Lack of Sleep
One of the chief effects is that your circadian rhythm, the bodily cycle that controls when you feel alert and tired will get thrown into a state of misalignment. As a result, your sleep stages can also be messed up. During a normal night, you go through four stages of sleep – from very light to very deep, and then you cycle into Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, also known as your dream phase.
Once the circadian cycle is changed, your sleep will become even more erratic. The body needs a certain amount of all stages of sleep, and if deprived of deep sleep (stages 3 and 4), it’ll “dip into” the REM sleep, and then the negative effects start to really add up.
Your concentration is lowered
Initially, as previously mentioned, there’s the diminished level of alertness, and negative affects on upper brain functions. The more nights you go without a decent amount of sleep, the more the effects build up. Your long and short term memories can become cloudy, and your ability to make decisions will be impaired. Everything from how to solve simple problems to making assessments of risk and hand to eye coordination are diminished. If you have to perform some tasks that are very boring and repetitive, you can have trouble concentrating and focusing your mind on them. Studies have shown that people’s mind literally shutdown in such situations!
As the amount of REM sleep is reduced, your brain will suffer additional mental confusion and cognitive deterioration. It is not unusual for you to suffer hallucinations, become paranoid, and experience delusions. Some of these effects will be hard for you to see, as they’re happening within your own mind! If you find yourself snapping at people over small things, bursting into tears at the sight of a picture of a puppy – or other emotional outbursts that are extreme, they are the signs of too little sleep. You may even experience extreme mood swings and shifts to your personality.
Fatigue, joint pains and muscle aches
There are also a plethora of physical affects. If you lack sleep over a long period of time, feeling sleepy will be the least of your problems! There’s also fatigue, joint pains and muscle aches. Your energy levels will diminish, you’ll have less physical coordination, and your reaction time will become very poor. As a result, the effects are like being drunk, so driving or operating heavy machinery is unwise. It can lead to an accident and/or serious injury.
If you don’t get a decent amount of sleep over an extended period of time, several months, the mental and physical affects will also build up. Your immune system will become weaker, your muscle tone will diminish, and a host of brain functions will be impaired. Again, much like being drunk, your inhibitions will decrease, and you may find yourself doing and saying things you normally wouldn’t. People report it’s a little like having an out of body experience or walking through a dream. They see and hear themselves doing things that they’d never do for real, but it doesn’t feel like it’s them doing it.
So, it’s always wise to try to get that good night’s sleep. The good news is, if you suffer a prolonged bout of not getting the sleep you need, the affects can be corrected if you’re able to get back into a regular sleep schedule.
Related article: Lack of sleep treatment.