Getting a good night's sleep is as important to our health as breathing and eating. Being overtired leaves us feeling irritable, short-tempered and grumpy, but that's just a taste of what it's like to be truly sleep deprived.
After just a couple of consecutive nights of disruptive sleep, it's possible to see signs that your health is being affected. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause obesity, heart disease, diabetes and can potentially knock years off your life expectancy.When your brain is tired and exhausted, concentration is impaired, increasing your risk of injury and accidents. Micro sleep is a side effect of sleep deprivation, falling asleep for a few seconds or minutes at a time without you realising can be extremely dangerous, especially if it happens when driving. Your ability to make decisions is affected and your mental health can start to suffer. Depression in particular is a common side-effect of sleep deprivation and severe reactions can include hallucinations, paranoia and suicidal thoughts.
When you're lacking sleep, levels of the hormone leptin start to decrease. The importance of this hormone is that it tells your brain when you've eaten enough. Additionally the production of the appetite stimulant ghrelin is increased, meaning you eat more and are more likely to gain weight.
If that wasn't bad enough, sleep deprivation triggers the release of higher levels of insulin after you eat, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
If your sleep deprivation is causing weight gain, you're at an increased risk of problems relating to your heart. Aside from issues caused by weight gain, sleep plays an important role in your body’s healing ability most significantly making repairs to your heart and blood vessels. Consequently, sleep deprivation can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.
...& how much sleep do we need?
It's generally recognised that seven to eight hours of good quality sleep each night should leave you feeling refreshed and able to function the next day. Some can have less sleep than this and still feel great and generally people are aware of their own limits. Getting a decent night's sleep on a good quality mattress and bed makes all the difference to our sleep quality and subsequently our daily life.
Lack of sleep can only be compensated by getting more sleep; though long-term deprivation can't be reversed with just one night of decent sleep. Get into the habit of unwinding before going to bed, avoid watching the TV, looking at smartphones and remove all screens from the bedroom.