The dictionary definition of sleep is that it’s a a naturally recurring state of mind and body, characterised by altered consciousness, relatively inhibited sensory activity, reduced muscle activity and inhibition of nearly all voluntary muscles during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, and reduced interactions with surroundings. In simple words it’s a state where all the body’s activities are reduced to a minimal state for the body to recover from the fatigue that occurred during the day. People nowadays take sleeping for granted, and the main reason in most the cases is work related. Maybe they want to complete a task before a deadline or someone working to get a promotion etc. In all this life hassles our health has taken a back turn and the one thing that helps us recover and makes us ready for the next day is being sidelined. But before going into all these questions about how sleep affects our health, we need to look at how it maintains our normal body physiology.
The most noticeable physiological changes in sleep occur in the brain. The brain uses significantly less energy during sleep than it does when awake. In areas with reduced activity, the brain restores its supply of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule used for short-term storage and transport of energy. In quiet waking, the brain is responsible for 20% of the body’s energy use, thus this reduction has a noticeable effect on overall energy consumption. While sleeping we don’t respond to normal sensory stimuli but we can still respond to loud noises and other extreme stimulus. Sleep is controlled by circadian rhythm, which is basically our biological clock which tells our body to know when to sleep and when to wake up.
Effects of Sleep deprivation
Long-term effects of sleep deprivation are real. Lack of sleep is detrimental to mental as well as our physical health. Sleep deprivation can be linked to a lot of diseases. It may be a risk factor for some and an additional factor responsible for exacerbation of symptoms. Some of the diseases that are found to be linked:
People getting less sleep than usual have been shown to have higher readings of blood pressure compared to people getting enough sleep. The amount sleep varies from person to person. Some might need more sleep and some might need less. However the amount of sleep averages to about 6-7 hours at least in the night. Sleep helps to reduce inflammation as it decreases cytokine production responsible for inflammation and also hormones increasing blood pressure.
2. Mental health
One of the most important and most common health effects of sleep deprivation is seen on mental health. The most common symptom of sleep deprivation is change in persons mood. Study’s have shown that people get more irritable than usual self when they don’t get enough sleep. Also depression and anxiety also have been seen to affect sleep deprived people. Sleep cycles and mood regulation are both regulated by the hormone melatonin. In fact, lower levels of melatonin are often found in people suffering from depression and those affected by insomnia. Also it affect one’s memory. It has been shown that there is negative impact on memory and people tend to forget things which they would remember usually.
Not getting enough sleep disturbs the body’s normal metabolism, especially glucose metabolism. There is decrease in insulin secretion in the body as per studies which causes a state of hyperglycaemia (increased blood sugar) in the body and becomes a risk factor for type 2 diabetes mellitus.
Sleep deprivation has been shown to decrease sex drive. Also it has been seen that there is also performance related issues which are linked with anxiety and depression associated with sleep deprivation.
5. Weight gain
The hormone leptin (which makes you feel full) decreases in sleep deprived people and the corresponding hormone gherkin ( under stimulating hormone) increases in sleep deprivation. Hence people usually feel hungry when not getting enough sleep.
6. Immune system
Lack of sleep causes a state of stress in the body which decreases the effectiveness of the immune system and hence predisposes one to illnesses.
The problems related to lack of sleep have been highlighted above, but these are not the only ones. There are a lot of issues for example heart disease, strokes, problems related to growth and development etc. All of these gets combined if one is sleep deprived for a long time. Maintaining a good sleep hygiene is important not only for one’s physical but also for the mental well being of a person. If you are reading this and are chronically sleep deprived try to get your sleep together or if it is difficult take help of a professional who will help you in identifying your problems and give solutions to rectify them and maintain your health