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1. The Impact of Sleep on the Body

A lack of sleep the night before is enough to leave us tired, grumpy and fed up for the rest of the day. Getting the right amount of rest is crucial to tackling everything the world has to throw at us. But why? Let’s examine in closer detail exactly what it is about sleep that has such an impact on us.

How much sleep do we need?

In truth, the debate on the number of hours of sleep we need has raged on for some time - without a concrete answer. This is largely due to different age groups needing various hours throughout every stage of their lives.

As such, throwing a blanket over everyone is an inaccurate way of determining if someone is getting enough rest. A survey, carried out by the National Sleep Foundation in the US, broke it down as follows:

The survey’s results showed a trend towards people needing less sleep as they aged. The reasons why are still up for debate in the scientific community. All that’s known for sure is as a person develops, their need to get some shut eye at the end of every day becomes less critical.

However, one prevalent theory suggests babies, infants and toddlers need more sleep than most because they’re experiencing rapid mental and physical growth. In later years, these changes are gradual, and don’t require as much time dozing for the body to recover.

Why do we need to sleep?

The short answer to this question is that the body needs time to recover at the end of every day. But why? Let’s take a look at some of the key reasons you need to get your recommended dosage.

1) Concentration - The right amount of sleep can enhance a person’s problem-solving skills, as well as memory retention. The brain needs to feel as fresh as possible to be able to work at maximum capacity. Think of it like charging a mobile.

2) Energy – Again, energy will be heightened if the body has been given a chance to recharge. Cricketers will need rest to rejuvenate their energy supplies. Resting between games will also release cortisol, which helps them recover quickly between games.

3) Fat Burning - Despite being often overlooked, sleep has the ability to serve as a surprisingly good workout routine. Not only does sleeping more prevent you from late night snacking, it also by its very nature burns calories.

4) Heart health – Much as with the brain, your heart experiences a lot of strain throughout the day. A lack of sleep has been closely linked to heart diseases. As such, the more you get, the stronger your heart will naturally be.

5) Immune system – Your immune system can be weakened by a lack of sleep. It all ties in to the body needing to be as refreshed as possible to guarantee it’s working at full capacity. A weakened immune system is a natural by-product of a body functioning at subpar levels.

6) Emotions – Not getting enough sleep has the potential to hinder our social abilities. It becomes harder to recognise communication cues when tired, and affects how we react to the behaviour of others.

In short, not getting enough sleep puts us at an instant disadvantage in almost every aspect of daily life. From both a health and social perspective, sleep deprivation negatively impacts how we experience the world.

What happens to the body with lack of sleep?

We’ve seen why the body needs sleep, but what will actually happen if we don’t get enough? Some of the potential dangers associated with getting less sleep than you’re recommended include:

A lowered sex drive – Your sex life might suffer if you’re not getting enough sleep. The NHS recently published information highlighting how a lack of sleep affected both males and female libidos. This could have a detrimental impact on your relationship.

Loss of memory – Cognitive processes are heavily affected by a lack of sleep. The part of your brain which controls memory retention and recollection will be impaired if the body isn’t getting enough rest.

It’s little surprise sleep is being so closely linked to Alzheimer’s disease, with new research indicating the neurons which control sleep functionality are damaged in most patients with the condition.

Lowered concentration levels – Your ability to focus will be drastically impacted if you’ve missed too much sleep. Staying on task becomes an issue at work, and it could even lead to more hazardous outcomes if a person is operating machinery or driving a car.

Damaged organs – The heart and brain are both susceptible to damage if you deprive them of sleep – or, more to the point, make them work overtime. These parts of the body are those which suffer most from sleep deprivation.

Weight gain – Sleep plays an important role in burning calories. As such, not getting enough can cause someone to pack on the pounds. It’s also been claimed that sleep-deprived people have lower levels of leptin. This chemical is what controls our ability to feel full. As such, you’re prone to eating more as a direct result of a lack of sleep.
As well as these more specific side effects, you’ll also experience exhaustion throughout the day. Constantly feeling like you need to sleep is no way to get through the day productively. In some extreme circumstances, it may even result in death. Such was the case with SAP CEO Ranjan Das.

Dangers associated with a lack of sleep

As you may have already realised, there are a number of dangers which go hand-in-hand with not getting enough rest. These have the potential to be hazardous and even life-threatening in certain situations.

Driving - Getting behind the wheel when lacking sleep is incredibly risky. With both judgement and response times impaired, driving can be very dangerous.
Brake, one of the leading charities in road safety, highlight some of the damning statistics, including the reality that one in six fatal crashes on the road is caused by fatigue.

Operating machines – Again, heavy machinery should be avoided at all costs when sleep deprived. This can have deadly consequences if there’s even the slightest lapse in concentration.

Mood disordersStudies have suggested mental illnesses can be caused, or heightened, as a direct result of not getting enough sleep. This occurs as a result of neurotransmitters in the brain being damaged, causing the brain to experience the same symptoms associated with depression and anxiety.

Raised blood pressure – Owing to the aforementioned close association of the heart and sleep, it should come as no shock blood pressure is affected when a person misses out on sleep. Increased pressure is the natural side effect of additional strain being put on the cardiovascular system.

Hallucinations – Your mind is a powerful tool – mistreat it, and the impact could be detrimental. The brain has the capability to project images which aren’t there, which can lead to unpleasant situations. In extreme circumstances, this can even lead to psychosis or paranoid schizophrenia.

If you don’t get enough sleep you’re putting yourself in a position which could have potentially fatal results. While these examples are extreme, they’re not totally uncommon