Most people don’t get enough sleep. We are a society that burns the candle at both ends, a nation where people stay up all night to study, work, or have fun. However, going without adequate sleep carries with it both short- and long-term consequences.
Everyone knows that lack of sleep can make a person grumpy and foggy. However, not everyone knows that sleep deprivation can significantly affect your health, safety, and performance.
These Are the Top Seven Dangers of Sleep Deprivation:
1 Affects How You Learn
Sleep plays a vital role in how you learn and think. Lack of sleep impairs your attention span, alertness, reasoning, concentration, and ability to problem solve. This makes it difficult to learn effectively. Also, when you sleep at night, you go through various sleep cycles that play a role in strengthening your memories. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are less likely to remember what you experienced or learned that day.
2 Can Lead to Accidents
Were you aware that sleep deprivation played a role in some of the biggest disasters in the last 40 or so years? The Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl were both linked to sleep deprevation. However, sleep deprivation is its most dangerous to us as a public every day out on the road. Driving drowsy can slow your reaction time as much as drunk or impaired driving would.
New preliminary 2016 data shared from the National Safety Council estimates that as many as 40,000 people died in motor vehicles crashes last year, a 6% rise from 2015. If those numbers bear out, it would be a 14% increase in deaths since 2014, the biggest two-year jump in more than five decades. Sleep deprivation or poor-quality sleep is also known to lead to accidents and/or injuries in the workplace.
3 Can Have Serious Effects on Your Health
It is estimated that around 90 percent of people who suffer from insomnia, a sleep disorder characterized by difficulties falling and staying asleep, also suffer from other medical conditions.
Chronic sleep deprivation could potentially lead to:
• Heart disease
• Heart attack
• Heart failure
• Irregular heartbeat
• High blood pressure
Sleep deprivation is linked to a variety of serious health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It stresses you out because your body overproduces the stress hormone cortisol when it’s sleep deprived. While excess cortisol has a host of negative health effects that come from the havoc it wreaks on your immune system, it also makes you look older, because cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. In men specifically, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and lowers sperm count.
4 Linked to Depression
For some, depression causes sleep deprivation, and for others sleep deprivation can cause depression. Of all sleep disorders, insomnia has the strongest link to depression. In a sense, insomnia and depression feed off of each other. Interestingly, there have been studies that show sleep restriction might have potential when it comes to treating depression. It’s also been shown that, in normal people, chronotype (your own personal biological clock that controls your body's rhythms) is related to the effect that sleep deprivation has on mood: following sleep deprivation, people who prefer mornings become more depressed, while those who prefer evenings show a marked improvement in their mood.
5 Can Make You Forgetful
Getting plenty of sleep helps keep your memory sharp. Skipping sleep impairs your brain function across the board. It slows your ability to process information and problem solve, kills your creativity, and catapults your stress levels and emotional reactivity. American and French researchers determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep. We’ve always known that sleep is good for your brain. When you sleep your brain removes toxic proteins from its neurons that are by-products of neural activity when you’re awake. Unfortunately, your brain can remove them adequately only while you’re asleep. So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells, wreaking havoc by impairing your ability to think—something no amount of caffeine can fix.
6 Can Cause Weight Gain
It has been proven that a lack of sleep is related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and possibly even obesity. People who sleep less than 6 hours a night are 30% more likely to become obese than those who sleep 7 to 9 hours a night. Sleep loss is also linked to cravings for foods that are high-fat and high-carbohydrate. Studies are being done to help determine whether or not adequate sleep should be a part of weight loss programs.
Hormones that regulate appetite and glucose metabolism could be disrupted because of sleep deprivation. It appears that the association between obesity and sleep deprivation is strongest in young and middle-age adults. On the other hand, there are scientists who believe that related problems, such as sleep apnea, together with the physical discomfort of obesity, reduce a person’s likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep.
7 Could Increase the Risk of Death
Inflammation has been a buzzword lately in the world of health—and for good reason. Too much of it has been linked to heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and arthritis. And too little sleep, even for just one night, can lead to more inflammation. A new study from the American Heart Association finds sleeping less than six hours a night could more than double the risk of death for people with metabolic syndrome, which impacts more than a third of the U.S. adult population. Metabolic syndrome includes risk factors for heart disease, diabetes and stroke. Lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.
Being sleepless in America, or anywhere else, feels bad. There is good news! If you suffer from insufficient sleep, some life style changes may be all that are needed to restore healthy functioning. If you suffer from insomnia you can rest assured that your life is not on the line and that treatment is available. Don't ignore these sleep deprivation dangers any longer. For optimal functioning, health and quality of life, nothing beats a good night's sleep!