Struggling with sleep? I get it, I have struggled with sleep myself believe it or not. The reality is that sleep is necessary, and there are many negative effects that lack of sleep can cause. But I totally understand how sometimes the nighttime, when everything is quiet and no one else is awake, is the best time to wind down, catch up on your favorite shows, get some work or chores done, or just finally get some quiet “me” time as you aimlessly scroll through social media.
Maybe you are actually trying to go to sleep, but the brain continues to perseverate about what you have to do tomorrow and what you didn’t get done today. Either way, you’re not sleeping. Is not sleeping really worth it to sacrifice your physical and mental health? Keep reading to find out.
As a Usui attuned and trained Reiki Level II practitioner, it is believed that our existence is comprised of four bodies: the physical body (biological/physiological), the mental body (thoughts), the emotional body (feelings), and the spiritual body (energy i.e our Chakra System). As a healing coach, I teach my clients that when stressors occur or we have poor treatment of any of the four bodies and lack in basic needs and self-care, it can manifest as actual ailments or disease in any of the four bodies, especially our physical vessel. This is why self-care is so important.
Part of self-care means giving our physical body what it needs. As a trained former psychotherapist and Licensed Social Worker, I know that when we look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, our physiological needs are at the base and bottom of the pyramid and are comprised of necessities for our foundational functioning. You can do a quick Google image search to see the actual pyramid. At the base of the pyramid is psychological needs right under safety needs. The basics of our physiological needs are food/nutrition, shelter, water, air/oxygen, clothing, and of course, sleep!
Think about it like this: the house, apartment, or building you reside in cannot withstand itself without a proper foundation. If there are issues in the foundation or the basement, it could impact the whole structure. If you own a home, then you know that structural damage to the foundation or anything interfering with the foundation of your home could be detrimental to its entire existence and durability in duration. Our body, in this case, is no different. This is why we must give our body the essentials, the same way we give our car’s fuel and gas when it needs it and we reboot our phones or laptops when they need to be shut down or restarted.
Our body needs sleep to function. Depriving yourself of sleep can seriously impact your overall health and your longevity and can also eventually have serious or even deadly effects.
So, how does lack of sleep impact the four bodies? Here are the ten deadly effects lack of sleep can cause.
1. Poor Immune System
Sleep deprivation can decrease your immune system, causing you to be more susceptible to illness, chronic medical conditions, and mental health exacerbations, especially if you are already struggling with mental illness or are immunocompromised, or have an autoimmune disease. If you find yourself getting sick often and you have poor sleep, seek support from a medical provider and be sure to increase intake of any herbal remedies that could support the immune system, such as Vitamin C.
2. Poor Physical Health
Lack of sleep has been said to increase the chances of many chronic medical conditions including heart issues and respiratory issues. Thyroid issues have also been linked to poor sleep because the body is not producing the number of necessary hormones essential for optimal thyroid functioning which can impact the entire body, not just our physical health but our spiritual health (Throat Chakra) and our mental health, too.
When we sleep, our body gets the rest it needs so that while we are asleep, the necessary replenishing of hormones or any other “behind the scenes” work can occur.
3. Poor Productivity
Lack of focus and productivity due to poor sleep, including difficulty falling asleep, disrupted sleep, and difficulty staying asleep can truly play a huge role in our overall productivity during the day. It can increase mental fog, which means that we are not tending to our obligations properly fueled.
This also means that it can hinder progress in our responsibilities and while it may not be deadly to our body, it can surely be deadly to our pockets if we lack laser focus and productivity in the workplace, ultimately causing one to lose their job and causing financial hardship.
4. Poor Mental and Emotional Health
As a former ER social worker, I have seen firsthand how lack of sleep can contribute to poor mental health. This can be witnessed in clients with schizophrenia or even Bipolar Disorder II where their mental health symptoms exacerbate as a result of poor sleep or the lack of sleep in and of itself, which can contribute to manic or crisis episodes.
If you already have an underlying mental health illness or diagnosis or if you have poor mental health hygiene, poor sleep is like a toxin to the mental and emotional bodies. This can cause commendatory auditory and visual hallucinations, disorientation, distorted thinking, or delusions which could result in poor decision making, injury to self and others, or worse.
5. Sleep Disorders
Disordered sleep can impact the longevity and function of our overall circadian rhythm. This is one of the most impactful things that lack of sleep can cause. This impacts us physically and mentally but can also lead to increase chances of developing more severe sleep issues or disorders, such as sleep apnea and insomnia.
It’s important to have a set bedtime and set wake-up time to promote a natural sleep-wake cycle (like the sun and moon), which is ultimately beneficial for your overall health. Additionally, we can become addicted to stimulants or overconsume caffeine, sodas, and energy drinks to support our wake cycle if we are not getting adequate sleep, which also is not good for our health.
6. Forced Shut-Down
Ever have to blast music while driving due to being too tired to drive? I don’t know who needs to hear this, but highway hypnosis is real and when you’re sleep-deprived, especially when driving at night, it can increase your chances of a forced shut-down of the body similar to a prompt computer or phone abrupt shut-down.
As I type this, I think about the scene in the classic comedy movie, National Lampoon’s Vacation, where the character Clark Griswold played by Chevy Chase, falls asleep behind the wheel with his entire family in the car. Now, while he was able to literally evade collision or any other damage in this scene, in real life, this could literally be deadly. Fatigued or drowsy driving is dangerous, especially when operating any heavy machinery or vehicle.
According to CDC,
“The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that drowsy driving was responsible for 72,000 crashes, 44,000 injuries, and 800 deaths in 2013. However, these numbers are underestimated, and up to 6,000 fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy drivers.”
We should promote “don’t drive while fatigued” the same way we promote “don’t drink and drive.” You should think twice because it can truly save a life, especially yours.
7. Increased Irritability or Anger
Have you ever got angry or irritable when you’re hungry? I believe the term is called “hangry.” Well, we most definitely can become more irritable when we have lack sleep. Maybe we should coin that to be called “slirritable”—when we are irritable as a result of poor sleep?
Okay, okay, jokes aside, we need to be mindful of our irritability. This impacts the part of our brain called the amygdala, which is responsible for how we regulate our emotions and respond in times of perceived threats. When we don’t sleep and we get annoyed, triggered, or upset, our “fight, flight, and freeze” response gets innately turned on like a light switch, which in turn impacts how we react to situations and our impulse control.
If we are irritable, we are more likely to get into arguments with people we love or worse get into physical fights, which could be deadly to the relationship itself. Pause and breathe before you react or—as they said in the movie Bad Boys 2 starring Will Smith—“woosah” and go get some rest!
8. Poor Memory
When we have sleep dysfunction, it impacts our overall memory recall and the part of our brain that stores memory, which means we are more prone to making mistakes. I have seen this happen firsthand in overworked nurses whose role is vital in keeping patients safe.
If you are not getting enough sleep, it will surely impact your ability to remember processes, systems, structures, routines, and even basic dates, which makes you accident-prone and more likely to make mistakes. When you are overworked and overly tired, this could be deadly depending on your line of work. One mistake can truly cost a life and your job.
9. Weight Gain
If you’re trying to lose weight, this may be difficult if you’re not allowing your body to rest. During rest and sleep, our body is “burning the midnight oil” as they say, and at work while we sleep. The body is using the fuel and nutrition we fed ourselves throughout the day to burn off calories that could help support weight loss.
Poor weight or obesity can lead to other medical ailments and chronic conditions that could cause an untimely demise. So, it’s important that we allow our internal body to rest and “clock into” that graveyard shift while we actually get some shut-eye.
10. Poor Libido
If nothing I have stated thus far gets you trying to set SMART goals to improve sleep difficulties, having it impact your sex life may just be the motivator you need. Yup! Lack of sleep can decrease sex drive!
Poor sleep can impact the production of vital hormones produced naturally by the body to increase sex drive and libido. Lack of adequate hormone production due to sleep difficulties can then lead to severe sexual dysfunctions, such as erectile dysfunction disorder or infertility and even mood problems—which may cause problems for you and your partner(s), both in and out of the bedroom and even put a strain on relationships.
Lastly, as a spiritual and intuitive healer, mindfulness advocate, and yoga teacher, I’ll say this: sleep is essential for our spiritual body, more especially now that we know what lack of sleep can cause.
When we sleep, we ground down, reset, and connect to our subconscious self, higher self, and inner knowing. More importantly, we dream. Some believe we can travel in our dreams, get visits from our loved ones who have transitioned and passed on, and even receive guidance and messages. We release, we rest, and we heal all four bodies. It’s no wonder that when we are sick or ill, our body forces us to sleep. Allow yourself the permission to embrace your ultimate pause—the permission to sleep.
If you’re struggling with sleep or your nightly routines, be sure to reach out to your medical and mental health providers for support to ensure optimal health in the four bodies. Referrals for sleep studies can help support any underlying medical etiology related to your sleep concerns or issues. A mental health provider can also help support your sleep difficulties and needs.
Now, go rest!
What You Can Do To Have Sufficient Sleep
Featured photo credit: Kinga Cichewicz via unsplash.com
|||^||Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Drowsy Driving: Asleep at the Wheel|