Sleep deprivation remains a badge of toughness and dedication in our society, despite all of the evidence that sleep is one of the keys to staying healthy. For people trying to improve their overall wellness, getting enough sleep — and getting good quality sleep — is key. Nurses who work long and often varied shifts must be aware of the effects of sleep deprivation and find a way to get back to getting consistently good sleep.

Mental and Emotional Effects

Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of developing mental illnesses like depression. The Harvard Mental Health Letter notes that while people with psychiatric disorders often suffer from sleep deprivation as a symptom, the reverse may be true as well, with sleep deprivation contributing to the incidence of mental illness.

In addition to that risk, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, memory problems and brain fog, and an increased risk of accidents due to poor concentration and drowsiness. For nurses who need to be on the ball at work, all that plus the decreased ability to focus may prove dangerous to those patients in the nurses’ care.

Physical Effects

Sleep deprivation has a host of physical effects as well, and none of them are good. The lack of sleep throws your body’s systems off track, and your hormones and blood sugar could suddenly seem out of control. A lack of sleep can also make you overeat, partly to keep yourself awake and partly because your stress hormones are now acting up, so you end up with weight gain on top of everything else.

A new development, though, makes getting enough sleep crucial for your well-being. In 2013, researchers found that when you sleep, your brain engages a system called the glymphatic system. This system clears away buildup of beta-amyloid, a protein that plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers found that getting enough sleep was vital for controlling the glymphatic system. In other words, if you don’t get your sleep, your brain becomes a literal biological garbage dump.

As a busy nurse, it can be difficult to find a good schedule to stick to for work, sleep, and the rest of your life. Ensuring you get regular, adequate amounts of sleep is not only better for you, but better for those around you. If you would like assistance in creating a plan to get your life back under control and be well, Teri Walker Fitness can help you.



ARNP, Holistic Health Coach. Surround yourself with people who believe in your dreams.

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