What Happens If You Don't Get Enough Sleep? + Ways to Help

We have all had that late night out or it’s been a hot humid night and we have tossed and turned in bed all night.

The consequence is a bad night’s sleep; we wake up feeling groggy, finding it hard to get out of bed.

It’s a horrible feeling, one that makes us feel like we have been hit in the head by a fast delivery by an Indian pace bowler. The grogginess we know we will feel for the impending sand timer of hours left in the day implores us to stay in our pajamas, moping around in bed or sitting around watching television.

Fortunately, this one-off instance of sleep deprivation that has made us feel like we have gone a full 12 rounds with Mike Tyson is recoverable for most people pretty fast.

However, for those of us unlucky enough to suffer this knockout punch each day, such as, night shift workers or people exposed to artificial blue light at night the fate can be often worse.

Why is Sleep Deprivation Bad for Us?

1. Worsens Your Brain Health

A lack of sleep in the short-term and long-term can disrupt your alertness and memory.

Being chronically sleep deprived has been linked to having the same effects as taking cocaine according to the director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse, Nora Volkow.

Volkow has dedicated a lot of her recent research on brain imaging and her images have revealed the damaging effects sleep deprivation can have on the human brain.

She has shown that lack of quality sleep interferes with cognition and has also linked it to the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Dementia is on the rise in the developed world and many food gurus link its increase to gobbling down excessive chocolate cake, candy and bread.

This is a half-truth, but the disease is more tied to sleep than it is food. Food cravings is merely a consequence of lack of quality sleep.

During sleep the gylmphatic system removes toxins from the brain during sleep; this prevents amyloid plaques from forming, which is what leads to dementia.

2. Contribute to Weight Gain

It has been known for a while now that lack of sleep interferes with hormones and peptides that can also contribute to weight gain and lead to obesity.

We have all heard Dr. Jack Kruse talk about dopamine systems and how the lack of dopamine release from lack of sun exposure causes us to reach for opioids to compensate.

You only have to look at the severe issues in the USA when it comes to prescription medication addiction.

Well, it turns out that lack of sleep causes dopamine receptors to malfunction. The brain can continue to make dopamine, but the erroneous receivers mean we cannot utilize it correctly.

We feel down, which causes us to seek more feel good activities such as eating pleasurable high fat and sugar foods or drugs.

We have all done something spontaneous in our lives I am sure. It could have been buying your partner something, a luxury holiday or a naughty food treat.

What lack of quality sleep does to the brain is in increases the person's susceptibility to engage in impulsive behaviours and inability to regulate their desires.

This links back to the malfunctioning dopamine receptors and inability to find lasting pleasure or satisfaction.

3. Cause Impaired Balance

Sleep deprivation can make your balance worse over time. This is also known as your proprioceptive system and is what helps you stop tripping and falling over.

Falling is especially dangerous for those at risk of hip fractures.

4. Risk for Heart Disease and Diabetes

Chronic sleep deprivation will disrupt your endocrine system (hormone system) and can lead to an increased risk to develop type two diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.

5. Weaken Your Immune System

Not getting enough sleep can weaken your immune system's ability to fight off infections like the common cold virus.

Sleep deprivation can also slow your recovery time once you get sick making ti take longer for you to get better.

8 Ways to Get a Good Night Sleep

The good news is all the nasties above are preventable, it’s just figuring out how to get a good night sleep.

Here are eight ways to help get a good night's sleep and prevent sleep deprivation:

  1. Sleep in a cold room, preferably between 16-18 degree Celsius.
  2. Block artificial blue and green light after dark to preserve melatonin.
  3. Install blackout curtains or wear a sleep mask during sleep.
  4. Switch off the WiFi internet connection.
  5. Use a magnetic sleep pad.
  6. Do not use a smartphone an hour before bed.
  7. Get exposed to morning sunlight to help ensure serotonin, dopamine and melatonin production is started at the right time of day.
  8. Add sleep promoting plants to your bedroom.

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