The Effects of Not Having Enough Sleep

10 Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The effects on the human body from lack of quality sleep are numerous. Many scientific studies have set out to understand why sleep is so important for human physical and mental health. While we cannot discuss all of those studies or theories here, we have listed 10 things we know so far about the effects of sleep disorders and not getting enough quality sleep on a regular basis:

1. Increased risk of illness and disease. Sleep deprivation has been found to disrupt normal immune system functioning. Serious health problems associated with lack of sleep include cancer, heart disease, type-2 diabetes, infections and obesity. Scientists also found that prolonged periods without sleep led to impaired neurological cell function and death of brain cells.  

2. Those who suffer from insomnia are more like to suffer depression and anxiety. Lack of sleep also impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.

3. Sleep loss can impair aerobic pathways. There are links between poor sleep and athletic performance, from professional athletes who have had their careers shortened to athletes who suffer from coordination, strength, speed and recovery issues.

4. When we are deprived of sleep we undergo a shift in hormones that affects our eating habits and weight. Sleeping less than 6 hours over an extended period of time makes weight gain more likely. A lack of sleep also significantly reduces the body’s ability to burn calories during waking hours.

5. Diabetes and sleep problems often go hand in hand. Doctors recommend type-2 diabetes sufferers be evaluated for obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA). A lot of research on this subject suggests that people who suffer from OSA are significantly at risk for diabetes and hypertension and vice versa. 

6. There are numerous studies on the health consequences of sleep-disordered breathing on cardiovascular health. Mayo Clinic researchers recently set out to find how reduced sleep quantity and quality could affect a person's blood pressure. After monitoring participants for 16 days, they found that when their subjects experienced prolonged periods of shorter sleep, they also registered substantially higher blood pressure numbers at night.

7. Sleep affects our mood, emotions and ability to deal with stressful situations. A lack of quality sleep can negatively affect relationships with partners, family and those around us. Sleep deprived men and women are also reported to have lower libidos and less interest in sex. One study has shown that even our genes are negatively affected by sleep deprivation.

8. We do not function properly without consistent quality sleep. Many home and workplace accidents are related to impaired function caused by sleep deprivation. Shift workers in particular are more prone to sleep related health and safety issues. A post-accident investigation into the Chernobyl disaster suggests sleep deprivation may have played a part (the accident occurred at 1:30am).

9. There is an old saying about getting enough 'beauty sleep'. The fact is chronic sleep loss can lead to lack-luster skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. In addition, when you don’t get enough sleep your body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Sleep also helps with normal tissue repair.

10. The consequences of poor sleep in children are serious. We have all seen the effects on behaviour of a sleep deprived child, but the consequences of long-term sleep deprivation on a child are huge. From intellectual problems to social and emotional issues, as well as health risks such as obesity and poor physical development.

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