STATES CHRONICLE – We know all-nighters should be a no-no, and yet we pulled one of those whenever the work piles up high enough on our desks. But have you ever wondered what happens to your body when such sleep deprivation ensues? As it turns out, this is what happens to your sleep-deprived body, and it’s not good.
A healthy lifestyle should include a regular sleep schedule, but we often forget just how important is to get more than a wink of sleep each night. Dan Childs, director of the ABC News Medical Unit, has attempted to stay awake for 40 hours as an experiment in favor of the power of some good shut eye.
Skipping sleep is bound to wreak havoc with your body, and there is more than one way to mess with the body’s proper functionality. Not sleeping weakens the immune system, and affects cognitive function, the cardiovascular system, and even the state of the memory.
It doesn’t take much for the body to start experiencing the negative effects. A 2010 study showed that after just one all-nighter, the impairment in cognitive ability is equivalent to having a blood-alcohol level of 0.10 percent. According to the National Department of Transportation, drowsy driving accounts for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal accidents each year – and this estimation is for the U.S. alone.
Sleep expert Namni Goel, an associate professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania, explains that fatigue isn’t the only effect lack of sleep has on the body. During sleep deprivation, a person’s hormones will be altered, causing unhealthy food cravings.
Besides a tendency of eating more, the sleep-deprived person will also choose fatty foods over healthy ones. Goel said that Dan Childs’s hormones during sleep deprivation would most likely make him choose chips over apples in a blink of an eye.
According to Dr. Ilene Rosen, sleep expert, lack of sleep also impacts short-time memory. This is why pulling an all-nighter to study before the day of the exam may often prove useless. Most of the things you learn need the magic touch of sleep to sediment in the long-term memory, so don’t skip the precious hours before that big exam.
Dr. Rosen also added that slips in judgement can start appearing after just 16 hours of wakefulness – from this point on, the body and brain get “exponentially worse and worse and worse.”
Most interesting is the fact that sleep-deprived people will yearn for sleep so much they will start attempting “microsleep,” the case where the person’s eyes are wide open, but they are actually sleeping.
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