If you've ever spent hours tossing and turning at night only to stay awake for the whole night, you've likely experienced some symptoms of sleep deprivation. Missing out on the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep can cause myriad negative side effects, including mood changes, chronic health disorders, and an increased risk of multiple conditions. Read on to learn more about the causes, stages, and effects of sleep deprivation. We also delve into the relationship between sleep deprivation and the central nervous system.
Multiple studies have found links between sleep deprivation and stomach conditions or illnesses that cause nausea. While sleep deprivation does not usually directly contribute to nauseous feelings, it can inhibit the immune system's ability to regulate stomach function and health, which can eventually cause nausea.
In general, sleep deprivation is caused by a consistent lack of sleep or severely reduced quality of sleep. There are many reasons for which a person might experience a lower quality of sleep. A few of the most common include the following:
Your central nervous system requires sleep to uphold its function as the body's chief processing center. In this role, the central nervous system works to maintain bodily functions such as awareness, movement, thinking, smelling, and speech.
Sleep research over the past few decades has revealed a key link between sleep quality and immune system health. The immune system, critical to healing wounds and maintaining health, requires adequate sleep and rest to function properly. Sleep and immune system health have a unique relationship in that each affects the other in a multitude of ways. For example, immune responses, such as infections, can hurt sleep quality by making it difficult to fall asleep. On the other hand, lack of sleep can also throw off the immune system, weakening its ability to ward off disease and infection.
Recent research and evidence strongly suggests that sleep deprivation can indeed contribute to illness and infection. A lack of sleep has been linked to both short term illnesses such as the common cold, as well as long term conditions such as diabetes and stroke.
In the short term, substantial research has found that a person's risk of infection more than doubles in those who receive less than 6 hours of sleep on average. This effect may be linked to a function of the immune system that regulates inflammation to ward off disease. In those who receive adequate sleep (more than 7 hours a night), the body is able to perform the inflammatory processes that keep it healthy. However, people who receive less than 6 hours of sleep are more likely to wake up with inflammation and infection still persisting.
Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, leading to a negative cycle of insomnia and sleep disorders. When you do not sleep well, your body releases a hormone known as cortisol, which raises stress levels. If you feel anxious or unable to fall asleep, we recommended checking out this blog for 11 of our best tips for falling asleep fast.
Although it is not terribly common, lightheadedness and dizziness can both be side effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can make your eyes sleepy and unfocused, which can contribute to dizziness and other dangers.
Sleep deprivation has been found to increase the risk of a number of gastrointestinal problems, including diarrhea, gastroesophagael reflux disease (GERD), nausea, constipation, and vomiting.
The stages of sleep deprivation refer to the effects of refraining from sleeping for multiple hours and days. However, even if you close your eyes every night, you can still develop sleep deprivation if you only receive a couple hours of rest each day. The following are symptoms and stages that your body might experience during sleep deprivation.
After one full day without sleep, your body will likely feel tired. You may need a couple more seconds to respond to questions and your reflexes will likely be impaired. According to the CDC, sleep deprivation of 24 hours shows effects on the body roughly equivalent to those from a blood alcohol content of .1, higher than the legal limit to drive.
Staying awake for more than 24 consecutive hours may cause the following:
When you forgo sleep for a full day and a half, your symptoms of sleep deprivation will become more severe. You will likely feel a deep urge to sleep and may experience brief (30 seconds) periods of micro sleep. Different parts of your brain will have a hard time communicating with each other, which may cause symptoms such as the following:
Missing sleep for more than two full days is known as extreme sleep deprivation. At this stage, you may begin to hallucinate and see, feel, or hear things that are not actually occurring. Other possible effects of sleep deprivation of this magnitude include:
Three or more days without sleep can result in serious mental and physical side effects. You may begin to hallucinate, experience frequent periods of micro sleep, and even see illusions. Eventually, despite your best abilities to remain awake, your body fill force itself to rest and you will fall asleep.
In most cases, it only takes a few days to sufficiently recover from sleep deprivation. After experiencing sleep deprivation, it is a good idea to get more than 8 hours of sleep for the next few nights to ensure you remain rested. Severe cases of sleep deprivation may require up to 2 weeks of recovery, especially if you have experienced significant side effects such as hallucinations and extreme fatigue.
In addition to sleep, many environmental and dietary factors can work to prevent sleep deprivation. These factors usually work by activating the brain's arousal system to keep the body awake even when sleep deprived. Here are a few of the most popular sleep deprivation treatments.
The most obvious treatment for sleep deprivation is also the most helpful. Simply increasing the amount of sleep you get each night can help mitigate emotional and physical symptoms of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can take many different forms; it can occur chronically over a period of many months, or acutely over a single night.
Best of all, you probably won't need an astounding amount of sleep to make up for sleep deprivation. In most cases, the side effects of sleep deprivation subside after one solid night of 8 hours of sleep or more.
Besides sleep, one of the next best cures for sleep deprivation is actually engaging in physical activity. However, the benefits you see from engaging in activities may decrease the more sleep deprived you feel.
Exposure to bright light forces the body to wake up by impacting its circadian rhythms, the natural 24 hour cycle that your body follows. Studies show that consistent exposure to bright light may be able to improve sleep deprivation by adjusting your body's circadian rhythms.
Doctors and healthcare professionals suggest getting more than 7 hours of sleep a night for good reasons. Failing to do so can cause both short term and long term side effects. Prolonged sleep deprivation that lasts for months at a time can result in serious negative long term side effects such as impaired memory and physical signs of stress.
The most common short term side effects of sleep deprivation may include:
Seizures are actually very sensitive and closely related to sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is a common seizure trigger for many people, as many men and women find they experience their first seizure after pulling an all-nighter. The link between sleep deprivation and seizures may be attributed to the ways in which forgoing sleep impacts the brain.
This theory proposes that sleep changes the way electrical activity happens in our brains. If your sleep is disturbed or you do not get enough sleep, it can trigger an imbalance in electrical activity - and therefore make it more likely that you will have a seizure.
Quality sleep is incredibly important to overall health; it works to heal muscles, improve brain function, and aid in digestion. Unfortunately, many people have trouble falling asleep as quickly as they would like. Multiple studies also suggest that the average American receives about 6 hours of sleep per night, considerably less than the recommended 8 full hours. When looking to improve the quality and quantity of your sleep, we recommend following these guidelines:
Sleep deprivation is a condition caused by a prolonged lack of sleep quantity or quality. Most adults require between 7 and 8 hours of sleep per night to maintain their health and well being. Falling to receive this amount of sleep can result in negative side effects.
Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased frequency of many conditions such as:
To help prevent sleep deprivation, we recommend working to improve your sleep quality in the following ways: