6 Effects of Sleep Deprivation and How to Minimize Them

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Like a good diet and exercise, sleep is a key component of your overall health.

The “sleep less, do more” approach is very popular, but in practice, sleep is the last thing you want to cut back on.

The destructive effects of sleep deprivation can affect all areas of your life.

As a matter of fact, humans are most productive during sleep itself:

  • The things that you learned during the day are transferred from your short-term memory to your long-term memory.
  • Your practiced movements become natural.
  • The body recovers both physically and mentally.
  • Your trained muscles strengthen.

As such, cutting down on your sleeping time is one of the most unproductive things that you can do.

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Destructive Effects of Sleep Deprivation


Certain people can sleep just a few hours a night without feeling tired during the day.

Because of this, they believe that their body can function properly without enough sleep.

In reality, they’ve become accustomed to functioning while sleep deprived.

They’ve forgotten what it feels like to get through a day in a state of complete wakefulness, when performance in all areas of life is optimal.

Even when they do feel the side effects, they don’t always associate them with sleep deprivation.

Let’s look at 6 common effects of sleep deprivation:

1. Less Sleep = Bigger Belly

Recent studies suggest that a lack of sleep can lead to metabolism disorders, slowing down the calorie-burning process and increasing the likelihood of becoming overweight or obese.

Researchers found a link between short sleep times of <6 hours a day and an increased risk of overweight and obesity.[1]

People who get less than 6 hours of sleep are 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese.

Impressively, scientists have also managed to show how much 1 hour of your sleep weighs!

They found that for each additional hour of sleep you get on a regular basis, your BMI decreases by 0.35 kg/m2.[1]

What does this mean exactly?

Well, It means that a person who has a height of 1.7 meters would weigh one kilogram less if he adds one hour of sleep a night.

Lack of sleep can also lead to overweight and obesity for another reason – increased appetite for high-calorie foods and the tendency to eat larger portions.

Researchers say that this is related to an imbalance in the hormones responsible for hunger and satiety.

Scientists have discovered that as the amount of sleep decreases, the level of the hormone ghrelin increases.[2]

Ghrelin is a hunger hormone that tells the brain when it’s time to eat something.

Increased levels of this hormone mean a greater desire to eat, which often leads to a larger intake of calories.

Ultimately, this can result in weight gain.

People who get less than 6 hours of sleep are 1.5 times more likely to be overweight or obese. Click To Tweet

2. Faster Skin Aging

Aging is an inevitable process that simply can’t be stopped.

However, it can be slowed down by avoiding just a few bad habits.

Sleep affects the appearance of our skin, so to protect it, it’s important that you prioritize a good night’s rest.

The skin regenerates itself while we sleep, producing new cells.

Just by lying down, you allow your facial muscles to relax, reducing the effects of gravity and the development of wrinkles, while also fighting free radical damage.

Unfortunately, a lack of sleep hinders the skin’s ability to heal itself.

You may notice clear symptoms of skin damage, such as fatigue and weariness, and signs of aging may also be more prominent.

Lack of sleep can cause dark circles and puffiness under the eyes, where the skin is at its thinnest.

Scientists have identified a difference between people who get a substantial night’s sleep and those who don’t[3]

With the help of specialized scales and meters, researchers were able to assess the appearance of the skin, pigmentation, presence of acne, elasticity of the fibers, and much more.

The findings revealed that people who slept poorly received twice as many points than people who slept well (a greater number of points equated to poorer skin quality).

3. More Diseases

Do you want to get cold?

One of the harmful effects of sleep deprivation is a weakened immune system and an increased risk of infection.

Prolonged lack of sleep, or even one night of insomnia, can strain the body’s natural defenses against microorganisms.

It has also been shown that people who sleep less than 7 hours catch a cold almost three to five times more often than those who sleep for 8 hours or more.[4]

Sleeping efficiently (without waking up too often at night) can contribute to your resistance to disease.

Your heart also needs a good night’s sleep!

Scientists identified a link between sleep deprivation and strokes, heart attacks, and cardiovascular disorders.[5]

In a study,[6] researchers asked participants to rate their sleep quality, with 5 being the highest and 1 being the lowest.

The same participants were asked whether they suffer, or have suffered, from any cardiovascular diseases.

Out of the 385,000 respondents, more than 7,000 had suffered from a stroke, heart disease, or hypertension.

Of these 7,000, most of the respondents described their sleep as poor.

On the basis of these results, scientists determined that people with good sleep suffer from cardiovascular diseases three times less frequently than their counterparts.

Researchers have also shown that people who sleep for less than 5 hours have a 45% greater chance of developing heart disease.[7]

Shockingly, one in four people who get less than 5 hours of sleep a night will experience heart disease or stroke at some point in their life.

We have one heart that needs to last for our entire lifetime… let’s take care of it.

people who sleep for less than 5 hours have a 45% greater chance of developing a heart disease Click To Tweet

Diabetes doesn’t want you to sleep

Being awake when your body wants to sleep really messes up your metabolism, which in turn increases your risk of developing insulin resistance (often called initial diabetes).[8]

This can trigger type 2 diabetes.

Long-term sleep deprivation impairs glucose tolerance and exacerbates diabetes.

The morning after a sleepless night, glycemia may be too high to compensate for, and diabetics with sleep disorders have problems controlling the disease.

According to scientists, people who have sleep problems are two to five times more likely to develop pre-diabetes or diabetes.[9]

4. Greater Risk of Accidents 

Your reaction time will be drastically slower if you are awake for most of the night.

To prove this, the West Point cadet researchers conducted two tests that required quick decision-making.

Some of the participants were allowed to get enough sleep between tests, while others were not.

Those who slept between tasks performed the second test much better than their counterparts, whose reactions were significantly slower.

According to a survey involving almost 150,000 adults in 19 states and the District of Columbia, 4% reported that, in the past 30 days, they had fallen asleep while driving as a result of sleep deprivation.

In other words, 6,000 drivers had fallen asleep at the wheel, all because they didn’t get enough sleep.

In another study, scientists revealed that drivers who sleep less than 4 hours a day are 15 times more likely to be responsible for road accidents.

With most of us being drivers, this is very disturbing data.

5. You’re feeling more worried than usual…

Sleep deprivation can also increase the risk of mental health problems.

A lack of sleep is positively correlated with tension, nervousness, and irritability, and studies suggest that acute sleep deprivation also increases anxiety.

People who are sleep deprived are 10 times more likely to have clinical depression, and 17 times more likely to have clinical anxiety (National Sleep Foundation in USA 2016).

6. It’s Becoming Harder to Remember Things

Sleep disruption in the elderly can lead to structural changes in the brain that are associated with impaired long-term memory.

As early as 1924, it was found that people who sleep longer remember more.

Poor sleep and sleep deficiency are associated with higher levels of amyloid beta, which can cause Alzheimer’s disease.

Showing the Effects of Sleep Deprivation on a busy man

In addition, some studies have indicated that too little sleep may have an adverse effect on the functioning of the hippocampus – a structure that is largely responsible for the memory processes taking place in our brain.

Sleep deficiency means brain overload, and overloaded neurons work at a considerably slower rate.

Memory capacity, adaptability, and the ability to associate facts and reactions all deteriorate significantly.

To ensure that the brain is performing properly, sleep is essential.

What Is the Recommended Sleep Duration?

 
 
 
 
 
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The optimal amount of sleep varies with age. According to the guidelines of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine:

  • Newborn babies need 14 to 17 hours of sleep.
  • 4- to 11-month-olds need 12 to 15 hours of sleep.
  • 1- to 2-year-olds need 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
  • 3- to 5-year-olds need 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
  • 6- to 13-year-olds need 9 to 11 hours of sleep.
  • Teens need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
  • Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  • People over the age of 65 need 7 to 8 hours of sleep.

What Should You Do if You Don’t Have Enough Time to Sleep?


You won’t always have enough time for a proper night’s sleep.

There are parents who are up every hour with their babies, students preparing for exams, and people who are feeling particularly stressed out by things going on in their lives.

If you are in any of these situations, then you’ll be happy to know that it’s not just the quantity of sleep that matters, but also the quality. Make sure that your sleep is as good as it can be.

Just to be clear, it’s never advisable to miss hours of sleep on a regular basis. However, when you’re not getting enough shut-eye, it’s extremely important to enhance the quality of the sleep that you are getting.

In the articles that follow this one, I will provide many scientifically proven methods for improving sleep quality. Until then, here are some quick tips:

  • Sleep at regular hours. Or at least try to as much as possible.
  • Sleep during the hours when sleep is most effective. These begin about 3 hours after the sun sets and in the 4 hours that follow – usually between 10pm and 2am. Try to incorporate these 4 hours into your sleeping time.
  • Avoid looking at screens one hour before bed. This includes TV, computer, and smartphone screens, as well as strong lights, such as fluorescent ones. These lights suppress the production of melatonin (the sleep hormone). A Himalayan lamp can be used at bedtime, as its negative effect on melatonin production is minimal.
  • Remove all electrical appliances from the bedroom. This includes TVs and computers. The radiation emitted by these devices impairs the quality of sleep. If you get Wi-Fi in the bedroom, turn it off at night.
  • Avoid caffeine after 2 pm. The half-life of caffeine is about 5 hours, which means that 10 hours after drinking coffee, 25% of the supplied caffeine is still circulating around your body.
  • Use sounds that help you fall asleep. I’ve integrated scientifically proven, sleep-enhancing sounds into the alarm clock especially for you. Give them a try. Among the various options are pink noise, white noise, and delta waves.
  • Be as efficient as you can throughout the day so that you can get as much sleep as possible during the night. I will provide you with many proven methods for improving efficiency in future articles. In the meantime, look at these few simple examples:
    1. Install software to limit the time spent on websites and social networks. An example would be StayFocused.
    2.  Accept the fact that you can’t accomplish everything. Instead, dedicate your time to just a few individual issues that are most important in your life right now. Greg Mckeown wrote an excellent book about this called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less”.
    3. Take a break. A study carried out by the Draugiem Group used a time-tracking app called DeskTime. They found that the most productive employees take a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes of work.
    4. Outsource. If someone can do something for you at 80% of the quality that you would, pay them to do it. Money can be earned back, but you can’t earn back time. I learned this from a fantastic book written by Allan Dib, called “The 1-Page Marketing Plan: Get New Customers, Make More Money, And Stand Out From The Crowd“.
    5. Cook enough food for a few days to save you from cooking every day. Here is a sample video:

      Get Enough Nutrients

      Lack of nutrients can also cause a feeling of fatigue throughout the day.

      Plant-based foods like grains, legumes, seeds, and almonds are very rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.

      However, their outer layers contain phytic acid, which makes it difficult for us to absorb certain nutrients such as iron and calcium. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies and consequent effects, like chronic fatigue.

      Soaking quinoa, buckwheat and lentils overnight, and then cooking them for 25 minutes, helps to remove most of the phytic acid.

      Even better, you should germinate them before cooking if you can.

      For black beans, the action of soaking and cooking until softened removes about half of the phytic acid.

      When it comes to soy, it is recommended to eat only fermented soy products (including nato, tempeh, and miso).

      Soaking cashew nuts is pointless because they will have been roasted before being transported to the store.

      In his book “Cure Tooth Decay“, Ramiel Nagel explains that most of the time, even unroasted oats are treated with a heat that is lower than what is needed to roast them, but high enough to prevent the removal of phytic acid by soaking.

      Summary


      Sleep is an obligatory element of everyone’s lives. It affects our well-being, health, and the general functioning of our bodies every day.

      Although it has been around for a long time, lack of sleep is especially common in the 21st century. We sleep less and less – this is a global trend.

      In the 1940s, we slept for an average of 8 hours a night. Now? It’s only about 6 hours, which is far below the minimum of 7 to 9 hours.

      Sleep deprivation can have serious consequences for our health, and scientists have already recognized this threat.

      The world in which we live often forces us to limit the amount of sleep that we get. This does not mean, however, that we should accept the destructive effects that sleep deprivation can bring.

      And it’s not just the amount of sleep that matters – quality is important too. Even when we don’t have much time for sleep, we can take measures to ensure that it’s as good as it can be.

      If you are having trouble sleeping, try implementing some of the methods in this article to improve your sleep quality. I believe that this will benefit you and improve both the time you spend resting and your daily life.

      P.S.

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      It will mean a lot to me if you could share this post using one of the buttons below. I hope you have an amazing day 🙂

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