As a fellow college student, I relate to this topic on a personal level. However, I have not been sleeping at all much more these past few weeks due to all nighters, and I am beginning to feel a lot of the harmful side effects of not getting the proper amount of sleep (or more correctly, not getting sleep at all). As I don’t want to steer myself into a lifestyle that can be seriously damaging, I must ask myself: does sleep deprivation have any LONG TERM harmful side effects?
Null Hypothesis: Sleep deprivation has no long term side effects
Alternative Hypothesis: Sleep deprivation has harmful long term side effects
Why do we need sleep?
Similar to how a person charges their phone overnight after a long day so it can be readily available in the morning, people need a good night sleep in order to be fully rested and “recharged.” Along with helping us get through the day without passing out, sleeping also has several important health benefits. According to Healthline, sleeping is actually where important body functions such as the immune system and nervous system depend on you being asleep.
While you sleep, your brain essentially goes into a rest period so it can be all set to go in the morning – sleeping helps recharge your brain so that it has enough energy to get you through the day. With sleep, your brain is able to perform the way it should be, allowing you to stay focused and alert.
It is also while we sleep that our immune system builds its defense. It readily creates and prepares antibodies and other fighters while you sleep, so that during the day if you come into contact with a harmful virus, infection, etc., the antibodies will be readily available to attack.
Where does sleep deprivation stem from?
A popular answer (especially amongst college students) is that we are simply too “busy” with work or school to fall asleep – however, that’s only the tip of the iceberg. According to Web MD, things such as mental health, stress, and possible sleeping disorders (such as insomnia) can actually be factors as well.
Short Term effects:
From personal experience, I can say that with a serious lack of sleep, I’m moody, unfocused, lethargic, and just generally experience a very low quality of life. In addition, I actually now find that staying up all night (pulling all nighters) is a terrible way to study because since my brain is so exhausted, it doesn’t have enough energy to remember anything that I’m studying.
Web MD actually brought up some points I hadn’t considered before – the affect MY sleep deprivation can have on others. Being so irritable and unhappy can negatively affect my relationship with my peers, making an already bad situation that much worse.
Randomly falling asleep is also a very prevalent side effect – where you feel your head dropping with sleep and you jerk your head up to stay awake. it may not seem like a terribly serious thing at first, as for college students it usually means doing so in class or on the comfy chairs in the Paterno Library. However, once you start randomly falling asleep doing activities such as driving, you immediately put yourself and the people around you at a great amount of risk.
In my opinion, the worst (or worst feeling, at least) short term side effect is that you always feel sick. Since I haven’t slept, my immune system hasn’t been able to produce enough effective antibodies and is now working very poorly. I now get colds and sick constantly, from nausea to headaches to full out lightheadedness.
Long Term Side effects:
In all honesty, I speculated the worst long term results would be behavioral – I’d get more depressed, cynical, and moody. Unfortunately, that is also just scratching the surface.
Sleep deprivation, according to Web MD, can actually lead to some very serious health problems, including excessive weight gain, high blood pressure, heart problems, etc. Also, it can cause more than just being very “moody” – I can get serious behavioral and mood disorders, and I can even become mentally damaged, all simply due to a lack of sleep. As it turns out, lack of sleeping can have a higher death rate than that of doing other dangerous activities, such as drinking or smoking.
We have enough evidence of long term health problems caused by sleep deprivation, and therefore we can reject the null hypothesis. I was truly surprised at how detrimental lack of sleep can be to a human, and I encourage anyone seriously struggling to get help and take care of themselves.
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