Everybody sleeps, we need it to survive. So what happens when we don’t sleep? As a highschooler with lots of things to juggle in my life, I’ve come to be all too familiar with that question.
Sleep deprivation usually starts taking shape during the day before my long night. And as the day progresses and each class adds its own pile of work for the night, it’s not before long that I go home with what seems like a weekend’s worth of tasks ahead of me. So once I finally get situated at my desk and begin my work, it’s a race against the clock to receive an ample 8 hours of sleep. One by one, each task is completed, homework turned in, and test studied for. Long at last, after many hours of hard labor, I’m down to my last math test before I can escape into the comfort of my pillow. And so I start the studying process that has become muscle memory by this point in the night. But something strange is happening.
I’m not picking up concepts as quickly as I used to just a few hours ago. Not only this, but I find myself making simple errors. For example, my equations would be missing a negative sign here or there and my writing would be riddled with mistakes. But it’s all worth it right? Whatever it takes to lodge this information into my short-term memory will be worth the sacrifice of a couple hours of sleep. Or so I foolishly thought…
After feeling mildly confident and prepared for the upcoming test, I finally turn the lights off and drift away into my dreamland, making the most of the few hours I have remaining before the next day. Then my alarm clock rings and the morning is here. Already, things feel different. My mind feels ‘clouded’ and I find myself constantly confused ‘lost’. But I ignore this and continue on my way to school. This is where I feel the full consequences of sleep deprivation.
Everything from socializing to absorbing concepts seems much harder than the last day. For starters, I begin to slur my words and have to think about what I am going to say before I actually say it. And I find myself more moody and easily aggravated by little things. In addition, I am more ‘clueless’, meaning I don’t pick up on social cues as quickly as I normally would. Even basic tasks are hard for me to do. I am making more grammatical errors and having difficulty remembering how to spell basic words. However, one of the hardest tasks is learning new information. If my brain was ‘clouded’ enough to forget how to spell elementary level words, then one can only imagine what it must be like to learn new things. Where learning new things is a futile effort, recalling information from the prior night’s study session is all but hopeless. After a quick glance at the questions on my test, I remember doing them late last night but now I’m having lapses in my memory. Steps to solutions are missing and concepts are being confused for one another. And remember the foggy brain I had? Well that adds its own complications like those ‘stupid mistakes’ here and there.
So the justifications I had made for studying late into the night had all failed to deliver their intended goals. And what’s worse? Now I must deal with the effects of sleep deprivation and catch-up on another day’s worth of work since I wasn’t able to properly function that day. And thus, the cycle is born of a constant sleep deprived fumed state which isn’t too far off from that of a zombie.
Now I promise that I, Oscar Hong of Businesses with Stories, am not permanently enslaved in a fumed-like zombie mental state. This was one of my more extreme personal experiences with sleep deprivation. Of course, there are more extreme stories like of the Youtuber that slept for only 3 hours each day for a week. But I digress. The main purpose of the anecdote was to illustrate the effects of sleep deprivation on the mind, especially on productivity.
As already conveyed through my personal experiences, sleep deprivation is a guaranteed method to kill productivity. It can be attributed to the following:
- Fuzzy head
- Lack of motivation
- Weakened memory
- Higher risk of burnout
And just because I focused on the mental effects of sleep deprivation doesn’t mean that its wrath ends there. The physical effects are just as dangerous. These include
- Weakening of the immune system, which can lead to chronic illness
- Increased risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory disease
- Higher risk of Type 2 Diabetes
- Altered hormone levels which leads to weight loss/gain, and growth problems
- Altered blood pressure and weakened heart vessels
- Fatigue related errors like car crashes and on-the-job errors
- Micro sleep (short periods when the body “sleeps”). Studies show that sleep deprived drivers are just as bad as intoxicated drivers
- Increased risk of Early Onset Alzheimer’s
- “Being awake for 18 hours straight makes you drive like you have a blood alcohol level of .05”
Granted, these are representative of the extreme cases of sleep deprivation, but they should act as a general indicator of its many dangers. It’s inevitable that we are all going to lose sleep in our lives, life happens. But lose too much, and we may soon resemble the “Walking Dead.”
When studying or trying to complete a task, it is far more beneficial for one to get more sleep and leave the task for the next day than it is to sacrifice sleep over its completion. And in my case when it was studying for a test, there are countless productivity methods out there, many on our own blog, to better prepare you for an exam than “tough out” the tiredness. You may not feel it late at night, but you certainly will the next day and possibly in your future.