Chronic sleep deprivation is a public health issue affecting many Americans. Though the standard nightly sleep recommendation is eight hours of sleep for the average adult, recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control reveal that at least a third of adults clock in less than seven hours on a regular basis. Despite being one of our core basic needs, sleep is often pushed to the back burner as work, family, and our other daily responsibilities pile up.
In our fast-paced society, we're encouraged to fit as much as we can into each day, often at the expense of rest. But is the resulting sleep deprivation something we can really afford? Chronic sleep deprivation can result in some pretty serious consequences for your brain function, quality of life, and overall health. Need even more reasons to tuck in early for your full 8 hours? Let's take a deeper look at what exactly sleep deprivation does to your body:
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain
When we miss out on sleep, our brains aren't able to properly function. The hours we spend asleep are our brain's time to cleanse and organize itself. It's an important time for memory consolidation and brain cell communication, as well as for getting rid of the neurotoxins that could eventually lead to Alzheimer's and other degenerative diseases.
Additionally, sleep plays a role in maintaining proper executive functions, such as working memory, problem solving, and fine motor skills. When our sleep suffers, so does our cognitive functioning. And the result is cumulative: studies show that our brain's ability to maintain attention and focus continues to decline the longer someone remains chronically sleep deprived. There is even some evidence to suggest that for children and teenagers, the effects of sleep deprivation can mimic ADHD symptoms.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Mood
You know that happy, contented feeling you get after a full night of rest? That’s how you’re supposed to feel all the time! Adequate sleep is vital for mood regulation. There's much evidence to suggest that sleep deprivation leads to greater irritability, anxiety, and even depression. Additionally, it's linked to greater emotional reactivity. That means that the less sleep you get, the more likely you are to cry over spilled coffee or get angry at your husband for leaving the toilet seat up. Sleep deprivation not only increases negative moods, it also decreases positive moods. Studies have found that sleep deprivation decreases your capacity for positive emotions such as joy, empathy, and excitement.
How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Overall Health
Sleep deprivation can take a toll on every single system of your body, seriously impacting your overall health. It has been linked to a multitude of health issues, including heart problems, poor immune function, blood sugar dysregulation, a sluggish metabolism, and more. It can also decrease your overall quality of life, as it can lead to irritability, poor work quality, apathy, and general fatigue and weakness.
How Sleep Deprivation Puts Your Safety At Risk
Still not convinced? Sleep deprivation can actually impair your safety. This might sound dramatic, but it's not. Consider this: according to the CDC, 1 out of every 25 drivers fall asleep at the wheel every month. It's estimated that around 100,000 crashes are a direct result of the driver's sleep deprivation. This is because of impared decision making and slower response time (remember the part about cognitive function?), as well as an increased willingness to take dangerous risks that result from chronic sleep deprivation.
Clearly, getting enough good quality sleep is absolutely vital for your physical, mental, and emotional health. If you’re finding you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or waking up groggy after attempting to get a full night’s rest, it might be time to upgrade your mattress. For help finding your new perfect mattress, visit one of Sleep First’s locations, where our sleep experts will be glad to talk through your needs and guide you towards the best mattress for you.