We’ve all been there.
Travel, late night projects, insomnia. Whatever it was that kept you up, the result is the same.
Sleep deprivation among Americans is at an all time high. In fact, it is estimated that a third of Americans are regularly sleep deprived, with the average American getting 1.5 hours less sleep per night than he or she should be
Lack of sleep affects the way we interact with the world around us- every 24 hours we go without sleep, our performance decreases by 25%. Reduced energy, unstable mood, and lack of focus are just a few of the results after a night of little to no sleep.
And after a few days? Hallucinations and “micro-sleeps,” that is, when your brain shuts down for five to ten seconds while you’re still awake, will begin to occur.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation has long-term consequences. Lack of sleep hinders growth and repair of cells and supresses immune response. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension, and certain types of cancers are all more likely to develop in those of us who regularly skimp of Z’s.
Attention and Memory
When you miss a night of sleep, you’ll experience an inability to focus on tasks like you usually do. It may take you longer to complete those tasks or you may not perform them as well as you usually do. Poor cognitive function, memory processing, and decision-making ability have all been observed in those who have gone without sleep for just 24 hours. The effects of sleep deprivation at this point are often compared to the effects of drinking a little too much, and, in fact, is the equivalent of a blood alcohol content of .1%. This can make everyday tasks, such as driving, more dangerous.
One of the first things you may notice after an all-nighter is a change to your mood and the way you react to challenges throughout the day. Depression, anger, and even mania have all been reported after 1-2 days of no sleep. Events that otherwise wouldn’t bother you become catalysts for emotional overreaction precipitating fights or emotional breakdowns.
Hunger and Metabolism
Your body is going to signal that you’re hungry when you aren’t. Even worse, those signals will be accompanied with cravings for unhealthy, high-fat high-sodium food. You’re hormones are out of whack when you lose sleep- ghrelin, the hormone that let’s your body know it’s hungry, rises, and leptin, the hormone responsible for fullness, drops.
All of this is accompanied by a drop in metabolism- one long-term effect being insulin-resistance, an inability to store the food you eat normally. Those people who are regularly sleep-deprived are at increased risk for obesity.
Immune System and Disease
When you skip sleep, you’re lowering your body’s ability to fend off bacteria and viruses. Long-term, this puts you at a greater risk for all sorts of diseases.
Furthermore, without the time for your body to repair itself, you’ll produce both adrenaline and corticosterone, your body’s stress hormone. Overproduction of these hormones are known to raise cardiovascular risk and promote Alzheimer’s Disease.
Lack of sleep can also worsen or promote Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), gastrointestinal tract disorders, kidney disease, and cancers.
Rest is the way that our body is able to recover, grow, and stabilize our systems. Get yourself prepped for your best night of sleep possible by regulating your exposure to light- getting more during the day and as little as possible at night, working to reduce stress, avoiding substances that alter your state of mind ( alcohol and caffeine), establishing a sleep schedule, and taking advantage of the calming effects of a hot shower or cup of (decaffeinated) tea.