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What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

sleeping in bed
(Image: Getty Images)

Good morning science fans! How’d you sleep last night? While a good night of sleep can do wonders for your mental and physical health, the opposite of that, being sleep deprived has some serious consequences. Scientists have been putting together a lot of information over the years on a big question for us humans: What happens when you don’t get enough sleep? Listen to this  Question Your World radio report produced by the  Science Museum of Virginia to find out.

Between the daily grind, packed weekends with recreational plans and a big chunk of our free time used to “get ready” for life events, some of us may not be getting enough sleep. Generally doctors around the world agree that the average human needs about eight hours of sleep a night. Some can rock on a little less and others need a touch more to be fully functional, but the target is indeed right around eight hours of sleep. If you get under the suggested amount then you are considered sleep deprived!

Sleep scientists have observed that not only does a sleep deprived brain have trouble with processing cognitive functions, but also has trouble with memory, being alert, paying attention, and especially memory! Not only is one’s cognitive function impaired, but so is their mood and behavior. In some cases being tired can dictate one’s lack of communication or groggy disposition, and on the other hand a lack of sleep can cause one to get irritated or react poorly to internal or external factors. Yikes, no winners on either side there!

For example, have you ever been Slangry? This is the beautiful intersection of being sleepy and angry, not a fun time for anyone. Insufficient sleep vastly impacts our emotional reactions including overestimating threats or perspective on other people’s mood and demeanor. An example is where you may think others are mad at you, when really it’s just your sleep deprived brain making over exaggerated reactions to other people's actions.

But wait, sleep deprivation also has an economic impact. Forbes magazine reported that every year the cascading effects of tired or absent employees add up to some big bucks! How much are tired, sleepy, or absent employees costing us? Loss in job productivity costs the United Kingdom about $50 billion a year, Japan about $130 billion, and the United States a whopping $411 BILLION a year!

Health, personal relationships and big dollars are on the line when our species does not get enough sleep. As we continue to explore new technological heights we will continue to have more work and workers that need to be fully productive at all kinds of weird hours. Our ability to travel has made globe hopping a possibility, but it too can strain one’s sleep cycle. Our entertainment options continue to grow and expand to hours that range anywhere from the pre-dawn yoga class to the latest last call in town. Time is our greatest resource, perhaps allocating the right amount for one’s mental and physical health is not such a bad idea. There’s a mountain of evidence to support the impact of sleep on the body so scientists are encouraging taking the nightly eight hours seriously.

Yes, it’s a busy world, and there are certainly a myriad of things to do, but operating without proper sleep just does not seem to help with anything! Look, we’re not telling you what to do, but those are the facts. So, you knowsleep on it.


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