Here’s a wake-up call — sleep loss is like starting the day drunk. A new study shows that sleeplessness and driving is a combination as serious as driving under the influence of alcohol. Not only that, but insufficient sleep puts us in a bad mood, slows our thinking, and can also contribute to serious long-term health issues such as diabetes and cardiovascular failure.
“We can characterize sleep based on duration (quantity) and quality,” says Dr. Dan Herrick, a board-certified sleep medicine physician who has spent years studying sleep disorders. “Most people recognize when they are not getting a sufficient amount of sleep, and they experience symptoms of impaired thinking, poor mood, and sleepiness. If they sleep for longer periods these symptoms go away, without the need for clinical intervention. Most patients come to see a sleep doctor when they have these symptoms and feel unrefreshed despite sleeping for an adequate amount of time.”
The average adult 26-64 years old needs roughly seven to nine hours of sleep per night to fully rejuvenate. The Sleep Foundation conducted a recent study whereby 18 leading scientists worked together to update the “official recommendations” of the organization. Max Hirshkowitz, the Chair of the National Sleep Foundation Scientific Advisory Council, commented on the study stating, “The NSF has committed to regularly reviewing and providing scientifically rigorous recommendations. The public can be confident that these recommendations represent the best guidance for sleep duration and health.”
Effects Of Sleep Loss
Sleep deprivation comes in all forms and can affect each person a little bit differently based on age, overall health, weight, and lifestyle. However, there are some basic common denominators that affect us all. Here are some of the top 10 extra things to hate about sleep loss:
- Increased Risk of Death – A recent study done by Harvard University reported that a person who consistently gets less than five hours of sleep per night increases the potential of long-term health issues and chronic disease attributing to a 15 percent increase in all related deaths.
- Reduced Immune System – In addition to increasing long term risk, your body is unable to keep up with the high demand of fighting off common colds and other ailments due to lack of sleep. Mayo Clinic reported that in addition to not being able to properly fend off invaders, your body could also take much longer to heal after becoming sick, increasing further complications.
- Respiratory Problems – In conjunction to your body not properly fighting off common colds due to a reduced immune system, individuals have the potential to develop respiratory problems including lung disease.
- Digestive Impacts and Obesity – Harvard Medical School also found in their study that consistent sleep deprivation directly affected one’s ability to properly digest food, stating, “Several studies have linked insufficient sleep and weight gain.”
- Memory Impairment – Functioning on a limited amount of sleep has also proven to be counterproductive in one’s day to day activities, limiting your overall cognitive abilities and impacting your memory. Dr. Herrick also confirmed that many of his patients suffer from memory impairment due to their poor sleep habits, citing, “Symptoms of sleep deprivation include difficulty paying attention, memory lapses, sleepiness and dozing, depressed mood, irritability, and anxiety. Adults who regularly get 7-8 hours of sleep but wake up unrefreshed and have one or more of these daytime symptoms should talk to their doctor about a possible problem with their sleep quality.”
- Stress Factor – For anyone who knows how hard it is to sleep next to a snoring partner, young child, or other environmental conditions that interrupt your sleep pattern, it’s no secret that a lack of sleep directly increases your body’s level of stress.
- Depression – Similar to the stress factor, not getting enough sleep each night can lead to a variety of psychological conditions including depression. Karger Medical and Scientific Publishers cited that “Manifestations of sleep disturbances can potentially serve as external criteria for the diagnosis of specific subtypes of major depressive disorder (MDD).”
- Fetal and Child Growth Retardation – Adults are not the only ones impacted by a lack of sleep, and with children relying on parents to set the right example, many are suffering from both fetal and early childhood growth problems due to their lack of sleep. The US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health covered the long-term impact of intrauterine growth retardation in children based on their parents sleep patterns.
- High Blood Pressure – Similar to how the body reduces stress, proper sleep also allows your body to relax. By not getting the proper amount of sleep each night, individuals are at a higher risk of either developing high blood pressure, or worsening their current condition. Dr. Sheldon G. Sheps offered his opinion on the topic stating, “It’s thought that sleep helps your blood regulate stress hormones and helps your nervous system remain healthy. Over time, lack of sleep could hurt your body’s ability to regulate stress hormones, leading to high blood pressure.”
- Heart Failure – Proper sleep is essential for allowing your body to relax, recuperate, and heal. Studies have found that breaking up your sleeping cycle, specifically due to sleep apnea, can greatly increase your risk of heart failure.
Make Sleep A Priority
For those suffering from sleep deprivation, there are some common best practices to make sure you are getting enough sleep during the night. Dr. Herrick suggests, “Make sleep a priority. We all have many competing demands for our time. Sufficient, good quality sleep is just as important as a nutritious diet, regular physical activity, and adequate leisure time as part of a healthy lifestyle.”
While finding the right balance of life and rest can be a challenge for anyone, understanding the long-term impact and potential health risks of burning your candle at both ends is key to living a long and healthy life. Whether you are suffering from a medical condition such as sleep apnea, insomnia, or simply have a hard time resting throughout the night, speak to your doctor about how to get the rest your body needs and kick those 10 extra things to hate about sleep loss.
Tommy Smith was born and raised in a small town in North Texas. Tommy decided to move around the United States to get a taste of culture, history, and adventure. He sold everything that wouldn’t fit into his pickup and traveled up the East Coast stopping often to take in new experiences.
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