Sleep Deprivation & Health

Sleep Deprivation & Health
Lack of sleep can make you grumpy and foggy. It can create havoc to your sex life, health, memory, looks, and even the ability to lose weight. Missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of everyday sleep, has serious long-term effects on your health.
In a nutshell, sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body. This may also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder. Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention.

Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life.

A review in 2010 found that sleeping too little at night increases the risk of early death.

sleep deprivation

Key signs of sleep deprivation:

  • excessive sleepiness
  • yawning
  • irritability
  • daytime fatigue

Stimulants, like caffeine, aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. This, in turn, may lead to a cycle of night time insomnia followed by daytime caffeine consumption to make up for the lost hours of shut-eye.

Behind the scenes, chronic sleep deprivation can interfere with your body’s internal systems and cause more than just the initial signs and symptoms.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation: 

Sleep deprivation occurs when someone does not get a healthy amount of sleep.

The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) 2015 recommendations for appropriate sleep durations for specific age groups are:

  • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day
  • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
  • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
  • School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
  • Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
  • Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours

Some groups of people may consider sleep as wasted time and purposely deprive themselves of sleep to pursue other things such as entertainment, educational goals, or money-making pursuits.

This intentional sleep deprivation is most likely to be seen in teenagers and young adults.

Others may unintentionally not get enough sleep because of shift work, family obligations, or demanding jobs.

Consistent sleep-wake patterns of going to bed late, frequent nighttime arousals, or waking up early can lead to sleep deprivation and the accumulation of sleep debt.

Additional causes of sleep deprivation include medical problems such as depression, obstructive sleep apnea, hormone imbalances, and other chronic illnesses.

Health problems: Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put you at risk for:

  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Diabetes

According to some estimates, 90% of people with insomnia — a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep — also have another health condition.

Low Sex Drive: Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame.

For men with sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, there may be another factor in the sexual slump. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism in 2002 suggests that many men with sleep apnea also have low testosterone levels. In the study, nearly half of the men who suffered from severe sleep apnea also secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone during the night.

Prone to Accidents:  Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and others.

But sleep loss is also a big public safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. 

Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep also lead to accidents and injuries on the job. 

Causes Depression: Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. In a 2005 in an American poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.

In a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. 

Skin Aging and Wrinkles: Chronic sleep loss can lead to lacklustre skin, fine lines, under eye bags and dark circles under the eyes.

A clinical trial commissioned by Estée Lauder and conducted by physician-scientists at University Hospitals (UH) Case Medical Center found that poor sleepers demonstrated increased signs of skin aging. They also gave a worse assessment of their own skin and facial appearance than people who sleep well. The research showed poor sleep quality can accelerate signs of skin aging and weaken the skin’s ability to repair itself at night.

Weight Gain: Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly to obesity. According to a 2004 study, people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours.

Recent research has focused on the link between sleep and the peptides that regulate appetite. “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite,” says Siebern. “Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.”

Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are considering whether adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.

Risk of Death: In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. The results, published in 2007, showed that those who had cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes. In particular, lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease

Online References: 

  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/
  • https://www.webmd.com/
  • https://www.healthline.com/
  • https://www.huffpost.com/
  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/

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