The Serious Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Daylight Savings means we “fell back” an hour, which has left many of us feeling a bit off as we adjust to the brighter mornings and darker evenings. An hour may not sound like much, but it is enough to disrupt our brain’s sleep cycle.

Our brains are synched with the light cycle of the sun – as the sun rises, the light it emits is a signal to our brains to wake up. Less of this light helps cue to our brains that it’s time for sleep. However, it’s not uncommon for this natural rhythm to get disrupted.

It’s estimated that roughly 60 million Americans suffer from insomnia, and even more may experience either acute or chronic sleep deprivation. While these issues may be common, they’re nothing to take lightly.

Research has shown that adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night, while kids and teens need more. Without adequate sleep, our bodies are unable to receive the fuel it needs for the day, resulting in negative side effects.

Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

More and more research has supported the claim that less sleep can result in more health complications – both mental and physical. Here are just a few side effects of sleep deprivation:

  1. Weight Gain Studies have found a link between people who regularly get around 5 hours of sleep each night and higher body mass indexes. Researchers believe this to be caused in part by the imbalance in the production of leptin and ghrelin – two hormones important in appetite regulation.There may also be a connection between less sleep and impulse control, which could contribute to poor eating habits. One study found that certain parts of a sleep-deprived brain were stimulated when shown food, triggering a hunger response even when the participants’ weren’t hungry. This suggests that sleep-deprived people are more likely to overeat than well-rested people.
  2. Increased Risk of Type 2 Diabetes Some lab studies have found noticeable changes in participants’ blood glucose levels after reoccurring nights of sleep deprivation, including a decrease in glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity. This, in combination with the imbalance of appetite-regulating hormones and the increased possibility of weight gain, lays the groundwork for an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes after regular sleep deprivation.
  3. Increased Risk of Depression & Anxiety Research has found a connection between insomnia and depression. In fact, one study found that non-depressed individuals with insomnia were twice as likely to develop depression. Conversely, people with depression are also more likely to develop insomnia, resulting in a harmful cycle.The same cyclical relationship can occur with anxiety and insomnia. Many individuals with anxiety have a hard time “turning off” their racing thoughts and can even become anxious about losing sleep, exacerbating insomnia.
  4. Long-Term Memory Issues A 2013 study conducted by the University of California, Berkley was the first of its kind to confirm the link between poor sleep and memory loss. The study found that during sleep, certain brain waves are produced that help transfer short-term memories to the part of the brain that stores long-term memories.The researchers found that poor sleep can cause memories to stay in the hippocampus, resulting in forgetfulness. This is especially prevalent in older adults, as sleep quality can frequently decrease as we age.

The good news is that there are things you can do to start getting better sleep. Check out our tips for getting better sleep tonight.

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Chang, Louise. (2018, July 2). “Are You Getting Enough Sleep?” Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/sleep-requirements#1

Loria, Kevin. (2018, August 22). “Sleep Deprivation Can Kill You – Here’s What Sleeping Less Than 7 Hours Per Night Does to Your Body and Brain.” Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/sleep-deprivation-effects-on-your-body-brain-2018-8

Morning Edition, (2018, November 3). “We Just ‘Fell Back’ An Hour. Here Are Tips To Stay Healthy During Dark Days Ahead.” Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2018/11/03/663155917/ready-for-the-time-change-here-are-tips-to-stay-healthy-during-dark-days-ahead

Nordqvist, Joseph. (2013, January 28). “Poor Sleep Causes Memory Loss and Forgetfulness.” Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/255511.php