Your central nervous system is the information highway of your body. Sleep is necessary to keep it functioning properly. During sleep, the brain rests busy neurons and forms new pathways so you’re ready to face the world in the morning. In children and young adults, the brain releases growth hormones during sleep. While you’re sleeping, your body is also producing proteins that help cells repair damage.
Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted, so it can’t perform its duties well. The most obvious effect is sleepiness. You may find yourself yawning a lot and feeling sluggish. Lack of sleep interferes with your ability to concentrate and learn new things. It can negatively impact both short-term and long-term memory. It gets in the way of your decision-making process and stifles creativity. Your emotions are also affected, making you more likely to have a short temper and mood swings. Overall cognitive function is impaired.
If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you’re at increased risk of hallucinations, especially if you have narcolepsy or systemic lupus erythematosis. Lack of sleep can trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other risks include impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts.
A side effect of sleep deprivation is micro sleep. That’s when you’re asleep for only a few seconds or a few minutes, but you don’t realize it. If you’re sleep deprived, micro sleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous if you’re driving. It can also make you more prone to injury due to trips and falls. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, insufficient sleep has played a part in tragic accidents involving airplanes, ships, and even nuclear reactor meltdowns.