7 Things No One Ever Taught You About Sleep Deprivation

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These days, there are so many things that can make it easy to skip out on sleep. You might have a busy schedule, or stay up late watching your favorite shows, or get caught up with your phone — and before you know it it's 2 a.m. And yet, while it doesn't always feel like a big deal, these habits can easily lead to sleep deprivation, which is a real and serious thing.

"Sleep is not optional, and getting limited quantities has real consequences," Dr. Sujay Kansagra, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert, tells Bustle. "Lack of adequate nighttime sleep can cause chronic sleep deprivation." And usually, that means you aren't getting the recommended seven to nine hours of shut eye, each and every night.

"Without the proper amount of rest, we will inevitably feel sleep deprived," Dr. Kasagra says. "Even a few poor nights of sleep can lead to serious sleep deprivation and poor immune function," and it can also increase your risk of health issues and other serious side effects.

In order to get good sleep, experts recommend listening to your body, and sticking to a schedule. Going to bed at the same time every night can help you develop a routine and fall asleep easier. Practicing sleep hygiene can also be helpful, as it basically means relaxing before bed, making sure your room is dark, cool, and comfortable, and reducing stress — so you can drift off peacefully.

If you aren't getting enough sleep each night, you will become sleep deprived. And it will have an impact on how you feel. Read on below for some surprising things you might not know about sleep deprivation, according to experts.

1. You Can't Catch Up On Missed Sleep

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While it'd be nice to catch up on missed sleep by going to bed earlier the following night, or sleeping in on the weekend, it isn't always that easy.

"Unfortunately, sleeping an extra hour or two [...] doesn’t make up for lost time," Mike Kisch, co-founder and CEO of Beddr, tells Bustle. "Sleep deprivation leads to 'sleep debt' — the difference between the amount of sleep that you need and the amount of sleep you’re actually getting."

And since studies show sleep debt isn't something you can simply erase, it makes it even more important to stick to a regular bedtime routine, and get a solid seven to nine hours of sleep per night.

2. Sleep Is More Important Than You Might Think

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It's well-known that nutrition and exercise are important when it comes to maintaining good health. But experts say sleep is right up there, too, even though so many of us think we can get by just fine without it.

"If you aren’t making sleep a priority in your wellness routine, you are doing yourself a disservice," Bill Fish, certified sleep science coach and co-founder of Tuck, tells Bustle. "[By not] getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, you are depriving your mind and body the rest it needs to function properly."

So try not to skimp on sleep. While you may be able to make it through the day, it won't be long before sleep deprivation catches up with you, and begins to impact your health.

3. It Can Weaken The Immune System

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One way sleep deprivation can have an impact is by making you more susceptible to viruses, Matt Ross, co-owner and COO of The Slumber Yard, tells Bustle.

The body repairs itself while you sleep, and also strengthens its immune system. So if you aren't getting enough rest, you will be more likely to catch colds and flus.

4. It Increases Your Risk Of Disease

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A lack of sleep can also increase your risk of many serious health issues, like cancer, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes, and heart disease, Bart Wolbers, MS, researcher at Nature Builds Health, tells Bustle. These conditions are all associated with sleep deprivation, he says, which is why an ongoing lack of sleep isn't something to ignore.

5. It Impairs Your Reaction Time

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Sleep deprivation can be dangerous in other ways, too. "Studies show that the cognition levels of drunk people and sleep deprived people are the same," certified pediatric sleep consultant Riki Taubenblat, tells Bustle.

Similar to drunk drivers, Taubenblat says, it can be difficult to tell when you're too impaired (read: sleepy) to drive. "Lower energy levels and cognitive alertness become the norm until the person doesn't realize the low level they are using as a baseline," she says. "Driving on less than five hours of sleep increases your risk for an accident threefold."

Be sure to get enough rest so you don't put yourself, or others, at risk.

6. You Might Have Trouble Making Decisions

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A lack of sleep can also impact you mentally and emotionally, including making it more difficult to make decisions, cope with change, and solve problems, stress management expert Ericka Eller, BS, CHC, tells Bustle. And it's even been linked to an increased risk of anxiety and depression, which is yet another reason why getting enough sleep is so crucial for your overall well-being.

7. Missing One Hour Of Sleep Is A Big Deal

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If you usually need seven hours of sleep per night, going down to six will likely have a profound impact on how you feel.

In fact, one study found that after two weeks of sleeping for only six hours a night, subjects were just as sleep deprived as if they'd spent two whole days without sleep, certified sleep expert Julie Lambert, tells Bustle.

"This proves that regularly staying up late to get more done may not be as effective as you think," she says. "Your ability to concentrate, memorize information, and think logically may be severely impaired."

So, no matter how tempting it may be to go to bed late or pull all nighters, try to get quality sleep every day for the sake of your health. And if you've been struggling with things like insomnia, let a doctor know so they can help you out.

While not everyone talks about the impact of sleep deprivation, sleep debt can add up fast and leave you more susceptible to colds, diseases, mental health concerns, and even car accidents. And that's obviously not worth it.