You know that combination of drowsiness and physical weakness you feel when you haven’t had enough sleep? If you regularly suffer from insomnia, those effects may be the least of your worries. Chronic lack of sleep can sometimes affect the brain worse than any narcotic substance or traumatic experience. Not only can it adversely affect your productivity, it can also put your overall health and wellness at risk.
Up till now, despite the huge amount of research on the topics of sleep and insomnia, scientists are still not 100% sure as to why we actually need sleep. However, what scientists do agree on is that not getting enough of it leads to some very undesirable effects.
Sleep Deprivation Can Severely Impair Mental Performance
Several studies on the effects of sleep deprivation have found that it can have various significant and negative effects on basic and advanced cognitive performance. One approach, called the ‘neuropsychological perspective’, speculates that sleep deprivation interferes with the normal functioning of particular areas of the brain.
This is where the prefrontal vulnerability hypothesis comes from – a more specific approach that observes the impairment of cognitive tasks which depend on the prefrontal cortex. This includes impairment in higher functions such as executive mental functions, use of language, divergent thinking, and even creativity – all of these are negatively affected when you don’t get enough sleep.
Other studies have found sleep deprivation to cause cognitive impairment in the form of decreased alertness and focus, slow response times, and severe sleepiness in the middle of the day. Sounds familiar? That’s because sleep deprivation is now internationally recognized as one of the main causes of car accidents everywhere. Missing just a couple hours of sleep can actually double your risk of causing a car accident.
Apart from being less productive in the office due to lowered creativity and executive mental functions, sleep deprivation also puts your life as well as the lives of others at risk.
Sleep Deprivation Leads to Some Very Serious Health Issues
Several studies have found that getting less than 7 hours of sleep per night could translate into adverse effects on the body’s cardiovascular, immune, endocrine, and nervous systems. This means possible increased risks of developing obesity, high blood pressure, symptoms of anxiety as well as depression, hypertension and other cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and/or impaired glucose tolerance, and even heart attack. You’re basically putting your entire body at risk of contracting some very severe conditions if you’re constantly sleep deprived.
Sleep Deprivation Can Lead to the Buildup of Neurotoxins in the Brain
Some scientists have found that sleep is a way for the brain to ‘reset’ itself so it’s ready for another full day of being active. To be more specific, sleep is when the brain flushes out most of the chemical byproducts of regular neural activity.
While the brain is constantly in a cycle of being active and cleaning up after itself, researchers have found that the cleanup and flushing out of chemicals happen much more rapidly during periods of sleep. How important is this cleanup process?
Apart from allowing the brain to get ready for more neural activity, this cleanup process is also responsible for sweeping up and flushing out potentially neurotoxic waste byproducts left in the brain. Some of these byproducts have been directly linked to chemicals that cause the development of alzheimer’s and dementia. That’s right: lack of sleep can also lead to severe and debilitating mental conditions.
The Good News: There are Many Natural Ways to Get More Sleep
Did you know that sex fights insomnia? We’re not kidding: coitus releases a natural chemical cocktail of pure, unadulterated sleep. This cocktail includes various endorphins, oxytocin, and if you’re a woman, higher doses of estrogen (which can lead to more restorative sleep). Sex is arguably a lot better for healthy sleep than one or two sleeping pills.
That’s just one of the many natural anti-insomnia tactics you can try in order to get more sleep. Because of the fact that insomnia is a worldwide phenomenon, there’s no shortage of potentially effective and drug-free treatments for you to try – and you can find most of them online.