Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation – how bad it is for your health

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You are deprived of sleep if you are either not sleeping well or not sleeping enough. It may surprise you but sleep deprivation has significant side effects on your health, safety, pocketbook and performance. According to research if you do not sleep enough for a week, you experience more than 700 genetic changes that play their role in the side effects such as obesity and heart problems. According to National Sleep Foundation, an average adult requires around 7-9 hours of solid sleep each night. Unfortunately, most of us don’t take this seriously and experience the genetic changes.

Side effects of sleep deprivation

Let us have a look at some of the most common side effects of sleep deprivation in humans:

– Serious health issues: Sleep deprivation can lead to many health problems like diabetes, heart attack, heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, and childhood growth retardation.  According to some surveys 90% of the people having chronic sleep loss have some another health condition.

– Sleep deprivation may cause accidents: Some of the major accidents in history have been due to sleepiness of the humans involved in the operations. Just to name a few if you can recall the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, another one in 1979 at Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill etc. Every day on road also drowsiness is a serious threat to public safety. Sleep loss slows down the reaction time equally as when you are drunk. There have been a large number of accidents on highways due to drowsiness. Mostly people under the age of 25 are the victims in such cases.  Accidents can also take place at workplace due to sleep deprivation. Studies indicate many injuries due to miss happenings occurring because of poor quality sleep and sleep loss.

side effects of sleep deprivation

– Sleep loss makes you dumb and reduces alertness and performance: Significant reduction in concentration, problem solving abilities, alertness, and reasoning is experienced due to lack of sleep in humans. Sleep enhances your learning and thinking skills when you sleep well so it plays a critical role in learning efficiently. When you sleep, your mind consolidates the leanings and memories. But if you do not sleep enough then mind is not able to recollect all your experiences and learning of the day. According to studies, if night sleep is reduced by one and half hour then it reduces the day time alertness by around 32%. Surprising but true!

– Lack of sleep strains your relationship: Depleted energy due to lack of sleep increases tension and consequently men or women show less interest in sex and report lower libidos. According to a study men suffering with chronic sleep loss show lower levels of testosterone. Disruption is the sleep of your bed partner may also be caused due to your sleep disorders and it can have significant effect on your relationship. Respiratory problem may also interrupt sleep.

– Depression: Sleepiness is depressing. Symptoms of depression can be seen in people suffering with sleep disorders. Studies have revealed that most of the people diagnosed for depression have been suffering from sleep disorders or sleeping less than six hours per night. Insomnia is characterized as one of the main symptoms of depression. People suffering with sleep problems are five times more prone to depression than those having proper sleep. Insomnia and depression are directly related to each other. If one of them increases the other also increases and vice versa.

– Skin Aging: People usually experience puffy eyes and sallow skin when they do not get enough of sleep. But chronic sleep loss can lead to dark circles under the eyes, lackluster skin and fine lines. Stress hormone (cortisol) is released by the body when you do not get enough sleep. This hormone when excreted in excess breaks down the skin collagen which keeps the skin elastic and smooth. The growth hormone secretion by the body is also affected by sleep loss. When you sleep less, this hormone is released in too little quantity thus the growth of the body is affected when you are young. Also when you become an adult, it helps thicken skin, increase muscle mass, and strengthen bones. According to experts growth hormone is released during the time when you are in deep sleep.

– Forgetfulness comes with sleeplessness: If you want to develop a sharp memory then it is advised to get good quantity and quality of sleep every night. French and American researchers claimed in 2009 that the “sharp wave ripples” in the brain occur during the deep sleep time. These brain events are responsible for consolidating the learned information in the brain. The ripples transfer the information learned during the day from hippocampus to the neocortex (long term memory storage) of the brain. Loss of sleep prevents such events of the brain which consequently makes you forgetful.

– Sleep deprivation makes you gain weight: Obesity can be one of the side effects of sleep deprivation. When you sleep less, your appetite and hunger may increase leading to gain in weight. People who sleep between 7 to 9 hours are at 30 percent less risk of obesity that those who sleep for less than six hours per night. Recent research has shown relation between peptides that regulate hunger and sleep. Leptin signals suppress appetite by signaling the brain where as ghrelin stimulates hunger. When you have chronic sleep disorders then there is an increase in ghrelin and decrease in leptin. This leads to stimulation of appetite as well as you develop a tendency towards having high carbohydrate and high fat foods.  Some of the weight loss programs may even recommend you to have an adequate amount of sleep.

– Impairment of judgment: Memory and cognitive impairment takes place due to sleep loss. Your interpretation of events is affected by lack of sleep and it hinders the ability to take right decisions after sound judgment and assessment of the situation. Sleep deprived people are not able to act wisely and are prone to poor judgment. They are not even able to analyze the bad effects of sleep loss on their decisions. In this fast developing word the pace of life has increased. You may think with less sleep you can work more but probably you are mistaken. Your functioning is degraded when you sleep less and in a professional environment where functioning is the parameter of your efficiency then it can be a big trouble for you.

Studies in the past have shown that people who sleep for six hours and not seven to nine hours may feel that they have adjusted to this sleep and wake up cycle and nothing is getting affected by this. But actually when their pattern of results of mental alertness and performance tests is analyzed the graph of efficiency seems to go downhill. So at this point you do not even realize the impact of the impairment on your mental wellbeing.

– Risk of death: British researchers have analyzed the mortality rate pattern of more than 10,000 British civil servants for over twenty years. The results of the research showed that the people who took 5 to six hours of sleep or less than this per night were at double higher risk of cardiovascular diseases than those who had seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Thus the risk of death increases for people suffering with chronic sleep disorders.

– Poor lifestyle: Lack of sleep gives you poor quality of life. You are not able to pay the required attention and participation in activities like watching your favorite TV show, going out for movie, playing games that require sustained attention, watching your child’s play at school and many others.

– Sleep paralysis: During deep sleep the body is in immobilized state except the eye muscles in order to restrain you from acting on dreams. But sleep paralysis can be experienced by people when this mind’s safety precaution back fires. Sleep paralysis is the state when the mind is regaining consciousness but the body is still immobilized. This is a fearful situation where you have no control on your body. This sensation leaves you in a state of fear, panic and powerlessness. This phenomenon is believed to be experienced at least once in the life time of each individual but sleep deprived people may face it more often. For such people it may also be followed by hallucinations.

– Weak immune system: Researches have proved that prolonged sleep deprivation have been associated with weakened immune system. People who sleep less than six hours have reduced immunity towards illness. Even when you are sick and you do not sleep well then it is enough to worsen your illness further. If you have been experiencing weak immunity then along with maintaining a healthy diet you should take an extra hour of sleep to improve on your immunity.

If you have been depriving yourself of sleep till now then it is high time to revert back to the normal 7 to 9 hours of sleep. Experience the better effects of good sleep on your lifestyle.


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