We live in a time when sleep is just a substitute of coffee for people who have too much free time on their hands. We all try to squeeze as many things into our daily schedule as possible. Theoretically, we all know that we need more sleep, but there are so many matters that require our urgent presence. But it turns out that we might be doing ourselves a grave disservice.
It’s time to face the cold and cruel reality and recognize sleep deprivation as the archenemy of our well-being. Raise your pillows! This is your wake-up call (pun so absolutely intended).
Let’s take a look at what will happen if you neglect your sleep:
1. You will be ugly.
Shocking, isn’t it?! Well, not really. I can bet that you’ve never heard anyone complimenting your swollen eyelids, pale skin and droopy corners of the mouth. And that’s precisely what scientists from Karolinska Institute in Stockholm have confirmed in their study titled Cues of Fatigue: Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Facial Appearance.
Ten participants of the study were kept awake for 31 hours. Subsequently, their before and after pictures were assessed by 40 observers. The verdict was, of course, unanimous. All of the participants were perceived as less health, sadder, and more fatigued after the 31-hour period of sleeplessness.
2. You will be drunk.
You might not be literally drunk, but it has been estimated that “17 hours of sustained wakefulness was equivalent to driving with a blood alcohol content of 0.05%.” (Drowsy Driving Prevention by Siobhan Kuhar, MD, PhD, DABSM).
Sleepiness has comparable impact on our mind to alcohol (minus fun factor of course)–it decreases awareness, impairs judgment and slows reaction time.
3. You will be less innovative.
Are you planning to create a next big thing in the likes of Twitter or Facebook? There is a slim chance that you’ll succeed while suffering from sleep deprivation.
Research conducted on a military personnel who were kept awake for two days revealed significantly reduced ability to come up with ideas about given topics [May, J., Kline, P. (1987) Measuring the effects on cognitive abilities of sleep loss during continuous operations. British Journal of Psychology].
4. Your resting blood pressure will increase.
There is a growing body of research confirming that sleep deprivation leads to increased blood pressure (Fujikawa et al., 2009). What’s more, for people with hypertension as little as even half a night of sleep can lead to the same result (Lusardi et al., 1996).
5. You will be dumber.
I think that we all have experienced it at some point in our lives–even small amounts of sleeplessness affect our cognitive functions.
A study conducted in 2004 showed that those deprived of sleep for 24 hours have trouble remembering, and difficulty concentrating. So say goodbye to proper reasoning and your problem-solving skills! What’s more, even one night of sleep loss will reduce your ability to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information.
6. You will get sick.
During sleep, the immune system produces cytokines–proteins which combat various types of viruses. Their number increases when your body needs protection from bacteria.
Sleep deprivation means that we are more prone to disease and virus attacks as the level of cytokines drop (Susan Zafarlotfi, PhD, clinical director, Institute for Sleep and Wake Disorders, Hackensack University Medical Center, N.J.).
7. You will look old.
That’s right. You can spend all you want on magical beauty products but it won’t help you if you’re sleep deprived.
Stress increases the production of a hormone called cortisol, which increases sebum secretion and contributes to the attacks of acne. Sleep plays a key role in the process of skin regeneration. While you sleep, stress hormones return to normal levels and give cells time to repair and regenerate.
The study included premenopausal women, aged 30-49 years, half of whom were classified as having poor quality sleep. Several tests have confirmed that the dermal tissue of sleep deprived women have twice as many internal indicators of aging, such as wrinkles, blemishes, low level of firmness and elasticity (Effects of Sleep Quality on Skin Aging and Function, University Hospitals Case Medical Center)
8. You will kill your sex drive.
If your libido drops, it is possible that you are not getting enough sleep. Fatigue, depleted energy and increased tension are usual culprits. But for men with sleep apnea another factor comes into play.
A study published in 2002 (Lavie, P. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism; vol 87: pp 3394-3398.) suggests that men suffering from this condition have abnormally low levels of testosterone.
9. You will get fat.
I know it’s a bit depressing, but it turns out that losing sleep can make you gain weight.
The fact that people who sleep more are less likely to be overweight has been confirmed by many studies (Stephanie M. Greer, Andrea N. Goldstein, Matthew P. Walker. The impact of sleep deprivation on food desire in the human brain. Nature Communications, 2013; 4 DOI: 10.1038/ncomms3259). Research has shown that people who sleep less than four hours a day are more likely to be obese by an average of 73% than the ones who sleep normally.
Why is that?
Hormones. Those pesky hormones! Hunger signals in the brain are controlled by ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin sends a signal to the brain that it’s time to eat. On the other hand, leptin, a hormone produced in adipose tissue, reduces appetite and causes the feeling of satiety. When we are tired, the level of ghrelin in our bloodstream increases while the level of leptin decreases.
10. You will feel cold.
Make sure you have your jumper handy. Sleep deprivation slows down your metabolism, which in turn lowers your body temperature (M Suzanne Stevens, MD, Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Neurology, Medical and Laboratory Director of Sleep Medicine Clinic, University of Kansas: Normal Sleep, Sleep Physiology, and Sleep Deprivation).
11. You will get depressed.
According to statistics, patients with sleep problems are more likely to develop a wide array of mood disorders. Take your pick: Irritability? Check. Mood swings? Check. Anxiety? Double check!
What’s more, the risk of depression among sleep deprived patients is four times higher than among healthy subjects. If the period of insomnia lasts long enough, it can even lead to suicidal thoughts (National Sleep Foundation: “Teens and Sleep,” “ABCs of ZZZZs — When you Can’t Sleep,” “2005 Adult Sleep Habits and Styles.”).
12. You will damage your bones.
Ok, I admit, it might be a little bit far-fetched. So far it’s been proven true among rats. In a 2012 study, researchers found changes to bone mineral density and bone marrow in these little creatures after they were kept awake for 72 days. It’s speculated that the inability to repair bone damage while being sleep deprived might be also true for us (Everson CA, Folley AE, Toth JM., Chronically inadequate sleep results in abnormal bone formation and abnormal bone marrow in rats).
13. You will be clumsy.
Don’t even think about showing your friends cool butterfly knife tricks after a night without proper shut-eye. According to Clete Kushida, M.D., Ph.D., director of Stanford University Center for Human Sleep Research, lack of sleep compromises our balance and depth perception, as well as dulls our reflexes. In other words, it’s bad for our motor skills.
14. You will be overly emotional.
Does the picture of this puppy brings tears to your eyes? Then get a grip on yourself, or on the pillow since it turns out that lack of sleep makes us emotionally volatile.
One of the studies conducted among 26 participants has showed a 60% rise in the amygdala activity (compared to well-rested volunteers), which is responsible for processing fear and anxiety (Seung-Schik Yoo, Ninad Gujar, Peter Hu, Ferenc A. Jolesz and Matthew P. Walker, The human emotional brain without sleep — a prefrontal amygdala disconnect).
15. You will live shorter.
Numerous studies report that sleep deprivation causes increase in mortality even after adjusting for other medical conditions that affect sleep and death rates, such as obesity, alcohol and depression, as well as for age, race, education and body mass index.
A 2010 study established that men who slept for less than six hours a night were four times more likely to die over a 14-year period (The Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine, Insomnia with Short Sleep Duration and Mortality).
Time for a new resolution
I don’t know how about you, but I solemnly swear that I’ll at least try to sleep more. It’s worth it.
Need help? Here are some great tips to get some quality shut-eye.
Have you noticed any of these symptoms in yourself or maybe have some interesting story to share as a warning? Let us know in the comments.
Featured photo credit: clock black church/Dan Shirley (Fishmonk) via rgbstock.com