Getting a good, quality sleep each night is critical if you want to remain healthy, both mentally and physically. Our bodies are not machines that can function endlessly without it and the effects of sleep deprivation on the body are numerous.
When I was in high school, it seemed that I could operate on a few hours of sleep a night and just keep going like the Energizer Bunny. However, was I actually being the best person I could be on such little rest? Definitely not. Now that I am in my 40’s the effects of poor sleep are immediately felt. My body and mind immediately let me know when I am not fully rested.
So how much sleep should a person be getting each night?
There is not a straightforward answer to this question as each person is an individual. However, there are some standard recommendations that are accepted.
- Newborns: (12-18 hours) – These little ones spend the majority of their time sleeping as their new bodies are growing at an exponential rate.
- Infants: (14-15 hours) – Babies need an extraordinary amount of sleep per day as they are growing rapidly and every action requires energy.
- 1-3 years old: (12-14 hours) – If only I could possess the amount of energy these little people exude! But all that energy also requires a large amount of sleep to recharge.
- 3-5 years old: (11-13 hours) – This age group is still growing quickly and learning constantly. It is important that they are getting the right number of hours of sleep.
- 5-10 years old: (10-11 hours) – Some youngsters in this age group will resist that early bedtime but in all actuality, they still need a lot of sleep.
- 10-17 years old: (8.5-9.25 hours) – Tweens and teenagers still need a fair amount of sleep per night. Hmmm, do they get it? Probably not but encourage them to do so.
- Adults & Elderly: (7-9 hours) – Now this number may appear to be excessive as few of us are actually getting that much sleep every night. However, if you want to operate at your optimum level, physically and mentally, you do need it.
- So now, you are aware of the amount of sleep you and your family should be getting nightly.
You are probably saying, “Kim, I am not getting the amount of sleep you are telling me I should get but I am doing just fine every day.”
And this is where I would say, “Nope. You think you are functioning well on the amount of sleep you are getting but the reality is, you are not.” I, too, believed that with that extra cup of coffee or maybe a cold splash of water in my face that I could get on with my day.
However, if I am being honest with myself, I am often sleep deprived. So what does sleep deprivation look like? It obviously affects you physically and mentally in a variety of ways.
When you are tired, every little thing can annoy you. You are not able to handle situations well and can often lash out. This can cause trouble with your relationships at home and work.
#2. Cognitive Impairment
Your brain is a muscle and needs that rest. Your ability to think logically and effectively is hindered. Ever try to do math with a tired brain? And it isn’t just your lowered ability to do calculations – your brain is affected in many ways from a lack of sleep.
#3. Impaired Moral Judgement
When you are not able to think clearly, you also lose the ability to reason and make good moral decisions. Of course, this doesn’t mean that all your morals and values go out the window but your judgment can be skewed.
You may find yourself doing things you normally would not do or perhaps allowing things to happen that otherwise, you would stop – just one of the many effects of sleep deprivation on the body.
#4. Severe Yawning
I call this the Hungry Hippo yawn – think of a hippo yawning and you will get the picture. So why do we yawn? Our body has lower oxygen levels and it is trying to balance things out.
A lack of sleep plays funny tricks on our brains. If you are severely sleep-deprived, you may begin to see things that are not actually there.
#6. Inability to Focus
We have all experienced an inability to focus when we have not received enough sleep. We may need more sleep as well as some other strategies to stay focused all day. Pay attention to this lack of focus, especially in children, as they may appear to be symptoms similar to that of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). A child may be misdiagnosed with ADHD but may just be needing more quality sleep.
#7. Weakened Immunity
I know that I will get sick if I go more than two days without a good night’s rest. My throat becomes scratchy and it feels like a cold is coming on. If I do not get adequate sleep fairly immediately, I find that one of the effects of sleep deprivation on the body is my inability to fight off simple illnesses.
#8. Risk of Type 2 Diabetes
When we do not get enough sleep, our bodies struggle to balance out our blood sugar levels. Getting enough sleep is one natural way to reverse diabetes without medications or possibly even avoid the disease altogether.
#9. Increased Variation in Heart Rate
To operate properly, our bodies need to be in balance. Without sleep, they strive to find that balance. That is why when you don’t get that quality sleep, you can feel your heart palpitating.
#10. Risk of Heart Disease
When our hearts have to work harder or our blood pressure becomes high, we are at a higher risk of developing heart disease.
#11. Slower Reaction Time
Just like our brains, our muscles also need adequate rest. Without it, they cannot perform optimally. As a result, one of the effects of sleep deprivation on the body is a slower reaction time which can be very dangerous with tasks like driving or working with sharp objects.
#12. Decreased Accuracy
Your motor skills become less precise when you are tired.
Have you ever noticed that when you are sleepy, you experience some slight shakes? It is because your muscles are tired.
I don’t get enough sleep and I feel like I have been hit by a truck. Every muscle aches.
#15. Growth Suppression
Young people who do not get enough sleep may not grow as well.
#16. Lowered Temperature
Think about when you haven’t received enough sleep. Don’t you feel like wearing a cozy sweater or curling up under a warm blanket because you feel chilly?
#17. Possible Obesity
When we do not get enough sleep, our body tends to put on weight. Also, when we are tired, we tend not to make healthy eating decisions, either eating unhealthy food and/or increased portions.
So if you are already finding that you have gained weight, perhaps eating some of these 20 foods can help increase your metabolism and assist you in losing some of it.
No matter the reason why you are not getting enough sleep, it is critical that you find ways to achieve it. For instance, eating certain foods that could help you sleep better.
You can also find a nightly routine that prepares you for a restful sleep so that you can be prepared for the day that follows. Remember, although we may think of our bodies as machines, they do need to be recharged!
The effects of sleep deprivation on the body can range from mild to severe but nonetheless impact our ability to function optimally.