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.
7. Damages Skin
Just one night of poor sleep can cause puffy eyes, dark circles under the eyes and sallow skin. So, just imagine how much damage your skin has to bear due to severe sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation has a direct impact on the skin’s elasticity. An improper sleep pattern leads to excessive stress, which causes the body to produce more of the hormone cortisol. This hormone breaks down the protein in the skin that keeps it elastic and smooth.
Less skin elasticity can make your dark under eye circles, wrinkles and fine lines appear more noticeable. In addition, sleep deprivation reduces the skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure.
A 2015 study published in Clinical and Experimental Dermatology reports that chronic poor sleep quality is associated with increased signs of intrinsic aging, diminished skin barrier function and lower satisfaction with appearance.
If you want to look young and healthy, do not comprise on your beauty sleep.
8. Leads to Early Death
Like breathing, sleep is a fundamental human need. It is not possible to survive for long without sleep as several nights of sleep deprivation can lead to more than 700 genetic changes that could significantly affect your health.
In fact, those who do not get adequate rest and sleep on a regular basis have higher mortality rates than those who regularly get enough sleep.
A 1989 study published in Sleep found that depriving rats entirely of sleep resulted in their death, or near-dying state, within 11 to 32 days.
A 2007 study, also published in Sleep, shows that both sleeping too much and sleeping too little can contribute to an increase in mortality, due to effects on cardiovascular health and other issues.
If you wish to live long, do not compromise on your sleeping time.
9. Leads to Fatigue-Related Accidents
Serious accidents are very often linked to a poor sleep schedule and fatigue. Drowsy driving, the dangerous combination of sleepiness and driving or driving while fatigued, can lead to accidents on the roads.
Sleep deprivation impairs coordination, causes longer reaction times, impairs judgment, and impairs memory and the ability to retain information. All these factors affect driving ability, increasing the risk of accidents.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) reports that one in every five serious motor vehicle injuries is related to driver fatigue due to sleep deprivation.
A 2000 study published in Occupational and Environmental Medicine reports that moderate sleep deprivation produces impairments in cognitive and motor performance equivalent to legally prescribed levels of alcohol intoxication.
This leads to compromised performance in speed and accuracy that is needed for safety on the road and in other industrial settings.
The AASM recommends pulling off the road and taking a short 15- to 20-minute power nap to alleviate drowsiness. This will reduce the risk of accidents to some extent.
10. Kills Your Sex Drive
Sleep deprivation even leads to loss of interest in sex. Lack of sleep has a direct impact on a person’s energy level and even leads to more tension, which indirectly affects the sex life of both men and women.
Moreover, men suffering from sleep apnea, a sleeping disorder that interrupts sleep, tend to have lower testosterone levels, which can lower libido.
A 2002 study conducted at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology found that men who suffered from severe sleep apnea secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone during the night.