The Psychological and Emotional Effects of Not Having Enough Sleep

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The world has changed drastically, and so is our lifestyle. Years before, people slept at least 8-9 hours every night. Whereas nowadays, people only achieve a sleep time of 6-7 hours or less. Unfortunately, we now live in a sleep-deprived world where most people’s topmost priority are entertainment, school, and work activities.

The awareness of the importance of sleep is now being talked around the world, but only a few actually do something about it. A research done by the National Sleep Foundation has revealed that 60 percent of adults are reported of having sleep problems, and a ratio of 69 percent of children experiences the same. Additionally, many studies have shown that chronic sleep loss and mental health are closely connected to one another.

Sleep Deprivation on Emotional Well-being

You probably have observed that sleep affects your mood. After having a sleepless night, you might feel restless, irritable and is more prone to stress. However, once you sleep well at night, your mood returns to its normal state.

Definitely, sleep deprivation interferes with the ability of some of the brain’s function to communicate with one another. With this being said, is an individual’s cognitive skill which refers to the ability to process mental activities that also affects the emotional well-being of a person.

Emotionally Reactive

Have you noticed that you get cranky if you don’t get enough sleep? That it made you snap at your co-worker or had a fight with your partner then getting not enough sleep may be the sole cause. This is due to a matter inside our brain which sleep deprivation increases its activity to overdrive because of our sleep debt—the amygdala.

Professor Walker of neuroscience and neurology at UC Berkley has explained the relationship between sleep and emotional regulation of an individual. According to him, our emotional gas pedal or so-called amygdala is 60 percent more reactive in emotional reactivity in test participants who were sleep deprived. Additionally, Prof. Walker stated that it was as though our brain reverts to the primitive pattern of uncontrolled reactivity if without sleep.

Negative Outlook

You now know about how lack of sleep affects the emotional center of our brain, which means having a negative outlook of the world is not far off as one of the consequences of sleep deprivation. Poor quality of sleep makes an individual focus more on the negative and increases repetitive negative thinking which means to say that your mind is stuck in a negative place going over the same thoughts in a repetitive cycle.

A research has been conducted that shows the relationship between sleep deprivation and negative thinking. Whereas, the study showed how people who have sleep disturbances found it difficult to stop focusing on any negative stimuli they were exposed to. No one likes to be stuck in a cycle of negative thinking. Although unfortunately, when you are sleep deprived, this is what happens.

You become a Worry-Wart

This is in relation to the past emotions you might be feeling if you are chronically short on sleep. Since sleep deprivation worsens emotional reactivity and fearful responses that often creates a negative outlook, this just means to say that you are more likely to worry more about everything. Recent studies show that when we are lacking sleep, we worry more about the future or more likely to be prone to.

University of California Berkley researchers has conducted a study in which they have found out that sleep deprivation causes an increase in anticipatory anxiety or the tendency to worry about the future. The study that has been conducted provided new information about how lack of sleep aggravates the brain’s worry response.

Feeling Less Connected with Relationships

Being emotionally reactive and more focused on the negative is not likely to neither improve a relationship nor make it healthy. Sleep deprivation directly affects how we see and treat those who surround us. This just shows that lack of sleep does not only affect our emotional well-being, but it also undermines our relationship to those that surround us.

If you are feeling a change in your emotions towards other people after a continuous sleepless night, then it is most likely that it is the result of your action. Sleep deprivation decreases our capacity for empathy, the ability to understand and share the feelings of another—which is critical in building healthy relationships.

Does Sleep Affect Psychological Health?

During the sleeping stage, the brain of a normal sleeper cycle between Rapid Eye Movement and non-Rapid Eye Movement. How these sleep stages affect an individual’s psychological health is through the brain’s instructions inside our body. During the “quiet sleep” throughout to deep sleep, the body temperature drops and our body relaxes.

The Rapid Eye Movement or REM sleep is the period when people dream, and it is when our body’s system is equivalent to when our body is awake. Studies have shown that REM sleep contributes to our emotional health that when there are sleep disruptions, it affects the stress hormones and wreaks havoc inside our brain which results to irregularity in emotions and thinking.

Sleep Deprivation on Psychological Health

There are more than 70 types of sleep disorders that exist, and the most common problem is insomnia or the difficulty in sleeping. Sleep disorders are heavily linked with psychiatric problems that the researchers have long suspected both problems may have common biological roots that strongly link one another.

A study of a British journal has generated evidence suggesting that insomnia is a contributing factor, or a cause of, psychological problems. Professor Daniel, who led the study, stated that a good quality of sleep greatly impacts an individual’s psychological health whereas it could be an important first step in helping people tackling with psychological and emotional problems.

Depression

Having not enough sleep is strongly linked to this psychological disorder—depression. Now, this does not mean to say that if you are sleep-deprived, you immediately develop this disorder, but rather the lack of sleep that you are having heavily plays a role in this illness. Since sleep restores your body, sleep disturbances affect your hormones which would, later on, affect your daily activities and would become an inactive vicious cycle.

A longitudinal study of a health maintenance organization in Michigan has compared normal sleepers with people with insomnia. It is about how likely one develops depression due to lack of sleep. Later on, their study has shown that people who suffered insomnia developed major depression four times than the expected increased risk of developing the illness.

Anxiety Disorder

Anxiety disorder refers to a psychological illness that deals with extreme fear or worry and having panic attacks. Sleep difficulty or insomnia is one of the culprits of this psychological disorder but not as much as depression. In relation to the study that was mentioned earlier, the sleep problem preceded anxiety disorder risk to 27 percent. You should also consider an appointment with a specialist for anxiety counseling as it is a serious issue and has to be dealt with immediately.

Same as depression, insomnia does not make you develop this type of mental illness, but rather it highly contributes to the worsening of the situation by preventing recovery to the patient due to sleep disruption.

Manic Depression

Manic depression or is commonly known as the Bipolar disorder. It is an illness in which a person experiences extreme variances in thinking, mood, and behavior. People who have this mental illness go through depression and may also experience frequent mood swings.

This is highly correlational with insomnia—and longitudinal studies have suggested that lack of sleep and other sleep disturbances worsen an episode of bipolar depression and can trigger mania. This is in relation as to how sleep deprivation affects the emotional center of our brain that was discussed beforehand.

ADHD (Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder)

ADHD is the most commonly diagnosed mental disorder of children, which means hyperactivity and the inability to control their impulse. A ratio of 25-50 percent of the children with this disorder is affected by various sleep problems. Insomnia, shorter sleep duration, restless sleeping is one of the sleep problems they experience.

Lifestyle Changes

Lifestyle change is in connection with the way we think and how we feel since it is by those two factors we project our actions. The past topics have elaborated about how getting not enough sleep affects our psychological and emotional well-being. In this section, how an individual’s lifestyle changes as a result of a continuous sleep loss will be discussed deliberately.

As not getting enough sleep makes you lose your empathy towards others, so is your relationship towards those who surround you—may it be your co-workers, partner, friends, or your children. On the other hand, learning your countermeasures in sleep deprivation can alter the effects of it on your lifestyle change —more helpful sleep-related information can be found in this Counting Sheep Research.

Increase in Food Consumption

Have you noticed that when you have a sleepless night, you tend to look and eat for food more? This is due to the leptin and ghrelin, the two hormones in our body that control feelings of hunger and fullness which level increases when you are sleep deprived.

Leptin tells your brain that you have had enough to eat, which if without enough sleep, the brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin which increases the appetite. This explains why you are craving a nighttime snack or why someone overeats. If this continues, it may gradually result in weight gain and obesity risk rises.

Trouble of Concentration

You really cannot focus well since attention is especially sensitive to the effects of sleep deprivation. You already know this by experience, think of the last time you stayed up all night to finish papers due tomorrow, and you are likely to drag yourself out the next day for work or school and had troubling figuring out what your professor or boss is talking about.

The trouble of concentration due to sleep deprivation is almost the same as alcohol intoxication. Whereas a study shows after 17 to 19 hours without sleep, the test participants’ performance was equivalent or worse than that of a blood alcohol concentration.

Impaired Reaction Time

The trouble with thinking and concentration is not just entirely focused on that area, but it is also about focusing on and making sense of what is important right now. A recent study found out that sleep deprivation slows down the neural cells’ ability to absorb visual information and translates the visual data into conscious thought.

The motor skill helps you in reacting with the changing circumstances that surround an individual—which is a critical skill that helps keep us safe—in which sleep deprivation compromises this skill.

Decision Making and Judgment Skills

The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that handles planning and complex decision making and enables you to make a judgment that balances risk and reward—which sleep deprivation diminishes. When you are low on sleep, you are more likely to be impulsive in making decisions which tend to favor immediate rewards.

According to research, due to impulsive thinking, you are more likely to engage in risky circumstances through this behavior. This is most likely due to the self-control that the prefrontal cortex enables us to exert but has been diminished because of sleep deprivation. This behavior might affect everything, from your relationships to finances.

Accidents

This is in relation to the past two results of sleep deprivation—impaired thinking and motor skills. It was discussed that not getting enough of sleep develops impairments equivalent to those that are alcohol intoxicated. Many people are aware of the dangers of driving while being drunk but some does not realize that drowsy driving could be just as fatal.

Help Yourself through Meditation

With the fast-paced environment that we are in, it is not questionable as to why people are not getting enough sleep and feels stressed out. Sleep deprivation makes us feel unhappy, impatient, and frustrated and more importantly, declines the well-being of our physical and mental health which then results from sicknesses in our body to sever relationships.

Neurologists have found that meditation actually helps your brain, and peace of mind can be achieved through this. There are many meditation guides that could help you out for a pre-sleep routine to avoid sleep loss and have a clear mind for the evening.

Take Away

Researchers are still slowly studying about how sleep really affects our mental and emotional well-being. However, this just shows that sleep deprivation takes a toll on the human’s body and can become a serious problem. So make sure you work on having a good night’s sleep for your body to function well.