The Dangers Of Sleep Deprivation - Infographic

The dangers of sleep deprivation infographic

The effects of sleep deprivation have been well studied and it's an issue that many of us should be concerned about. Nearly 60 million Americans have chronic sleep disorders and according to statistics from the survey done by the National Health Interview, nearly 30% of adults get 6 hours or less sleep per day.


sleep.jpegAs a parent to young infants, I can totally relate to the lack of sleep. It has been a while since i've gotten even 6 hours of sleep in a stretch. After a couple of days, i'm starting to get used to it although there are some noticeable side-effects. The immediate effects of sleep deprivation are:
  • General irritability and negative feelings
  • Unintentionally falling asleep / Dozing off
  • Trouble remembering and recollecting

Long-term Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Besides the more obvious short-term side effects, there are more serious long-term effects of sleep deprivation that we should be concerned about.

Higher Risk Of Heart-Attacks and Strokes

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In a study involving 657 men in Russia, researchers found that men with a sleep disorder were 2.6 times more likely to suffer a heart attack than men who didn't have any sleeping problems. When it came to strokes, the risk was four times as much.

Higher Risk Of Diabetes

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There are a few leading theories on why lack of sleep leads to diabetes. First, we tend to eat more when we do not get enough sleep, because we need to get energy. This could then mean eating foods that are rich in sugar, causing blood glucose levels to spike.

Another theory is that lack of sleep releases stress hormones that can lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is a pre-diabetic stage where our cells don't use insulin efficiently. When a person is said to be insulin-resistant, it means that they need a higher amount of insulin to break down the same amount of glucose as their receptor isn't as sensitive. 

Fall Sick More Often

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Have you noticed that we tend to fall sick more often during periods when we aren't getting enough rest? If so, you're not crazy. A lot of research has been done with the results showing that our immune system is impacted by our body's circadian clock. This means that when we don't get enough sleep, our cycle is disrupted, and our immune system suffers as a result.

It isn't just all-nighters or those nights where we only get an hour of sleep that affect us. Mild sleep deprivation has also been linked with a weakened immune system. Surely we can just catch-up with sleep on the weekend to make up for it, right? Not quite. Studies have shown that the negative effects on the immune system from a few nights of poor sleep can remain even after sleep levels have improved. While some cells returned to normal levels of immune activity, other immune system cells did not recover their activity levels even after recovery sleep.

How long does it take to recover from sleep deprivation?

Sometimes we can't control how much sleep we can get. If the boss comes in with a 'have this on my table by tomorrow morning' sort of deadline, working through the night may be the only option. How long will it take to recover from such sleep deprivation?

Researchers have found that a long night of sleep can hide the effects of sleep deprivation temporarily and restore our performance levels to normal in the six hours after waking. This is only a short-term fix, though. The caveat, however, is that our performance is likely to worsen the longer we stay awake past the six hours.

In a study, published in Science Translational Medicine, researchers had nine adults live on a sleep deprivation schedule of 5.6 hours of sleep per day for a period of three weeks.

The results showed that while most participants caught up on short-term sleep deprivation with just a single night of 10 hours sleep, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation continued. They were vulnerable to errors and accidents, especially late at night.

The Takeaway

It's hard to deny that getting a good night's rest is important for health. When things need to get done, sleep is probably the first thing to get de-prioritized. Binge-sleeping on the weekend just doesn't cut it. So if you want to get more work done, or watch that movie or read that book, find time within your normal waking hours instead of sacrificing your sleep.

Lack of sleep may not just be about fitting everything we want to do within 24 hours but could be a symptom of an underlying problem like having a lot of thoughts on the mind, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, or maybe something as simple as having the wrong type of mattress or pillow. It would be wise not to ignore the problem and deal with it head-on as the long-term health effects of sleep deprivation are scary and worst of all, we don't even see them till it's too late.
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