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What Happens When Your Body Doesn’t Get Enough Sleep?

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

Have you been depriving yourself of one of the most important components of your physical well-being? Have you ever experienced sleep deprivation effects the next day but brushed them off and never paid heed to its after-effects? Are you being ignorant despite knowing the long term side effects of less sleep?

  If you have been doing so, it’s high time you stop fooling around with your health. ‘Health is Wealth,’ and nothing would sustain you if you cannot handle and take proper care of your most-prized possession properly, i.e., your health.

A woman feeling sleepy

Lack of sleep affects not just your mental fitness but even your physical well-being. It jeopardises your personality in various indirect ways. Let us see what lack of sleep leads us to.

What Are the Side Effects of Less Sleep?

Do you sleep for less than at least 6-7 hours a day? Read on to know the side effects of not getting adequate sleep.

  • Memory loss: Lack of sleep negatively affects both short and long term memory.
  • Negative effect on the brain’s functioning capacity: When you deprive your mind and body of enough sleep, your concentration span, creativity skills and problem-solving capacity take a toll.
  • Mood swings: Effects of less sleep lead to erratic mood swings, anxiety, and even depression, in the worst cases.
  • Accidents and mishaps: One of the major effects of sleeplessness is an increased risk of car accidents and other mishaps, or injuries taking place during the day.
  • Reduced immunity: Your immune system’s defence mechanism to fight against foreign bodies reduces when your body is deprived of sufficient sleep.
  • Leads to increased risk of blood pressure: The chances of high blood pressure increases when a person sleeps for less than 5 hours a day. The body’s ability to release insulin, a blood sugar-lowering hormone, is reduced and hence people who do not sleep adequately often suffer from high blood sugar levels and face higher risks of getting Type 2 Diabetes.
  • Weight gain: Lack of sleep leads to weight gain as the chemicals that send signals to your brain that your stomach is full are caught off guard and don’t function properly. As a result, you tend to eat despite already being full.
  • Kills sex drive: A drop in testosterone in men and a lower libido due to lack of sleep kills sex drive in couples.
  • Heart diseases: An increased blood sugar level, high blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals linked with inflammation, all are lack of sleep effects which can also lead to heart diseases. Read more on different types of heart diseases

What Causes Sleep Deprivation?

Sometimes lack of sleep is related to a much deeper root cause that we may not identify immediately. If you observe a pattern wherein you cannot get enough hours in to make up for your sleep, then it’s important to recognize and act on the reasons that may be keeping you from leading a healthy lifestyle. Here are some of the most common reasons causing sleep deprivation

  • Tight Deadlines, Night Shifts, Performance Pressure at Work – More often than not, we over-promise and take up more responsibility at work than we know we are capable of handling at that point in time. While the results of overworking yourself may not show up immediately, it will take a toll on your mental, emotional and physical health eventually.  
  • Chronic Mental Illnesses – Depression, anxiety, stress and other mental illnesses are some of the major contributing factors impacting our sleeping patterns. Treating them on time is imperative to our overall wellness as they may affect several areas of our life including our sleep.  
  • Hunger – Did you know that hunger is one of the leading factors of insomnia? Food is the fuel our body needs to function and when we deprive our body of it, we are interrupting the natural needs of our body. When we eat, our body secretes the hormone leptin which signifies that our body is satisfied and suppresses ghrelin whereas, when we don’t eat, our body secretes ghrelin which stimulates hunger and keeps us awake.  

Constant Use of Electronic Devices – The internet is an addictive place because it sucks us in and sometimes no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot get out of it. Constant use of electronics before sleeping can hamper our sleep schedule more than we realise.

Decrease in REM ( Rapid eye movement)sleep leads to cognitive dysfunction which further leads to memory loss in adults. Similarly in babies and children most of the bodily growth occurs in sleep.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

What Are the Prominent Signs of Sleep Deprivation?

What are some of the prominent signs that you’re depriving your body of adequate sleep?

Overworking your body and keeping it deprived of sleep for long leads to obvious signs of fatigue. These are:

  • Constant yawning.
  • Irritation at anything and everything.
  • Feeling fatigued during the day.
  • Excessively accumulated sleepiness.

Sleeping for at least 6-8 hours is very important for a variety of physical and mental health reasons, especially during night as it helps synchronise the circadian rhythm of your body with the environment.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D
Guy Yawning - Side effects of sleep

Consuming caffeine to ward off sleep only worsens the situation as it makes falling asleep more difficult. Depriving yourself of sleep on a regular basis is like subjecting your body to slow poison.

Read More About How Many Hours Should We Sleep?

How to Catch Up on Lost Sleep?

What steps could you take to get your routine in order and ensure that you make up on your sleep every night?

If not getting sleep is a perpetual habit that troubles you, you need to find a way out to make up for your backlog of sleep in order to stay away from weariness, health problems and other related issues.

Now the question here is how to do this. While catching up on all your sleep is not something you can achieve overnight, a proper routine can help you get back on track in just a few weeks.

You can do this by adding an extra hour or two to your daily quota of sleep. Also, do not keep yourself awake deliberately. Go to bed as soon as you start feeling tired or sleepy. Do not set an alarm to wake up in the morning and sleep without your pillow. While you might end up sleeping for 10 hours as a result of the initial phases, your routine will reach normalcy in a while.

Also Read: How to Stop Grinding Teeth: An Expert Guide Based on Research

Final Thoughts

The biggest mistake that we make is drinking coffee or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up solution to stay awake. This might boost your energy and concentration for some time, but it can prove to be a disaster in the long run by disrupting your sleep pattern.

Having known the deadly side effects of less sleep, gear up and stop yourself from keeping awake and inviting problems like insomnia. Go to bed and wake up on time to remain active all day and keep health problems at bay.

Also, Read About Insomnia Treatment – How to Deal With It?

Disclaimer: The information provided here is for educational/awareness purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional and should not be relied upon to diagnose or treat any medical condition. The reader should consult a registered medical practitioner to determine the appropriateness of the information and before consuming any medication. PharmEasy does not provide any guarantee or warranty (express or implied) regarding the accuracy, adequacy, completeness, legality, reliability or usefulness of the information; and disclaims any liability arising thereof.

Links and product recommendations in the information provided here are advertisements of third-party products available on the website. PharmEasy does not make any representation on the accuracy or suitability of such products/services. Advertisements do not influence the editorial decisions or content. The information in this blog is subject to change without notice. The authors and administrators reserve the right to modify, add, or remove content without notification. It is your responsibility to review this disclaimer regularly for any changes.

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