If you’re someone who finds themselves tossing and turning at night, I’m sure you’ve experienced the tiredness, yawning, heavy eyelids, lack of focus and grumpiness that can follow. While many of us try to find the balance between work and leisure, in an attempt to “find more hours” in a day, sleep is getting pushed back. ‘Asleep on the job – cost of inadequate sleep in Australia’ reports inadequate sleep affects an estimated 7.4 million Australian adults. Unfortunately, the consequences of regular inadequate sleep go a lot deeper than just a bad mood.

Side effects of sleep deprivation:

  • Weakened immunity
  • High blood pressure
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Risk of diabetes
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Fertility issues
  • Depression and anxiety

Microsleeps

People who suffer from sleep deprivation will often experience what is called “microsleeps” where for a brief period the person falls asleep. This can last from 5 to 30 seconds. In a lot of cases the person will be completely unaware that it even happened, This can become quite dangerous, especially if behind the wheel.

Memory, concentration, learning 

Sleep deprivation leaves your brain exhausted and can affect how your body sends, receives and processes information. It also affects your memory and your ability to retain information. Lack of sleep reduces activity in your hippocampus – the memory centre of the brain. When sleep deprived, that “memory box” shuts down and you may find you can’t commit new experiences to memory.

Immune system

Sleep is a necessity that gives your body the time it needs to rest, repair and strengthen your body’s immune response. T cells play an important role in the body’s immune system and research shows that good sleep assists T cells in your body to fight off infection. During healthy sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, which help promote sleep. Studies have shown that our T cells go down if we are sleep deprived and inflammatory cytokines go up. A study published in ScienceDaily took blood samples from 11 pairs of identical twins with different sleep patterns and discovered that the twin with shorter sleep duration had a depressed immune system, compared with their sibling. While sleep isn’t going to necessarily prevent you from getting sick, lack of sleep can leave you more vulnerable.

Heart

Research shows that people who aren’t getting 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night are at higher risk of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, coronary heart disease and heart attacks. A study published by European Heart Journal showed that people who experience poor sleep have a 71% higher risk of ischemic heart disease and a 45% higher risk of stroke.

Diabetes

Another way sleep deprivation can cause health concerns is it can trigger your metabolism to slow, leading to weight gain, which is associated with diabetes, another leading risk factor for heart disease. Research shows the relationship between sleep problems and diabetes is strong and goes both ways. For example, people who are consistently having a bad night’s sleep are more likely to develop diabetes. On the other hand, people who suffer from diabetes are struggling to sleep.

Fertility issues

Sleep or lack thereof are closely related to hormones, the same part of the brain that releases the sleep-wake hormones (e.g. melatonin and cortisol) in both men and women is also responsible for activating the release of reproductive hormones – ovulation in women and sperm maturation in men.

 You might be left wondering, am I simply tired or am I sleep deprived? Signs you might be suffering from sleep deprivation:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble with thinking and concentration
  • Difficulty learning
  • Easily irritable
  • Yawning
  • Moodiness
  • Clumsiness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Forgetfulness
  • Low sex drive
  • Slow reaction times
  • Lack of energy

Your brain and body need sleep to function up to standard and without it, quality of life can and will be reduced. Invest in yourself and your sleep to avoid the serious consequences of sleep deprivation.