Common symptoms of lack of sleep, Part II
Continued from Part I, which you can find here.
Difficulty to concentrate and impaired work
Your ability to be focused on the environment requires your brain to be well rested. When we are deprived of sleep, we inevitably develop a slight impairment of our ability to concentrate. This can be quite insidious, to such an extent that people who are chronically deprived of sleep are beginning to fail to recognize how much it has deteriorated. Decreased alertness can lead to mistakes, accidents, and reduced performance.Research has shown that chronic sleep deficiency leads to accumulated deficits in our productivity. For example, in those people who sleep less than 7 hours per night, the impairments in their cognitive processes accumulate to levels comparable to those who are completely devoid of sleep for one or even two nights. This damage is similar to what happens with alcohol intoxication.This can lead to reduced response time and increased risk of car accidents. This also aggravates work and can cause mistakes. The lack of sleep in doctors is a major cause of medical errors.
There are some individual differences in the effects of sleep deprivation and the threshold for impairment may vary. There is, however, no evidence to suggest that you can adapt to sleep deprivation.
Problems with memory and thinking
Sleep has an important influence on our ability to think and process memories. That is why, when we do not sleep enough, these cognitive abilities can get worse. Lack of sleep can lead to additional problems with higher-level functions, such as planning, organizing, and judging. The most common symptom of sleep deficiency concerns concentration and attention problems. This is actually a worsening of our short-term memory. It may be a consequence of reduced alertness (we do not remember what we have not been able to record in our brains), but the difficulty may continue afterward.
Sleep is essential for memory processing. Sleep helps us to consolidate the events of the day, to strengthen and record critical memories. Research has shown that it also plays a key role in learning. Therefore, when our sleep is disturbed, these processes, in turn, deteriorate. There are other elements of thinking that can be affected by the lack of sleep, especially those associated with the frontal lobe of the brain. These functions are a bit more complicated and their distortion can have more serious consequences. Sleep deprivation can lead to impairment of the executive function, resulting in:
• Bad planning
• Increased risk-taking
• Poor prioritization
• Focus on short-term rewards
• Poor judgment
Disorientation, hallucinations, and paranoia
Sleep deprivation can lead to some unexpected psychiatric effects. They are surprisingly common and very similar to other symptoms and are related to the level of sleep deprivation. Some common psychic symptoms include disorientation, hallucinations, and paranoia. Disorientation is often part of the confusion that happens in a state called delirium. In principle, people who are disoriented first confuse time (the day, the date, the season, or the year are wrong). Then disoriented people can get confused about the place, not knowing where they are. And finally, in the ultimate state of disorientation, someone may not know who they are.
Hallucinations are a common sign of sleep deprivation and are usually visual. In other words, you may see something that simply does not exist. It is estimated that about 80% of normal people will have hallucinations if they have been deprived of sleep for too long. Finally, a lack of sleep can lead to another psychic symptom: paranoia. Paranoia usually consists of the belief that you are being persecuted by some other subject. For example, you may be convinced that the government is listening to your phone to learn your secrets. One study found that approximately 2% of 350 people who had been deprived of 112 hours of sleep began to show symptoms similar to acute paranoid schizophrenia. This may lead to an incorrect diagnosis.
Fortunately, these symptoms are quickly relieved by adequate rest.