Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Health

By Sandra Rzeczyca
Feature Editor

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Most people know that an average of 8 hours of sleep allows the body’s mental and physical state to perform at a fully functioning level. When the body does not get enough sleep, the body loses its ability to function properly during the day. While it is recommended to get 8 hours of sleep, many people fail to do so. According to Healthline, if a person does not get the recommended amount of sleep he/she will have mood swings, experience fatigue, and simply want to crawl right back into bed.

College and high school students have a common habit of staying up late to study or hang out. According to the article, College Students: Getting Enough Sleep is Vital to Academic Success, college students should be getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep every night. Incorporating a nap mid-day makes up for the loss, but with the busy schedules college students endure, taking a nap is not always possible.

A couple of nights without the appropriate amount of sleep is nothing to be concerned about, but if the lack of sleep continues, it is a cause of concern. Studies have been conducted to show that sleeping less than five hours a night increases the chance of death by 15 percent.

A full night’s rest is beneficial. When the body is well rested, it will be capable of performing its duties. With the proper amount of sleep, the synapses between neurons have the capability to grow and multiply by consuming fuel, but the bodies cannot handle unconventional growth and energy consumption without the appropriate amount of sleep. This leads to a less excited state in the morning. Without the appropriate amount of sleep, the brain does not have enough recovery time to function the next day. This affects cognitive abilities and emotional state. If the latter continues, it leads to excessive sleepiness, yawning, and irritability along with hindering balance, coordination, and decision-making abilities.

As long-term lack of sleep continues, we are left with impaired short-term and long-term memory deficits and likelihood of making irrational decisions. For people who are at an increased risk of having or developing a mental illness, the effects are even stronger. Risks can include: hallucinations in narcoleptics, trigger mania in the people who have manic depression, impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.

Erin Nielsen, sophomore at Carroll University, states that people do not get enough sleep, they become delusional. “When you don’t sleep enough, you can become delusional and start seeing things that actually aren’t there.” states Nielsen. 

While the brain is the primary target when it comes to effects of lack of sleep, other vital systems in the body are at risk as well such as the immune, respiratory, digestive and cardiovascular systems.

According to Heathline, “When you’re sleeping, your immune system produces protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies and cells. It uses these tools to fight off foreign substances like bacteria and viruses. These cytokines and other protective substances also help you sleep, giving the immune system more energy to defend against illness.”

A study conducted by Mayo Clinic confirmed that sleep deprivation leads to a compromised immune system that does not have enough strength to build up antibodies to fight against incoming viral infections.

Based on several studies done by Harvard Medical School, a connection was made between weight gain and sleep deprivation. When the body is stressed it releases a stress hormone called cortisol, and lowers the levels of leptin that tells the brain you have had enough to eat. The body also releases a chemical called ghrelin that is an appetite stimulant. The combination of these hormones results in a higher rate of consumption of foods.

Weight gain can result in an increase in blood pressure, heart disease, and strokes. According to Healthline, people who have hypertension, one night without sleep can cause an elevation of blood pressure the next day.

Getting enough sleep is a necessity to one’s health. Especially for the working college student who spends late nights up prepping for school or having a good time with friends. It is always a good move to work around a busy schedule to get some rest. This includes incorporating a midday nap, but if that does not work, trying to go to bed an hour or two earlier can make the biggest difference.

Author: Sandra Rzeczyca

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