It is clear that the general length of sleep is shorter than ever before. Every now and then we hear phrases like: the day is too short, 7 hours of sleep is a luxury, or you`ll sleep when you`re dead. Not everyone, however, realizes that the insufficient duration of sleep regeneration can have very serious consequences – from psychological to a whole range of health effects. Here are the 10 most serious outcomes of sleep deprivation.
1. Cancer and genetic disorders
The lack of rest during the night disturbs a normal genetic activity. Already a week with sleep shorter than 6 hours results in malfunctioning of as much has 700 of our genes – including the ones responsible for our immune system and regulating stress levels. Research shows that such people are particularly vulnerable to colon and breast cancer.
2. Gastrointestinal problems
However, before sleep deprivation leads to colon cancer, it usually causes inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) mostly of small or large intestine. It is the case with 15% of the US population and contributes to an increased severity of subsequent diseases, as e.g. Crohn’s disease. Patients with this disorder are twice as likely to be relapsing to the treated disease if they fail to sleep long and deep enough.
Sleep disorders have a huge impact on our metabolism. Without enough sleep we tend to eat more and unhealthily. We reach out for high-calories products such as greasy snacks and sweets to obtain energy as soon as possible. The risk of diabetes increases sharply when our body has to deal with such a chaos. The first thing to happen is usually insulin resistance (pre-diabetes) and, later on, type 2 diabetes.
4. Heart diseases
According to a study of 2012 conducted by professor B. Faraut`s team, people sleeping 4 hours or less a day have a significantly increased heart rate in comparison to those who sleep 7 to 8 hours. Additionally, more frequent coronary heart disease is also observed and the complaints on coronary pain are recorded twice as often as in in the case of people without sleep disorders. In the long term, chronic insomnia has an impact on a two-fold increase in the risk of death for this reason.
5. Reduced immunity and frequent infections
Our natural defense mechanisms are already facing various harmful micro-organisms even without having to cope with chronic sleep disorders. Just one sleepless night is enough to get ill! It has been proven that people who sleep shortly, catch cold up to three times more often compared to the people with an 8-hour rest cycle. An effective sleep works as the best prevention against infections and diseases associated with immunity.
6. Uncontrolled weight gain
The lack of sleep affects our metabolism and leads to diabetes. Hormonal balance disorders cause obesity because they increase our appetite. Insufficient length of sleep disturbs the secretion of ghrelin and leptin, boosts appetite and disrupts sense of satiety. As a result, we eat more and have less activity. The problem begins at less than 6 hours of sleep a day.
7. Low libido
Professors from the University of Chicago have found that the level of testosterone drops significantly among men who sleep less than 5 hours a day. After a week of an insufficient length of sleep the hormone`s level drops by even 15%! The surveyed men also complained about discomfort and a decreased mood. No wonder that they had a small or even no desire for sex.
8. Irritation and distraction
Just after one day of sleeplessness we become irritated, unkind and dull. After 3 days we are already experiencing more frequent mood swings – from irritability and gloominess we fall into excitement and sudden overzealousness. We also become less empathetic, not only with no desire to help others but also far from understanding them. What is more we have serious problems with concentration and focus. After a few days of sleep deprivation, we make more risky decisions.
The boundary between sleep and being awake is very blurred. Surfaces start to wave. Fantastic characters emerge and disappear. There may occur also audio illusions: we think that we hear the sound of our cellphone or knocking on the door. Many people also experience the “hat symptom”, i.e. a pressure around the head similar to the feeling of wearing a hat. This is a very dangerous condition, especially when we feel strong tiredness during for example driving of a car for many hours.
10. Trouble with memory
264 hours and 12 minutes (11 days) – this is a record number of sleepless nights. Randy, who took part in the experiment, after the test was completed was asked to perform a simple calculation. He had to gradually subtract a number of 7 from 100. Suddenly, however, he stopped at 65 and… he forgot what he was supposed to do. Memory problems occur much sooner than after 11 sleepless nights. Two bad nights are enough to start having issues with a recollection of simple facts.
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Source: Sleep magazine, National Sleep Foundation