Sleep deprivation is usually caused by both internal and external factors. Stress and other related hormones can make it difficult for a person to obtain restful sleep, but equally, lifestyle choices such as poor diet and simply not giving yourself enough hours of shuteye can also be factors.
Not getting enough sleep might not feel like a big deal – especially if you’ve mastered the art of getting stuff done even while you’re tired. But actually, sleep deprivation can seriously harm your health. Here’s a breakdown of exactly what happens when you get no sleep:
- Your brain won’t perform as well
When you sleep, it’s your brain’s time to rest. Without enough sleep, your brain becomes exhausted, which affects its performance during the day. You might find that you find it particularly hard to stay focused or retain new information if you’re suffering from chronic insomnia.
- Your genes may work differently
It’s not yet understood how, but sleep deprivation can alter the way your genes work. This can result in certain epigenetic changes that affect cognitive and metabolic health in particular. Sleepline looks into sleep deprivation and epigenetics more thoroughly.
- You’ll be more susceptible to weight gain
Sleep deprivation is one of the biggest risk factors for weight gain. This is because sleep affects two of the main hormones that control your feelings of hunger and fullness. When these hormones are out of sync, your brain will tell you that you’re hungry when you’re not, causing you to overeat.
- Your mental health will decline
The first sign of poor sleep is mood swings. If you’re irritable and snappy for no good reason, it’s most likely linked to sleep deprivation. In more serious cases, a lack of sleep can lead to a decline in your mental health, which may be characterised by anxiety, depression, impulsive behaviour and even hallucinations.
- Your hormone production will decrease
Getting a good night’s rest is essential for producing the hormones your body needs to function properly. It’s thought that without three hours of REM sleep, your testosterone hormone production will be negatively affected. Interrupted sleep might also affect the production of growth hormones, especially in children.
- You’re at higher risk of heart disease
Insomnia is linked to high blood pressure, which puts you at a bigger risk of stroke and heart disease. When you’re sleeping well, your blood pressure drops, but interrupted sleep can cause it to stay higher for longer.
- You’ll experience microsleep
If you’re really sleep deprived, your brain will fall into periods of microsleep. This is essentially a short, temporary episode of sleep of around five to 30 seconds that might occur without you even being aware of it. Microsleep is incredibly dangerous, as it can occur at any stage, such as when you’re driving your car.
- Your energy levels will dip
When you don’t get enough sleep, your body will struggle to store energy and control when your energy is used. This is because your body has lower levels of leptin, which is needed to process glucose for energy.