Insufficient Sleep: A Public Health Epidemic


 People mostly spend one third of their lives asleep. Despite it consist of large part of our existence we need a good and proper sleep. Not only scientists but the non-experts also agree to the fact that we need a healthy and sufficient sleep. Without a healthy sleep our waking life also becomes more effortful, boring and emotionally unfulfilled. When we did not get a sufficient sleep our all routines get disturbed and we feel physically drained. Without sleep our mood is noticeably flattened and our thinking feels unfocused. We do not give attention to our work when we have insufficient sleep at night.

Our sleeping process has a significant importance to sustain our normal functioning at different levels such as basis alertness, emotional experience and complex cognitive processes. Sleep is as much important as bathing, oral hygiene and waste elimination. People mostly take sleeping for granted because it is an unproductive dormancy. Due to social, academic and official demands people trade their sleeping hours as additional time to fulfill these activities. For some professions sleep deprivation is a norm that is totally wrong. Because sleep deprivation is affect us both physically and mentally.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognition

Human cognation is complex and higher level order. Sleep deprivation effects many cognitive processes such as memory, attention, and alertness and also affects our emotions.

Sleep Deprivation and Emotions

The well known and universally observed effect of sleep loss is alternation in emotional functioning. Most researches claim that the sleep loss leads toward mood decline. Sleep deprivation also affects emotional processes such as emotional perception, expressions and comprehension. Change in emotional processing due to sleep deprivation also have profound effects on other high level cognitive processes such as decision making, judgments and memory. Sleep deprivation also leads a person towards emotional volatility and also increased in irritability. Person with sleep deprivation become frustrated and respond intolerably to frustrated social situations.

People with sleep deprivation have increasing tendencies to blame others. Sleep deprivation also reduce a person’s coping strategies and emotional intelligence skills. Less sleeping also leads a person toward reduction in positive thinking tendencies. Sleep loss is also declines the willingness to take effective behavioral actions to resolve the problems. Thus, individuals with sleep deprivation appear to be more easily frustrated, intolerant, unforgiving, less caring, and more self-focused than when fully rested.

Sleep deprivation also leads toward clinical mood problems such as anxiety, depression, somatic problems and paranoia. Sleep-deprived individuals also report to increase in the feeling of worthlessness, powerlessness, inadequacy, failure, reduced life satisfaction and low self-esteem. Sleep deprivation also affects a person’s humor and lead them toward negativity. 

Alertness and Simple Attention

Some degree of alertness and attention is essential for complex cognitive process. When a person have sufficient and properly sleep, he remains attentive and alert during waking hours. But when a person did not sleep more than 16h, he/she has slower reaction time to any stimuli. In simple words individual’s respond to any stimuli delayed. They do not pay attention to their work, academic activities and even their house chores. People get distracted more easily and do not focused on their activities. Sleep deprivation increase number and duration of attention lapses which means a person fails to respond any cue at proper timing. It also increases in errors of commission or false alarms, which means individual starts to respond incorrectly.

Learning and Memory

Another most important cognitive capacity to survive is our ability to acquire new information from surroundings, store it and retrieve that information when we need. In other words this cognitive capacity is called learning and memory. Research suggested that our sleep is critical for our learning process and memory. When sleep is hindered and disrupted, it also degraded our memory processing.

Sleep is important for our memory processing in two ways. Firstly, sleep is very important before learning and coding. It prepares our brain to effectively acquire new information from environment. Secondly, sleep also plays an important role for stabilization and assimilation of new learned information into already existing memory.

Declarative Memory

  Sleep affects our declarative memory, which involves memory related to events, time, memories of facts and general knowledge. When we have sleep loss we start to forget our life events and their little details. We also do not remember when a specific event happened and how was the experience of that event. Sleep deprivation also have profound impact on our facts and general knowledge. We loss facts and logics in our activities while awaking due to sleep loss.

Sleep Deprivation and Negative Memories

We remember things in three emotional categories, positive, negative and neutral. When a person sleep well he/she encode information in neutral words rather than positive and negative emotional words. The emotional content also enhances our memory. People who are sleep deprived have disruptive positive and neutral words as well as memories. Sleep deprivation decrease the positive emotional words from our memory by 59%. The most noticeable thing is that sleep deprivation does not really have impact on negative emotional words in our memory.            

Thus, sleep deprived person have problem to encode and retrieve positive and neutral stimuli. This is producing a bias favoring negative memories over positive and neutral ones. It means a person with sleep loss have more negative events and words than positive in their brain. So, a person with sleep deprivation has more negative thinking, negative behavior and negative perception about everything. When a person has less positivity it leads him/her toward implications for the development and maintenance of pathological mood conditions such as depression.

Divergent and Innovative Thinking

Sleep deprivation also affect badly on our thinking process. Even only two nights of sleep loss leads a person toward disruptive thinking. Sleep deprivation leads a person towards reduction in verbal fluency. A person could not respond with novel words to a phonemic cue due to sleep loss. It also has negative impact on a person’s ability to make plans, strategies and led toward longer duration of planning time. A person with sleep loss does not think creatively and strategically. They are not able to play games that includes innovative thinking and also less productive in marketing as well as business.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Physical Health

Sleep deprivation also have profound effect on our physical health. Sleep loss effect our body functioning and lead us toward chronic diseases. It affects our blood pressure, heart, kidneys, digestive system and our immune system.

Sleep Deprivation and Immune System

Our immune system help use to fight with diseases and keep us healthy. When we are sleeping our immune system produce some important chemicals such as antibodies and cytokines. These are infection-fighting substances and give us protection by fighting against virus and bacteria. Cytokines also helps an individual to sleep and that gives our immune system more efficiency to defend our body from certain illnesses.

So when a person does not have enough sleep his/her immune system does not build up its strengths. And when your immune system is not strong your body is not able to defeat the viruses and bacteria. That makes you sick very often and also take you long to recover from sickness. Long term sleep deprivation also has chronic consequences such as heart disease and diabetes.

Sleep Deprivation and Digestive System

 During sleep our brain produce chemicals that help us in feeling of hunger. Sleep effect two types of chemicals that related to our feeling of hunger and fullness. First is leptinthat give our brain a signal that now we eat enough food and we are not hungry anymore. This chemical is released when we are sleeping. So when a person does not sleep at night the level of leptin decrease in our body. Second chemical is ghrelin that is hunger hormone and increase your hunger. When you do not sleep at night leptine decrease and the level of ghrelin increase and you feel starvation and start eating. Leptin also helps our body to burn calories and when its level decreases in your body you start to gain weight.

Sleep deprivation also make your body unable to release enough insulin after you eat. Insulin helps our body to maintain the level of blood sugar. Due to sleep loss the level of insulin decreases and blood sugar increase in your body. In short, sleep deprivation leads a person toward diabetes.

Sleep Deprivation and Cardiovascular System

During sleep our body repairs the damaged cells in our body. So sleep also plays an important role in the repairing and healing of blood vessels and heart. Sleep also has major effect on our heart and blood vessels and involve in the process to keep them healthy. Such as maintaining the blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation levels in our body. So when an individual does not sleep properly he/she more likely to get cardiovascular diseases. Insomnia is linked to increase the risk of heart attack and stock.

Sleeping is the Best Meditation: Click on the link to read more about the importance of sleep

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