Sometimes, it’s tough to get a good night’s sleep. You may be feeling worried or anxious over a personal matter, or the kids or neighbors may be keeping you awake at all hours. But those sleepless nights, if they occur frequently, can cause many health problems, including weight gain and impaired brain function. So if you’re having trouble getting a good night’s sleep on a consistent basis, read on to find out what effects that sleep deprivation is having on your life and your body.
1. Weight Gain
If you’ve been getting less than the recommended seven hours of sleep every night, you might have noticed your waistline has begun to expand. That’s because the body has a difficult time processing the protein leptin, which regulates the metabolism and appetite, when it’s kept awake. When your metabolism slow and your food cravings increase, it’s very, very easy to gain weight.
A lack of sleep also makes it difficult for the body to process sugar, which can raise your blood sugar levels. Over time, this can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.
2. Increase in Stress
If you’re feeling stressed out about something, chances are, thinking about it is keeping you awake at night. Conversely, the lack of sleep has you feeling stressed out, not only because it’s affecting your everyday life, but because it increases the level of stress hormones in the body.
3. Increased Risk For High Blood Pressure
Because your stress hormone levels are high from lack of sleep, this puts you at a higher risk of developing high blood pressure, or hypertension. In fact, some studies have shown that a lack of sleep can affect your blood pressure within 24 hours. Over the long-term, this can lead to heart disease. So if you’re getting less than six hours of sleep per night, your chance of developing high blood pressure has greatly increased.
4. Weakened Immune System
If you haven’t been getting enough sleep at night, you may be more susceptible to contracting illnesses such as a cold or flu. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, making it tougher for your body to fight off viruses and bacteria. It also makes it harder for your body to produce a fever, which is the body’s natural response to foreign invaders and is its way of fighting off the infection.
5. Sleep Paralysis
When you sleep, your body goes into lock-down mode, also known as sleep paralysis. To prevent you from acting out your dreams, no matter how much you may want to, your muscles are essentially paralyzed during the REM cycle of sleep. If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, you may be prone to waking up or becoming conscious while your body is still immobilized. The more sleep deprived you are, the more likely it is that hallucinations will accompany these episodes.
6. Increased Irritability
When you’re feeling tired, you’re more likely to get irritated at the smallest things. You’re more likely to go through mood swings and snap at other people including friends, family and co-workers. Irritability can affect your ability to concentrate and your relationships at work and at home.
7. Poor Quality of Life
When you’re tired, you don’t really have the energy to go anywhere or see anyone. You may have to skip out on your son’s football games or miss spending quality time with friends and family, and this can strain your relationships. Staying inside all of the time can give you a mean case of cabin fever and a lack of socialization can have a negative impact on your mental health and may even lead to depression, which is common in people who suffer from sleep deprivation.
8. Impaired Memory and Brain Function
Sleep deprivation can impair many functions of the brain, including how it processes information and how you think, make decisions and how you learn simple tasks. A lack of sleep can also impair your memory. During the REM cycle of sleep, the brain consolidates and organizes your memories, so if you aren’t getting enough REM sleep, this can affect your ability to remember.
9. Decreased Alertness
When you’re sleepy, your mind feels foggy and it can be difficult to shake that feeling. That foggy feeling means you’re less alert – up to 32 percent less alert, according to WebMD. This can lead to a decrease in your performance at work or school.
10. Increased Risk of a Car Accident
Because a lack of sleep causes a decrease in your alertness and ability to concentrate, it also affects your ability to make decisions behind the wheel. Many car accidents are caused by drivers who fall asleep at the wheel and many more are caused by drivers who feel tired and sleepy while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, at least 100,000 car crashes, 1,550 fatalities and 71,000 injuries are caused by drowsy drivers. Drowsiness can also increase your risk of accident at work, at school and even at home.