Sleep deprivation: Some unexpected consequences and how to avoid them

I talked in my previous blog about the importance of sleep and how to ensure you’re maximizing the utility of the time you spend sleep by setting regular bedtimes for yourself, reducing your blue-light intake close to bedtime, exercising regularly, and some other activities that will make certain you’re well rested. However, what are the consequences of not getting enough sleep? If all you risk is having to drink a little extra coffee, no worries, right?

As it turns out, there are some serious medical issues that could arise as a result of not getting enough sleep. Not only will your body suffer, but your cognitive capabilities and interpersonal skills will take a hit when you skimp on quality sleep. Here are some maladies you can avoid easily by sleeping regularly.

  • Bone health: In a 2016 study published in the Journal of Orthopaedic Surgery and Research, Xu et al discovered that rats subjected to sleep deprivation suffered a significant loss in bone density and an impaired ability to rebuild damaged bones. In order to prevent potentially irreversible osteoporosis or other bone conditions, get plenty of rest to let your body handle much-needed maintenance.
  • Leadership abilities: A 2016 study out of the University of Washington indicates that business dynamics suffer when participants lack sleep. Leaders lack charisma when they haven’t rested enough, and those following the leader fail to exhibit enthusiasm when they haven’t had enough sleep. For the sake of office dynamics and effective teamwork, all parties need to be well-rested.
  • Reduced empathy: The University of Calgary studied the effects of sleep deprivation on people’s capacity for emotional empathy. As was their hypothesis, sleep-deprived brains did not react nearly as strongly to stimuli that elicited an empathetic response from well-rested brains.
  • Snacking and weight-gain: While you’re asleep, your body secretes hormones that tell your brain that you’re full and don’t need to keep eating, but when you don’t sleep enough, the production of that hormone decreases, while the hormone that tells your brain that you’re hungry is produced more rapidly. This imbalance may make you feel “snacky” and lead to weight gain.
  • “Microsleeps” throughout the day: According to a study from the University of Pennsylvania, your body makes up for a lack of sleep by taking tiny “microsleeps” throughout the day. These can last for up to 30 seconds at a time, and though your eyes may remain open, most of your other senses, particularly sight and hearing, are severely impaired if not completely turned off. Especially if you’re driving while sleep deprived, this can be extremely dangerous.