Sleep deprivation is a serious problem, yet it’s also a common one that most people don’t take seriously. Only 59 percent of people in the United States get 7 or more hours of sleep each night, and nearly all of us have occasional nights of restless sleep or fewer hours of sleep that leave us feeling tired the next day.
Unfortunately, the effects of sleep deprivation can start setting in with even a single night of missed sleep—and they can have a powerful impact on your mind and body, far beyond just feeling tired.
Short-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Let’s start by looking at the short-term effects of sleep deprivation, which can set in after a single night of missed or low-quality sleep:
- Low energy and fatigue. You probably know this effect well. When you miss a night of high-quality sleep, the next day, you probably feel fatigued, with low levels of energy. This subjective feeling makes it hard to do anything well, especially if you have a physically demanding job. To make matters worse, this effect can sometimes persist for multiple days.
- Cognitive difficulties. Getting too little sleep can also result in cognitive difficulties. You might have trouble staying alert or paying attention, and you’ll certainly have difficulty solving problems or thinking critically about any situations you currently face. If you’re going to school or if your job requires you to think through complex problems, this can be extremely detrimental.
- Accident pronation. Every year, roughly 100,000 police-reported crashes involve a sleep deprived driver. That’s because being tired can make you far more likely to get involved in an accident. It’s not a good idea to drive, operate heavy machinery, or perform any tasks or responsibilities that involve the health and safety of others when you’re tired. You’re far more likely to make mistakes and mistime your actions, resulting in more dangerous conditions for everyone around you.
- Poor memory. When you’re tired, you won’t be able to remember things as easily, both in the short term and in the long term. You might struggle to recall the names and faces of people you just met at a networking event, and if you try to study when you’re currently feeling sleep deprived, you probably won’t commit all those new facts and figures to memory as efficiently as you would under normal conditions.
- Poor judgment. Sleep deprivation also affects your judgment. You’ll find it harder to estimate distances, consider the thoughts and actions of others, and most importantly, evaluate your own mental state. In other words, sleep deprivation can make you underestimate your own level of sleep deprivation, which can ultimately make matters worse if you brush off your lack of quality sleep.
- Emotional instability. Sleep deprived people tend to have stronger emotional swings, and may be more sensitive to external stimuli. For example, you may know people who are extremely irritable when they’re tired, or you may find yourself fluctuating between contentment, sadness, and rage when you haven’t had enough sleep the night before.
Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation
If you get less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis, you’ll eventually start seeing the long-term effects of sleep deprivation:
- Weight gain. People who chronically suffer from a lack of sleep often gain weight. There are a few potential explanations for this. For example, missing out on sleep makes you feel tired, and like you don’t have enough energy to handle your daily responsibilities. Your body’s natural response to feeling low energy is to eat more food, which can provide energy—even if it doesn’t solve your tiredness problem. Accordingly, sleepy people are prone to overeating, which in turn leads to weight gain, and eventually, obesity. With obesity comes an increased risk of many other conditions, including diabetes.
- Depression. Chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to depression and other mental health disorders. One of the most important functions of sleep is restoring your brain to good condition. If you’re not undergoing this maintenance on a regular basis, you won’t be able to count on having a healthy mind. To make matters worse, depression can also lead to insomnia, resulting in a vicious and self-sustaining cycle.
- Sexual dysfunction. People who are sleep deprived often experience sexual dysfunction as well. They may be less willing to initiate or take part in sexual activity due to fatigue, and may be unable to perform as they otherwise would.
- Heart problems. Even if you don’t gain weight because of your sleep deprivation, you can develop cardiovascular problems like high blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, and eventually a heart attack or stroke. It’s nothing to take lightly.
- Increased risk of disease. Being sleep deprived also tends to weaken your immune system, leaving you more vulnerable to even the most basic diseases. You’ll be more susceptible to things like the common cold, and more likely to get an infection.
- Relationship strain. Don’t underestimate the strain that your sleep deprivation can have on your relationships. If you’re more irritable, less focused, and constantly sick, the people around you are going to suffer. You owe it to your partner and your family to get better sleep on a regular basis.
So what’s the solution? It’s different for every person. Some people are sleep deprived simply because they don’t make sleep a priority; they work too late, sacrificing sleep to advance their career, or they stay up late playing video games because they want more hours of recreation. In these cases, getting more sleep is simply a matter of rearranging your schedule.
In other cases, your sleeping conditions may be to blame. For example, if you have an old or low-quality mattress, it could prevent you from getting the restful 7 hours of sleep every night you deserve. In these cases, a new mattress may be all it takes to eliminate your sleep deprivation problem. Shop our selection of mattresses at Perfect Cloud today, and find out how a single purchase could completely change your sleep habits for the better.