The dangers of sleep deprivation

 

If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy. The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.

 

If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky, and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended 7 to 9 hours of shut-eye nightly does more than make you feel groggy and grumpy. The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Science has linked poor slumber with all kinds of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.

 

Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new connections and helps memory retention. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life. A review of 16 studies found that sleeping for less than 6 to 8 hours a night increases the risk of early death by about 12 percent.

Here are six common dangers of sleep deprivation:

 

Impaired judgement

Sleep deprivation impacts your visual working memory, making it difficult to tell the difference between relevant and irrelevant stimuli in your environment, and affects your emotional intelligence, behaviour and ability to manage stress.

 

Mood disorders

Mental health problems are linked to sleep disorders, and sleep deprivation can play havoc with neurotransmitters in the brain, mimicking the symptoms of depression, anxiety and mania.

 

Raised blood pressure

Poor sleep can raise blood pressure, and in the long term is associated with an increased risk of diseases such as coronary heart disease and stroke. This danger is increased in people with sleep apnoea.

 

Increased accidents

In the USA it is estimated that 100,000 road accidents each year are the result of driver fatigue, and over a third of drivers have admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.

 

Weight gain

Sleep deprivation affects the levels of hormones involved in regulating appetite. Levels of leptin (the hormone that tells you how much stored fat you have) drop, and levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin rise.

 

Hallucinations

Severe sleep deprivation can lead to hallucinations; seeing things that aren’t really there. In rare cases can lead to temporary psychosis or symptoms that resemble paranoid schizophrenia.