Sleep deprivation alters our brain chemistry, making us feel isolated and irritable. We know that by our own experience by finding it hard to stay focus, to communicate, and to stay positive throughout the day when we have to wake up early in the morning. Most people, nonetheless, do not appreciate and value sleep time due to not knowing that there will be consequences that follow for people who do not sleep enough hours a day. In other words, insufficient sleep time may have a great impact on a person’s well being since sleep deprivation is linked to mental, physical, and emotional health problems.
With many benefits coming from sleep, sleep saves the brain from overworking itself, allowing the brain to restore and repair its tissue and to shut down all the brain unused connections. In addition, sleep assists in restoring fading memories of everyday’s experience. Sleep also enables our creativity and supports our growth. Besides all those beneficial reasons to why we need sleep, we also want to understand what enables our body to fall asleep when dark and wake up in the morning. For the human, we have a biological clock or sometimes referred to as a circadian clock. The circadian clock synchronizes with our day cycle; cues like light and darkness signal the body to either stay awake or to feel drowsy. Suprachiasmatic ( SCN), a nucleus in the brain that is effective in the morning allowing us to wake up by preventing the release of melatonin- a sleep induced hormone that makes us sleepy. At night, the SCN shuts down in order for the melatonin production to be released into the bloodstream. Since our circadian rhythm is light sensitive, artificial light that we are exposed to now a day from the computer screen, tv screen, iPhone screen are causes of why not many people are getting much sleep at night. It is easier for people to replace their old habit of giving their body a difficult time falling asleep by first understanding how sleep deprivation can result in mental health problems.
Sleep deprivation affects our mental health by causing cognitive decline and mental health disorders. With sleep deprivation, our brain has difficulty making and processing new memories. Therefore, we have “difficulty studying, diminished in productivity, [and] tendency to make mistakes” ( Meyers 236). When sleep deprived, our cognition prevents us from being able to effectively carry out normal activities like studying, reading, and driving that require us to think. Besides the decline in cognitive function, Insomnia, a sleep disorder was found to increase people’s risk of developing depression and anxiety, which is linked to persistent problems with falling and staying asleep. In a study shows that people who have major depression are the people who have insomnia. According to a longitude study of Michigan Health Organization, 1000 participants from ages 21-30 have a four times likelihood of developing major depression in the next three years since the time of the study (“Sleep and Mental Health”). Hence, people who struggle to sleep at night, especially, people who have insomnia have a high susceptibility to experience major depression. Often times, people with major depression with their sleep regularly disturbed, at night, in comparison to people with normal depression who sleep without disturbance are more likely to abhorred thoughts of death by suicide. In addition to developing depression, people with insomnia usually have an anxiety disorder. However, people do have a greater risk in developing major depression than anxiety disorder due to“ sleep problems preceded anxiety disorder 27% of the time, while they preceded depression 69% of the time” (Sleep and Mental Health). Even Though having an anxiety disorder is less likely, research shows a significant 27% chance of the time sleep deprivation people will struggle with anxiety disorder. Inflicted with an anxiety disorder, people will persistently and excessively worrying and having no control over their anxiety. Thus, people who have problems with their sleep will result in a reduction in their ability to perform everyday activities.
Besides having a negative impact on our cognitive function, sleep deprivation also affects our immune system, heart, stomach, and muscles. When we sleep our body generates certain proteins, hormones, and chemicals for our body to defend itself from virus and bacteria that cause us to get sick. However, when we are sleep deprived, our body produces less of these substances that maintain our body’s health, making us more prone to diseases. According to Professor Matthew Walker, people who only sleep for 4-5 hours of sleep have a 70% reduction of crucial anti-cancer- fighting killer cells (“ What Happens To Your Body and Brain If You Don’t Get Sleep”). Here, people with less than 7-8 hours of sleep on average have a shorter life due to their body frequently decreasing the cells necessary to fight diseases. In this case, with only a few hours of sleep, anti-cancer killer cells are scarce and not enough to fight most cancers like cancer of the bowel, cancer of the prostate, and cancer of the breast. In addition, our heart also suffers from sleep deprivation because, with 6 hours or less of sleep, our heart pressure rises, that is why “ short of sleep [predicts] hypertension” (Boufis). During our long sleep at night, our heart rate and blood pressure drop in order to function its best the next day. Without enough hours a night for the heart to boost its performance for the next day, we increase our chances of having hypertension (high blood pressure). While our immune system and heart weakened because of our sleep deprivation, the lack of sleep affects the regulation of hormones that control our hunger. When we are sleep deprived “ we reduce leptin, the hormone, a ghrelin…triggers feeling of hunger” (Breus). When we are short on sleep, we increase ghrelin- a hormone that arouses our hunger, for that reason, we tend to get fat by sleeping less than when we sleep more. Lastly, when we have a lack of sleep, our body cannot provide us the human growth hormone (HGH) that allows our muscles to recover and grow. Our body uses this hormone production during sleep to “ use the amino acids presented in the protein we eat” (“How does sleep affect muscles growth?”). Essential to the health of our muscle, failed to sleep 8 hours or more will diminish the strength of our muscles, making us weak. Overall, sleep deprivation not only diminishes our health, but it also associates with many deadly diseases like cancer and high blood pressure that can potentially shorten our life.
Additionally, when sleep deprived, people will be more likely to experience fatigue and frustration. With at least 9 hours of undisturbed sleep, we will be able to wake up in a good mood and feeling energized. In an experiment shows volunteers who were able to pay off their sleep debt with an average of 12 hours of sleep a week and were able to go back to a 7.5 to 9 hours per night of sleep, reported on feeling energized and happy (Meyers 235). As a result, our happiness and how well we feel rely on how we sleep. Low on sleep, a person will feel unhappy and depressed in contrast to a person who sleeps enough hours a day. On the other hand, in an experiment to test sensitivity of sleep-deprived candidates to anger-triggered stimulant shows that:
“While both groups expressed significant amygdala activation in response to increasingly negative picture stimuli, those in the sleep-deprivation condition exhibited a remarkable +60% greater magnitude of amygdala activation…suggest an amplified, hyper-limbic response by the human amygdala to negative emotional stimuli under conditions of sleep deprivation” (“ The Human Emotional Brain Without Sleep-A Prefrontal Amygdala Disconnect”).
Not only does sleep deprivation drains our energy, making us tired throughout the day, it also prevents us from being able to cope with our frustration by intensifying our irritations to external factors that already affect our emotion in negative ways. To understand from a regular person’s experience, a youtube blogger informs us on how sleep deprivation caused her to feel dull, sad, and cranky (“Lack of Sleep Impact Mood, Appetite, & Motivation”). Her mood indicates to us that feeling of fatigue, sadness, and frustration are universal consequences that most people will experience when low on sleep. Therefore, we need to be able to sleep 8 or more hours of unhindered sleep to be able to feel positive and energetic throughout our day.
Although most research studies have shown the negative impact on health for people who sleep less than 8 hours affect a person’s health tremendously, many people will argue that sleep hours for a restful night differ from people to people, depending on a person’s need and his and her age. With sleep, 8 hours a day is usually the right amount of sleep for a healthy mind and body, especially, for adults and seniors. As age decreases, however, sleep hours should increase because age does dictate the amount of sleep a person needs. For example, 13-18-year-olds need 8-10 hours, 6-12-year-olds need 9-12 hours, and infants under 1 need 12-16 hours of sleep (‘American Academy of Pediatrics Supports Childhood Sleep Guidelines’). So when we sleep less than the recommended amount, we will torment our body with the staggering amount of sleep debt that we accumulate over time. A person with a high number of sleep debt can develop insomnia, this sleep disorder puts individuals at risk of developing depression or anxiety disorder. Furthermore, a high number of sleep debt also attributes to our dissatisfaction in our day to day lives because sleep deprivation easily induces feelings of agitation and irritation. Most concerning health issue relating to sleep deprivation would be the increased possibility of us getting inflicted with life-threatening ailments like cancer and hypertension. For this reason, we should sleep the recommended hours a night to prevent getting, ill-temperament, illness, and cognitive impairment.
Thus, by understanding how sleep has such a powerful influence on our body, we need to use sleep as a tool to nourish and maintain our body’s health allowing ourselves to carry on with our day without experiencing tiredness. We want to also prevent future ailments like breast cancer, and other types of cancers that can develop over time, as our sleep time shortens. At the same time, we can heal our mood from feeling tired by creating a sleep schedule that would help our body to gain more sleep. While asleep, our body undergoes many internal mechanisms with the purpose to reboot itself for the next day. Hence, sleep helps our body to stabilize mental, physical, and emotional health.
- “American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.” Site Title, www.aap.org/en-us/about-the-aap/aap-press-room/Pages/American-Academy-of-Pediatrics-Supports-Childhood-Sleep-Guidelines.aspx.
- Boufis, Christina. “How Your Sleep Affects Your Heart.” WebMD, WebMD, www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/how-sleep-affects-your-heart#1.
- Breus, Michael. “Sleep Deprivation and Weight Gain.” Your Guide to Better Sleep, TheSleepDoctor, 5 Apr. 2018, thesleepdoctor.com/2018/04/10/sleep-deprivation/.
- Harvard Health Publishing. “Sleep and Mental Health.” Harvard Health Blog, Harvard Health Publishing, www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/sleep-and-mental-health.
- “Home.” Natuurdietisten.nl, www.natuurdietisten.nl/.
- Insider, Tech. “What Happens To Your Body And Brain If You Don’t Get Sleep | The Human Body.” YouTube, YouTube, 26 Dec. 2017, www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-8b99rGpkM.
- “ISSA Blog: ISSA Online.edu.” Www.ISSAonline.edu, ISSA, www.issaonline.edu/blog/index.cfm/2018/does-lack-of-sleep-hinder-muscle-growth.
- Myers, David G. Myers’ Psychology for AP*. Macmillan, 2010.—. Myers’ Psychology for AP*. Macmillan, 2010.
- Vegan Adventures with Gene & Jenn. “Lack of Sleep Impacts Mood, Appetite, & Motivation.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ys8g8uqltw.