You snooze, you lose, right? Actually, yes, and in a good way. At least it’s a good thing if you are trying to lose weight, or at least shed some of that beer belly. Research has shown that getting sufficient sleep – usually targeted at eight hours, give or take an hour – is a key factor in maintaining or even improving our health, which includes keeping off or shedding the pounds in many cases.
Whether or not we can even feel it – and chances are we don’t most of the time – frequent or even chronic sleep deprivation can wreak havoc on our body’s internal systems, basically putting our bodies out of whack in a number of detrimental ways. It’s not just one system that lack of sleep can make misfire – it is many, including the central nervous system, our cardiovascular system, and cognitive issues, among others.
How does sleep deprivation manifest itself in ways that certainly catch our attention? As webmd.com sums it up, and this isn’t all-inclusive by any stretch, ongoing lack of sleep can “lead to excessive daytime sleepiness, emotional difficulties, poor job performance, obesity, and a lowered perception of quality of life.”
Sleep Deprivation Consequences
Here are several illuminating facts that shine a light on what’s involved when we don’t get enough z’s in the surrounding darkness (even if it means blacking out the windows for those of us who work the redeye shift), per medicalnewstoday.com:
- One night without sleeping will render an individual as impaired as someone who is legally intoxicated.
- Lack of sleep has been pegged as playing a key role in tragic accidents involving airplanes, ships, trains, automobiles, and nuclear power plants.
- Fewer than five hours a night of sleep ramps up the risk of death from all causes by 15 percent.
- About 40 percent of Americans get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night.
- Sleep deprivation and disorders are estimated to cost the U.S. more than $100 billion annually in lost productivity, medical expenses, sick leave and property damage.
Attempts to ward off sleep through extra cups of coffee or acts of will to get in more work and thus be more “productive” always encounters a tough foe – the human body. After about 16 hours of being awake (which works out to about 10 p.m. for the person who usually hops [?] out of bed at 6 a.m.), the body tries to address the need for sleep by inducing brief sleep “attacks” known as microsleeps.
This is an involuntary brain function that renders a person, per medicalnewstoday.com, “unable to process environmental stimulation and sensory information for a brief amount of time.” This might explain those instances in which, while watching TV during the early evening, you might feel sleepy and close your eyes, still able to hear the TV at first, only to reopen your eyes what seems like a few minutes later only to discover the show you were watching is over and it’s 10 minutes deep into the next show.
Health-Related Sleep Deprivation Effects
Here is a look at some specifics as to how an accumulated lack of sleep can affect us healthwise:
- Cognition. One benefit of sleep is that it gives our brains the opportunity to form connections that play an important role in helping us to process and retain new information, per healthline.com. Cutting off such sleep times can have a detrimental effect on both our short-term and long-term memories.
- Immune system. While we are asleep, our immune system manufactures “cykotines,” which are useful in protecting us from infections that arrive as foreign invaders, to include bacteria and viruses. Without enough sleep, our immune system is shortchanged and unable to build up to full infection-fighting capability. That leaves us more susceptible to illness as well as less able to recover from such an illness at a normal rate of recovery.
- Digestion/Weight gain. A shortage of sleep can have a negative effect on two hormones that are involved in controlling the feelings of hunger and fullness – leptin and grehlin, per healthline.com. The level of leptin gets reduced and grehlin, an appetite stimulant, gets boosted, which helps explain why late-night snacking becomes too great a temptation, leading to overeating. Say hello to extra pounds, a reality exacerbated by the fat that a lack of sleep often leaves us too out of it to exercise.
- Cardiovascular issues. Sufficient sleep is vital for keeping our heart and blood vessels in an optimal state of health; otherwise factors such as blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation are adversely affected. Also influenced is your body’s capacity to heal and repair those blood vessels and the heart. An increased risk of cardiovascular disease also accompanies persistent sleep loss.
- Loss of interest in sex. Per webmd.com, sleep specialists have reported that sleep deprivation can lower libido and interest in sex; this is the case for both men and women. It also has been reported that men with sleep apnea are subject to a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep and can lead to lower testosterone levels.
- Depression. Per webmd.com, a 2007 study of 10,000 people found that those suffering from insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. Note, too, that insomnia and depression feed off each other, as depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep.