Last Updated on December 1, 2016 by Michael Brockbank
A lack of sleep can cause a wide assortment of problems within the human body. It does more than just make you feel tired or make you yawn throughout the day. In severe cases, it can actually cause permanent internal damage and even death. Getting a good night’s rest is imperative to the overall functionality of your body from both a physical and mental standpoint.
7 Things that a Lack of Sleep Affects
I am one of those people who just can’t sleep throughout the entire night. I suffer from various bouts of insomnia as well as a high-stress level. So, I can definitely see a lot of the following in my every day routines.
Sleep disorders can lead to a myriad of issues. Here are just a handful of some of the more serious problems you might face when you can’t get any shut-eye.
1. Not Getting Enough Rest Can Literally Kill You
With all the physical complications that come from a lack of sleep, not getting enough can be dangerous. According to the European Union of Cardiology, a lack of sleep doubles the risk of heart failure. This is caused by a myriad of issues ranging from higher blood pressure to obesity.
Insomnia can also lead to hypertension, something that I suffer from. This weakens the heart’s ability to continue functioning properly and can lead to heart attacks.
It’s also believed that a lack of sleep can increase the risk of having a stroke as well. Luckily, I haven’t had one of these myself. However, it’s enough to put a bit of fear in me for getting some sleep. After all, I am over 40 and overweight.
2. Loss of Fine Motor Control
One of the reasons why drinking and driving is so dangerous is because humans lose their capacity for fine motor control. In reality, sleep deprivation can have a similar effect. In fact, a lack of sleep has been linked to a large number of car accidents world-wide because of the inability to react to danger.
How often have you been too exhausted to literally move or get up off the couch? I’ve had this happen a few times. It’s when you’re so tired that you have the hardest time even standing straight. Do you know how many people will get behind the wheel of a car while feeling this way?
A loss of motor control can affect everything from work to play. It’s the equivalent of being drunk with one powerful exception – you won’t sober up. Sure caffeine and adrenaline will give you a boost. But it’s only delaying the inevitable. Your body will shut you down.
3. Clouding Your Memory
We’ve all had spats of being forgetful. As I get older, I find that I am getting far worse as time continues. However, sleep can also deprive you of your memories.
Being forgetful usually doesn’t have serious repercussions. I highly doubt my life will be affected if I couldn’t remember what I ate for breakfast yesterday. However, it can be monumental if you’re forgetting something important such as a task you need to do for work or forgetting to pick the kids up from school while it’s snowing.
The longer you go without sleep, the worse the memory lapse will become. Perhaps that is my problem. On average, I get just over six hours of sleep per night. Studies have determined that people should get more than seven for optimal health.
4. Immunity to Sicknesses
Yes, a lack of sleep can also lead to a lack of immune response from bacterial and viral infections. Without rest, the body cannot function as efficiently as it should. This means you’ll be more susceptible to various illnesses.
Our bodies are also more adept at fighting sicknesses while we sleep. According to studies, the human body increases it’s heat as part of the healing process. Most of us will simply call this a fever. This encourages white blood cell production, which is why heat is often a treatment in injuries and pain. We generate more heat and higher fevers while we sleep. If you don’t get enough rest, the body cannot fight the infection as well as it could.
This doesn’t mean you’ll have a healing factor like Marvel’s Wolverine, but it will contribute to how often you get sick and how long you stay sick. This also means less downtime for you and a more productive day.
5. Increasing Your Weight
According to studies, people who receive less than six hours of rest every night were more likely to gain weight and become obese over time.
Coincidentally, some studies also show that people who are obese also have disrupted sleeping patterns. This is a vicious cycle that may be difficult to stop if you’re unable to rest fully and maintain healthier practices.
Weight gain and sleep are one of those things that feed into each other. What does someone do if he or she is overweight? In my case, I use my Fitbit to track sleep and try to figure out a schedule that can help me get those illustrious seven hours. At the same time, I am working on slimming down my body mass.
Theoretically, sleep and weight should even out as time goes on.
6. Causing Hallucinations
Hallucinations are never a good thing when you’re not ready for them. In reality, they can be quite scary when you realize your lack of sleep is causing you to see things that aren’t really there. This has actually happened to me in the past.
Hallucinations can look, sound and even smell real. In extreme cases, it can cause people to act in seemingly irrational ways. Not only can this be embarrassing, but it can be dangerous as well.
Imagine driving home one night and you’re exhausted. You’re on the freeway and you switch lanes because the traffic ahead is slow. Are you sure that lane you’re turning into is clear? Is that traffic in front of you real? A hallucination will make your mind think it is.
7. Causing Depression and Other Mood Disorders
Being deprived of sleep can lead to a myriad of mental conditions. One of the most experienced is that of depression. Without REM rest, your brain doesn’t have the capacity to operate clearly. This can lead to severe bouts of sadness, anger, frustration and other irrational behaviors.
It’s quite common to come across someone who is a bit cranky because he or she, “woke up on the wrong side of the bed.” Without the capacity to think rationally or clearly process input, someone who is tired can easily be thrown into an emotional paradox of sorts.
This is another instance where the symptom can also be the cause. It’s found that many sleep disorders are the direct result from depression. It’s almost like the age-old question, “Which came first, chicken or the egg?”
Get Some Rest to Improve Your Health
A lack of sleep can easily leave you an echo of yourself. Between processing information in your brain to fatigue felt in your muscles, it can make you a hollow shell. Do what you can to increase the amount of time you hit the sack. You may find yourself far more alert and adaptable to daily living.