3 ways sleep deprivation is affecting your body
We all lead busy lives, but some of us see sleep as a luxury rather than a necessity. Sleep deprivation can’t always be avoided either, especially if you’ve got a newborn baby that needs you. If not, you might spend your sleeping-hours working, binge-watching TV or even partying!
As part of World Sleep Day, we’ve written this guide (that we hope won’t bore you to sleep!) so you can learn the importance of prioritising your sleep and how to improve it, because a healthy sleep pattern results in a healthy mind and body.
What is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation refers to a lack of sleep and can be caused by multiple–and often voluntary–factors.
If you’re regularly getting less than 7 hours of sleep, it can begin to take a toll on your body. Of course, we’re all different and may need more or less sleep to function at our best. It’s the quality of sleep that matters, too - it’s not all about going to bed late!
Sleep deprivation can be caused by work or school obligations, sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnoea, or lifestyle choices, like partying or scrolling through your phone until the early hours.
You may experience the obvious signs of poor sleep first, like a lack of energy, slow thinking, irritability, and a poor memory or attention span. But continuous sleep deprivation can start to affect other parts of your body.
The effects of sleep deprivation
Sleep is essential to maintaining good health; your body needs sleep just as it needs air, water and food to survive.
So, what happens when you don’t catch enough of those vital Z’s? Let’s discuss it below.
Your nervous system is the body’s main hub to send and process information, and sleep is essential to keep it functioning smoothly. Chronic insomnia can disturb the way this information is managed.
Lots of things happen while you sleep, like remembering the things you’ve learned during the day. Sleep deprivation leaves your brain feeling tired, and it’s unable to perform as it should.
You may become forgetful, have slow thinking, delayed reactions, and poor concentration, making you more prone to accidents.
An insufficient amount of sleep can also impact your emotional state. You may become impatient or experience mood swings, and your decision-making abilities and creative thinking skills could be compromised.
During sleep, your immune system builds protective, infection-fighting antibodies. These help your body to tackle bacteria and viruses that can make you unwell.
Nonetheless, sleep deprivation stops these antibodies from rallying up their forces to protect you against any foreign invaders. Thus, you may find yourself frequently unwell and it may take you longer to recover.
Sleep deprivation can impact your digestive system by altering the levels of leptin and ghrelin hormones that control hunger and the feeling of fullness.
Leptin is responsible for telling your brain that you’ve had enough to eat, but without enough sleep, your brain decreases the amount of leptin and increases ghrelin, an appetite stimulant. This flurry of hormones may be the cause of your late-night snacking habits!
When you’re tired you’re unlikely to exercise. With these things combined, it can lead to you becoming overweight, putting you at risk of developing serious conditions further down the line.
How to improve your sleep
Improving your sleep isn’t always as simple as going to bed earlier. We all have different responsibilities and obligations that may restrict us from getting a good 7-9 hours of shut-eye each night. So, what can you do to improve your sleep.
Of course, try to go to bed earlier to catch-up on your missed sleep, but if not, there are other things you can try:
- Limit daytime naps to get your sleep schedule back on track
- Don’t consume caffeine after midday
- Spend an hour before bedtime doing relaxing activities, like reading, meditating or taking a bath
- Don’t consume heavy meals before bedtime
- Don’t use your phone or any other electronic devices close to bedtime
- Exercise regularly
- Reduce your alcohol intake
If your insomnia is severe and it’s affecting your daily life and your mental or physical health, it’s important that you speak to your doctor or Chemist4U pharmacist for advice.
They may be able to offer you medication to encourage restful sleep or diagnose an underlying condition that may be the root cause of your insomnia.
Don’t snooze that alarm! It’s World Sleep Day and it’s time to wake up and prioritise your sleeping habits to ensure you have a healthy mind and body.
When you’re well rested, you’ll show up at your best. You’ll make informed decisions, your creativity is abuzz, and you’ll retain all of that vital information you’ve learned throughout the day.
For more information on sleep deprivation and insomnia, visit World Sleep Day or the NHS website.