The Impact of Sleep Deprivation & Tips for Improvement
If you’re reading this, chances are you might be one of the many people in the world who equate “chronic sleep deprivation” with a temporary disorder.
It’s understandable — we’ve all forgotten to set an alarm before or had trouble falling asleep due to some stressful event.
But there is more to chronic sleep deprivation than meets the eye: it’s linked with mental illnesses like depression and anxiety and has detrimental effects on physical health.
In this article, we’ll explore the effects of chronic sleep deprivation and what it may mean for your physical and mental health in the future. We will then provide some suggestions on how to improve your overall level and quality of sleep.
The Impact of Sleep Deprivation
- Decreased Metabolism
Sleep deprivation negatively affects glucose metabolism: your body’s ability to use sugars for energy production. When you don’t sleep enough, you’re more likely to develop diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance. This is because sleeping reduces the metabolic demands that are placed upon your body, and metabolism slows down in response.
- Weight Gain
Sleep deprivation decreases production of the growth hormone that helps the body rebuild damaged tissue and recover from illnesses. This results in slower healing times and a slowed-down metabolism, which can eventually result in weight gain or obesity.
Sleep deprivation results in an increased production of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which are linked to weight gain. Not getting enough sleep can also cause a high risk of cardiovascular diseases and even type 2 diabetes as your body is overworked from constantly trying to meet the demands of healthy functioning.
- Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep deprivation is a well-known risk factor for cardiovascular ailments. Even though we don’t yet know the exact reasons to explain this association, some researchers suggest that it may have to do with the fact that sleep-deprived people tend to have higher blood pressure and higher heart rate — both of which increase your chances of developing cardiovascular diseases.
- Weakened Immune System
Chronic sleep loss can lower your immunity and directly affect your ability to fight off infections or disease. This is because sleep releases growth hormone that helps accelerate and repair the body’s tissues. It also increases cell turnover, which speeds up the healing process and moves the body away from a catabolic state (when it breaks down its tissue) to an anabolic state (when it rebuilds tissue).
Sleep deprivation is directly linked to the development of cancer and tumors in several different types of cells, including breast cells, endometrial cells, prostate cells, colon cells. The mechanism is still unknown, but it seems to result from the high amount of free radicals produced during sleep deprivation.
- Mood and Mental Health Difficulties
Sleep deprivation negatively affects mood and mental health. It’s known to cause an increase in anxiety, depression, irritability, hostility, anger, and fatigue. In addition, sleep deprivation can lead to an inability to concentrate or grip on tasks and make mental errors like memory loss and poor judgment.
- Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia
Sleep deprivation directly increases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia since it causes inflammation, impairs memory storage and retrieval and hinders brain cell communication. It also causes amyloid plaques to form in your brain, making the disease more deadly over time.
- Car Accidents
Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of car accidents since it affects your reaction time and ability to perceive danger in your environment. An adequate amount of sleep can help you feel more alert and attentive, so you can avoid dangerous situations on the road while driving or crossing streets.
- Decreased Life Longevity
Sleep deprivation can also affect your longevity. Research shows that people who get less than 6 hours of sleep per night have a 15% higher chance of dying early from all causes. This is due to the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, which aren’t good for the body over time. In addition, sleep deprivation is one of the most effective ways to impair your immune system because it causes a reduction in white blood cells, which are vital for fighting off infections and diseases.
10 Ways To Improve Your Sleep
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, it’s essential to address the issue right away to ensure overall health and wellness.
Below are ten tips to help you get more sleep:
- Go to bed at the same time each night. The body likes a routine, and it will get used to going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day.
- Get outside and exercise during the day – this helps you fall asleep easier.
- Don’t have any electronics in your bedroom, including TV, laptops, cell phones, or tablets. The light from these devices can mess with your natural sleep pattern.
- Limit or avoid caffeine after noon (coffee, tea, diet soda). Caffeine is a stimulant that can affect your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep all night long.
- Have a relaxing pre-sleep ritual. Some sleep experts say to avoid looking at the clock, so you don’t focus on the exact time you have to go to bed. Others say it helps to have a set schedule for going to sleep and waking up every day.
- Have a cool (not cold) room temperature and only use your bedroom for sleeping. This can help you associate your bedroom with sleep – instead of doing work or watching TV in there.
- Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time each day, even on weekends.
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine (cigarettes, e-cigarettes, cigars), or eating high-fat foods before bedtime. These can make it harder to fall asleep and wake you up during the night.
- Limit daytime naps to 30 minutes and try not to have more than one a day. A short afternoon nap can help you fall asleep at night, but too much sleep during the day can affect your nighttime sleep.
- Create a relaxing environment in your bedroom – keep it clean and dark and try to keep noise levels down.
Therapy For Sleep Deprivation
If you are having issues with sleeping, Washington Psychological Wellness is here for you.
Therapy can open the door to better sleep hygiene, contribute to a positive relationship with sleep, help you develop different perspectives on your sleep concerns, and help you identify which factors are contributing to your insomnia.
Contact us now for a complimentary 15-minute initial consultation to learn how therapy can help you improve your sleep.