Dangers of sleep deprivation

Sit up and take notice of these eye-opening facts about sleep


Gone are the days when sleeping and waking up on time was considered a virtue. In this post-modern era, more and more people are consistently getting less and less sleep. Some even take pride in declaring that they sleep only a few hours each night. Many people—especially the high-achievers—think of sleeping as a colossal waste of time.

On the face of it, lying in bed eight hours or so day after day does seem like a highly unproductive activity, especially when your mind is filled with a long to-do list. But make no mistake—lack of adequate sleep is one of the top causes of mental, emotional and physical illnesses. If you’ve been neglecting your sleep, regarding it as an indulgence reserved only for lazy or dull people, may be it’s time you revisit your premise.

The following list indicates why sufficient sleep is absolutely necessary for you to function effectively in your personal and professional lives.

The dangers of sleep deprivation

  1. According to one study, reducing sleep by 90 minutes for just one night reduces daytime alertness by 32 per cent. Sleep deficiency leads to exhaustion, disorientation, lack of concentration, weakness, and dizziness. Studies have shown that staying awake for straight 17 hours has the same effect as alcohol level of 0.05 per cent in the blood.
  2. Studies show that nearly 30 per cent fatal road accidents happen late into the night, when the driver is drowsy and in need of sleep. Likewise, many work-related injuries too are correlated to paucity of sleep among the shift workers.
  3. Experts consider sleep deprivation even more dangerous than food deprivation. It takes about two weeks for a person to starve to death. Yet, only 10 days without sleep proves fatal.
  4. According to researchers at Warwick medical school, disrupted sleep patterns are linked to major health problems. “If you sleep less than six hours a night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15 per cent greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke,” says Professor Francesco Cappuccio in a study published in the European Heart Journal.
  5. Less sleep means more insulin resistance—a major risk factor for diabetes. In one study of healthy teenagers, those who slept the least had the highest insulin resistance—which means that the body is not using insulin optimally.
  6. Even without any of the above diseases, those who sleep less than 6 hours each night die younger than those who sleep between
    6 – 8 hours daily.
  7. Less sleep has been known to lead to weight gain. A study, led by Matthew Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkeley, found that there are ‘reward centres’ in our brains that seem to respond more strongly to fatty and sweet foods when we are sleep-deprived. The study also suggests that we tend to be more impulsive about food choices, when we’re sleep-deprived.
  8. We all know that on days when we’ve slept less, we’re more forgetful. But consistent sleep deprivation can lead to more serious form of memory loss. This is because sleep helps integrate our memories.
  9. Sleep deficient people think less clearly—their cognitive processes suffer. They don’t have access to the full power of their brains. Think of a sleep-deprived brain as a four-cylinder car running on only two cylinders.
  10. Lack of sleep can play havoc with your mental health. It has been linked with increased risk of ADHD, mood disorders, and Alzheimer’s disease. “Extended sleep deprivation can result in symptoms ordinarily associated with Schizophrenia and other thought disorders. These can include hallucinations [both auditory and visual] and paranoid ideation,” says David A. Reinstein, a psychotherapist.
  11. Poor sleep can be disastrous for your relationships. Less sleep makes us irritable and less tolerant of others, which can lead to misunderstandings and fights with loved ones.

It’s time you stopped taking your body for granted and gave it the rest it deserves. Remember, at least 7 – 8 hours of undisturbed sleep every night is considered optimum.

This was first published in the September 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.

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