What Happens to Us When We Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Not getting enough sleep can leave us feeling tired and irritable the next day, but it can do more to us physically and mentally than we may realize.

You have probably at some point heard the phrase “get your beauty sleep,” and this is good advice. Sleep can have an impact on your looks. During sleep, human growth hormone (HGH) is released. HGH is important for stimulating collagen, which is essential to maintaining younger looking skin. Not getting enough sleep can decrease collagen in our bodies and result in aging skin.

Not only can sleep deprivation age your skin, it can also make you gain weight or make it harder to drop the extra pounds. Your circadian rhythm, or internal body clock orders your body to sleep or wake, regulates body temperature and hormone production, and tells you when you need to eat. Sleep deprivation puts you off schedule. You not only become hungry but also make poorer food choices, and top of that being tired can keep you from exercising. These factors contribute to weight gain. It is essential to add sleep into your diet and exercise routine.

Lack of sleep can also hurt your memory. Since sleep is important for turning life events into long-term memory, not getting enough of it can keep your brain from absorbing these events and recollecting them.

Sleep and lack of it not only affects long term memory, but short term memory can also suffer when we don’t sleep enough. Sleep deprivation causes short term memory to not work efficiently and we can make mistakes with simple, everyday tasks. This can explain why we may lose things when we’re tired, such as a wallet or keys.

You may not only start to lose things, but you also may get clumsy. Studies show sleep deprivation can cause injury to neurons, resulting in behavioral and cognitive changes. This interferes with speed and proficiency of reaction time and learned responses. It may make you clumsy and can result in work-related accidents or even motor vehicle crashes.

You may have heard the phrase “brain turned to mush,” and this can actually be true. Losing sleep can actually make your brain cells deteriorate. During sleep, your body takes the time to repair any damaged cells and get rid of any toxic proteins. Not sleeping can interfere with this “maintenance” period. Some research even shows that long-term lack of sleep can even shrink brain size.

Sleep plays a role in keeping our immune systems strong and helps protect us from cold and flu. When we sleep, our bodies take time for healing. Our cells are repaired, antibodies are developed, and hormonal balance is established. When we miss out on sleep, we aren’t “repaired,” and our immune systems are weakened. Studies show that sleep deprivation decreases the number of white T-cells, which are important in defense against cold and flu viruses and other infections.

Mentally, not getting the sleep we need can cause anxiety and depression. It creates moodiness, irritability, and decreased sex drive. This can also cause problems in relationships and social life.

Long term sleep deprivation can lead to even more serious, chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, hypertension, and attention deficit disorder (ADD). It can also lead to poor quality of life.

Sleep is essential for a happy, healthy life so make sure you’re adding enough sleep in your routine. Many times it’s our busy lives that keep us from sleeping, but it is also possible to have a sleep disorder without realizing it. The good news is there are many options for treating sleep deprivation and if you need help getting to sleep, your healthcare provider can help you find the best option for you.

Author: Kristina Diaz, RRT  is a Registered Respiratory Therapist and a health and wellness enthusiast and writer.

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