While you may not think about getting enough sleep as something serious, especially in the fast paced world of today, the health consequences of sleep deprivation are real—and they add up over time.
You become forgetful
Another effect of sleep deprivation is an inability to retain memories. Not getting enough sleep interferes with your ability to focus and learn efficiently, which is essential for you to remember something.
Research shows that sleep strengthens nerve connections involved in memory, and also helps consolidate new information into memories. Not getting enough shut-eye interferes with this, especially since you need enough REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in order for your brain to solidify memories.
REM sleep is where you move information from your short term memory to your long term memory, and when you do not get enough sleep, you miss out on REM, and this has an effect on your memory.
You get irritable
There is a chance that you have noticed that you wake up “on the wrong side of the bed” if you haven’t gotten enough shut-eye. Sleep deprivation affects mood, and it makes you see everything in a more negative light because your emotions are far more volatile when sleep deprived.
While the reason for this is not completely known, experts say it is most likely another way your brain doesn’t function well without sleep. The area of your brain [frontal lobe] that’s in charge of thinking, reasoning, and logic usually balances the area of your brain [amygdala] involved with emotions such as fear, anxiety, aggression, and arousal.
MRI brain scans on people who have not had enough sleep show a decrease in connection between these brain centers, which increases reactivity, fear, and anger.
You’re More Likely To Suffer From Depression
Another mood disorder linked to lack of sleep is depression. While the specific brain mechanisms are not known, one major study found that people with chronic insomnia were ten times more likely to develop depression.
Sleep apnea, a breathing issue while sleeping, is also linked with depression, as one study showed that people who were depressed were five times as likely to have the condition.
Because lack of sleep and depression are so interconnected, it can be hard to tease out which came first.
You Make Bad Judgments
Sleep has been shown to increase risk-taking behaviour. In a study of pediatric residents on 24-hour shifts, the doctors made riskier medical decisions if they hadn’t gotten at least an hour nap.
But even if your job seems to have less potential for disaster, your performance at work may still suffer because of poor problem solving, higher risk-taking, and poor management style without sleep.
Your Brain Doesn’t Function As It Should
Insufficient sleep is a public health problem, with more and more adults worldwide getting less than the recommended seven to eight hours per night.
When you fail to get adequate sleep—whether due to a chronic issue like sleep apnea, lifestyle reasons like long work hours or raising young children, or bad habits like spending time on social media and the Internet before bed—it takes a toll on your brain’s ability to function.
MRI imaging shows lack of sleep reduces blood flow to areas of the brain that control higher level thought processes. This invariably impairs your problem-solving abilities, slows your cognitive speed, and decreases constructive thinking skills and logical reasoning.