A Necessity, Not a Luxury: How Sleep Deprivation is Affecting Us

You might think that it’s okay to lose a day or two of sleep. A cup of coffee could help you tide through the day. However, fatigue isn’t the only effect caused by the lack of sleep.

Sleep is a necessity.

“On a cellular level, the body is literally repairing and restoring itself,” said Barry Krakow, Medical Director of Maimonides Sleep Arts and Sciences, Ltd.

The cognitive and mental impact caused by sleep deprivation extends far from just lethargy, including memory loss, lower productivity and mood swings.

Impaired memory

If you’ve already forgotten the gist of the introduction, you may be experiencing sleep deprivation.

As we’re sleeping, our brain embeds our daily experiences into short-term memory. Our memories are processed in a different manner at different stages of the sleep cycle. Disrupting the cycle will result in an incomplete consolidation of our memories.

Furthermore, being sleepy affects our mental capacity to focus on our current tasks. The inability to concentrate means that our brains will not capture it as short-term memory, then long-term memory.

Lower productivity

On a similar note, the lack of sleep results in lower productivity.

There is a positive correlation between sleep deprivation and one’s concentration. As it takes more effort to focus on our task, it hinders our cognitive capacity to complete any task that requires logical reasoning or complex thoughts.

Mood swings

Lastly, the lack of sleep causes irritability and anger, as well as reducing our ability to cope with stress.

The “walking tired”, have a higher tendency to grimace at traffic jams or get into arguments with others, as claimed by the NSF

But it doesn’t end there.

Chronic sleepiness increases the chances of depression. However, the relationship between sleep and depression are so close that there isn’t a clear answer to their causality.

“It’s not uncommon for people who don’t get enough sleep to be depressed or for people who are depressed to not sleep well enough,” said Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school’s sleep medicine fellowship.

The bottom-line

Sleep is no longer a luxury in our fast-paced society. And catching up on sleep is a more difficult task than most realize.

Singapore is the 3rd most sleep-deprived of the 43 cities profiled, research conducted by the National University of Singapore’s University Health Centre.

Maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is imperative. And, the best way to gauge if you’re getting sufficient sleep is to trust your instincts.

“You shouldn’t feel sleepy when you wake up,” explained Verceles, “you should be energetic throughout the day and slowly wind down as you approach your usual bedtime.”

Maybe it’s time for you to put down that cup of coffee.

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