According to a study performed by the CDC, 35 percent of US adults receive less than seven hours of sleep every night. This percentage is even higher among different groups, such as single parents. Because it’s so common and we all have to contend with factors like school, careers, home responsibilities, and anxiety over world events, many people have started considering that sleep deprivation is an unavoidable part of life.
But just because something is common doesn’t mean it’s advisable. And when you consider all the things that can happen when you don’t get enough sleep, it becomes clear why it’s a problem.
Loss of Focus
One of the first things a lack of sleep will impact is the brain. Those who are sleep deprived tend to have trouble focusing, are less alert, and often have trouble making sound judgments or decisions.
On one level, this can make performing everyday tasks at school and jobs difficult. But on a more concerning level, the sleep-deprived brain often behaves similarly to the inebriated brain. Driving a car while sleep-deprived is often more dangerous than driving drunk.
Sleep has a profound effect on mood that goes beyond the bad mood people associate with being tired. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can increase or exacerbate instances of anxiety, depression, or suicidal ideation. And because insomnia is often an unexpected consequence of mental health conditions, like anxiety and depression, it can, unfortunately, create a vicious cycle.
Sleep is when your body does the most healing. It’s one of the reasons why you’re so tired when you’re sick. When you don’t get enough sleep, you lose that healing time.
On top of this, a lack of sleep can increase your body’s production of the stress hormone cortisol. Along with making you feel more on edge, cortisol suppresses immune system functions. In other words, when you lack sleep, you drastically reduce your ability to fight off new infections and heal from already existing conditions.
Your heart rate is lower when you’re asleep since your body is at rest. When you don’t have time for your heart rate to return to a more restful state, it can result in higher blood pressure during the day. This can increase the risk of cardiovascular issues like heart attacks, heart disease, or strokes. It may also increase the risk of diabetes.
Tips for Improving Sleep
If you want to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation on the body, taking action to promote good sleep is essential. A few simple things you can do to improve sleep include:
- Establish a nightly routine
- Exercise, though not too close to bedtime
- Spend time in the sun during the morning
- Avoid eating heavy meals before bed
- Stay off electronic devices before bed
Many times, adjusting your sleep environment can help improve sleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider using cotton bedding or something else more breathable. Cleaning your room and making sure the air is cool will also help.
Do the most good for you!