Do you know? Your body needs fewer hours of sleep as you age.
Sleep deprivation is common these days. We all are aware of the importance of 7-9 hours of sleep every night, still, we sacrifice our night sleep for mobile phones, late-night parties, studies, etc. But, what happens when you don’t sleep at night? Never miss your night sleep since it is crucial for your overall well-being. Our bodies are designed in ways that require a proper night sleep, however, a poor night sleep can make you prone to many issues such as:
- Several diseases (like diabetes, heart problems, obesity, cancer, etc)
- Mental problems (such as depression, anxiety, decreased focus, etc)
- Poor mood, motivation, and energy level
- Poor immune system
Keep reading this article to know what happens when you don’t sleep at night and how to make a proper bedtime schedule.
How much sleep does your body need according to your age?
Okay, you’re taking all your fruits and vegetables and exercising daily, but are you taking a proper sleep? Your sleep hours change according to your age. One must take a proper sleep according to his/her age. The table below shows sleeping hours according to your age:
|Age||Sleeping hours||Not less than||Not more than|
|14-17 hours||11 hours||19 hours|
|12-15 hours||10 hours||18 hours|
|11-14 hours||9 hours||16 hours|
|10-13 hours||8 hours||14 hours|
|9-11 hours||7 hours||12 hours|
|8-10 hours||7 hours||11 hours|
|7-9 hours||6 hours||11 hours|
|7-9 hours||6 hours||10 hours|
(65 and above)
|7-8 hours||5 hours||9 hours|
Thus, some people will feel fresh after 5-6 hours of sleep and others need 9-10 hours of sleep every night. It not only depends on your age but varies from person to person. How would you know if you are taking the amount of sleep your body requires? Here’s a simple test; do you feel sleepy right now? If ‘yes’, then you are not taking a proper night sleep, and if ‘no’ then kudos, you’re doing it the right way!
Are you taking a proper night sleep according to your age? If not, look at what happens when you don’t sleep at night.
Consequences of sleep deprivation
Do you know? 1 out of every 3 individuals is not taking enough sleep in America.
The importance of a good night sleep is similar to eating healthy and exercising regularly. People nowadays are sleeping less than they used to in the past, and their sleep quality has decreased as well.
Certain studies claim that when you experience sleep deprivation, your mind actually go-to-sleep on its own, despite you being fully aware. Sleep deprivation can harm you physically as well as mentally. What happens when you don’t sleep at night? Here are the long-term effects of lack of sleep at night:
1. You’re at a higher risk for developing chronic health diseases
Sleep deprivation can have a more significant impact on your overall health than you can imagine. It weakens your immune system and prevents your body from producing cytokines to fight infections. In this way, a person will take longer to recover from illness. You can develop various health issues due to sleep deprivation, such as:
- Heart diseases
- Cancer, like breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and prostate cancer
- High blood pressure
2. Your brain can’t function properly
Do you know? Sleep deprivation increases the rate of car accidents by 7%.
Sleep deprivation for even one night can cause major thinking issues. Your memory, decision-making, and problem-solving power, alertness, and reaction time worsens.
We once conducted a reaction time experiment in our university. Participants who slept late or missed their night sleep took more time to react than participants who maintained a good bedtime routine.
It also makes you forget things easily. You need to make a proper bedtime schedule if you want your memory to stay and have the ability to learn new things easily.
3. Lack of sleep ruins your skin
When we sleep our skin and body recharge. A quality night sleep has a profound effect on your skin. When we are sleeping we eliminate toxins and impurities from our skin. Sleep deprivation can affect:
- Wound healing
- Collagen growth
- Skin hydration
- Skin texture
It also causes:
- Under-eye bags
- Dark circles
- Fine lines
- Uneven pigmentation
- Saggy and dull skin
- Skin allergies
4. You become obese
Do you know? People who skip their night sleep or for sleep less than 7 hours tend to be more obese than people who fulfill their sleeping requirements.
Your internal mechanism gets disturbed when you don’t set a normal sleep-wake schedule. Everything dysfunctions, from your hormones to digestion.
Your body overproduces a stress hormone-cortisol when it needs rest. This high level of cortisol can lead to abdominal fat, sometimes referred to as “stress belly”. Surplus amount of abdominal fat makes you prone to diabetes and heart diseases.
Sleep deprivation also makes you hungrier. When you don’t sleep at night your body releases ghrelin, a hunger hormone, more, and decreases the appetite-suppressing hormone, leptin. It also increases your sugar cravings, which leads to dietary problems and obesity.
5. Decreased Sex Drive
Do you know? About one-third of women in America avoid sexual intercourse when they are sleep deprived.
When you don’t maintain a proper sleep-wake routine your sex drive diminishes. You feel tired and lazy and thus, it affects your mood. This, however, doesn’t happen after skipping a single night’s sleep, but your condition worsens if you make a habit of sleeping less than your body requires every night. It lowers testosterone levels in males.
6. You’re less productive
Sleep deprivation leads to drowsiness and laziness. You’re unable to complete your tasks or do something new. Your focus and concentration decrease. You feel very sleepy and lazy during the day. To be productive and work efficiently, sleeping is essential.
Many of us don’t sleep because we need to work, and we are unable to work because we don’t sleep. Isn’t it a bad pattern? You skip a night’s sleep for better progress, but the results would be much more amazing if you got a night’s sleep instead. Thus, our bodies are designed in ways that require a night’s sleep to be productive and feel fresh during the day, no matter what.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
You can notice the following changes in your body when you are sleep deprived:
- Getting irritated soon
- Difficulty in concentrating or learning
- Lower sex drive
- Depressed mood
- Increased cravings for appetite and carbohydrates
Causes of sleep deprivation
Do you know? Sleep deprivation increases as you grow older.
We are aware of what happens when we don’t sleep at night. Let’s now learn what factors cause sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation isn’t a disease itself but can be a result of other underlying health problems. It is becoming more common nowadays. People try to cover more tasks and hence, sacrifice their sleep. Here are the top reasons why we skip our night sleep:
Aging is a common factor that affects your sleeping pattern. People above the age of 65 face sleep deprivation because of the aging process. Other than aging, medications, stress, health problems, and sleeping schedule can make them sleep-deprived.
The following habits can disturb your sleeping schedule:
- Alcohol: Drinking alcohol within 4 hours of going to bed can disturb your sleep. You may fall asleep with the help of a nightcap but it will disturb your sleep later at night. You may also need to make several trips to the washroom.
- Late night eating: Eating a few hours before going to sleep can interrupt your night sleep. It can cause heartburn due to lying with a full stomach and makes it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.
- Afternoon naps: Too much afternoon or later naps makes it difficult to sleep at night.
- Too much caffeine consumption: Your brain chemical that helps you sleep, called adenosine, gets blocked when you consume too much caffeine.
Certain medications make you awake at night. Some examples are:
- Antidepressants (e.g., Prozac and Zoloft)
- Beta-blockers for high blood pressure
- Cold medicines and decongestants
- Corticosteroids that treat inflammation of asthma
Underling health condition
Some chronic health conditions don’t let you sleep mostly in older age. These are:
- Anxiety or depression
- Sleep apnea
- Chronic pain
- Enlarged prostate gland
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Respiratory problems
- Thyroid disease
People face sleep deprivation once in their lives. These factors might make them sleep-deprived, such as:
- Change in schedule
- Newborn baby
How can you diagnose sleep deprivation?
If you are experiencing the following warning signs, you must see your doctor:
- Drowsiness during the day. You must stay alert and active, even if you’re on some boring task.
- Sleeping within 5 minutes as soon as you lay down is an indication that you may have severe sleep deprivation.
- Sleep-deprived people have ‘microsleeps’. Microsleeps are brief sleeping periods during the day time. Sometimes, such people aren’t even aware that they are having microsleeps.
If your doctor thinks you possibly have a life-threatening sleep disorder like sleep apnea, then he might do a test known as a sleep study (polysomnography). Polysomnography monitors your breathing, heart rate, and other necessary signs during your night sleep. It helps your sleep specialist diagnose and treat your underlying disorder.
How to prevent sleep deprivation?
If your sleep deprivation is not severe, the following strategies will help you catch a good night’s sleep:
- 20-30 minutes daily exercise, 5-6 hours before going to bed. This will make you feel more tired and sleepy.
- Avoid caffeine, nicotine, or alcohol.
- Avoid long naps during the day.
Can sleep deprivation be treated?
Sleep deprivation can be cured but its treatment depends on the severity of the disorder. It can be treated in the following ways based on the type of disorder you are suffering from:
- Self-care methods
- Sleeping pills
- Light therapy for insomnia
- CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure), a special breathing machine to give you a continuous flow of air with the help of a mask while sleeping, for sleep apnea
How to catch up on your lost sleep?
The following tips and tricks will help you sleep better at night:
- Make a sleep-wake routine and stick to it
- Sleep in a quiet, dark, and cool place
- Avoid using mobile phones, laptops, or other gadgets 2-3 hours before going to sleep
- Don’t eat 2-3 hours before sleeping at night
- Try reading a book for a few minutes if you’re facing difficulty sleeping
- Consider taking enough sleep as a medicine
Before you leave!
Sleeping is crucial for a healthy living. But some people think that it’s just a waste of time and that they can complete a lot more important tasks rather than sleeping. Little do they know, without sleeping, they’ll invest more than the required time to cover up things, as your concentration decreases when you are sleep deprived. Thus, in order to stay active, healthy, and productive you need to sleep for a minimum of 5 hours.
A Psychology student from Jinnah University. She brings her knowledge of Human Psychology and Mental Health issues to help people cope-up with their psychological problems. She addresses important topics on mental health, child upbringing, and a healthy lifestyle with her articles.