We are part of a population obsessed with productivity, only contextualizing sleep as a pause we take when we’ve run out of things to do. And while it is commonly known that a good night’s rest is restorative, regenerative, and critical to our development, we often hit "snooze" on sleep itself. With 1 in 3 Canadians* reporting that they aren’t getting enough, we top the list as the 3rd most sleep-deprived country in the world. The biggest contributor to our lethargy? Screen time . And the effects? Compounding. Not sure what happens when you’re skipping on slumber? This is your brain on sleep deprivation.
It slows your learning and weakens your memory
Sleep, and the absence of it, can have a direct impact on your ability to learn, memorize and perform. Sleep is critical to memory consolidation, which is the process your memories undergo to become stable and permanent. A lack of sleep shakes this foundation, making it more challenging to retain newly learned or experienced information. So, while you may think skimming your snooze sessions down to 6 hours can do no absolute harm, the effects will be felt much more than they are seen.
It affects your mood
Depriving your body of sleep can cause significant disturbances to your brain function. Weakening your prefrontal cortex's (center of reasoning) ability to control your amygdala (place of emotion), taking time from the sandman can most certainly throw a curve ball through your ability to rationally process your feelings. This direct attack on your brain operation jabs at your ability to function both emotionally and cognitively, translating as moody, negative and impulsive, a.k.a., mood swinging
Your metabolism slacks
Sleep is bound to your metabolic functions. Charged with maintaining metabolic homeostasis (see: stability), studies have looked at the interaction between sleep and metabolism through changes in glucose metabolism, irregularity in appetite and decreased expenditure of energy. While diet and metabolism play large roles here, sleep times also contribute to how your body processes what it intakes. Studies have found an association with sleep loss and the decreased ability to metabolize glucose (sugar), an increase in hunger-causing hormones, and a decrease in ones that abate your appetite.
You could get sick
The circadian rhythm, the 24-hour physiological cycle that cues your sleep and wake cycles, is deeply connected with your immune system’s ability to function to capacity. Sleep has been thought to have a specific role in the formation of “immunological memory”, the element that allows your cells to remember exactly how they should respond to looming immune threats. Lack of sleep can have the capacity to affect your immune-boosting cells, namely white blood T cells. While you sleep, your immune system releases protective proteins called "cytokines". These proteins poll whether to increase their presence based on whether they sense inflammation, infection or stress. Sleep deprivation can both decrease your body’s ability to produce these, as well as have a significant impact on your ability to recover should you find yourself under the weather.
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Sharma, S., & Kavuru, M. (2010). Figure 2f from: Irimia R, Gottschling M (2016) Taxonomic revision of Rochefortia Sw. (Ehretiaceae, Boraginales). Biodiversity Data Journal 4: E7720. Sleep and Metabolism: An Overview. doi:10.3897/bdj.4.e7720.figure2f
Cook, S. L. (2018, December 17). Does Your Sleeping Schedule Affect Your Metabolism?
Baker, P. (2016, July 25). Study finds one in three Canadian men are sleep-deprived.