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Sleep Deprivation Effects

In this busy society, we have all experienced a restless night of sleep...Though the side effects of not sleeping are unpleasant to face the following day, lack of sleep leads to more than feeling tired and groggy.


When it comes to health, diet and exercise tend to come to mind first. However, sleep is also vital to physical, mental, and overall health.

What's more, a growing body of research shows poor sleep habits can lead to a number of health concerns. Learn the effects of sleep deprivation and action to take to beat such risks.

The Risks and Management of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation describes not getting enough sleep.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. However, the CDC reports about 35 percent of adults are sleeping less than 7 hours.

Short and long-term sleep deprivation can negatively impact overall health, including the risks detailed below.

Risks of Sleep Deprivation

The risks of sleep deprivation are extensive and fairly broad. From accidents to physical health, lack of sleep may lead to:

• Weight gain: Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain in a number of ways. First off, cortisol tends to increase when sleep deprived, in turn increasing appetite. The hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin may also become imbalanced. This can reduce feelings of fullness and heighten cravings.

Sleep deprivation can further slowdown metabolism, along with lessen energy. Low energy levels can compromise workouts and the desire to cook a nutritious meal.

• Health conditions: Mostly related to an unhealthy weight, health conditions and diseases can surface. Chronic lack of sleep increases the risk of heart disease and failure, high blood pressure, stoke, and diabetes.

• Depressive feelings: Over time, lack of sleep can contribute to symptoms of depression. Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, has the strongest link to depression. This correlation is not too surprising, though, as insomnia is one of the first symptoms of depression.

Insomnia and depression feed off of each other and create a vicious cycle. Depression can keep prevent the mind from dozing off at night, while sleep loss can aggravate the symptoms of depression. A meta-analysis also indicates insomnia is significantly associated with an increased risk of depression.

• Accelerated skin aging: A restless night can lead to dark bags under the eyes and eventually accelerate the aging process. When the body is deprived of sleep, it releases more of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Too much cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein responsible for skin's elasticity and smoothness.

• Reduced cognitive function: Sleep deprivation compromises attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. The brain fog can inhibit day-to-day functions and lessen productivity and motivation. Studies show these cognitive consequences can increase the likelihood of car accidents.

Natural Ways to Help Sleep

With such risks of sleep deprivation, it is understandable why catching the Zzz's is now a desired nightly routine.

Fortunately, there are ways to improve sleep quality and quantity, including:

• Sticking to a bedtime routine: A "bedtime" is not only for children. It is an influential nightly hour that may have powerful effects on the body. Forming a schedule can keep sleep and wake cycles regulated and promote an awakened and lively mind come morning hours.

• Creating a comfy sleep environment: Evaluate the bedroom to ensure appropriate and ideal room temperatures, sounds, and lights. Also sleep on a comfortable mattress with a cozy, but sturdy pillow.

• Turning off electronics: Electronic devices may impede on a restful night's sleep. The shining light can disrupt sleep regulation and hither the ability to feel sleepiness. For that reason, turn off the television and electronic devices well before an established bedtime.

• Limiting caffeine: Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours, as drinking after mid-morning can disrupt sleep cycles come bedtime. Caffeinated products include coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, and chocolate.

• Relieving nighttime hunger: Snacking is generally discouraged following the evening meal. However, some snacks can promote a restful night's sleep or beat those annoying cravings. If you can't sleep, try these midnight snack ideas to cure your hunger!

• Writing out worries: Despite the efforts to power down, the mind tends to be loudest at night. But rather than allowing thoughts, worries, and anxieties prevent from sleep, write down the feelings that keeping the mind awake. Continue writing until the mind becomes blank and eyes heavy. Also end with statements such as, "I feel better and this can wait until tomorrow."

• Practicing relaxation techniques: Rather than stressing over not being able to fall asleep, prime sleep cycles by practicing relaxation techniques. From breathing exercises to guided imagery, these relaxation exercises for falling asleep can quiet the mind and calm the body.

Using essential oils may also be able to aid in sleep. For instance, lavender oil shows to reduce feelings of anxiety, in turn quieting the mind. Spray on pillows or other preferred areas to induce relaxation.

However, it is important to talking with a primary care provider if having trouble sleeping. A number of health conditions that may impede on sleep quantity and quality, including obesity, sleep apnea, and arthritis. Certain medications may also have a negative impact on sleep cycles.

A healthcare professional can help treat the underlying conditions to promote better, restful sleep. They can also recommend safe products for better sleep, including melatonin supplements.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 29, 2013. Updated on May 13, 2019.


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