Updated: Oct 8, 2020
Most of us have had our fair share of all nighters, whether it be to binge watch our favourite shows, or to cram for an exam!
However, continuous sleep deprivation is not compatible with the requirements of our bodies and dismissing our need to sleep can lead to a derailment from healthy functioning. Below are some of the effects of sleep deprivation and tips on how to improve your quality of sleep
1. Reduced concentration , cognition and memory
· Lack of sleep has a significant effect on the prefrontal cortex and the amygdala. This can lead to a reduced ability to reason and register emotions.
· While you are asleep, new neuronal connections are forged, which helps with memory consolidation. Lack of sleep reduces memory performance across all ages.
· In a study of medical interns working for over 24 hours, it was found that the number of serious medical errors made increased by 36%, when compared to interns who had slept.
· Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl.
· Therefore lack of sleep can seriously impair your cognitive processes make it very difficult to learn efficiently.
2. Increased risk of heart disease and stroke
· In long periods of rest, chemicals are activated to lower our heart rate and blood pressure. Lack of sleep increases sympathetic nervous system activity, which can lead to elevated blood pressure and therefore increased risks in cardiovascular diseases.
· In one study catecholamine levels were measured in 17 healthy males on two nights: undisturbed sleep and partial sleep deprivation.
· It was found that noradrenaline and adrenaline levels significantly increased upon nocturnal awakening, both of which are associated with increased heart rate and blood pressure.
· According to Dr. Susan Redline, the Peter C. Farrell Professor of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Sleep-deprived people have higher blood levels of stress hormones and substances that indicate inflammation, a key player in cardiovascular disease. Even a single night of insufficient sleep can perturb your system."
While the exact mechanisms outlining the effect of sleep on the heart are not known, there is a strong relationship between sleep and a healthy heart.
3. Association with depression
· There is a strong link between poor sleep quality and depression.
· We know that in many severe mental disorders, sleep deprivation is always a dominant symptom. In the past, when treating depression and other psychiatric conditions, insomnia was viewed as a symptom. However, recent studies have shown the relationship between sleep deprivation and depression to be more complex.
· It has been shown that sleep deprivation and depression feed on each other. Lack of sleep can increase the onset of depression, and depression worsens sleep deprivation. In fact, the neural networks associated with healthy sleep overlap with those associated with mental health.
· From multiple studies, insomnia has been seen to have the strongest relationship with depression. It has been shown that those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression than those without.
· Treating symptoms of sleep deprivation early on can help to prevent onset of mental health disorders in the future
4. Poor immune system
· It has been shown that lack of sleep can reduce cytokine and antibody production, which can decrease the productivity of your immune system against infection and inflammation
· Additionally, the increase in adrenaline, noradrenaline and other pro-inflammatory molecules inhibit the mechanism of integrins, a molecule which allows T-cells to kill virus infected / cancer cells.
· A 2 week study monitoring the effects of the common cold showed that those who slept less than 7 hours were almost 3 times more likely to develop a cold.
· In some cases, a lack of sleep also led to a breakdown of immune self- tolerance, triggering autoimmune diseases
How to get a good nights sleep?
Try to have a regular sleeping pattern by getting in sync with your body's circadian rhythms. This way, you will wake up feeling more refreshed and energised.
Avoid gadgets before bed:
The backlit ‘blue light’ displays on TV's, phones and laptops can suppress melatonin production. Melatonin is a hormone that usually helps to stimulate sleepiness, so you should try not to use these devices before you go to bed
Avoid caffeine and minimise alcohol intake close to bed-time:
Caffeine is a natural stimulant, which means that taking it before bed will prevent you from sleeping. Researchers have found that a moderate caffeine intake even 6 hours prior to sleep can greatly affect an individual's sleep quality.
While alcohol is a depressant, it greatly reduces your quality of sleep, which is why it is not recommended to drink before bedtime.
Take a hot shower/bath:
Taking a shower or bath before bed will allow for a post-drop in body temperature, which can trigger sleepiness