Sleep deprivation is an American epidemic with more than one-third of all adult Americans getting less sleep than the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night. As Dr. Yelena Pyatkevich who is the director of the neurology clerkship and associate director of sleep disorders at Boston Medical Center said, "The average adult is getting one and a half hours less of sleep per night than the average adult did 100 years ago." Here are 8 horrible things that happen when you don't get enough sleep.
According to recent research, if you're getting less than six hours of sleep each night, you have nearly a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke in your lifetime. As Matthew Walker, who is a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkley, and the author of Why We Sleep stated, "There is a global experiment that is performed on 1.6 billion people twice a year called daylight savings time. As we know in the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks the following day." Not getting enough sleep can have a drastic negative impact on your heart health.
After just one night of insufficient sleep (4-6 hours), there is a near 70% reduction in critical anticancer-fighting immune cells, also known as natural killer cells. The link between lack of sleep and cancer is so strong, in fact, that the World Health Organization classified any form of nighttime work as a possible carcinogen. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue.
What does the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl all have in common? Sleep deprivation was a major factor in all three of these disasters. Studies show that sleep deprivation can slow reaction time just as much as being drunk. It should come as no surprise then that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that sleep-deprived individuals cause over 100,000 auto accidents and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S.
Lack of sleep has been shown to significantly diminish your sex drive. A recent 2019 study followed 4,000 men and women in their early to mid-60s for a year and found that poor sleep was directly associated with erectile dysfunction for men and arousal problems and orgasm difficulty for women. This study may have been conducted on older individuals, but no matter your age, not getting a sufficient amount of sleep impacts testosterone levels, leading to erectile dysfunction and also a lack of sexual desire and arousal in both men and women.
Sleep deprivation interferes with brain function at a cellular level. Recent studies measuring sleepiness have found that sleep deprivation leads to lower levels of alertness and concentration and also impairs judgment. Furthermore, lack of sleep impairs our ability to consolidate information. As Avelino Verceles, MD, assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and director of the school's sleep medicine fellowship stated, "Sleep embeds the things that we have learned and experienced over the course of the day into our short-term memory."
Sleep deprivation and depression essentially go hand in hand and more often than not, feed off and exacerbate one another. For example, a 2005 sleep in America poll, revealed that those who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours a night. Furthermore, in a 2007 study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were FIVE times more likely to develop depression compared to those who slept/sleep more than seven hours a night.
As reported by Harvard Health, "Americans are notoriously sleep-deprived, but those with psychiatric conditions are even more likely to be yawning or groggy during the day. Sleep problems are particularly common in patients with anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)."
Not getting enough sleep can have a significant impact on your hormones and bodily functions. For example, cortisol, a steroid hormone that regulates a wide range of processes throughout the body, also known as the stress hormone, lowers during the first few hours of sleep. If cortisol levels remain elevated for too long it can lead to a condition called Cushing's syndrome. Symptoms of Cushing's syndrome include:
Furthermore, experts estimate that nearly 75 percent of human growth hormone (HGH) is released during sleep. More specifically, during the first period of stage 3 sleep, about an hour after you begin to drift off. Human growth hormone is a complex hormone produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and responsible for helping you maintain a healthy metabolism, enhances your physical performance, repairs muscle, thickens skin, and may even help you live longer.
In the "Whitehall II Study," British researchers looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. The results which were published in 2007, showed that those slept only 5 hours a night rather than the recommended 7 to 8 hours a night nearly doubled their risk of early death from all causes. In particular, lack of sleep doubled their risk of dying from cardiovascular disease including heart attack and stroke.
Q: Can you get sick from lack of sleep?
A: Yes, absolutely. When you don't get enough sleep your immune system function and protection are significantly diminished.
Q: What happens if you don't sleep for 3 days?
A: If you don't sleep for 3 days you will begin to hallucinate, your body will begin to shut down, your eyes with get red, your face will look flushed, and your immune system will become so weak that you could actually die from the common cold.
Q: What happens to your body when you lack sleep?
A: Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep can impact your immune system, cognitive function, sex drive, skin health, hormone production, negatively impact heart and brain health, increase your risk of diabetes, weight gain, and the list goes on and on.
Q: Are 5 hours of sleep OK?
A: The short answer is no. 5 hours of sleep is not okay, regardless of how you feel.
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