Special Report

The Damage You Do to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

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1. Anxiety

Sleep and anxiety are strongly connected, Tal noted. A change in one will influence the other. Research has found that sleep loss makes anxiety worse by exaggerating preemptive responding in the amygdala, the part of the brain responsible for reacting to fear.

A recent study found that even one night of missed sleep can make people feel cranky, sad, and worried. At the same time, just one night of recovery sleep can bring anxiety levels back to normal.

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2. Social isolation

Sleep deprivation can lead to social withdrawal and loneliness, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications. Loneliness has been found to increase mortality risk and to be as health-damaging as smoking and obesity.

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3. Clinical depression

The more a person has trouble falling or staying asleep, the higher the chances of developing depression. People struggling with insomnia are 10 times more likely to have clinical depression.

Clinical studies show a possible connection between breathing-related sleep disorders and major depressive disorders. About 800 in 100,000 people have both. Separate research has also found a close relationship between insomnia, depression, and anxiety.

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4. Memory loss

Lack of sleep leads to short-term memory challenges and long-term memory loss. “It’s harder for the brain to transfer memories to long-term.” Researchers are not sure exactly why, Tal said, but we form memories during REM sleep because this is when the neural connections that form the memories are strengthened.

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5. Accelerated aging

Many factors contribute to premature aging, and lack of sleep seems to have a direct effect as well. Less sleep means less time for the body to properly restore itself, making people feel tired and look older.

One sign of accelerated aging is dark circles around the eyes. Lack of sleep causes fluid retention under the eyes, giving you the extra “baggage,” and the skin becomes paler, letting blood vessels and dark tissue underneath show.

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