What you need to know about sleep deprivation

What you need to know about sleep deprivation

The loss of sleep is a common problem in modern society, affecting many individuals at some point in their lives.  Sleep deprivation occurs when an individual gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert. People vary in how little sleep is needed to be considered sleep-deprived. Some people such as older adults seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, while others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable.

Although occasional sleep interruptions are generally no more than a nuisance, ongoing lack of sleep can lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity and a lowered perception of quality of life.

There is no questioning the importance of restorative sleep, and a certain amount of attention is necessary to both manage and prevent sleep deprivation.

This Medical News Today Knowledge Center article examines the consequences of sleep deprivation, along with what can be done to treat and prevent it.

Fast facts on sleep deprivationHere are some key points about sleep deprivation. More detail and supporting information is in the main article.

  • Sleep loss alters normal functioning of attention and disrupts the ability to focus on environmental sensory input
  • Lack of sleep has been implicated as playing a significant role in tragic accidents involving airplanes, ships, trains, automobiles and nuclear power plants
  • Children and young adults are most vulnerable to the negative effects of sleep deprivation
  • Sleep deprivation can be a symptom of an undiagnosed sleep disorder or other medical problem
  • When you fail to get your required amount of sufficient sleep, you start to accumulate a sleep debt.

Symptoms

The main symptom of ongoing sleep loss is excessive daytime sleepiness, but other symptoms include:

  • yawning
  • moodiness
  • fatigue
  • irritability
  • depressed mood
  • difficulty learning new concepts
  • forgetfulness
  • inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head
  • lack of motivation
  • clumsiness
  • increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • reduced sex drive

Effects

Sleep deprivation can negatively affect a range of systems in the body.

It can have the following impact:

  • Not getting enough sleep prevents the body from strengthening the immune system and producing more cytokines to fight infection. This can mean a person can take longer to recover from illness as well as having an increased risk of chronic illness.
  • Sleep deprivation can also result in an increased risk of new and advanced respiratory diseases.
  • A lack of sleep can affect body weight. Two hormones in the body, leptin and ghrelin, control feelings of hunger and satiety, or fullness. The levels of these hormones are affected by sleep. Sleep deprivation also causes the release of insulin, which leads to increased fat storage and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Sleep helps the heart vessels to heal and rebuild as well as affecting processes that maintain blood pressure and sugar levels as well as inflammation control. Not sleeping enough increases the risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Insufficient sleep can affect hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone in men.

 

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