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Get Your Z’s: How Sleep Deprivation Affects The Body

Dr. Hira Tanveer

2 min read

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Daytime sleepiness, irritability, and uncontrolled yawning can all be attributed to one factor: lack of sleep. Yet most people disregard its importance; using their increasingly busy work lives in keeping with the free-falling economy as an excuse for not clocking the requisite 7-9 hours of sleep every night.

What most people don’t realize is that their work lives are the first to suffer when they don’t sleep properly. Consult to a specialist doctor and know how sleep debt accumulation affects your body in the short, and long run:

1- Distorted Brain Function:

What we learn throughout the day accumulates in the hippocampus (short-term storage), and is later transferred to the long-term storage, or neocortex. However, since this transference can only occur during deep sleep, our short sleep breaks these connections; and the learned information, instead of becoming a memory, is discarded.

Moreover, delayed brain signals due to lack of sleep not only result in concentration and coordination difficulties, hence increasing the likelihood of accidents, but also hinder creativity, decision-making, time-management and problem-solving abilities. Another fun fact: people who sleep less are at higher risk of early onset Alzheimer’s and dementia due to the accumulation of plaque-forming proteins in the brain.

2- Emotional Turmoil:

People can either become highly irritable, anxious, and angry, or slap-happy and hyper-excited. This is because continuously irregular sleep patterns result in overreactions to emotional stimuli, i.e. a slight disturbance or a funny joke, that might have normally caused a moderate reaction will now result in unwarranted anger or prolonged hysterical laughing. Moreover, high instances of depression have also been linked with inadequate sleep and insomnia.

3- Immune System Compromise:

While sleeping, the immune system produces antibodies called Cytokines, which not only act as combative agents against bacteria and viruses but also promote sleep; a lack of which disrupts this manufacturing process, leaving your body open to all manners of diseases: from common to chronic.

4- Respiratory Issues:

The respiratory system and sleep have a two-way connection: whilst sleep deprivation can worsen, or even cause many chronic respiratory illnesses, the presence of Obstructive Sleep Apnea, a nighttime breathing disorder can interfere with sleep schedules through multiple disruptions while sleeping.

5- Obesity:

To replenish the energy reserves denied to it by lack of sleep, the brain signals for increased production of Ghrelin, the hunger stimulant, causing nighttime snacking, excess food consumption and the resultant weight gain, which is multiplied by the day-long lethargy that inhibits exercise. Moreover, the risk of Type 2 diabetes is also increased by elevated insulin levels after eating and reducing the fat cells’ responsive ability towards this hormone by 30%.

6- Heart Troubles:

The blood vessels and the heart recover from the day’s wear and tear during the night. Prolonged interference in the repair process results in an increased risk of high blood sugar, pressure and cardiovascular disease. Moreover, regularly getting 6 hours of sleep or less, increases the risk of a fatal heart attack or stroke by 200%.

7- Vision Loss:

Sleep stress and fatigue can chronically affect the eyes’ ability to focus by tiring out the ciliary muscles responsible for this function, resulting in close-range reading difficulty and blurred vision. Moreover, eye misalignment in some people can become difficult to control, even causing double vision.

8- Bad Skin:

Frequent acne breakouts and the early appearance of lines and wrinkle can be attributed to elevated estrogen levels and the breakdown of skin collagen responsible for maintaining elasticity and smoothness by excess cortisol, or stress hormone production.

Moreover, the skin’s damage repair rate is reduced by 30% due to prolonged sleep loss, i.e. cuts and bruises heal much slower, increasing the likelihood of scarring, blemishes, and infection. The release of Human Growth Hormone, responsible for continued growth in children and increase in muscle mass, bone strength and skin thickening in adults is also negatively affected by lack of sleep.

So How Much Sleep Is Enough?

According to  the National Sleep Foundation, the requisite sleep hours by age group are:

  • Older Adults (65+): 7-8 hours
  • Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
  • Young adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
  • School-age (6-13): 9-11 hours
  • Preschool (3-5): 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers (1-2): 11-14 hours
  • Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
  • Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours

However, these numbers may vary depending upon an individual’s genetic, environmental and behavioral background.

The inability to sleep or low sleep quality might also indicate an underlying medical condition, in which case, consult with your doctor.  At oladoc, you can find a General Physician in Lahore, Karachi, and Islamabad and get a confirmed appointment. You can also get an appointment by calling our helpline: 042-3890-0939.

Disclaimer: The contents of this article are intended to raise awareness about common health issues and should not be viewed as sound medical advice for your specific condition. You should always consult with a licensed medical practitioner prior to following any suggestions outlined in this article or adopting any treatment protocol based on the contents of this article.

Dr. Hira Tanveer - Author Dr. Hira Tanveer is an MBBS doctor and currently serving at CMH Lahore. Writing is her favorite hobby as she loves to share professional advice on trendy healthcare issues, general well-being, healthy diet, and lifestyle.
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