Trying to get through your day without enough sleep can significantly compromise your health and make you feel really lousy overall. In particular, insomnia-induced fatigue can take an extreme toll on your mental health, impeding your ability to regulate your mood and focus. Here are a few key considerations about why inadequate sleep can be dangerous.
You Need Sleep to Stabilize Your Energy Output
Your body’s energy is one of its most precious resources. During rest, your body recovers from all of the exertions that it puts forth during your waking hours and you’re able to recharge. Systems and cells that support vital functions need a ready supply of energy in order to work at the best of their ability and do all of the body’s most important work. When you aren’t getting the right amount of sleep, your energy reserves will be too low and likely to deplete quickly. Consequently, a sudden surge in demand on one or more of your body’s systems could exceed its limited capacities.
Mental Health Concerns Can Worsen Without Sleep
When you’re not well-rested, you may find that you experience more frequent mood swings. When it’s harder for you to maintain your focus, it will necessarily be tougher to keep the reins on your thought process. Even if being more susceptible to a negatively geared thought process doesn’t get your mood down, you could fall into a negative mood simply because of chemical or hormonal levels. Acute sleep deprivation could exacerbate menopause anger, chronic anxiety associated with vitamin deficiencies, or other emotional imbalances with a physiological etiology.
Rest Makes You More Resilient Against Electrolyte Imbalances
Extreme exertion can deplete your body of electrolytes, which is why it is a commonly touted component of energy drinks for athletes. Beyond enhancing athletic performance, you need electrolytes to power all your organs’ activities. A sudden drop can hinder your body’s distribution of oxygen and energy, making you feel faint and perhaps even short of breath. Sleep can play a central role in the way that you harness electrolytes.
Sleep Supports Your Gut Health
All of your systems need sleep to work correctly, and your digestive system is certainly no exception. Your digestive enzyme and acid production takes a break while you are sleeping, but this lapse in activity is part of what keeps operations running smoothly. A reprieve from having to break down foods all of the time mitigates inflammation and can deter digestive irritation. In your digestive tract, healthy and rested membranes can support your ability to absorb and process the healthful ingredients in what you eat.
Healthy foods combined with sleep can cultivate a well-balanced microbiome in your digestive system. When your microbiome is populated with friendly bacteria, they keep the unfriendly bacteria population controlled. Without this balance, the unfriendly bacteria can take over and cause you to experience chronic gastrointestinal issues. You may also be more vulnerable to acquiring clostridium difficile, an acute bacterial infection that attacks the lining of the colon. The consequences of this increasingly prevalent ailment could include severe dehydration, permanent damage to your colon, or even death. Taking probiotics is another good way to safeguard yourself against this condition.
You Need to Power On Your Immune System
Sleep is fundamental to your immune system’s fighting power. While you’re sleeping your body doesn’t have to allocate its energy reserves to general tasks such as coordinating muscle movement. Your virus and bacteria-fighting cells can mount a strong attack on invading enemy organisms. If you aren’t getting the rest that you need, your defenses may be unable to overcome a tenacious bacterial or viral infection. If you feel like you’re coming down with something or you’re trying to fight off a bug, the best thing that you can do for yourself is get plenty of rest.
Ultimately, getting a good amount of sleep can help you protect your well-being. You’ll feel better throughout the course of a day, and you’ll be much more resilient to an array of potentially serious risks to your health.
Sleep Deprivation's Effects Include:
- accidents due to drowsy driving or clumsiness;
- mood swings that can lead to anxiety or depression;
- long or short-term memory could be affected by not allowing your brain to rest;
- thinking or concentrating at work or in the classroom;
- a weakened immunity producing a virus such as the cold or the flu;
- health conditions like high blood pressure or risk for diabetes; and/or
- weight gain due to a chemical imbalance in the brain.
If you find yourself dozing off while reading, watching tv, talking to someone, sitting in the classroom, or in traffic, sleep deprivation may be the reason. The best course of action is to start journaling when you find yourself falling asleep or dozing off.
Many people report an improved mood and better memory, greater mindfulness and reduced stress. At the same time, research has shown journaling to reduce symptoms in cancer patients and improve patient health after a heart attack.
What to Track for Your Doctor:
- Wake up and bedtime
- The last time and meal you last ate
- The season and room temperature
- How tired you were at work
- The last drink you took (water, caffeine)
- Any medications you took
- Time of day and amount of exercise during the day
If you do not know where to start, writing prompts can be a good place to start if you are stuck. For example:
- I can’t sleep because I’m worried about…
- Today I felt…
- In life right now, I feel...
- I can’t sleep because tomorrow I have to…
- I can’t sleep because I’m thinking about how to fix…
- I can’t sleep because I’m mad about…
- I wish I would have ____ today...
- I can’t sleep because I have an idea about…
If you have never been diagnosed or seen a doctor over your sleep deprivation, consider contacting The Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free 10-minute phone call with a sleep educator who can help determine if a sleep study is necessary or if a consultation with our sleep specialist needs to be scheduled.