Most people understand the importance of getting enough sleep. But, that doesn’t mean they actually get the recommended 7-9 hours per night. Sleep deprivation can be caused by a variety of different factors, from poor daily habits to bad posture.
Unfortunately, the factors that are keeping you awake can be damaging in multiple ways. For example, bad posture can lead to poor joint health, back and neck pain, and digestive issues. An unhealthy diet or lack of activity in your life could contribute to aches and pains, increase your risk of certain diseases, and even cause more stress in your life. That stress can impact your mental state so prominently that it becomes even harder to fall asleep. Already, you can likely see a pattern here when it comes to how closely your health and your sleep habits are related.
While these issues are serious, they become even scarier when you add them to the health risks of sleep deprivation. If you’re someone who regularly doesn’t get the sleep your mind and body needs, understanding these risks might cause you to consider some changes in your habits.
Physical Health Risks
When you don’t get enough sleep, your circadian rhythm might be off. While that’s a term often used when talking about sleep schedules for babies, it’s just as important for adults. Some people experience a shift in their circadian rhythms due to:
- Careers that have overnight shifts
- Traveling in different time zones
You can also throw off your circadian rhythm with poor sleep habits, like going to bed at different hours, taking naps during the day, or even watching screens too close to your sleep time. Unfortunately, when these rhythms are off, it can contribute to a lack of quality sleep. Disruptions in your circadian rhythm can cause issues with your organs, cardiovascular system, and gastrointestinal system.
That’s not where the problems end.
Not getting enough sleep at night, whether it’s because your rhythms are off you’re dealing with other factors, can wreak havoc on your body. It increases your risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, and can also slow down your metabolism and contribute to weight gain. It can also throw off your balance and make it difficult to walk.
If you’re not sure whether you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, look out for warning signs. Do you yawn frequently? Are you fatigued during the day? Do you find yourself getting easily-irritated? Those red flags, combined with any of the physical signs above, can be clear indicators that you need more sleep.
Mental Health Risks
On top of the physical ailments often caused by sleep deprivation, it can also harm your mental state. If you already have a preexisting mental health condition, sleep deprivation can exacerbate it significantly. Even if you don’t, however, even one night of not getting enough sleep can cause you to be irritable, stressed, and confused.
Sleep issues can also increase your risk of developing mental health disorders, including depression, anxiety, and even bipolar disorder.
Unfortunately, once you get in a habit of not getting enough sleep, it can turn your mental health state into a vicious cycle. One of the common symptoms of depression is restlessness. Mental health conditions often contribute to sleep problems. But, the less you sleep, the worse those conditions can become, creating a pattern that is difficult to escape without seeking treatment.
If you’re worried that your sleep deprivation is the result of an existing mental health condition, take steps to manage and improve your mental health as much as possible, including things like:
- Participating in group activities
- Drawing or journaling
- Taking care of your body
Talking to a counselor, therapist, or joining a support group can also help you improve your mental health, so you can break free from that sleepless cycle.
How Your Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Life
Now you know that not getting enough sleep can do some serious harm to your mind and body. But, did you also know it can impact other areas of your life? Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can contribute to loneliness. People who don’t get enough sleep tend to be more isolated than others, so they’re less likely to socialize.
The relationships you do have might also be in jeopardy if you don’t work to keep them healthy. As you know, not getting enough sleep can make you irritable and angry. If you start “snapping” on friends or family members, they might not want to spend much time with you.
Sleep deprivation can also impact your professional life. When you aren’t getting enough sleep, it affects your focus and concentration, as well as your productivity. Because it also affects your mood, you might start to develop a poor attitude in the workplace, as well.
Not sleeping enough is a serious problem, and something you shouldn’t take lightly. The first step is to determine the underlying cause of your sleep issues. Once you’re able to do that, you can start being proactive about your sleep habits, and learn the best ways to make sure you’re getting the recommended amount each night for your health and wellbeing.