Sleep deprivation may be commonplace in the busy american culture, but the impact is far greater than a bit of irritation and aggravation. Increasing risk of accidents, injury, weight gain, and emotional tension, Sleep Deprivation can cause serious issues. Drowsiness isn’t just a signal to get more sleep, it’s a RED ALERT sign that your quality of life may be dramatically impaired.
Increasing your chance of getting into an accident
Sleep deprivation claims responsibility for numerous catastrophic disasters, alongside tens of thousands of smaller accidents. Insufficient sleep is consistently linked to automobile crashes, industrial disasters, medical issues, and significant occupational issues. Even something seemingly trivial, such as nodding off while driving, can cause serious injury and even death.
Drowsy driving can cause greater impairment than alcohol. Researchers in Australia concluded that after being awake for 18 hours straight, the impairment is equal to that of a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .05. After 24 hours; the number increases to .1. For reference, .08 is considered legally drunk in most places.
Significant Weight Gain and Unhealthy Eating
People, no matter the demographic, tend to make unhealthy eating choices when they are deprived of sleep. Some explanations are purely behavioral, such as reaching for a cup of coffee or high calorie snack to boost your energy after a night of low sleep.
Michael Breus, PHD and clinical director of the sleep division for Arrowhead Health says that
“It’s not so much that if you sleep, you will lose weight, but if you are sleep-deprived, meaning that you are not getting enough minutes of sleep or good quality sleep, your metabolism will not function properly,”.
Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that play a key role to maintaining your weight. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells your body when to eat. When you are sleep-deprived, your body tends to produce more ghrelin. On the other hand, Leptin controls your body from eating too much. As expected, those that are sleep deprived release less leptin.
In short, staying up late makes people make poor eating decisions and causes the shifting of two hormones that ultimately result in weight gain.
Lack of Sleep Leads to Poor Memory Formation
Memories are consolidated and formed when we sleep. While the process is unknown, the science behind the occurrence is strong. Sleep deprivation means that your brain is much less effective at storing, consolidating and processing new memories.
In fact, a few well documented studies show that sleep deprivation prevents overnight learning.
Increasing Stress and Relationship Tension
Of course, sleep deprivation leads to increased irritability and frustration, but the impact on a relationship can be significantly damaging.
A research team led by Wendy Troxel, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University’s School of Medicine, analyzed the sleep patterns of 35 married couples. The couples studied had an average age of 32, and were primarily caucasian professionals. The couples that received lower amounts of sleep reported significantly more negative interactions. Interestingly enough, the couples reported that most of the negative interactions were initiated by the wives.
Increased Aging of the Skin
Research shows that women who report lower amounts of sleep also show signs of poor quality skin. The study utilized a Transepidermal Water Loss (TEWL) test to determine the ability of the skin to serve as an effective barrier against moisture loss.
The study concluded that: “In measurements 72 hours after a skin barrier stressor (tape-stripping), the recovery of good quality sleepers was 30% higher than poor quality sleepers (14% vs. -6%) demonstrating that they repair the damage more quickly. Additionally, poor quality sleepers were significantly more likely to have a higher Body Mass Index (BMI). For example, 23% of good quality sleepers were obese compared to 44% of poor quality sleepers. Not surprisingly, self perception of attractiveness was significantly better in good quality sleepers (mean score of 21 on self evaluation) vs. poor quality sleepers (mean score of 18).”
Depression and Frustration
The amount of sleep you get and your mood are very closely connected. Too little or inadequate sleep can result in irritability and stress, while solid healthy sleep can enhance well-being.
After a night of no or little sleep, you will be more short-tempered, vulnerable to stress, and show significantly increased irritability. Of course, once you get a good night sleep, your mood should quickly return to normal. However, numerous studies show that sleep deprivation significantly impacts mood and reported happiness the next day. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week were significantly “more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted.”
It’s not just a lowered mood. Sleep deprivation also causes greater “emotional reactivity”. That is, people who suffer from low amounts of sleep are more likely to react negatively when something goes poorly for them.
Sleep deprivation can be detrimental to your health and lifestyle. If you are concerned that you might not be getting enough sleep, go to bed earlier! Drowsiness is RED ALERT!
About the Author
This article is a guest post written by Jesse Leimgruber. Jesse is a student studying at Stanford University and researching the impacts of sleep deprivation on your everyday life. Stanford University’s Sleep and Dreams class maintains a website focused on ending your sleep deprivation. To read more articles like this, and learn more about Dr. William C. Dement and sleep deprivation, visit: www.end-your-sleep-deprivation.com