Everyone has encountered the sleep deprivation effect at some point in their lives. Sometimes getting good sleep just isn’t possible. That said, it’s important to know all about sleep deprivation’s effect on the brain and body. If sleep deprivation becomes a regular occurrence, there could be a high price to pay!
We spend about one-third of our lives asleep, which is incredible to think about. This means that sleep must have some important effect on our health.
When deprived of sleep, all sorts of health problems (and an overall lack of vitality) can set in. Sleep is imperative for many different functions and processes in the body whether we are aware of them or not. If sleep deprivation becomes a regular habit, it can be just as bad for us as eating inflammatory foods, too much sugar, or even drinking alcohol!
Why is sleep so important?
Ever skipped sleep because you had “more important things to do?” Get up for a work meeting at the crack of dawn, study for a test, or even just get lost in a project or stay up late because it felt exciting in some way (no shame— we’ve all done it at times).
Every time we do this, we put important recovery processes in our body on hold for a time. And no, it’s not just to help us feel more rested and recharged (though that is super important, too)! While we sleep, the body resets and refreshes many systems: including the brain, nerves, cardiovascular system (heart and blood vessels), and even metabolism and healthy weight, according to Healthline.
If you’re deprived of sleep here or there occasionally, it’s not a big deal. But if you de-prioritize sleep for other things— anything!— for long periods of time or as a habit, this will eventually take its heavy toll.
Lack of sleep and sleep deprivation can have an impact on:
- Circadian rhythm
- Stress and mental health (anxiety or depression)
- Immune health
- Inflammation levels
- Healthy weight (increases risk of obesity)
- Hormonal health
- Appetite (good sleep lowers appetite)
- Heart health
- Blood pressure
- Risk of heart disease
- Risk of heart attack
- Risk of stroke
- Risk of type 2 diabetes
- …and more
For all these health aspects to function optimally, we need our bodies to move through all the stages of sleep to full completion. Skip or interrupt a step, and the negative health effects may start to seep in, affecting systems and organs all over the body!
How many sleep stages are there? | What they do and why they matter
There are four stages of sleep (or “sleep cycles”) in all. For the body and mind to experience a complete reboot, refresh, and restart of all its systems every morning, it needs to go through and complete all these stages most nights.
If not getting through these stages is your norm, there might be some trouble! That said, this model of the four sleep stages comes to show that it’s not always about how much sleep you get, but moving through all the cycles at least once— though make no mistake, 6 to 8 hours per night is preferable to anything less.
According to the Sleep Foundation, the four sleep stages or cycles are:
- N1 (up to 5 min.)
- N2 (up to 1 hour)
- N3 (Delta or Deep Sleep, 20-40 min.)
- REM Sleep (up to 1 hour)
What lack of sleep can cause
We’ve already taken a close look at some of the larger systems that sleep deprivation can affect. But when you really start to take notice of sleep deprivation effects, it’ll be in the form of signs and symptoms first, signaling that things aren’t as healthy as they should be.
Symptoms and problems related to lack of sleep:
- Lack of energy
- More fatigue
- Difficulty exercising
- Less athleticism
- More headaches and migraines
- Reduced ability coping with stress
- Worse depression and anxiety symptoms
- Cognitive issues
- Memory problems
- Difficulty learning new things
- Getting sick and ill more often
- Blood pressure spikes
- Blood sugar spikes
- Weight gain (or weight loss)
- …and more
Sleep deprivation effect on brain health can be the most devastating of all, taking away mental energy, clarity, and focus. Some also wonder: can lack of sleep cause headaches? The answer is absolutely, it can. In fact, lack of sleep (or irregular sleep cycles) is one of the most well-known triggers for some migraines and other chronic headache disorders.
Effect of lack of sleep on blood pressure is another issue to be watchful for. Even the Mayo Clinic spells out these dangers, saying that lack of sleep (but also too much sleep) can make blood pressure go up, which in turn raises risk of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and more issues.
Because sleep deprivation can have serious effects on factors related to such major illnesses, it’s definitely not something to be overlooked! Even studies warn against sleep deprivation hazards. Including this research on sleep deprivation effects on students here: showing lack of sleep can negatively impact areas of life that are so precious to university students, such as developing leadership skills and having the best cognitive abilities to study and succeed.
Lifestyle tips and habits for better sleep
If too many things in this article ring true for you, don’t panic. It’s never too late to get things back on track. Here are some simple tips on how to combat sleep deprivation and make sure you are getting enough.
- Keep a solid sleep routine as much as possible.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time as much as possible.
- Avoid sugary foods, caffeine, or alcohol later in the day.
- Make sure you eat a healthy meal at least 1 hour or earlier before bed.
- Learn stress and anxiety management techniques.
- If you struggle with insomnia, talk to your therapist.
- Make sure you get plenty of physical exercise (it can help tire you out!)
- Remove screens and distractions from your place of sleep.
- Avoid looking at computers, smartphones, or tablets right before bed.
- Try to avoid midday naps or staying up too late, even on occasions.
- Up your intake of sleep-supporting nutrients, foods, and herbs nightly.
Food, nutrients, and herbs for better sleep
Can altering diet or turning to natural remedies help support more restful sleep, or even help prevent sleep deprivation? Fortunately, there are tons of healing herbs, mushrooms, nutrients, and foods known to help with sleep. Many of them have even been used to help enhance sleep and reduce stress by herbalists for thousands of years!
- Lemon balm
- Lion’s mane mushroom
- L-Theanine (from Green Tea)
- Valerian root
- …and more
Just like we need to be aware of how much sugar we eat—or of other harmful things we consume— we also need to make sure we’re getting enough sleep for health. It’s just as important as diet, exercise, even stress and relationships for health, too.
And just like we need to take care of our gut health, for example, we need to stay up on daily habits and regular natural remedies for “sleep health” too!
Let us know what you are doing to get good sleep. COMMENT BELOW….we would love to hear from you!