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How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health

by Melissa Bell
4 minutes read

If you’re experiencing low energy, inability to concentrate, low moods, or increased sickness, it could be linked to insufficient sleep or sleep quality. Sleep is an essential and complex function that does more than taking you to dreamland. When you sleep, chemicals are released that boost your immune system, restore energy, and recharge brain and body function. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults between ages 18 – 65+ should be getting about 7 – 9 hours of sleep per night. However, if you are experiencing poor sleep quality due to insufficient sleep time, interrupted sleep, or an undiagnosed sleep disorder, your health, and wellness can be adversely affected, leading to very serious issues over time. 

How Insufficient Sleep Can Affect Your Health and Wellness

Many of us know that responsibilities and stress, painful medical conditions, or newborn babies can prevent us from getting to sleep. Many times, our sleep quality can be affected by these concerns too. This is fairly normal and should not affect your sleep habits long-term. Other medical issues known as sleep disorders can be significantly problematic and prevent you from achieving high-quality sleep. Some of the most common sleep disorders include insomnia and sleep apnea.

When you don’t reach a specific level of sleep, or don’t reach a sufficient amount of sleep, you fall into sleep deprivation. In the short-term you’ll notice you’re excessively tired during the day, eating more, irritable, and extremely low energy. Over time, the symptoms can become more severe including:

Low Energy Levels:

The most prominent symptom of sleep deprivation is often significantly reduced energy levels. This can significantly impact your productivity at work, your enjoyment of activities, your ability to maintain healthy relationships, and even your performance of daily activities.

Decreased Immunity

According to John Hopkins Medicine, sleep deprivation can increase your risk of illness and disease. For example, an individual is 3 times more likely to catch a cold if they’re sleep deprived. This is due to the reduced activity of immunity protecting cells known as natural killer cells.

Declining Heart Health

Sleeping is a time of recovery for the heart vessels and the bodily processes that maintain ideal levels of blood pressure, inflammation, blood sugar. Sleep deprivation can increase your risk for high blood pressure and heart disease.

Decreased Brain Function and Health

Your brain can be aged 3 – 5 years from sleep deprivation. Since your mood is highly linked to the chemicals that your brain produces, you can be more prone to depression, irritability, forgetfulness, anxiety, and reduced or impaired judgment when you’re sleep-deprived. You can also increase your risk of dementia by 33%.

Poor sleep can also make you more prone to diseases, infections, and even mental health disorders. Unfortunately, most people do not even realize that they’re getting low-quality sleep. They may think that they’re just “tired”, enduring months or years of poor sleep habits, misdiagnosed or undiagnosed sleep disorders.

How can you tell whether or not you have a sleep disorder? You may visit your primary care physician or schedule a consultation with a sleep physician to get a proper diagnosis.

What Can a Sleep Physician Do to Help You?

Are you experiencing difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep at night? Are you sleeping 8 -10 hours but still waking up tired or unrested? Do you experience sensations in your body such as tingling, pain, or numbness that prevent you from falling asleep? All of these are signs that you could be suffering from a sleep disorder. According to Gingras Sleep Medicine, sleep disorders are medical conditions that prevent your brain from achieving certain stages of sleep, which can result in poor sleep quality and therefore sleep deprivation. To treat a sleep disorder, you’ll first need to seek a diagnosis from a sleep physician.

A Sleep Physician is a trained medical professional with in-depth knowledge and practice in the field of sleep for adults, children, or both. Their job is to diagnose, manage, and treat sleep disorders in patients. A sleep physician does more than just provide a sleep-inducing agent and say “Sweet Dreams.” They develop a plan to help improve your sleep hygiene, sleep habits, and overall health. The most commonly treated sleep disorders include:

  • Insomnia
  • Sleep Apnea and Loud Snoring
  • Parasomnias
  • Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS)
  • And many other sleep conditions

You do not need to have a sleep disorder to speak to a sleep physician – a sleep medicine doctor can provide medical care to individuals of all ages with sleep issues. However, if you do have a sleep disorder, are unsure of your status, or are unconfident in a previous diagnosis, you should visit a sleep medicine professional immediately.

High-quality sleep is crucial to your overall health and wellbeing. If you’re experiencing signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation, you need to work with a board-certified sleep specialist to get you better nights and better days.

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