Some people choose to "get away" with less sleep, and this attitude is often rewarded in our society. But lack of sleep can actually make you less productive, even if you feel as though you're getting more done. And sleep deprivation can do much more than hurt your productivity - it can damage your health as well.
Sleep helps your body to repair itself. It also helps your mind absorb and
"file" the day's learning. When we deprive ourselves of sleep, we notice the effects both mentally and physically. In the short term, these effects include:
- careless mistakes
- difficulty concentrating
- slower reaction times
- increased stress
These short-term effects can affect our relationships, our performance at work or school, and our ability to enjoy life. They may even increase the risk of injury and accidents at work or on the road.
After only a few days of sleep deprivation, the body undergoes changes similar to "fast-forward" aging: memory loss, metabolism problems (with sugar and hormones), and poor athletic performance. If sleep deprivation continues over the long term, it increases the risk of more serious health problems, such as:
- a weakened immune system
- diabetes (the body cannot process sugar properly)
- high blood pressure
The good news is that you can prevent these long-term problems by recognizing the early signs that you aren't getting enough sleep, and then increasing the amount of sleep you're getting until you feel well rested. But remember, the greater the "sleep debt" that you have, the longer it will take to recover.