trouble sleeping

Have you ever felt too stressed to sleep? At one point or another, you may have felt that you had far too many tasks on your plate (and on your mind). Perhaps you vowed to push through those tasks with little to no sleep in order to get them done.

This sort of behavior is not favorable to long-term success or a person’s overall mental and physical health. In fact, sleep deprivation kicks off a domino effect of negative consequences for the human body.

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Sleep Deprivation: A Chain Reaction

During the day, neural activity in your brain produces a toxic protein that can only be eliminated from the brain by sleep. Without sleep, these toxins linger in the brain,making it harder to focus and impacting creativity and cognitive skills. . This protein can cause stress levels to rise, is a contributing factor in anxiety,and is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. Lack of sleep also takes a toll on a person’s immune system.

When the body is deprived of sleep, it produces more cortisol, a hormone that heightens stress levels. Lack of sleep also reduces the body’s supply of the hormone leptin, which helps people feel full after eating. As a result, sleep deprivation can contribute not only to stress, but to obesity. A recent study by the National Institutes of Health concluded that individuals who slept only four hours a night consumed 500 more calories each day than those who slept for eight hours.

Barriers to Sleep

Although you may understand the negative effects of a lack of sleep, it can be difficult to realign your nightly regimen to incorporate more shut eye. From an early age, it appears that people are hardwired to perform with fewer hours of sleep than what’s considered healthy.

Sleepless in America, a documentary that aired recently on the National Geographic Channel, sheds some light on the way Americans — including children — sleep.

School schedules may force children to get up early, which can be taxing on their bodies since they’re programmed to stay up late. Waking early robs them of the chance to get the optimum eight hours of sleep. Studies show that students with healthy sleep habits perform better on tests and have lower rates of depression. Children aren’t the only ones who face barriers that prevent them from getting a full night’s sleep. Adults have demanding jobs that leave little room for work-life balance, not to mention everyday distractions such as smart phones and other technology, contribute to poor sleeping habits.

Additionally, not all employed Americans work a traditional 9-to-5schedule, many people with demanding jobs often commit to more than eight hours of work per day. They may put in overtime, or find their relaxation time at home interrupted by calls or emails as mobile technology puts them in constant range of contact.

Outside an office setting, individuals who work untraditional hours or overnight shifts may also see disruptions in sleeping patterns, as well as difficulty managing their blood sugar.

Breaking the Cycle

Prioritizing sleep can be great for your career,productivity, and health. Successful individuals such as Arianna Huffington, Sheryl Sandberg, and Warren Buffett have all acknowledged the benefits that a good night’s sleep can offer.

Huffington, the online newspaper mogul behind the HuffingtonPost, became a staunch advocate for getting a full night’s rest after she worked herself to the point of exhaustion. The sleep-deprived Huffington fell and broke her cheekbone as a result of sleep deprivation. This became her “wakeup call.” In her book, Thrive, she mentions a few ways that she combats sleep deprivation. Making sure you get the proper amounts of rest each night is crucial to your overall health and well-being.

About Sleep Medicine

Millions of Americans struggle with disorders that prevent them from getting a good night’s sleep. Better sleep can lead to better overall health, and the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center is here to help. We diagnose and treat numerous sleep conditions or disorders. We also provide help to people suffering from lack of sleep because of other health problems. We recognize a lack of sleep can cause problems during other times of the day, including alertness, memory, and health immunity. We hold sleep studies and lead clinical trials, all in the name of helping you sleep. Find a provider near you.