As vital as air to breathe and food to eat, we rely on sleep for so much of our health and well-being. Go without sleep and your brain and body simply can’t function normally. While you can overcome one or two nights of sleeplessness, ongoing sleep deprivation is far more sinister, opening you up to a plethora of serious health complaints that can negatively impact on your quality of life.
Why do we need sleep?
We all know the tell-tale signs after a bad night’s sleep: irritability, fatigue, yawning, but the effects of regular sleep deprivation don’t stop there. After 20 to 25 hours of no sleep, performance impairment of subjects has been tested to be similar to someone with a blood alcohol level of .1%. (Get a blood-alcohol level higher than .5% and you’re not allowed behind the wheel.) After just 72 hours of no sleep, serious physiological breakdowns occur, with deficits in concentration, perception and other mental processes occurring. Even conversations become difficult and the mind becomes poised for hallucinations, impulsiveness, suicidal thoughts, paranoia, depression, and mania (for those with manic depression).
When we get a good night’s sleep we give our bodies a chance to heal, a chance to repair. Good sleep hygiene - behavioural and environmental recommendations to help promote a better quality sleep - is essential, as is the right sleeping position. Our bodies need to regain their chemical equilibrium, hormones need time to balance, our brains need to form new neural pathways to help with memory retention, and organs need to detoxify. Without sleep, our brain and body are exhausted. And that’s not the end of the story. Here are even more ways a lack of sleep can affect us.
1. Immune dysfunction
When sleeping, our bodies have a chance to rebuild its forces, creating infection-fighting cells that ward off bacteria and viruses. These cells also help give your immune system more energy so you can defend yourself against disease. Without enough sleep, you’ll be prone to more illnesses and recovery will take longer. It’s also been proven that inadequate sleep increases the number of inflammatory compounds on your body, which is associated with a host of negative conditions such as allergies and asthma.
2. Digestive & metabolic dysfunction
With a lack of good sleep, we fail to produce enough leptin, the hormone that tells us we’ve had enough to eat, and levels of the appetite stimulant ghrelin are elevated. Consequently, we feel hungry all the time, and because we are fatigued, we have no energy to exercise. The result? Weight gain. Adding insult to injury, sleep deprivation also encourages higher levels of insulin to be released after you eat. Insulin is the stuff that makes fat storage easy – and increases the risk of type II diabetes.
3. Hormonal disruption
We need to get a good night’s sleep for proper hormone production. And, if you have trouble sleeping and wake throughout the night, your hormones could be negatively affected. This can affect the pituitary gland, testosterone levels, growth hormone production (which will affect muscle repair and strength) and much more.
4. Memory problems
You need to sleep in order for your body to form new connections that help you and recall new information. Without enough sleep, creativity, and both short-term and long-term memory can be affected. When sleep deprived, it is harder for individuals to interpret events, receive new information, have good judgement or recall previous events.
5. Coordination problems and accidents
For whatever reason, be it restlessness, sleepless nights or chronic insomnia, if you don’t get enough sleep, your nervous system cannot give you the right messages to control your balance and coordination, rendering you more vulnerable to falls and accidents of any kind. Further, drowsiness will lead to poor cognitive abilities, so your ability to make favourable decisions and stay alert will also predispose you to accidents.
Mattress & Pillow Science - the healthy sleep specialists.