You may be surprised to find out what side effects of sleep deprivation you can experience. I, for one, have a love-hate relationship with sleep loss since, though I know it’s bad for me, it allows me to get a lot more done in a day. Plus, there’s that weird feeling of pride I get when I see the sunrise after pulling an all-nighter. But there’s a lot more to lack of sleep than my silly excuses or all the fatigue that comes with it. Here are 7 surprising side effects of sleep deprivation to ponder on.
I’ve noticed that, when I don’t get enough sleep, I look older than I actually am. And it seems it’s not just because of the puffy eyes. One of the side effects of sleep deprivation is accelerating skin aging, as well as slowing recovery from environmental stressors such as UV radiation. When you’re sleep deprived, your body releases too little human growth hormone, which, in adulthood, is responsible for bone strength and helps tighten your skin and increase your muscle mass. On the other hand, your fatigued body gets overly generous when it comes to cortisol, which, in excess amounts, breaks down collagen and thus reduces your skin’s elasticity.
The various cycles you go through during a good night’s sleep play an important role in consolidating memories, and proper rest is essential for critical thinking and learning. If you don’t sleep enough, you won’t be able to remember what you’ve learned during the day and you can also say goodbye to proper reasoning, concentration and problem solving.
So, lack of sleep hinders your ability to think rationally. But there’s an upside to this, since rationality is many times the biggest enemy of creativity. Your brain will think more freely and creatively when you are fatigued. I have come up with my most interesting ideas when I was barely able to keep my eyes open. Actually executing those ideas, though, would be best left to when you get some proper sleep. And, of course, I wouldn’t recommend purposely resorting to this trick, unless being creative is more important for you than your health.
Lack of sleep seems to lead to an increase in cravings (especially for high-calorie snacks) and hunger - and we all know where that can get us. A study conducted in 2004 found that people who get less than 6 hours of sleep per day are nearly 30% more likely to suffer from obesity than those who sleep for 7-9 hours. I think it’s time I stopped watching TV shows until 3 am.
I’m sure you know what beer goggles are, but it seems there’s such thing as insomnia goggles too. A study conducted by a research team at Hendrix College found that sleep deprivation can affect people’s judgment of romantic situations similarly to having too much to drink. What’s even more interesting is that this happened only to the male subjects – us, gals, seem to be immune to insomnia goggles.
Studies have proven that there are anti-depressive effects associated with sleep deprivation. The reasons behind this are diverse, one of them being that sleep loss triggers an increase of noradrenaline (a stimulating hormone) and serotonin, the happiness hormone. Of course, sleep deprivation would be an impractical and even dangerous treatment for depression, since prolonged lack of sleep can have the opposite effect, not to mention that there's many other health risks.
A large-scale study conducted in the UK found that consistently sleeping only 5 hours per night or less significantly increases the risk of death from all causes. Also, the study has shown that regular sleep deprivation even doubles the risk of dying from a cardiovascular disease.
So now you know what a huge impact lack of sleep can have on you. Before I go take a nap, have you heard of other side effects of sleep deprivation and would you like to tell us a little about them?
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