The Seriousness of Sleep Deprivation

3 minute read

There is a reason why our bodies need rest; but sadly, many people skimp on it when they're short on time - and it's a big mistake. The human body needs sleep to restore energy and balance, to build and repair tissue, and for cardiovascular health. Additionally, it provides energy to the body and the brain. it can also increase memory, help with weight loss and allow the body to fight against disease, too. But, while it may seem like an easy health fix to just make sleep a priority, in reality, it's not that simple. Sleep disorders can wreak havoc on those who are afflicted, and the long-term effects of sleep deprivation can be substantial.

Health Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

There are a number of health consequences that can occur as a result of sleep deprivation, the most serious of which includes the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In fact, researchers at the University of Alabama analyzed three years-worth of sleep data (self-reported) from 5,666 people ages 45 and older. Their findings regarding increased stroke risk were astonishing. According to the study, working adults - all of which had healthy BMIs (Body Mass Indexes) - who slept 6 hours or less per night had an increased risk of stroke of up to four times that of those who slept 7-8 hours.

Other health consequences from sleep deprivation include decreased sex drive, increased blood pressure, lack of control over blood glucose levels (problems with insulin production) and increased inflammation in the body. All of these conditions may contribute to poor overall health, but they can be particularly problematic for those with other medical conditions. For instance, those who have diseases and chronic conditions associated with inflammation may show an increase in pain or tissue damage, and those who are borderline-diabetic may suddenly find they have acquired type 2 diabetes.

Types of Sleep Disorders

Some of the most common sleep disorders include insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sleep apnea and narcolepsy - with insomnia being the most common. According to the Cleveland Clinic, nearly 50 percent of people suffer from some type of insomnia at one time or another, and 1 in 10 people suffer from this disorder chronically. Unlike restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea, which are often physically-based interruptions of proper sleep, insomnia can occur for a variety of reasons, including stress, consumption of stimulants (like caffeine or nicotine) or because of other medical or psychiatric conditions.

Narcolepsy, on the other hand, is quite the opposite, it is a neurological sleep disorder whose symptoms include daytime sleepiness - even to the point of falling asleep in the middle of a conversation. Still, the quality of nighttime sleep and the body's ability to function normally is disrupted, ultimately causing other problems.

What You Can Do About Sleep Deprivation

Aside from attempting to identify what might be causing insomnia, if you are suffering from any kind of sleep disorder you should contact a doctor immediately. Sleep deprivation can have serious health consequences, and a proper diagnosis can help improve your quality of life.