Sleep Deprivation Effects
This is a serious condition that results when the body does not get enough sleep for an extended amount of time. Sleep deprivation can be caused by conditions like insomnia, or circumstances that prevent a full night's sleep. Sleep deprivation is so serious and debilitating that it is a common form of torture for interrogation purposes. Read on to find out what kinds of effects sleep deprivation can have on the mind and body.
While scientists do not know exactly what the purpose of sleep is, we do know that sleep is linked to many physical processes that are important for bodily and mental function. During sleep, the body heals muscles and balances brain and body chemistry. Without this time to balance chemicals, body and brain are consistently out of whack and will be unable to perform optimally.
Studies have linked sleep deprivation with a number of serious conditions:
Not getting enough sleep has been strongly linked to weight gain and obesity. When sleep deprived, the brain releases the same chemicals that it releases when it is low on food, triggering a hunger response. This means that sleep deprivation is directly linked to overeating, which is a major cause of obesity. This is compounded by the fact that sleep deprivation causes physical fatigue, which means you will be less inclined to exercise when you haven't had enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation has also been directly linked to a lowered immune response to diseases. One of the things the body does while asleep is release cytokines, which are compounds that enhance the immune system by fighting infections. When you do not sleep enough, cytokine levels drop, leading to a direct reduction in the effectiveness of the immune system, meaning more sick days.
Sleep also affects mental faculties. Lack of sleep is directly linked to impaired formation and recall of memories. Sleep deprived people are less able to receive and process new information, have less reliable recall of events, and often show impaired judgement in a similar way to people under the influence of alcohol. Sleep deprivation also impairs creative thinking and the formation of long term memories.
The ideal amount of sleep varies with age, but everyone should be getting at least 7 hours. Infants need a whopping 16-18 hours of sleep. This lowers to 11-12 for toddlers, and 10 hours a night for elementary students. Teenagers need a minimum of 9 hours, and adults over 21 can get by on 7-8 hours per night. Many adults try to sleep only 5 or 6 hours a night, which leads to long term, low level sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is a dangerous condition that reduces quality of life and longevity significantly. Sleep deprived people get sick more often, have more trouble thinking and remembering, and are at higher risk for obesity and related diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Sleeping a few more hours a night could make your waking hours more enjoyable and productive, and make you live longer and healthier.
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