Missing out on sleep does more than make you look a little worse for wear the next day, it can actually cause you to feel stressed out, anxious and much more emotionally volatile than you might normally feel. Perhaps this is why sleep deprivation is used as a torture method?
Lack of sleep affects your body and mind in several different ways:
Hormonal Changes - It is perhaps hormonally that your body is most affected by sleep deprivation, and this in turn impacts on the physical and mental stress experienced.
- Chronic sleep debt often leads to increased levels of adrenaline in the body which account for the increased levels of stress and anxiety.
- The pituitary gland or ‘master gland’ in your brain controls the hormone secretion from all other peripheral endocrine glands. Much of the activity of this gland occurs during sleep, so lack of sleep and chronic sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your whole endocrine system.
- Production and release of Leptin, the hormone responsible for suppressing your appetite, or making you feel full and satiated, is dramatically reduced. This means that sleep deprivation leaves you feeling hungrier than you would normally.
Physical Stress - During sleep your body is able to relax all the muscles of your body that may be holding onto stress and tension. Without this time to relax and release the physical tension, your body continues to hold onto it. Because your body and mind have a symbiotic relationship (how you feel physically impacts on how you feel emotionally and vice versa), this residual tension in your physical body starts to take its toll on you emotionally.
Mental Stress - Each day our brain is constantly put under pressure to solve problems, retain information, interact with others, deal with emotions, as well as constantly maintain the function of our body. So we need sleep in order to shutdown and reboot. Otherwise, all the thoughts from one day would just continue on to the next and it would become emotionally exhausting! During sleep your brain regenerates neurones that affect the various areas of emotions and thoughts. Without sleep your brain becomes overloaded. After chronic sleep deprivation it starts playing up and you can experience symptoms such as anxiety, paranoia, depression and even hallucinations.
How To Avoid Building A Sleep Debt
Sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on your mental health, so it is important to try and ensure you get enough sleep on a daily basis. If you find that you are struggling to get your 7-9 hours in each night, then here are some tips that might help you!
Set yourself a regular bedtime - Your body will respond well to routine. Though it can sometimes take a week or two to adjust to it, having a regular bedtime and wake-up time will help your body to adjust hormonally so that you can have the best sleep possible.
Avoid stimulants late at night - Avoiding coffee and tea late at night might seem obvious, as they contain caffeine, however, sugars and even alcohol will also impact on your sleep.
Give yourself an hour to prepare - If you struggle sleeping at night, then it is a good idea to give yourself an hour to prepare for your bedtime. By this, I mean setting aside the hour before bed so that you are not over stimulating your brain with work or looking at screens which can impact on your natural melatonin production. Try incorporating some relaxing activities, such as a hot bath, some meditation, listening to relaxing music or enjoying a nice herbal tea.
- Make your room conducive to sleep - Having a nice place to retire to in the evening really helps with relaxing and drifting off to sleep. Some tips I recommend you trying include keeping your room clean, changing your sheets regularly (clean sheets are so comforting!), making sure it is dark enough for you and having fresh air if possible.