5 Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

You need sleep as much as you need to breathe and eat. Sleep allows your body to repair your physical and mental health and prepare for another day. In children and adolescents, hormones that promote growth are released during sleep. These hormones help build muscle mass as well as make repairs to damaged cells and tissues.

Sleep deprivation impairs your brain’s functions, affecting your cognitive abilities and emotional state. If it continues long enough, it can lower your body’s defenses, putting you at risk of developing illness. Chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with balance, coordination and decision-making abilities. It is dangerous to your mental and physical health and can dramatically lower your quality of life.

Here’s an overview of 5 surprising side effects of sleep deprivation — physical, mental, and emotional.

1. Sleep Deprivation Increases Appetite and Unhealthy Cravings

The inability to sleep may lead us to the kitchen late at night. Most of us will wander to the fridge and reach out for the unhealthiest, high-calorie snacks to satisfy our cravings. But why does this happen?

According to a study in the journal Nature Communications, sleep deprivation disrupts food choices in two ways: First, it curves activity in several brain functions responsible for ranking different foods in the mind based on what we want, and second, an increase in the brain’s amygdala — responsible for controlling the salience of food. Chronic lack of sleep impairs decision-making abilities while increasing our appetite for unhealthy foods.

A few studies by Harvard Medical School also found a link between lack of sleep and weight gain. Sleep deprivation increases production of the stress hormone cortisol. Lack of sleep lowers your levels of a hormone called leptin, which signals your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. It also raises levels of a biochemical called ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant.

2. Sleep Deprivation Impairs Cognitive Functions

Sleep helps us refine how we store memory, but a lack of sleep can lead to permanent cognitive issues such as memory loss. Sleep deprivation interferes with your ability to concentrate and learn new things. It can negatively impact both short-term and long-term memory. It impairs your decision-making process and stifles creativity. You are more likely to have a shorter temper and mood swings. If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you’re at increased risks of hallucinations, especially if you have narcolepsy. Chronic sleep deprivation can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other risks include impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

3. Sleep Deprivation Lowers Your Immune System

When you’re sleeping, your immune system produces protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies and cells. It uses these tools to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. Lack of sleep lowers your body’s defenses, reducing your body’s ability to fend off invaders. It may also take you longer to recover from illness. Chronic sleep deprivation raises your risk of developing chronic illness like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.

4. Sleep Deprivation Increases Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

Sleep deprivation causes the body to produce more chemical and hormones that can lead to heart disease, according to a study published in the European Heart Journal. These hormones and chemicals can increase the risk of stroke and other conditions such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, diabetes and obesity.

5. Sleep Deprivation Lowers Your Sex Drive

Lack of sleep in men and women indicate lower libidos and less sexual interest due to less energy and sleepiness. Men who suffer from sleep deprivation could also be at risk for low sex drive and abnormally low testosterone levels. According to a study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, half of the men who suffered from severe sleep apnea secreted lower than average levels of testosterone during the night.

Schedule a Consultation

The importance of quality sleep cannot be overstated — from keeping your appetite in check to regulating your blood pressure and cholesterol, the proper amount of sleep ensures your body is functioning at its best. To get you started, discuss and review your treatment options in order find the perfect option for you and your loved ones. Schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukla today.

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