What Can Happen to Your Body When You’re Sleep Deprived

A bearded man sleeping on his side facing the viewer

It doesn’t matter why you’re doing it – the fact is, if you’re depriving your body of sleep, you’ll be faced with some not-so-pleasant side effects, and sometimes even serious consequences. Your body needs to relax and unwind for at least 7 hours per day in order to recover –  and your mind needs this too.

Lack of sleep in the modern world

Nowadays, sleep is viewed almost as a privilege, as something that we might have time to for in between our busy and fast-paced lives. However, sleeping is a priority, and as equally important as eating, or drinking water.

The impositions of modern life, such as pressure from employers, domestic responsibilities, educational demands, globalisation, the internet and increased working hours have reduced even more the time for rest and sleep.

How much sleep do we need?

Sleeping times vary according to age. Babies can sleep up to 17 hours a day, school-age children should sleep from 9 to 11 hours and young-adults and adults should meet the 7- 9 hour bracket per night.

While genetic, behavioral and environmental factors play a part in how much sleep a certain individual needs each night, a minimum of 7 hours is essential for a healthy adult.

Consequences of sleep deprivation

Concentration issues

As little as 24 hours without proper sleep can affect your thinking and decision-making process. Simple choices become complex, and your brain will definitely have trouble focusing when trying to make more difficult decisions.

In addition, forget about trying to learn anything new, you won’t even be able to register new information; as a lack of sleep can lead to short-term memory loss and even exacerbates Alzheimer’s disease pathologies. You may also have trouble communicating effectively.

Coordination issues

Your body will also be negatively affected by a the lack of sleep. Coordination issues are not uncommon, and your muscles and neck may feel sore and heavy, as there was evidently not enough time for your body and tissues to recover.

You may get sick easily

Lack of sleep can compromise your immune system, as it can lower the number of cells available to attack bacteria or viruses. As a result, your body can’t defend itself against diseases and inflammation, and you become more likely to get sick.

Your heart may weaken

When you’re asleep, your heart rate slows down significantly, to reduce blood pressure. In other words, your heart gets its own share of rest, in order to perform at its best during the day. However, by not allowing your heart to relax, you may be more likely to suffer from heart disease and hypertension (high blood pressure).

You’ll feel more stressed

Lack of sleep can affect your cortisol levels – which is the hormone that manages stress. The more stressed you are, the more cortisol you produce, which has an overall negative effect in your body. In addition, higher cortisol levels can have a negative impact on your skin, reducing its collagen, which is what keeps the skin elastic and looking young.

Your skin may age prematurely

As we mentioned before, the negative impact sleep deprivation has on the production of collagen affects the elasticity of skin. However, lack of sleep can also affect the skin in other ways, such as as dullness, dryness, spots and even those dark circles under the eyes that just do not go away.

You can even feel paranoid

Sleep deprivation for a long period of time (more than 18 hours) may even lead to paranoia and delusional beliefs, making you feel disconnected from your thoughts, body and reality.

You may gain weight

Not getting the right amount of rest every night may have an impact on your appetite, making you eat more than you usually would. Less sleep lowers the levels of leptin, (a hormone that suppresses appetite) and increase the production of grehlin (a hormone that increases food intake).

You’ll feel more pain – literally

Tolerance to pain may become lower when you’re sleep deprived. Furthermore, sleep deprivation can interfere with analgesic treatments, making them less effective.

You may experience a lower libido

As this article suggests, you libido may decrease if you’ve been sleep deprived, as it can lead to feel more stressed, which can lower sex hormone production. In fact, as stated by the article, the majority of the daily testosterone release in men occurs during sleep. If we factor in that testosterone is not only critical for reproduction but also has beneficial effects on muscle mass and strength, bone density and overall well-being, it can quickly become a major issue.

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