In our world today that’s filled with work and entertainment, a lot of people find themselves saving time by cutting back on the few hours that we should allow for our sleep. While it may be okay to cut back a few hours of sleep, consecutive days on cutting back sleep can pile up and have significant harmful effects on the body. After going many days with not enough sleep, our minds begin to think haphazardly, our concentration starts to lose its sharpness, our mood changes unexpectedly and sometimes, hallucinating about things, either visually or auditory in nature. These are signs of sleep deprivation.
There are a lot of signs and symptoms that indicate the lack of sleep. They vary from physical signs and symptoms up to emotional and mental changes. Sleep deprivation can be the potential source of relationship problems, career obstacles and even accidents. What are these signs and symptoms?
More Sensitive to Stress
Stress is a common occurrence in our daily lives. But when we lack sleep, our threshold or the capacity to deal with stress significantly decreases which leads to stress affecting us in a negative way. Commonly easy tasks become a bother and give additional stress. For example, picking up groceries on your way home wasn’t a big deal before but if you lack sleep, it becomes a bother which frustrates us to no end.
It should also be remembered that though sleep deprivation can worsen the effects of stress, stress can also be the cause of not getting enough sleep. A number of studies have shown that stress hormones have a stimulating effect which makes us stay awake through increased responsiveness. Research suggests that people who handle stress well can sleep even during difficult times while those who tend to lose sleep in response to stress are more focused on their emotions instead of the task at hand.
For a lot of people, controlling how much they eat is a difficult task. However, when you lack sleep, your brain will start to increase its demands by increasing your appetite. This leads to cravings and hunger which signal the brain’s need for more calories so that it can still continue functioning.
For a person who usually has a healthy and well-balanced diet, lack of sleep can have an impact. The longer that you are awake, the more your body keeps consuming calories so that it fuels the several bodily processes like digestion, metabolism and other important functions. However, sleep deprivation also makes you hungry and famished. The hormones affecting satiety or a sense of fullness are lesser in amount for people who lack sleep while the hormones that signal hunger are greater.
The brain utilizes a compound called glucose as fuel. It comes from the carbohydrates or sugar that we metabolize. But when you’re lacking sleep, your body metabolizes sugar at a slower rate – this results in more craving for sweet or salty food on top of starches like bread and grains. Lack of sleep also leads to unhealthy weight gain, especially in increasing the risk for obesity.
The eyes are constantly working throughout the day when we’re awake. That’s why sleep is very important for the eyes as it provides the only way for our eyes to rest and relieve all the strain it has incurred. If you lack sleep, there will be certain changes in your vision. These vision changes may lead to accidents, injury, car crashes, falls or other similar events. It’s a common occurrence when we’re lacking in sleep, our vision gets all blurry or messy.
In severe cases of sleep deprivation, our vision is distorted and can lead to visual hallucinations that can be dangerous. You may start to notice movements in the corner of your eyes but you can’t explain what these movements are. This is because the eyes are too strained to capture and process what the totality of these images and movements are, giving us only vague shadows or movements.
Studies have shown that these hallucinations can happen because of the overworking of neurons. If we lack sleep, the neurons are deprived of their rest and they decline in their functions like perceiving the things around you. As they become weaker and slower, they take shortcuts in interpreting data that your brain should be making. So instead of seeing a passing butterfly or a bird, you get a vague figure or shadow in your line of sight.
Slowed Motor and Sensory Processes
Lack of sleep slows down the optimal function of our brain. This leads to lesser brain capacity to operate and work with things around us. Our brain is divided into two different main functions – motor and sensory activities. When we lack sleep, our motor processes slow down. For example, you may not communicate or speak correctly or maybe even you go silent when you lack sleep. Those who are sleep deprived also have difficulty in processing auditory stimuli, leading to misheard words or sentences. Not getting enough sleep is also attributed to slower reaction time and studies have shown that sleep deprivation first affects sleep before the accuracy of a movement.
If you continue lagging behind sleep, you may notice that your health may not be at its best the longer you try to stay awake. Lack of sleep is often attributed to the development of a number of health conditions. For example, those with diabetes who continue having lack of sleep prove to have lesser sensitivity to insulin as the body is slowly decreasing its function when it comes to metabolizing sugars. When this occurs, diabetics find themselves in a pinch as they have trouble in keeping their blood sugar levels at a normal range.
Lack of sleep is also a contributing factor to developing an increased blood pressure, decreased body temperature and abnormal heart rhythm. This leads to a number of cardiovascular conditions like stroke, heart failure, hypertension and coronary artery disease to name a few. Sleep deprivation also weakens the immune system, making us prone to diseases. Our white blood cells are responsible for our defense against bacteria and when you lack sleep, they become weak as well.