How Sleep Deprivation Affects the Body’s Processes

sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is all too common among adults today. Just because there are a host of stimulants, such as coffee, that can infuse you with energy to get through a rough morning or afternoon sluggishness, doesn’t mean you are beating the system.

Sleep is crucial to your body’s proper functioning and not getting enough can affect your overall health. Don’t hit snooze on sleep deprivation — get enough rest and reap the rewards.

Sleep allows the body to cleanse and renew itself, and gives your brain a chance to brain sort information and replace vital chemicals. While your brain is asleep, your body is working to gear up for the day ahead. Interrupting or eliminating sleep only puts you at a disadvantage during waking hours.

An estimated 40 million Americans endure sleep problems, though only 20 percent discuss it with their doctors. Because of this, many sleep disorders go undiagnosed. Getting enough sleep is more than just a matter of health; it can be the difference between life and death. According to the Sleep Foundation, sleep deprivation causes 100,000 automobile crashes, 71,000 injuries, and more than 1,500 deaths per year. Sleep disorders also cost Americans more than $100 billion per year. 

Cognitive performance is compromised with a lack of sleep. It also impairs temporary memory despite other conditions promoting optimal performance. In one study, participants’ visual short-term memory was tested. The results were clear: visual short-term memory is comprised during sleep deprivation, an effect compounded by delay. In another study, people who stayed awake for up to 19 hours scored worse on performance and alertness tests than those who were legally drunk! And much like a boozy night out, sleep deprivation also has the potential to produce false memories.

In a German study, subjects learned a list of semantically associated words and were told to either stay awake or sleep immediately after recognition was tested. When they were tested again after a 44-hour period, those who endured sleep deprivation were shown to have critically false memories of the theme words.

And if all of that isn’t enough to make you go to bed on time, maybe this will: a lack of sleep can intervene with dietary weight loss efforts. Even if you are counting the calories and hitting the gym regularly, insufficient sleep can compromise the effectiveness of typical dietary interventions for weight loss and related metabolic risk reduction. Consider sleep a part of the weight loss formula – get enough and you’re even closer to your goals.

So why take for granted perhaps the most important part of the day? Sufficient sleep will help you perform better during wake hours. Find you mark — between 7 and 9 hours per night for most people — and try to hit it every night, even if it means hopping into bed an hour earlier.

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Image Credit: Ed Yourdon