Sleep Apnea, Snoring and the Effects of Sleep Deprivation
About 90 million Americans snore while they sleep. Out of these 90 million, almost 18 million have the most common form of sleep apnea: obstructive sleep apnea. Both snoring and sleep apnea can disrupt sleep ane the effects of sleep deprivation can have dramatic effects on health.
Snoring and sleep apnea are frequently confused by laypeople, and the terms are often used interchangeably. However, snoring and sleep apnea are two separate conditions – although they are interlinked. Let’s see how.
Sleep Apnea, Snoring and the Effects of Sleep Deprivation:
Sleep Apnea vs. Snoring
There’s a myth that everyone who snores is also suffering from sleep apnea. But snoring is usually the result of tapering of your upper airways. The tissues in your throat tend to relax and drop down, partially blocking the air passage sometimes while you sleep. When you breathe in then, air goes on to rattle the tissues, creating the snoring sound.
Sleep apnea, on the other hand, is when you frequently skip breathing altogether for small intervals throughout your sleep cycle. These small intervals may last anywhere from a few seconds to over a minute. This has obvious implications for the sleeping patterns and the quality of sleep acquired. Besides the ill effects on the quality of sleep, sleep apnea exposes you to risks of cardiovascular problems, mental health issues, diabetes, and a number of health issues.
Several lifestyle habits and personal factors such as smoking, sleeping on the back, and being obese or overweight may increase the chances of experiencing both sleep apnea and snoring. If you’re interested in a cure for snoring, here is a useful link.
How Snoring and Sleep Apnea Are Connected
Snoring and sleep apnea are two different conditions, but habitual snoring can very well be a sign of sleep apnea. Let’s put it this way; not all people who snore are affected by sleep apnea, but almost all of those who suffer from sleep apnea tend to snore while they sleep.
Sleep apnea then further goes on to hurt the quality of your sleep in a number of ways. You’re not able to achieve the crucial and restorative state of deep-sleep as you’re constantly kept awake due to breathing problems. You may even suffer from anxiety and develop a fear of falling asleep.
All in all, those suffering from sleep apnea tend to be sleep-deprived, which has a whole host of negative implications for your general health and well-being. You can find more about the health risks emanating from snoring and sleep apnea here.
Let’s now look at how sleep deprivation can be detrimental to our health.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation: How Much Sleep Do We Need?
To be able to firmly establish if you really are sleep deprived, you must know how much sleep your body requires for healthy functioning. Well, for most people, the required amount of sleep is around 8 hours, but some may require less or more depending on the quality of sleep they get on a daily basis, as well as other personal factors. If you wake up tired and then crave for a chance to take a nap throughout the rest of the day, you’re probably sleep-deprived.
Sleep deprivation may not sound as serious of a problem, but it tends to have an overarching negative impact on your health and exposes you to a plethora of health and other risks.
Sleep Deprivation and Its Ill Effects on Your Overall Health
Sleep is your body’s natural response to the daily wear and tear that the body is exposed to. Therefore, around 8 hours of quality sleep is absolutely essential for the maintenance of your health and well being. Naturally then, when the body is deprived of this basic need to recover and recuperate, the consequences will manifest themselves in the form of a number of negative impacts on your overall health. Let’s look at how sleep deprivation takes its toll on your health.
The Central Nervous System and Mental Health
The effects of sleep deprivation on mental health have been widely documented. Sleep deprivation directly affects the functioning of the all-important nervous system. The central nervous system is almost like an information highway as it is involved in sending neurological impulses and messages along the body. Like most other body parts, it requires sleep to continue to function properly.
During sleep, especially during the deep sleep phase, neural pathways form to solidify and process the information you learned while you were awake. But when the brain and the nervous system are deprived of their basic need, it has an unavoidable impact on its performance.
Insomnia, for example, is known to disrupt the flow of impulses that regulate almost all bodily functions, impeding some functions more than the others. The effective flow of neural impulses that guides your bodily reflexes and coordination are affected, exposing you to an increased risk of accidents.
This will also go on to hamper your cognitive abilities. As a result, you will discover that it is increasingly difficult to concentrate on your studies or work, and your ability to learn new things and grasp new concepts has been undermined greatly.
Furthermore, it will have an adverse effect on your emotional state as well. Mood swings, impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and anxiety are all common symptoms of sleep deprivation. This will add to the negative impact on your productivity. Along with this, your creativity and decision making gets severely compromised as well.
The emotional effects don’t just end with mood swings and impulsive behavior. You may fail to experience or project positive emotions on your face. Imagine looking sad and gloomy when your friend tells you about getting his dream job. Not only will you fail to project positive emotions, but you may not be able to recognize them either. You will end up interpreting a positive, elated look as a neutral look, and a neutral look as a negative one. You can only imagine the communication fiasco that this misinterpretation could entail in a professional setting.
If you let sleep deprivation go unchecked, you may go on to develop serious mental disorders. Small disorders such as microsleep can develop into ones that are way more serious, like hallucinations and delirium.
Let’s look at these in a little more detail to understand the risks.
You may experience intervals of microsleep through the day. What happens during these intervals is that you fall asleep at any moment without realizing it. These short intervals may last anywhere from a few seconds to a few minutes. Now, this can expose you to serious risks depending on what you’re doing at the moment.
For example, a microsleep interval while you’re driving can be potentially fatal. The worst part is that you don’t seem to have any control over it. The mind goes into a state of sleep uncontrollably and rapidly. At times, your eyes may stay wide open, but your mind will fall asleep for a few seconds. During that short interval, you’re essentially blind.
Extreme cases of sleep deprivation may cause you to experience delirium. The affected person tends to become completely disoriented.
Hallucinations are one of the side effects of severe sleep deprivation. When you hallucinate, you simply see things that are not really there. Misperception is very likely when the mind has not been rested for so long. The brain cannot efficiently process what it sees, and this leads to it showing you things that are not actually there in front of you. Auditory hallucinations are another type of hallucination that can occur as a result of sleep deprivation.
If you want to know more about the connection between sleep and mental health, here is a useful link.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Immune system
Another way that sleep deprivation can impact your body is by directly affecting the functioning of your immune system. The immune system is our body’s natural defenses against a number of disease-causing bacteria, pathogens, and viruses in the environment. As we sleep, the immune system works to produce substances that help to protect our body from infections, etc.
Cytokines are important substances that the immune system produces while we acquire a good night’s sleep. Foreign invaders such as viruses and bacteria are kept at bay with the help of these substances. Naturally then, when the body is deprived of the required sleep, these basic defenses do not get built up. As a result, we are more exposed to diseases and ailments that can be caused by bacteria and viruses in the environment.
It may also take you more time to recover from illnesses. Long term sleep deprivation will expose you to an increased risk of chronic illnesses such as heart attacks or diabetes.
Lack of Sleep and Fever
The common cold and flu are some of the most common, everyday illnesses that people suffer from. An immune system that has been compromised due to sleep deprivation will not only have you afflicted with the common cold more often but will also slow down your recovery period. Fever is a natural bodily response to infections. When you sleep, your body gets a better fever response; that’s one reason why a fever tends to rise in temperature during sleep as the body is working at its full capacity to fight and eliminate infections. However, when you’re not getting enough sleep, the body’ ability to fight off these infections is greatly hindered.
Vaccines Tend to Be Less Effective
Studies suggest that a sleep-deprived person is not as protected from flu vaccines as one who is well-rested. When your body is deprived of sleep, it also hampers its ability to make the best use of the vaccines. It slows the whole process down as the immune system is suppressed. The body, as a result, takes longer to respond to immunization.
There is a complex relationship between the respiratory system and sleep deprivation. It goes both ways; a nocturnal breathing disorder known as obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can negatively impact the quality of your sleep while waking up midnight or not acquiring enough sleep can, in turn, expose you to respiratory infections such as the flu.
Furthermore, if you’re already experiencing a respiratory disease, sleep deprivation will only worsen it.
It may sound difficult to believe at first, but one of the effects of sleep deprivation is that you will tend to gain weight or in extreme cases become obese. It works by impacting two hormones – ghrelin and leptin – that manage the feelings of fullness and hunger.
Leptin signals the brain to stop eating when the body has had enough food. Ghrelin, on the other hand, works as an appetite stimulant and signals the brain to eat more. When you’re sleep-deprived, the brain tends to mess up the management of these hormones; it shoots up the levels of ghrelin and reduces the leptin levels. This results in overeating or increased night time snacking.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation makes you feel tired and exhausted most of the time. You have neither the urge nor the stamina to commit to any physical activity or exercise. This lack of desire to exercise only adds to the weight gain that you might experience.
Also, when you’re sleep-deprived, your insulin levels tend to rise after you eat. This goes on to encourage fat storage also increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation: Cardiovascular System
The effects of sleep deprivation are far-reaching and wide; sleep deprivation doesn’t spare the cardiovascular system either. Sleep is necessary as it encourages natural bodily processes that ensure that our blood vessels and heart are healthy and perfectly functioning. It helps sustain the right blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammation levels. Furthermore, it also aids the process of repairing the blood vessels.
Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular diseases such as strokes or heart attacks.
Hormone regulation is more important than you might think. For example, a vital growth hormone such as testosterone is absolutely essential for a healthy, happy, and productive life as it tends to affect everything about you. This includes your strength, muscle mass, happiness, sex life, recovery, and repair, etc. Your body requires deep sleep to be able to produce testosterone. This can only be achieved when you are getting uninterrupted, quality sleep every night.
Sleep deprivation will, therefore, inhibit the production of essential hormones, which will have a negative impact on a number of areas of your life.
All in all, the effects of sleep deprivation work as an overarching negative multiplier. It tends to affect almost all the organs and can deteriorate the overall quality of your life.
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