next day. Unfortunately, food is one of the choices that we’re likely to lose control over when we're sleep deprived.

Mood Swings 

Lack of sleep can lead to major mood swings. Does tired and irritation go hand in hand for you? This is because there is a connection between negative emotions and sleep deprivation.

When you suffer from a lack of sleep, the amygdala activity in your brain increases. Long story short, this is the area that manages negative emotions, like the ones you experience when you’re tired. Not only that, but you’ll find it harder to manage them as well.  

Talma Hendler of Tel Aviv University in Israel conducted a study that revealed the connection between lack of sleep and a short emotional fuse. Her study revealed that we have a much more intense emotional response to situations which we normally wouldn’t have had if we’d gotten sleep. Not only that, Hendler realised that there was a disconnect between the amygdala and anterior cingulate cortex (ACC). ACC manages our ability to regulate our emotions, which it can’t do without sleep.  Our brain is unable to differentiate between things that do warrant an emotional response and those that don’t.

“You lose neutrality,” Hendler told New Scientist. “The ability of the brain to tell what’s important is compromised–it’s as if everything is important.”

So do yourself (and everyone around you!) a favour and get some shut-eye.

Memory Loss

“There’s nothing more important for your memory formation and consolidation than your nighttime sleep,” explains Professor Colin Espie, Director of the Sleep Centre at the University of Glasgow and Founder of Sleepio. Contrary to belief, our brains aren’t working at their most effective when we’re awake. This is a misconception.

“During the night, the brain is free to operate without those distractions,” he explains. Those distractions he’s referring to is anything that can disturb you when you’re trying to concentrate, like a phone call or even people across the room from you. This is why memory is formed during our sleep. So if we’re not sleeping throughout the night, then our memory suffers.

Increased Heart Disease Risk 

If there’s any better reason to make sure that you get plenty of rest it’s this—sleep deprivation can increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, heart disease and a stroke, and the studies prove it.

Dr Fernando Dominguez from the Spanish National Centre for Cardiovascular Research (CNIC) in Madrid conducted a study that showed the effects of lack of sleep with your health. He monitored the sleep quality and quantity of healthy middle-aged adults and the subsequent connection to asymptomatic atherosclerosis. This causes your arteries to narrow. The results showed that those who had shorter sleep hours had increased risk of atherosclerosis than those who averaged seven to eight hours a night. The key takeaway here? More sleep equals better health. It's that simple.

Sleep deprivation effects range from the short-term and long-term. To make sure that you’re really getting the best out of your day, get enough shut-eye. Not only will people around you be thankful, but so will your body. You'll also enjoy your day more when you're not tired or sleepy.


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