10 surprising side effects of sleep deprivation

10 surprising side effects of sleep deprivation

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 playing a role in our overall health and wellness.


Lifestyle habits, including what we eat; sleeping patterns; 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, cause 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 there are really good 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 these: 


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 weeks, and then 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. 


3. Sleep or die

There is actually a world record for sleep deprivation of between 11-19 days, depending on where you get your information. These people recovered within a few days, and there have been no deaths recorded as a result of forced wakefulness.

However, sleep deprivation is a form of torture (see number 9), so there may well have been deaths that the world is unaware of.

In rats, however, death invariably follows if they are deprived of sleep for more than two weeks, and this is also the case in humans suffering from a rare disease, FFI. Fatal Familial Insomnia is a brain disease that causes an inability to sleep followed by dementia and death; it has a survival rate of only 7-26 months.


4. 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 ever tried to stay awake in a boring lecture or while riding a bus and your head jerking 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.


5. Sleep loss costs money

According to The American Academy of Sleep Medicine, sleep loss implicates an average of 250,000 accidents per year. This may seem like a high number, yet around 80,000 drivers could be experiencing a microsleep or even falling asleep while driving.

Driving drowsy accounts for over 800 deaths each year, according to a conservative estimate by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The cost of human life is high, and so is the monetary cost.


6. Lack of sleep dulls your sex life

If you find you are too tired to have sex, get more sleep! 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 were having sex less often for the same reason. 


7. Sleep to lose 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. And when you are awake for longer hours, you are also prone to eating more meals and snacks. 


8. More sleep means better grades

A morning sleep-in could mean that you pass 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, reported by the American Psychological Association, confirmed that compared with students starting earlier, the later starters were better rested, less depressed, had fewer behavioral issues, and got better grades. 


9. Sleep deprivation is a form of torture

There has been increased controversy recently over the CIA's use of sleep deprivation as an 'advanced interrogation technique.' Those who have been victims of sleep deprivation speak of hallucinations, waking dreams, and psychosis.

A person's equilibrium and sanity are distorted as a result. Loughborough University Sleep Research Center believes that sleep deprivation is unequivocally a form of torture. 


10. Sleep deprivation is a nationwide problem

The National Sleep Foundation found in their 2005 study that Americans had just over 6.9 hours of sleep each night. Although that doesn't sound too bad, it is actually two hours less sleep than our 19thcentury counterparts enjoyed and an hour less than people were sleeping 50 years ago.

No wonder they often seemed less stressed and tired! Maybe we can learn something from our elders?


Improve the quality of your sleep, by including these healthy foods in your diet:

Almonds - contain high doses of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleeping and waking cycle. It also contain magnesium and calcium that promote muscle relaxation and sleep. You can get some whole almonds HERE

Whole grains -  these grains encourage insulin production that result in tryptophan activity in the brain. They also have magnesium which is said to help you stay asleep. Get them here: Barley, Buckwheat, Brown rice.

Honey - Glucose in honey lowers levels of orexin, a neurotransmitter in the brain that makes you more alert. Honey will put that alertness in reverse. Get some organic honey HERE


Now go get some sleep ;-)  

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