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Sleep Deprivation

Posted on 06 December 2018

You are Now Getting Sleeeepy
We all know that feeling of not having slept well. Whether it’s because of insomnia, over caffeination, nocturnal children or because the Puraz Instagram feed was just too interesting, the impact is the same. You feel fuzzy, grumpy and unmotivated. But what else is sleep deprivation doing to you?

You might mess something up. Lack of sleep affects multiple aspects of your mental and physical performance which have been tested in studies, including hand-eye coordination, vigilance, reaction time, and ability to multi-task and do mathematics. Your ability to form new memories and learn new skills is impaired. After as little as 19 hours without sleep, performance is about the same as when blood alcohol is at the maximum legal limit for driving, so it is not surprising that fatigue is a factor in up to 60% of road accidents. Sleep disturbances leading to human error have also been acknowledged in some of the most dangerous and/or catastrophic accidents in living memory, including the Three Mile Island and David-Besse nuclear reactor incidents and the Space Shuttle Challenger accident. Human error at 1.23 am was also the start of the Chernobyl nuclear meltdown, however sleep deprivation has not been officially acknowledged as a cause in that case.

It makes you grumpy. You probably don’t need us to tell you that a single night of disturbed or insufficient sleep can make you an unpleasant human! Not only can lack of sleep worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression in those that already suffer from these conditions, but inadequate z’s can cause symptoms of anxiety, depression and ‘general distress’ in otherwise healthy people. Sleep deprivation makes challenging life events feel more negative and decreases the pleasure of positive situations. Animal studies have shown an increase in fighting behaviour and aggression with even mild sleep deprivation, so if you are feeling a bit homicidal, perhaps consider an early night?
Impaired immunity and disease susceptibility. Chronic sleep deprivation acts as a stressor. Over time there is an increase in systemic inflammation and a decrease in cellular ability to carry out detoxification and repair activities. Immunity and healing become compromised. Conditions and diseases which are linked to lack of sleep include high-blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and depression.

It makes you hungry. Sleep deprivation does interesting things to your appetite. You feel hungrier and crave high energy foods that will give you a fast boost. The cause is a dysregulation of your appetite hormones, with an increase in insulin and the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin and a decrease in the ‘fullness’ hormone, leptin. Large research studies, such as the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in the US have consistently linked decreased sleep duration with increased body mass and obesity.
The good news is that the changes caused by sleep deprivation are quickly reversed by ‘recovery sleep’, and can be maintained by establishing a healthy sleep cycle. When life is busy, it is so tempting to ‘burn the candle at both ends’, but ultimately that’s a false economy. It’s worth it to reprioritise sleep so that you can reap the benefits for your health and happiness!

References
Sleep. 1988 Feb; 11(1): 100–109
Occup Environ Med 2000;57:649–655
Metabolism Clinical and Experimental 55 (Suppl 2) (2006) S20 – S23
J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry. 2010 Sep; 41(3): 297–303.

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