are you knee-deep in a lack of sleep?
At Country Life Natural Foods, we are all about healthy living. We believe in feeding the mind, body, and soul. A holistic approach where all things are intimately connected and play a role in our overall health and wellness.
Lifestyle habits, including what we eat; sleep quality; physical activity; emotional self-connection; spiritual beliefs, harboring relationships, and positive forward thinking, contribute to this holistic approach.
While healthy foods are one of our favorite topics to talk about, because that's what we do ;-) We know sleep is just as important!
If you don't get enough sleep, it affects your eating habits negatively, leading to weight gain and other chronic illnesses. And when you eat poorly (lack of nutrients and high GI carbs), it can affect your deep sleep. So it becomes a vicious cycle.
Sleep is crucial, not just because of the comfort factor, but because there are real valid reasons to hit 'snooze' or go to bed earlier to get enough hours of shut-eye and avoid serious side effects.
Here are 10 of the most significant side effects of sleep deprivation and some tips on how you can improve your sleep to avoid them.
10 side effects of sleep deprivation
1. Lack of sleep can build up over several days
It is well known that the effects of sleep deprivation build up over time. In recent years, it has become known as 'sleep debt', and the results can be incredibly harmful.
The University of Pennsylvania conducted an extensive study of sleep deprivation. The volunteers were limited to around 6 hours in bed for two week. Afterwards their cognitive and physiological function was tested and compared to volunteers who had only gone two or three nights without sleep.
Those restricted to 6 hours of sleep per night over 14 days showed significant drops in performance and reactions—performing just as poorly as those who had not slept for two nights.
2. You can't tell how tired you are
As part of the Pennsylvania study, the test participants were asked to assess how tired they were, and their assessment was way off the mark.
They reported a small amount of sleepiness, and even at the end of the two weeks, despite an objective fall in cognitive and physical function, they still believed that they were functioning normally.
This can pose a serious hazard when you think you are more capable physically and mentally than what you actually are.
3. Microsleep is dangerous
Microsleep is defined as an episode of sleep that lasts a fraction of a second up to half a minute.
You are probably familiar with the concept if you have tried to stay awake in a boring lecture or while riding a bus, and your head jerks as you fall asleep.
These can be dangerous if we don't notice them – for example, when you drove through a traffic light with no idea what color it was, you likely experienced microsleep.
It can also make you more prone to injury if you operate heavy machinery at work.
4. Sleep loss costs money and lives
A study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine shows that sleepiness while drivign and poor sleep quality significantly increase the risk of motor vehicle accidents in adolescents.
Results indicate that adolescent drivers were twice as likely to have had a crash if they experienced sleepiness while driving or reported having bad sleep.
Driving drowsy accounted for over 600 deaths in 2020, according to a conservative estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The cost of human life is high, and so is the monetary burden on individuals and governments.
5. Lack of sleep dulls your sex life
If you find you are too tired to have sex, get more sleep! Sleep loss has been associated with sexual problems like erectile dysfunction, infertility, and a lower sex drive.
The National Sleep Foundation conducted a study in 2009 and found that 75% of all those responding had a sleep problem that carried over into their sex life.
About a quarter of these said they refused sex because they were too tired and had sex less often for the same reason.
6. Weakens your immune system
A lack of sleep can weaken the immune system by affecting various immune cells and the hormones that regulate them. Sleep deprivation impacts the immune system by:
- Reducing the production of cytokines - proteins that help regulate the immune response.
- Reducing the numbers of T-cells - a type of white blood cell that plays a crucial role in fighting infections.
- Altering cortisol levels that regulate immune function.
7. Increases the risk of gaining weight
Prolonged periods of lousy sleep increase the risk of obesity and diabetes because the body and brain cannot regulate glucose and manage your appetite.
A lack of sleep can also disrupt hormones that regulate hunger, leading to an increase in appetite and weight gain.
And when you are awake for longer hours, you are also prone to eating more meals and snacks.
8. Less sleep affects your concentration levels and grades
Perhaps a more obvious side affect of sleep deprivation, but a very crucial one to take note of!
A morning sleep-in could mean passing a class with an A grade instead of a B.
7,000 students were studied at the University of Minnesota in 1997 when a school district changed the start time from 7.15 am to 8.40 am. The study confirmed that compared with students starting earlier, the later starters were better rested, less depressed, had fewer behavioral issues, and got better grades.
9. Impacts chronic conditions
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of chronic conditions:
- Diabetes: Chronic sleep deprivation can promote glucose intolerance, increase insulin resistance, and increase the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
- Cardiovascular disease: Lack of sleep means your blood pressure stays higher for a longer period of time, and high blood pressure increases risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Depression: Chronic sleep deprivation can worsen symptoms of depression and increase the risk of developing the condition.
- Alzheimer's disease: Chronic sleep deprivation and insomnia can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease and other forms of dementia.
10. Messes with your emotional state
Sleep deprivation negatively affects your mood, emotional state, and mental abilities such as decision making and creativity. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings, have more anxiety, paranoia, and even suicidal thoughts.
how to get better shut-eye
Establish a regular sleep schedule------
Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. This will help regulate your body's internal clock and improve the quality of your sleep.
create a sleep-conducive environment------
Keep your bedroom cool, dark, and quiet, and consider using a white noise machine if needed. Most research suggests sleeping in a cooler room around 65 degrees. Also, invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows for proper support.
avoid screens and bright light before bed------
The blue light emitted by electronic devices can interfere with sleep, so avoid using phones, computers, and televisions for at least an hour before bed. Avoiding bright light will contribute to your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.
Regular physical activity can help improve the quality of your sleep since the changes in energy use and body temperature can promote solid sleep. But be sure to finish exercising at least a few hours before bedtime.
Avoid caffeine and alcohol------
Both of these substances affects the brain and can interfere with sleep. Avoid consuming them several hours leading up to bedtime. Instead, drink a hot cup of camomile tea. READ MORE: 5 Herbal tea health benefits you do not want to miss out on
While napping can help improve mood and alertness, napping too close to bedtime can interfere with sleep. If you need a nap, limit it to 20-30 minutes and take it earlier in the day, ideally shortly after lunch.
view morning sunlight------
Our internal clocks are regulated by light exposure. Sunlight has the strongest effect, so try to view direct morning sunlight as soon as you can by getting outside or opening up windows or blinds Getting a dose of daylight early in the day can help normalize your circadian rhythm.
wind down before bedtime------
Wind down and relax before going to sleep with some reading, low-impact stretching, listening to soothing music, and relaxation exercises to get into the right frame of mind for sleep.