Sleep is very critical to your well-being and good health through your life. Getting the right amount of sleep at the right time is fundamental in protecting your safety, physical and mental health as well as the quality of life.
How you feel when awake partly depends on what happens while you are asleep. When sleeping, your body works to support healthy brain function as well as maintaining your physical health. In teens and children, sleep also helps in supporting development and growth.
The damage caused by sleep deficiency can be caused over time or in an instant. For example, continuous sleep deficiency may raise the risk of chronic health problems. It may affect how well you react, think, get along with others and learn.
Emotional well-being and health brain function
Enough sleep will help your brain work properly. While you sleep, your brain prepares for the following day. It creates new paths to help not only to help you learn but also remember new information.
Research shows that having a good night’s sleep helps improve learning. Whether you are learning a new math concept, playing the guitar, driving or perfecting your golf swing enough sleep is critical. It also helps enhance your problem-solving skills, decision-making, and creativity.
Studies also reveal that lack of enough sleep may alter activities in different parts of the brain. Less sleep may lead to trouble controlling your behavior and emotions, as well as coping with emotions. Lack of enough sleep has also been linked to risk-taking behavior, depression, and suicide.
Teens and children who do not get enough sleep may have difficulties getting along with each other. They may be impulsive and feel angry, feel depressed or sad, have mood swings or lack motivation. They may also have difficulty in paying attention, feel stressed or get lower grades at school.
Daytime performance and safety
If you want to function well during the day, you should get enough sleep. If you are sleep deficient, you will be less productive at school or at work. Sleep deficient people tend to take long to finish tasks, make more mistakes and have a slow reaction time.
Several nights of less sleep even just a few hours, your ability to function lowers immensely as if you have lost several days of sleep. Sleep deficiency may also lead to micro-sleep; brief moments when you doze off and sleep when you are awake.
Microsleep is uncontrollable and in most cases you will not realize it. If you have ever had a road trip but can’t remember certain parts of the drive, you may have microslept. Microsleep affects different functions; you may miss some information during a lecture or rather just feel like you cannot understand everything. What you may not know is that you might have slept during some part of the lecture.
Most people do not know the risks of sleep deficiency. In most cases, people do not know they lack enough sleep. Even with poor-quality and limited sleep, you may think you can still function properly.
For example, a drowsy driver may feel they can drive. However, research shows that lack of sleep affects a person’s ability nearly as much as being drunk. Estimates show that driver sleepiness causes about 15,000 deaths each year. It is important to note that not only drivers are affected by lack of sleep. Sleep deficiency affects people in different lines. Sleep deficiency may not be harmful at a personal level but may lead to large-scale damage.
Sleep is critical to your physical health. For example, sleep plays a major role in repairing and healing your blood vessels and heart. Continuous sleep deficiency is significantly linked to increased risk of kidney disease, heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes among other health problems.
Lack of sleep may lead to an increased risk of obesity. A previous study revealed that with each hour of sleep lost by teenagers, the odds of being obese increased. Sleep deficiency also increases chances of obesity in other age brackets as well.
Enough sleep helps in maintaining a healthy balance of the hormones; ghrelin and leptin that are responsible for making you hungry and full respectively. When you have sleep deficiency, your ghrelin levels rise leading to a dip in leptin levels. This makes you feel more hunger than you would when well rested.
Sleep is also known to affect how the body reacts to insulin; hormone responsible for controlling levels of blood sugar. Sleep deficiency will lead to blood sugar levels that are higher than the normal which increases the risk for diabetes.
Sleep also supports healthy development and growth. Enough deep sleep is known to trigger a hormone which promotes growth in teens and children. The hormone is also known to help in repairing tissues and cells in children, adults and teens as well as boost muscle mass. Sleep is also critical to fertility and puberty.
The immune system depends on sleep to remain healthy. The system defends the body from harmful or foreign substances. Recurrent sleep deficiency may change how the immune system responds; a sleep deficient person may have trouble fighting common infections.
Signs and symptoms of sleep deficiency
Sleep deficiency may make you feel tired during the day. You may not feel alert or refreshed when you are awake. How sleepy you feel when awake may help you determine whether you have sleep deficiency. You may be sleep deficient when you feel like dozing off while:
- Sitting and watching TV or reading
- Sitting in public places such as classroom or movie theatre
- Talking to someone while sitting
- Sitting in traffic
- Riding in a car without stopping for some time
Human beings need sleep as much as they need to eat well and breathe. There is no substitute for enough sleep and not even stimulants like coffees can override the body’s need for profound sleep. Apart from the effects of sleep deficiency discovered above, other known systems affected by lack of enough sleep include the digestive, cardiovascular, respiratory, and central nervous systems.