As it turns out, poor sleep does much more damage to our bodies than we might be aware of, putting our mental and physical health at risk.
Most of us have had our fair share of nights spent tossing and turning and as a result, we wake up the next morning feeling sluggish, groggy, and exhausted. These are the effects of poor sleep in action.
From weight gain to weakened immune systems, sleep deprivation can be responsible for any number of health problems we encounter, however, it is especially damaging to the brain.
Here are some of the effects poor sleep can have on your brain and body.
Sleep helps to consolidate long-term memory and does so by strengthening neural connections. During the day, the brain makes a lot of connections, not all of which are needed. While you are asleep, the brain goes through the connections it needs to save and those it can delete.
Toxins Associated with Alzheimer’s are Cleared During Sleep
Studies are now showing that the brain clears toxins from the brain more quickly and efficiently when you’re asleep. This includes the toxins that are responsible for causing degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s.
During sleep, the lymphatic system of the brain is better able to open up and toxins are carried out by cerebrospinal fluid. Since the space between brain cells increases while you’re asleep, the toxins are expelled more easily than they would be during the day.
We all know that if we don’t get enough sleep, we’re going to be groggy, cranky, and “out of it”. Sleep is necessary for higher cortical function. It’s this function that allows us to focus and multi-task.
For example, when driving a car you employ your hands, feet and vision, but also need a certain sense of self-awareness along with knowing where other drivers on the road are heading so you can get to your destination safely.
After a night of poor sleep, it’s far more likely that any one of those senses could be delayed, which is typically how accidents happen.
Sleep obviously allows the brain to function more efficiently, but did you know that it also stimulates the creative side of your brain? When you lose sleep, the brain goes into more of a “one-track mind” and you lose the ability to think out of the box simply because your body doesn’t have the energy to do it.
In one study, participants were required to learn a task involving numbers where they would have to detect various patterns hidden in the questions. People who had a full night’s rest were much more successful in detecting patterns versus those who had poor sleep.
Sleep deprivation can worsen and even cause depression. People who have less than 6 hours of sleep a night or more than 8 are more likely to experience depression than those residing somewhere in the middle.
The suspected reason for this is that lack of sleep affects the brain’s natural circadian rhythm. This is the body’s daily sleep-wake cycle, and many bodily functions depend on it. This system is typically disrupted in those suffering from depression. Poor sleep only disrupts the system further.
Affected Cardiovascular System
Sleep keeps your heart and blood vessels healthy. This is what regulates your blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation levels. Studies show that lack of sleep increases your risk for heart attack and stroke.
Poor sleep will also increase your chances of becoming overweight or obese. Leptin and ghrelin are 2 hormones that control feelings of hunger and fullness and both are greatly affected when you don’t get enough sleep. Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat and when you don’t sleep, your brain reduces its production.
In turn, it increases the production of ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant and could be a reason for night-time snack binges or why you may be hungrier at night. You may also be too tired to exercise, also increasing your chances of weight gain.
Weakened Immune System
While you sleep, your body produces cytokines, which help to fight off infections and illness. When your body doesn’t have the rest it needs to produce cytokines, it can take much longer to recover from an illness and you may get sick more often.
Long-term sleep deprivation can eventually lead to serious chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. Additionally, a weakened immune system has a greater effect than you may think on the overall health of your skin, body and hair. The appearance of rashes, dry skin and hair loss can all be attributed to a weak immune system.
If you’re having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, it’s imperative to consult your healthcare provider and discuss the steps you’ll need to take in order to improve your sleep.
If you’ve simply been skimping on your hours, make it a point to get seven to nine hours of sleep each night in order to avoid future health complications.