How many hours of sleep do you get every night? If your answer was less than seven hours or if you asked, “what is sleep?” then you are sleep deprived. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults (aged 18 to 64) get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Yet, most of us don’t get that much sleep, thanks to our busy lives (and the technological devices that we can’t seem to put down at night). But, we love sleep-- it’s one of the most mentioned topics in memes, along with food. And it’s a good thing we love sleep, too, because it’s absolutely essential.
There are so many beneficial things that happen while we sleep. For example, during sleep, your brain forms new pathways to help you remember the important information from the day and your heart and blood vessels heal. Sleep is also essential for your immune system, which defends your body against foreign substances like harmful viruses and bacteria.
So, as you can imagine, a lot of things go wrong when you don’t get enough sleep. And the scariest part is that not all of these things are reversible. We’re here to let you in on 15 things that could happen. After reading these, you’ll definitely want to turn off your computer or phone and grab the nearest pillow.
15 Emotions Become Heightened
Have you ever gone absolutely nuts on someone for no real reason (or vice versa)? Perhaps sleep deprivation was to blame. When you’re sleep deprived, your emotions actually become heightened. That’s because sleep is vital for a part of your brain that helps regulate emotions (the frontal cortex). The amygdala is also another part of the brain that plays an important role in emotions. It controls fear and anger (AKA the fight or flight response). So, when you don’t sleep, the frontal cortex becomes disconnected from the amygdala and your emotions go out of whack.
14 Reaction Time Decreases
13 In Males, "His Swimmers" Production Decreases
12 The Libido Decreases
While we’re on the topic of sperm, we should also mention that sleep deprivation decreases the libido (so you may not even notice the whole “less sperm” situation). A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2011 found that men who slept five hours a night for one week were unable to concentrate, had low energy, and had low interest in sex. This makes sense, though. How many times were you sleep deprived and wanted to do anything other than sleep?
11 In Females, Her Period Gets Messed Up
And for all you girls out there, sleeping messes with your cycle. Again, you may have noticed that during exam time, or some other time that you were really stressed out and didn’t sleep much, your period was late. Or, if you work irregular shifts, your period may be inconsistent. There’s a good explanation for that.
10 Memory Deteriorates
We’ve probably all experienced this one. You go to work or school, totally sleep deprived, and keep forgetting where you put your pen, what you were supposed to have done by the end of the day etc. It’s a classic symptom of sleep deprivation—memory loss.
9 Immune System Is Suppressed
When you’re sick, what do you usually want to do the most? Curl up in your bed and sleep, right? There’s a reason for that: sleep helps your immune system to fight off illnesses. So, when you don’t sleep enough, you’re putting yourself at risk for getting sick. That might actually explain why a lot of people get sick around exam season, combined with the impact of stress on the body.
8 Appetite Increases
If you’re like most humans, you’ve pulled an all-nighter. And during this all-nighter, what did you do? Probably some work or stayed up socializing, whether in person or through a screen, and ate… a lot. We’re talking about cereal, chips, the leftovers from dinner and whatever else you could lay your hands on. But, why do you feel so hungry when you don’t sleep?
7 Thinking Is More Difficult
If you’ve ever been to college, or were a real keener that pulled all-nighters even in high school, you’ve likely experienced this one. It’s four a.m. and you’re reading your book when suddenly, you hear footsteps in the hallway and they’re so damn loud! Or, you’ve pulled your all-nighter and are ready to take on the test, so you step outside and OMG, it’s never been so bright out!
6 Your Appearance Suffers
Okay, who hasn’t resembled a zombie, at least once, due to lack of sleep? It’s safe to say most of us have been there, done that. But, if you are one of the strange people that go to bed at nine o’clock every single night, without fail, and wake up well-rested, then you’ve at least witnessed someone who looked like a zombie after a terrible night’s rest. So, this should come as no surprise.
5 Sense Of Humor Disappears
Have you been finding everyone to be not funny lately? Sleep deprivation may be to blame. Or, maybe those people you hang around really aren’t funny.
4 Your Voice Is Weakened
3 You Just Look Sad
2 Hallucinations Happen
1 Brain Damage Occurs
Okay , so you might be thinking that most of these things that can happen when you’re sleep deprived are too terrible, especially since many are only temporary. But, it’s about to get real.
Sleep deprivation can actually cause brain damage… and it’s irreversible! So, what exactly happens? Well, neurons living inside the brain region known as the locus coeruleus (LC) slowly begin to die. These neurons play a role in energy production and they also take over when your prefrontal cortex shuts down. Not only that, but research has found that people suffering from sleep deprivation also had more cortical shrinkage in their brains! What may be even more surprising is that sleep deprivation has been linked to Alzheimer’s Disease. A study showed that mice that slept less, due to light disturbances, had an increase in the amount of tau protein that became phosphorylated and formed tangles, which are a characteristic of Alzheimer’s Disease. There have also been implications that sleep deprivation triggers Alzheimer’s in other ways, as well. Suddenly, watching that entire TV series or clubbing ‘til dawn (or even staying up to study) doesn’t seem so important, right? Save your brain and go to sleep!
Sources: SleepFoundation, ScienceDaily, MayoClinic, MedicalDaily
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