The ability to sleep is one of the most natural and effortless things to do, but sadly, more people in the world sleep less every day. A number of people even find it cool to say they sleep for about four hours or less daily. They actually think it makes them sound dutiful and hardworking. In actual fact, it makes them sound pitiable. Depriving yourself of sleep affects every part of your health. Sleeping well is living well. As a general rule, you know you don’t sleep well if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a nap. Quality sleep should never be compromised if you want to be healthy; as good health, irrespective of how well you eat and exercise, is unachievable without quality sleep.
People have said and written so much about the effects of sleep deprivation on the body. Did you know that the brain too gets affected? We’ll run through some of its effects on the body briskly, then discuss its effects on the brain.
When you don’t get enough sleep, you could suffer:
- impaired immune function
- elevated insulin and blood glucose
- decreased sex drive
- increased risk of heart disease
- increased risk of blood pressure
- shortened life expectancy
Beyond these, sleep deprivation has these effects on the brain:
Poor control over emotions and rational thought
When you don’t get enough sleep, you become more irritable and angry than usual; you are more likely to snap often and lose your temper so easily. Have you ever heard or read about the prefrontal cortex (PFC)? It is involved in decision making and has some regulatory effects on our emotional centers such as the amygdala (an almond-shaped set of neurons located deep in the brain’s medial temporal lobe, which plays a vital role in processing emotions). When you don’t get enough rest, the PFC gets affected, hence less active, leaving you angry, irritable and impatient. Note that the ability to feel and express happiness resides in the PFC.
Impaired memory and learning
Are there times you tried staying awake to do stuff, perhaps study, and it didn’t just work, all you needed was sleep? We all have experienced that. The hippocampus, a small organ located within the brain’s medial temporal lobe associated with learning and memory gets badly affected when you deprive yourself of sleep.
Why spend six hours struggling between sleeping and studying, when you can just sleep and wake up to achieve that study in less time and with better assimilation?
An increase in the activities of astrocytes
Astrocytes, microglial cells in the brain, are responsible for a number of things such as strong energy, controlling the development of neural cells, and brain defense. An unnecessary increase in the activities of these cells as a result of sleep deprivation affects the brain negatively, leaving it overworked as a result of an undue rise in activities.
A piece of advice…
One thing I have learnt is that whatever you compromise your health for will continue long after you leave. All the things you need to do can be achieved if time management is in place. Sleep is no irrelevant activity in your schedule. As much as quality sleep could appear as a waste of time because you’re so busy, note that you actually waste time doing stuff because you don’t get enough sleep. This is true because you are less effective and nothing near accurate in your activities when you lack quality sleep.
Stop all you’re doing, forsake the stimulants, close your eyes, and get some quality sleep. Your body and brain will thank you for it.