It is a common affair to ignore bedtime. A late night here and there is not a real matter of concern, but when you start skimping on sleep night after night, it becomes a real problem.
Sleep is essential and lack of it can lead to sleep deprivation, which can affect both your physical and mental health. Over time, it can lead to chronic health problems and negatively impact your quality of life.
You need sleep as much as you need to breathe and eat. The amount of sleep that a person needs varies from one person to another.
According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults should get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to feel alert and well rested.
However, this duration is contingent on genetic and physiological factors. Age, sex and sleeping patterns are also important factors that need to be considered.
If you regularly run short on sleep because of a busy family life, work load or other factors, it’s important to adjust your schedule to allow for adequate sleep and prevent the negative effects of sleep deprivation.
Here are 10 dangerous side effects of not getting enough sleep.
1. Affects Your Memory and Brain
When you have a sleepless night, there is a high chance that you’ll have difficulty with concentration and focus the next day. Proper sleep is essential for cognitive health and it plays an important role in thinking and learning.
Lack of sleep can impair attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. This in turn affects your learning capacity. It can also negatively impact both your short- and long-term memory.
A 2007 study published in Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment highlights that sleep deprivation has a direct impact on cognitive performance. It leads to poor attention and weak working memory, along with a range of other cognitive problems.
For your brain to function properly, be sure to get enough shut-eye.
2. Harms Your Heart
Proper rest and sleep are essential for your heart health. Sleep deprivation puts you at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits.
Sleep plays a vital role in your body’s ability to heal and repair your blood vessels and heart.
A 2000 study published in Hypertension analyzed the effects of sleep deprivation on neural circulatory control. The study found that sleep deprivation results in increased resting blood pressure and decreased muscle sympathetic nerve activity.
Moreover, a 2009 study published in Progressive Cardiovascular Disease suggests that short-term sleep deprivation alters blood pressure, inflammation, autonomic tone and hormones in a direction that is recognized to contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease, most importantly, atherosclerosis.
According to a 2011 study published in the European Heart Journal, people who sleep less than 6 hours have a greater risk of coronary heart disease and stroke as compared to those sleeping 7 to 8 hours per night.
At the same time, too much sleep also results in poor heart health.
Looking at how sleep deprivation affects your heart, it’s very obvious that sleeping less than 6 hours a night is definitely not good.
3. Weakens Your Immunity
Sleep deprivation can also affect your immune system, which is designed to protect you from infections like the common cold, the flu and other ailments.
When the immune system is not functioning properly, your body becomes susceptible to attacks by virus and bacteria and you have to deal with more sick days.
When you sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines and other infection-fighting antibodies that protect your body against an infection or inflammation.
Sleep deprivation leads to reduced production of cytokines, which in turn reduces your body’s ability to respond to colds or bacterial infections.
A 2012 study published in Sleep reports that granulocyte levels and diurnal rhythmicity are directly affected by acute sleep deprivation. These changes mirror the body’s immediate immune response upon exposure to stress.
As lack of sleep may make you more prone to catching colds and the flu, it’s important to take steps to help you enjoy proper sleep.
4. Causes Depression
Sleep deprivation is frequently linked to depression. It leads to significant alterations in brain neurotransmitter functioning, which is one of the reasons behind depression. At times, depression can also impact a person’s ability to fall asleep.
People diagnosed with depression are more likely to sleep less than 6 hours at night. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression.
In a 2009 study published in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Clinical Practice, 97 percent of 531 patients with depression reported experiencing insomnia, one of the most common sleep-related problems.
A 2008 study published in Dialogues in Clinical Neuroscience reports that subjective and objective sleep disturbance in depression is prevalent, distressing and often unresolved by treatment.
If you are suffering from depression and having trouble sleeping well, be sure to talk with your doctor about it. It may actually be contributing to your condition.
5. Makes You Gain Weight
A regular sleep routine helps you maintain a regular appetite and hunger schedule. When you sleep less than what your body needs, there is an increase in the production of the hormone ghrelin. This hormone stimulates hunger and reduces the production of leptin, which suppresses appetite.
Thus, sleep deprivation can affect appetitie control and energy metabolism, in turn contributing to significant weight gain.
A 2004 study published in PLoS Medicine shows that short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin and increased body mass index.
If you do not control your appetite and enjoy much-needed sleep, it can lead to obesity over time. Obesity in itself increases the risk of several diseases.
6. Raises the Risk of Diabetes
Long-term sleep deprivation, and even getting too much sleep, raises your risk of developing chronic diseases, including diabetes.
A sleep duration of 6 hours or less, or 9 hours or more, is associated with increased prevalence of diabetes mellitus and impaired glucose intolerance, according to a 2005 study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
A 1999 study published in Lancet highlights the negative impact of sleep deprivation on metabolic and endocrine functions. Diabetes is a metabolic disorder.
Your body’s reaction to sleep deprivation is similiar to insulin resistance (when cells fail to use the blood glucose regulating hormone insulin efficiently), a precursor to diabetes.
Plus, insufficient sleep is linked to weight gain, which is a potential risk factor for diabetes.