Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

It’s natural for everyone to have a restless night of sleep every now and then, but what happens if you’re chronically sleep deprived? The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommends that adults, ages 18 to 64, should get 7-9 hours of sleep every night while adults 65 years and up should get 7-8 hours of sleep each night. Get a little less or a little more than that recommended amount? No fear,NSF notes that anywhere between 6 and 10 hours is considered healthy.

However, what if you’re falling short on your z’s? Maybe you’re one of those people who is so busy and sleep happens when (and if) it happens. Before you shrug off NSF’s recommendations, here are some issues that can surface due to continued sleep deprivation:

What Happens in Your Brain?

When you sleep, your brain has a chance to prep for the next day and it forms new pathways to help you learn and remember information. If you don’t sleep, your brain doesn’t get the chance to do what it does best, such as paying attention, making decisions, and solving problems. Lack of sleep affects practically every part of your brain and over time, you can start to feel depressed, be prone to fits of emotion, experience memory loss, suffer from brain damage, and even have hallucinations. In some cases, sleep deprivation can lead to an increase of risk-taking behavior and even suicide.

Physical Health Issues

If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, not only will your brain feel the effects, but your physical health can be affected, too. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, just like sleep is important in repairing your brain, sleep heals and repairs your heart and blood vessels. Poor sleep can increase the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and a compromised immune system.

Poor Performance Throughout the Day

Even if you sleep the recommended amount on a regular basis, losing even forty minutes to an hour of sleep in an evening can affect your day. For instance, take Springtime Daylight Savings Time. Due to the lack of sleep, lost during Daylight Savings, the probability of workplace injuries is increased. Sleep deprivation not only affects your productivity and safety at work, but it can also affect your safety on the road. Much like distracted action of texting and driving, a drowsy driver’s cognitive process can become impaired.

Operating a vehicle while sleep deprived is similar to driving under the influence of alcohol and drowsy driving is responsible for thousands of fatal crashes each year.

Tips for a Better Night’s Sleep

Sleep is often difficult when living in such a busy world, but it’s important for your overall health and longevity. Here are some tips to get a better night’s sleep:

  • Stick to a Sleep Schedule, Even on the Weekends
  • Get Daily Exercise and Eat Well
  • Eliminate Distractions Before Bedtime, Create a Calming Ritual (avoid screen time, caffeine, or food right before bed)
  • Make Your Room Sleep Friendly: Is it Dark? Cool? Free From Distractions?