If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy.
The main symptom of ongoing sleep loss is excessive daytime sleepiness, but other symptoms include:
difficulty learning new concepts
inability to concentrate or a "fuzzy" head
lack of motivation
increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.
Memory Issues: During sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember new information. A lack of sleep can negatively impact both short and long-term memory.
Trouble with thinking and concentration: Your concentration, creativity and problem-solving skills aren’t up to par when you don’t get enough rest.
Mood changes: Sleep deprivation can make you moody, emotional, and quick-tempered. Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your mood and lead to anxiety or depression, which may escalate. reduced tendency to think positively, bad moods, a decreased willingness to solve problems, intolerance and less empathy toward others, poor impulse control, inability to delay gratification.
Weakened immunity: Studies show that people who don't get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you're under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines. In addition, infection-fighting antibodies and cells are reduced during periods when you don't get enough sleep.
Accidents: being drowsy during the day can increase your risk for car accidents and injuries from other causes.
High Blood pressure: If you sleep less than five hours a night, your risk for high blood pressure increases.
Risk of heart disease: Sleep deprivation may lead to increased blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammaction, both of which play roles in heart disease.
Risk of diabetes: A lack of sleep affects your body’s release of insulin, a blood sugar-lowering hormone. People who don’t get enough sleep have higher blood sugar levels and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes.
Weight gain: With sleep deprivation, the chemicals that signal to your brain that you are full are off balance. As a result, you’re more likely to overindulge even when you’ve had enough to eat. It's believed to be because sleep-deprived people have reduced levels of leptin (the chemical that makes you feel full) and increased levels of ghrelin (the hunger-stimulating hormone).
Low sex drive: People who don’t get enough sleep often have a lower libido. In men, this decreased sex drive may be due to a drop in testosterone levels.
HOW MUCH SLEEP DO WE NEED?
The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2015 recommendations for appropriate sleep durations for specific age groups are:
Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day
Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours
Most of us need around 8 hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it's likely that you're not getting enough sleep.
A variety of factors can cause poor sleep, including health conditions such as sleep apnoea. But in most cases, it's due to bad sleeping habits.
HOW TO CATCH UP ON LOST SLEEP?
If you don't get enough sleep, there's only one way to compensate – getting more sleep.
It won't happen with a single early night. If you've had months of restricted sleep, you'll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks.
Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you're tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!).
Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.
Don't rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.
The good news is that most of the negative effects of sleep deprivation reverse when sufficient sleep is obtained. The treatment for sleep deprivation is to satisfy the biological sleep need, prevent deprivation and "pay back" accumulated sleep debt.
Some suggestions for good sleep habits include:
going to bed when tired
following a routine for bed and wake-up times, keeping it consistent every day of the week
avoiding eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime
if unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, going to another room and trying to read until feeling sleepy, then returning to bed
engaging in regular exercise during the day
keeping the bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortably cool temperature
turning off electronic devices when you go to bed