Timeline: The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

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One of the cornerstones of a good state of health is the ability to enjoy quality sleep.

Whilst all of us will undergo occasional, short periods of sleep deprivation, these tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

Some people, however, suffer from prolonged, severe periods of sleep loss, which can have a serious effect on their physical and psychological health, including, in extreme circumstances, causing their premature death.


The longer a person suffers from a lack of sleep the more serious the effects are likely to be. Here is a timeline of some of the likely consequences of missing out on your much needed sleep.

After Twenty Four Hours

After a full day without sleep the mind and body are noticeably affected.

Concentration is impaired, decision making ability is reduced, the memory deteriorates and there will be a degree of cognitive impairment, similar to that which is caused by alcohol intake. Physically, hand-eye coordination and hearing are also affected adversely. You will also frequently yawn and feel tired and run down.

After Thirty Six Hours

After a period of thirty six hours the physiological effects of sleep deprivation become more serious, with all of the symptoms mentioned above increasing in intensity. You are also likely to suffer an increase in blood pressure and a reduction in your body’s ability to fight infections. You will find yourself nodding off for periods of “micro sleep” and are likely generally to be irritable and short tempered.

After Forty Eight Hours

After two sleepless days and nights, the body will start to shut down, with the periods of “micro sleep” becoming more frequent and uncontrollable.

This clearly raises serious risks if the person who has been deprived of sleep is driving or using machinery. Mental functioning will be severely impaired.

The ability to concentrate will be much reduced and you are likely to suffer from mood swings, short and long term memory impairment and problems in making decisions.

After Seventy Two Hours

After a prolonged period of sleep deprivation, the psychological and physical effects become even more debilitating. The mind will deteriorate and there is a likelihood of hallucinations. Paranoid and/or schizophrenic delusions may occur in addition to wild mood swings, where the subject switches between uncontrollable laughter and tears. The impact on the body’s internal systems also becomes more marked.

After Ninety Six Hours

The implications of sleep deprivation for periods in excess of four days are likely to be dramatic. There will be a critical reduction in the efficiency of the body’s immune system, resulting in the build up of toxins that the body normally deals with during sleeping hours. The body’s ability to regulate its hormones is also adversely affected. Blood pressure and heart rate will rise and there will be metabolic and digestive problems. The risk of stroke, heart attack and Type 2 diabetes will also increase.

Summary

Sleeping is just as important to a human being as eating and breathing.

If you have little or no sleep your body is prevented from carrying out many essential functions that are necessary to maintain your physical and psychological well being.

Sleep deprivation can have severe, sometimes life threatening consequences, and, according to a study by Harvard Medical School, can increase the risk of death by approximately 15% in anyone sleeping for less than five hours night.

It is therefore essential that anyone suffering from regular, sustained sleep deprivation consults their GP and/or a sleep specialist to avoid the very serious implications of not getting the sleep that their mind and body so badly need.

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Effects of Sleep Deprivation


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