Ask almost any adult if they believe they are getting enough sleep and most will bluntly tell you – no. Most times, they feel overly fatigued and wish they had more time to sleep.
In an age where sleep only inhibits the numerous activities we need to accomplish on a day-to-day basis, more and more people forgo the recommended amount.
But what are the risks of sleep deprivation?
- 1 What is Sleep Deprivation?
- 2 What Are Sleep Deprivation Symptoms?
- 3 What are the Long-Term Sleep Deprivation Effects?
- 4 The Conclusion on Sleep Deprivation
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Adults need anywhere between seven and nine hours of sleep a night, though that is not to say that some cannot be healthy with only six or need as many as ten to function optimally.
Factors like age, gender, and stress-level can all impact how much sleep each individual person requires.
Sleep deprivation becomes a real possibility when, short-term or long-term, you are not getting the amount of sleep your body requires.
This could be as simple as not getting to bed on time, or experiencing disturbances while you sleep. Sufferers of insomnia and sleep apnea are prone to waking up or simply not reaching deep sleep.
Regardless of the logistics, sleep deprivation can be a brief visitor in your life (like while you’re waiting for your newborn learns to sleep through the night) or a long-time menace.
What Are Sleep Deprivation Symptoms?
Symptoms of sleep deprivation range from mild inconveniences to truly life-threatening. A person who is sleep deprived may experience:
Drowsiness and Difficulty Staying Awake During the Day
Perhaps the most obvious symptom: if you feel unable to go about your day without constantly thinking about how badly you need a shot of espresso or a nap, you may be suffering from sleep deprivation.
You should be able to complete your daily tasks with minimal strain.
This is where the phrases “bone-tired” or “bone-weary” come in.
At a certain point of exhaustion, we can feel our tiredness deep within our muscles in the form of aches and pains.
This may occasionally be accompanied by gastrointestinal pain and diarrhea.
Mood Swings, Especially Irritability
In this sense, we really are the same as we were as toddlers: if we don’t get enough sleep, we turn grouchy.
The propensity to snap at our coworkers or get irritated with little inconveniences that normally wouldn’t affect us is a clear indicator that we may not be fulfilling our body’s sleep quota.
Think of a student dozing off in lecture. When you have nothing on your mind but how badly you want to climb into your bed, the mundane activities become less tolerable.
We fall asleep – we space out. This has potentially dangerous consequences for manual labourers, though most of us would consider our day-to-day lives something we need to be alert for.
The infamous Chernobyl nuclear disaster was found to, in part, have been caused by workers who were sleep deprived so this symptom is not to be taken lightly.
Impulsiveness and Decreased Judgment
Many refer to this as our loss of “common sense.”
Our brains go to a funny place without sleep, one almost comparable to being drunk. Many things seem like good ideas when they really shouldn’t.
A sleep deprived person may think it’s wise to drive sleepy, or take illegal drugs to feel more energized.
Contrary to what you may think without enough sleep, mixing your coffee with three energy drinks is probably not the best way to go.
Paranoia, Disorientation, and Hallucinations
These are perhaps the most terrifying symptoms. At a certain point of sleep deprivation, the sufferer loses his/her grasp on reality.
This may come in the form of being paranoid that aliens are monitoring them, or that everybody they know is talking about them behind their back. They may forget where they are, or even see and hear things that are not really there.
These symptoms often mirror those of acute paranoid schizophrenia but, thankfully, can be treated after the sufferer has caught up on some much-needed sleep.
What are the Long-Term Sleep Deprivation Effects?
Contrary to what many believe, not giving your body enough sleep can lead to effects as serious as, and including, death.
In its advanced stages, the hallucinations and disorientation that can accompany sleep deprivation are extremely dangerous, not to mention terrifying to the person experiencing the symptoms as well as those around them.
Apart from this, numerous studies have found that people who routinely forgo their recommended amount of sleep are at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease, obesity, kidney disease, diabetes, stroke, and depression.
Many of the symptoms of depression and sleep deprivation overlap, and there has been speculation that not enough sleep can lead to depression.
Here’s a video showing what would happen if you didn’t sleep.
The Conclusion on Sleep Deprivation
Sleep – we all need it. Our bodies simply cannot function optimally without it.
If you are one of the millions of people forgoing sleep to get other things done, keep in mind that your exhaustion will eventually inhibit your performance in those obligations, if it has not already.
Sufferers of insomnia and sleep apnea especially need to work hard to treat their conditions and ensure they are reaching rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. This is the deepest level of sleep and the most rejuvenating.
Sleep is an essential function that many of us take for granted or simply throw away. Don’t settle for quantity or quality. They are both absolutely essential.
Are you experiencing symptoms of sleep deprivation?