A lack of sleep causes problems that have repercussions on your state of health to varying degrees. A lack of sleep over a period of time, just like a prolonged lack of food or water, causes the body to deteriorate over time.
Lack of sleep, consequences
We are living beings who regulate our own lives with alternating active and resting phases. Our biological rhythms are influenced by light, which determines a state of wakefulness and activity, and lack of light, which induces the physiological processes of sleep. Synchronization between rhythms of the outside world (the rising of the sun, sunset) and the circadian rhythms that trigger sleep and wakefulness by changing hormonal concentrations, contribute to our staying in good health. While we sleep, neurovegetative functions slow down, leaving room for processes that are only activated during this phase. Studies have related the sleep and rest stage with:
•The correction working of several functions, above all the immune system
• Recovery and restoration of energy
•Cell repair and regeneration
A lack of sleep, especially if prolonged over time, causes imbalances to our psycho-physical well-being, including less resistance to stress and the loss of efficacy in some vital functions such as the immune system, which leads to greater vulnerability to external attacks.
Causes of lack of sleep
In Italy, almost one third of the adult population suffers from disturbed sleep. The problems most often recorded are discontinuous sleep, waking up multiple times during the night, or insomnia. There are many causes for this, of various kinds: difficulty in falling asleep or staying asleep or having quality sleep may be linked to actual diseases, such as heart disease or ulcers. They may also be caused by unhealthy habits such as alcohol abuse, stress factors, prolonged exposure to screen light, such as TV and devices.
Stress is a condition that many people experience daily, which forces the body to maintain a constant state of alert, that stimulates the production of hormones that stop you falling asleep.
As we age, it is common to suffer from disturbed sleep, even without a specific reason.
Middle-aged men and menopausal women are suddenly faced with a reduction in the quality of their sleep. It is no coincidence that, during this stage of life, the melatonin secretion cycle decreases, becomes discontinuous, leading to greater difficulty in falling asleep and enjoying quality sleep.
The experiential observation about lack of sleep
A study conducted by Michael Irwing1, a psychiatrist from San Diego Veternas Affair Medical Center, analyzed the physical effects of sleep deprivation.
The observation was carried out on a sample of twenty-three people, health males between the age of twenty-two and sixty-one years old, in a dedicated sleep-study laboratory. For the first two night, people slept normally, but during the third night, they were woken up about three o’clock in the morning. They were therefore deprived of the sleep phase that is considered to be most important, from 3 am to 7 am. The observation clearly showed immune cell activity, charged with combating viral attacks, decreased significantly in at least eighteen of the individuals involved in the study.
This data shows how being deprived of sleep for just one night can have a devastating influence on essential functions, such as the immune system, which was specifically analyzed during this study.
Not just that. The temporary condition of inefficiency, caused by the sleepless night, disappeared when the next night, the volunteers were left to sleep the entire night. Just one night of sleep was enough to restore a temporarily damaged function.
1.Irwin, M. R. (2015). Why sleep is important for health: a psychoneuroimmunology perspective. Annual Review of Psychology, 66.