Everyone has had a night or string of nights of poor sleep. Research has demonstrated that 30 - 40% of US adults suffer from sleep deprivation. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention recently stated that insufficient sleep is a public health epidemic. The feeling of sleep deprivation isn’t good, nor are the effects it has on our mind and body. Sleep deprivation can have a tremendous impact on us even in the short term.
Memory, Alertness, Concentration and Athletic Performance
During sleep the brain is recovering from the “wear and tear” of the previous waking day. In addition, memories are being formed and organized. Therefore, if the body is not receiving sufficient sleep, the ability to form and recall memories is hampered. Sleep deprivation impairs the conversion and storing of new learning into long term memory. Ninety minutes less sleep can reduce one’s daytime alertness by up to 32%. Sleep deprivation also reduces attention, focus, and concentration, making problem solving and learning more difficult. In the gym, lack of sleep impacts our strength, speed, reaction time, muscle recovery, chance of injury, focus, and teamwork.
All of the impairments discussed in this section will improve after just one good night of sleep, however it will likely take several nights for a more complete recovery.
Drowsy Driving and Workplace Accidents
Slow reaction times and reduced awareness, make drowsy driving incredibly dangerous. A recent study found that 60% of adult US drivers report having driven while drowsy in the past year. Alarmingly, almost 40% report having fallen asleep while driving. It has been shown that 20% of all serious car crash injuries are associated with driver sleepiness. For the 95-99% of us who need 7-9 hours, sleeping for only six hours for 10-12 days can result in the same degree of cognitive and motor impairment as a blood alcohol level (BAC) of 0.08, which is considered legally drunk. The same level of impairment may be present when achieving only four to five hours of sleep for one week, or by going a full night without sleep. While we may not realize it, drowsy driving is similar to intoxicated driving in terms of our level of impairment, yet many people never hesitate to drive their children and love ones when tired.
Sleep deprivation also impacts our ability to avoid workplace accidents. Highly fatigued workers are 70% more likely to be involved in accidents than workers with low fatigue levels.
People who don’t get enough sleep also experience hormonal disturbances that affect body weight. Without sleep, your body has a harder time maintaining normal blood sugar levels. This can result in unwanted weight gain. Also, not getting enough sleep affects your appetite. When you are tired, your appetite kicks up a notch due to hormonal shifts, resulting in extra calories consumed compared to your appetite when you feel rested and healthy. One research study found that people who were intentionally sleep restricted consumed 559 more calories than a group who was not sleep restricted. In some respects, sleep and hunger may be perceived similarly by our brains, making it hard to distinguish whether you are actually hungry or simply tired.
Emotional Intelligence, Judgement, and Relationships
Inadequate sleep results in a worsened ability to accurately read other people’s facial expressions, among other cues key to our emotional intelligence. People who are sleep deprived tend to view others as more threatening than someone who is not sleep deprived. Sleep deprivation also makes it harder to control and appropriately express emotions. Having more difficulty making decisions about right versus wrong is another side effect of insufficient sleep. Similar to alcohol intoxication, we become less aware of our own impairment the more sleep deprived we become. Given that lack of sleep is linked to poor decision making, less humor, less positive emotions, less security, and less ability to solve problems, it is not surprising that sleep deprivation negatively impacts the ability to create or maintain healthy relationships.
Immune System and Recovery
The body’s immune system relies upon good sleep in order to function properly. Sleep deprivation is linked to an increased risk of cold and flu. Cold symptoms may linger longer when sleep deprived. Lack of sleep is also tied to longer times for vaccines to become effective. When sleep deprived, the body takes longer to recover from general body soreness and muscle repair as well as from injuries and major illnesses.
Sex Drive and Fertility
Research has shown that lack of sleep, even in the short term, leads to significantly decreased testosterone levels for men. A similar effect on libido has also been found in women. Research also suggests that lack of sleep can negatively impact our reproductive hormones, thus having an negative impact on our fertility levels. Risks of miscarriage or pregnancy complications increase as a result of sleep deprivation.
Article written by Optisum