Effects of Sleeping Problems

Effects of Sleeping Problems
Natalie Stein

Exercise, Fitness & Nutrition Expert | Lark Health

Effects of Sleeping Problems

Inability to sleep can lead to consequences that can be anything from unpleasant to downright dangerous and unhealthy. If you can’t sleep as much as you need to most nights, it is a good idea to get help to figure out how to get the shuteye you need.

Impaired Energy and Alertness

You are almost sure to know firsthand how sleep deprivation feels. You may have reduced energy, which makes getting through the day harder and often less enjoyable. Your ability to focus diminishes, and you may find yourself nodding off. Concentrating and remembering were the top two daily activities that people reported having trouble with due to lack of sleep, according to the CDC.

Be honest, now: last time you were short on sleep, how well did you focus during your afternoon meeting? Did you remember much of it afterwards? And, did you have to fight the urge to nod off during it?

Unintentional Weight Gain

Intuitively, it might make sense that sleeping less would help with weight loss, since you would be spending less time lying in bed and more time up and about, presumably burning more calories. That is not the case. Here are some ways that sleep deprivation can increase risk for weight gain, as described by the Harvard School of Public Health and a review article in the journal, “Obesity (Silver Spring).”

  • More hunger: You may have higher levels of ghrelin, which is a hormone that increases hunger, and lower levels of leptin, which is a hormone that lets you know that you are satisfied.

  • More time to eat: You might burn a few more calories during those late-night hours while awake compared to if you were sleeping, but having even a few extra peanuts is likely to outweigh the extra calorie burn. Regularly having a more typical late-night snack can pile on the pounds.

  • Poorer choices: Sleep-deprived people crave more high-fat, high-carbohydrate, high-sugar foods, and have less ability to resist them. That means you are more likely to choose the pizza over the salad, and you are not going to stop at one potato chip.

  • Lower metabolism: your body temperature may drop so you burn fewer calories throughout the day.

  • Less energy: if you are too tired to exercise or even move around much during the day, you will burn fewer calories.

The ASA estimates that being short on sleep could account for as much as 5% of obesity!

Chronic Health Conditions

Sleep affects your physical and mental health in many ways. Being short on sleep is linked to increased risk for the following conditions.

Vehicular and Other Accidents

Not surprisingly, given the importance of sleep for concentration and coordination, lack of sleep has been linked to accidents on the roads and in the workplace.

  • Nearly 1 in 25 drivers has admitted to falling asleep at the wheel within the past month.

  • Sleep deprivation is responsible for 1,550 fatalities annually in the U.S.

  • Sleep deprivation costs about $54 million per year in lost productivity, plus 5 extra missed days of work per worker with insomnia.

Types of Sleep Behavior Disorders

There are many types of sleep behavior disorders. They can lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep, and they can be chronic or acute. They all can make you feel tired, but they can all be prevented, treated or managed. Examples include rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep disorder, circadian rhythm disorders, insomnia, and sleep apnea.

Rapid Eye Movement Sleep Behavior Disorder

You go through different stages when you sleep. Non-rapid eye movement (non-REM) sleep comprises up to 80% of normal sleep, while the rest is REM sleep. During REM sleep, your brain remains as active as it is while you are awake, but your muscles are paralyzed, your blood pressure rises, and your eyelids move rapidly.

Rapid eye movement sleep behavior disorder, also known as RBD, happens when your muscles do not get paralyzed. So, it makes sense that REM sleep behavior disorder symptoms include physically acting out your dreams, since the

The condition is often linked to neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease, although it tends to appear years before diagnosis of a neurodegenerative condition. Acute RBD can result from withdrawal from alcohol, certain antidepressants, or other medications.

Treatment for REM sleep behavior disorder can include putting up safeguards to keep yourself and your partner safe as you act out your dreams, sometimes vigorously, and taking medications.

  • Put up barriers on the side of the bed or padding on the floor nearby.

  • Consider sleeping separately from your partner until your symptoms go away.

  • Melatonin is a generally safe dietary supplement that is also natural sleep hormone in your body. It can reduce symptoms.

  • Clonazepam is a prescription medication that is a common REM sleep behavior disorder treatment. It is also an anti-anxiety medication.

Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

Your circadian rhythm is your body’s internal clock. It regulates sleep and wake cycles, as well as other biological patterns such as the regular increase and decrease of various hormone levels. For most people, the circadian rhythm is linked to the natural light and dark cycle of the 24-hour day and night, although the human cycle is typically slightly longer than 24 hours.

Disruptions to your regular cycle can lead circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Causes can include:

  • Taking certain medications.

  • Working night shifts or changing your work schedule frequently.

  • Changing time zones.

  • Changing your sleep schedule by staying up late or sleeping in for a long time.

  • Experiencing mental health issues or medical problems.

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder symptoms reflect the difficulty your body has staying in sync with the clock. You might feel alert at night and sleepy during the day. You might have trouble falling asleep when you go to bed, and feel groggy when it is time to get up.

There are several types of circadian rhythm sleep disorders, as outlined in the journal, “Neurologic clinics.”

  • Jet lag occurs when you change time zones, and your body has difficulty adjusting to the new time zone. You might have difficulty falling asleep if you have traveled west and set the clock back at least 2 hours. You could have trouble getting up on time if you have traveled east and set the clock ahead at least 2 hours.

  • Delayed phase sleep disorder (DPSD) is a condition in which you are not tired until late at night, and you have trouble getting up the morning. People with DPSD might be seen as night owls.

  • Advanced phase sleep disorder (APSD) is a condition in which you get tired early in the evening, and wake up early in the morning, such as between 1 and 5:00 a.m.

  • Irregular Sleep-Wake Rhythm (ISWR) happens when you have an irregular rhythm, and cannot predict sleepiness and wakefulness well.

  • Non-24 Hour Sleep Wake Disorder happens when the circadian rhythm tends to be too long. This is common among individuals who are blind and do not have the trigger of natural daylight for production of melatonin. 

Circadian rhythm sleep disorder treatment includes improving sleep hygiene, such as following a regular schedule. Other treatment approaches include:

  • Using melatonin to normalize the circadian rhythm.

  • Using a bright light before bed for APSD, or in the morning for DPSD.

  • Getting more natural light and socializing during the day for ISWR.