It doesn’t take much more than missing out on one night of sleep to begin to wonder just how long someone can function without sleep. There’s no doubt that a few hours of missed sleep diminishes your ability to function at optimal levels. A full night without sleep can leave you disoriented, light-headed, and extremely irritable.
Sleep, aside from food and water, is one of the most important things the body needs in order to repair itself, recover from injuries, and prepare to face the day. People who have difficulty sleeping or are unable to get an adequate amount of sleep will often find their communication ability, critical thinking, and even mobility are impaired—especially those who suffer from long-term sleep deprivation.
Are you getting enough sleep? Do you wake up feeling well-rested most mornings, or do you find yourself hitting the snooze button a few too many times once morning rolls around?
What if You’re Too Tired to Sleep?
Believe it or not, some people feel so tired and yet are unable to fall asleep. Any parent who has gone through the terrible two’s knows what it’s like to have a little one fighting sleep. The child is sleepy, it’s past nap time or bed time, and the child is struggling, fighting, wailing, and crying—anything to keep from going to sleep.
When you’re overly tired, sleep can be incredibly elusive leaving you feeling as frustrated as an overstimulated child fighting sleep. Your body is screaming for sleep, but your mind simply won’t shut off and let it happen.
The average person feels a little jagged around the edges as a result of a sleepless night or even a night when the quality of sleep was less than optimal. However, a recent study conducted by the Neuroimaging Laboratory at the University of California, Berkeley has revealed that “people who are highly anxious may actually be more vulnerable” to serious anxiety issues in the aftermath of a sleepless night.
The University of California, Berkeley study scanned the brains of 18 adults (who were all in good health) on two different occasions. One was after an ordinary night’s worth of sleep and the other after a night where they were deprived of sleep. During each session, subjects were exposed to a period of prolonged anticipation of a potentially negative experience. Those who experienced sleep deprivation the night before had reactions that were significantly stronger than those who had enjoyed a more restful sleep on the previous evening. In some cases, primarily for those predisposed to anxiety, the reaction was amplified by as much as 60 percent.
Which Comes First, Anxiety or Sleep Issues?
Once upon a time it was well understood that chronic anxiety can do a real number on your ability to sleep. For a long time, it was believed that sleep problems were simply side effects of anxiety disorder. However, new research indicates that sleep deprivation can actually be the cause of an anxiety disorder. Research also indicates that patients suffering from almost any psychiatric disorder also suffer from some form of sleep disorder. People who suffer from chronic insomnia are at a much greater risk of developing some type of anxiety disorder.