One of the worst effects of sleep deprivation on mental health is that it increases your chances of experiencing bad moods tremendously.
All of us have been sleep-deprived at some point in our lives and I’m sure we can all relate to that ‘heaviness in the head’ feeling, dizziness, irritability, and lack of good judgment caused by sleep deprivation.
Sleep rejuvenates and replenishes not only your body but also your mind, particularly the conscious mind.
During the day your conscious mind, the information processor, the data interpreter, is busy receiving and processing information from the environment. It shuts down its activities as soon as you sleep at night, rests and begins afresh the next morning.
Effects of sleep deprivation
Lack of sleep deprives your conscious mind of this precious rest period which is, on an average, 6-8 hours for us humans. By not sleeping or sleeping little, your conscious mind remains tired and this hampers its tasks the next day.
Neurologically speaking, if you don’t get proper sleep your nervous system gets tired and the conscious thinking power of your brain is hampered.
The sleep-deprived state is very similar to the mental state you experience when you’re about to sleep at night. If you’re not a night owl, then most probably you know how it feels like when you’re mentally exhausted at night. You feel heavy, dizzy and would give anything to just drop asleep.
Throughout the day, your conscious mind was busy processing information and at night it demands a well-deserved rest.
So we can say that your conscious thinking ability gets sort of decreased at night. Conscious thinking is required for making rational decisions, resisting temptations, controlling emotions and anticipating consequences of your actions.
This is why, if you read a challenging book at night, you might catch yourself whispering to yourself, “I don’t understand a word he’s saying. I’ll read it tomorrow.” This is also why you’re more likely to engage in addictive behaviours at night.
Saying no to temptations requires considerable conscious thinking power.
Now, this mental state of reduced conscious thinking ability that we experience at night is carried on to the next day in an aggravated manner if you don’t get enough sleep or don’t sleep at all. So throughout the following day, you become vulnerable to temptations, bouts of uncontrolled anger, irritability and lack of good judgment.
This is the perfect recipe for experiencing bad moods and negative emotions. In short, sleep deprivation has the potential to completely ruin your day.
It is important to point out here that all people are not equally affected by sleep deprivation. Night owls, for example, may be more productive at night.
Genetics plays a role too. Some people can sleep for only 3-4 hours and suffer no consequences. Unless you’re among these rare individuals, sleep deprivation is a thing to avoid.
Recovering from sleep deprivation
If for some reason you had to stay up late and couldn’t prevent sleep deprivation, a good recovery sleep on the following night will be sufficient to get over the effects of sleep deprivation. But what if you want to get over your dizzy feelings as soon as you can and don’t want to wait for the next day?
Let’s say its noon and you’ve been feeling dizzy all morning due to sleep deprivation. You’ve been dawdling all morning and strongly desire that it shouldn’t continue that way for the entire day. There’s something that can help you recover from the effects of sleep deprivation very quickly- a short and sweet nap!
Yes, even a half-an-hour nap can be surprisingly effective in completely eliminating the effects of sleep deprivation and make you fresh in the mind all over again. When you’re sleep-deprived your mind is beseeching you to give it some rest. It’s like a thirsty person crossing a desert and dying to have some water.
Even a sip of water at an oasis can infuse the person with a new life and probably make him conscious enough to wonder why he undertook such an arduous journey without water in the first place.
For your mind too, tomorrow is pretty much like crossing a new desert. With enough sleep tonight, you ensure that you don’t run out of water tomorrow.
Hi, I’m Hanan Parvez (MBA, MA Psychology), founder and author of PsychMechanics. I’ve written 280+ articles and published one book about human behavior on this blog that has garnered over 3 million views. PsychMechanics has been featured in Forbes, Business Insider, Reader’s Digest, and Entrepreneur.