Fatigue is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to problems caused by chronic sleep deprivation. Sleep affects all aspects of life from mood to appetite, overall health to quality of life. New research is presented every month that backs the claims that sleep loss leads to obesity and associated complications such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes, high blood pressure and other health conditions.
Lack of sleep leads to weight gain
The Nurses’ Health Study, one of the largest and longest running investigations of factors that influence women’s health, studied 70,026 women to see what effect lack of sleep had on weight. Researchers found that sleep deprived women had lower ability to burn calories and an increased risk of weight gain. The women in the study who slept between seven and eight hours per night had the lower risk of gaining weight. Similar studies have shown that people who get fewer than seven hours of sleep per night are more likely to be overweight or obese.
A study of middle-aged women found a direct correlation between weight gain and amount of sleep. Volunteers in the study included 68,000 women who were asked their sleep patterns and weight every two years for 20 years. After 16 years, the women who had slept 5 hours or less each night weighed about 5.4 pounds more and were 15 percent more likely to be obese than the women who had slept 7 or more hours.
Lack of sleep makes you crave junk food
A University of Chicago study found that people who slept 5.5 hours on one night and then 8.5 on another would eat 221 more calories when sleepy and when offered free snacks. In two weeks, that could add up to almost one pound of weight gain.
Another study found that young adults that slept fewer than 6 hours had an increase in appetite for high-carbohydrate foods. This suggests that the sleep-deprived brain craves its primary fuel, which is glucose, and the body produces it from ingesting carbs.
Getting inadequate sleep affects the amount and kind of food you eat. Studies have shown that sleeping for shorter periods of time can lead to excessive snacking of high-calorie foods.
Lack of sleep increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes
Because of a lack of sleep being tied to weight gain and obesity being associated with diabetes, it’s no wonder that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to diabetes. Studies have shown that sleeping fewer than seven hours per night might increase the odds of developing diabetes.
A University of Chicago study found that losing between three to four hours of sleep over a period of a few days will change metabolism in a way that is consistent with pre-diabetes. This was because when sleep was restricted to four hours over the course of six nights, the body’s ability to keep blood glucose level consistent declined significantly. This might be because lack of sleep is stressful on the body and getting quality sleep is a basic defense mechanism for overall health and prevention of obesity and obesity-related illnesses like diabetes.
Lack of sleep leads to hypertension
Research has shown a link between high blood pressure and sleep deprivation. Whether it is from inadequate sleep or poor sleep quality, lack of sleep puts an increased load on the heart. This is because the heart pumps faster while we’re awake in order to move the blood around. The heart rate slows while we’re asleep, because the body does not require as much blood flow. When the heart doesn’t have enough time to rest, the muscles get fatigued. This means the heart has to work harder and, in turn, blood pressure increases. The heart muscle may even thicken because of inadequate time to rest, leading to more serious heart problems.
Lack of sleep causes metabolic disturbances
A study of shift workers with irregular sleep patterns found that participants had definite disturbances in their metabolism that were linked to insulin resistance. Insulin is the hormone released by the pancreas which promotes the storage of calories as fat and keep blood glucose in check. Also known as insulin resistance syndrome, metabolic syndrome occurs when the body gradually becomes less responsive to insulin’s effects. This can cause the blood sugar level to rise despite the high level of insulin in the blood. As a result, diabetes can occur.
Lack of sleep causes mood disturbances
A 2002 University of California animal study found that non-rapid eye movement sleep (NREM) gives the neurotransmitters and their receptors a chance to rest and regain sensitivity. Neurotransmitters are chemicals in the brain which send signals, some of which control mood, such as serotonin. By getting adequate sleep, mood is regulated more effectively. The study also found that rapid eye movement (REM) sleep deprivation may help alleviate depression, because it mimics antidepressant medication.
Lack of sleep weakens the immune system
Research has consistently shown that people who don’t get adequate sleep are more likely to become ill after become exposed to a virus, such as the common cold. Recovery time is also affected by lack of sleep.
During sleep, the immune system releases proteins, known as cytokines, which help promote sleep. These cytokines increase when the body experiences an infection or inflammation, or during times of stress. Lack of sleep leads to a decrease in levels of cytokines and, in turn, makes it harder for the body to fight infectious diseases.
Lack of sleep is a risk factor for certain cancers
Recent research showed a link between lack of sleep and aggressive breast cancers. A 2012 study found that insufficient sleep led to more aggressive tumors after studying the medical records and survey responses from 412 post-menopausal breast cancer patients. The results found that women who routinely slept fewer hours were at higher risk to develop more aggressive forms of breast cancer compared to women who had more consistent sleeping schedules.
Lack of sleep can stunt growth
Sleep is the single biggest factor in the levels of human growth hormone (HGH) production, apart from proper nutrition and regular physical activity. HGH is released in the highest amounts during slow wave sleep, which happens when a child is in the deepest phase of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can impair growth in children by impacting the insulin and cortisol production, which can suppress HGH.
Lack of sleep can impair ability
Drowsy driving has been proven to be as dangerous as drunk driving, and the AAA Foundation estimated that one-sixth of deaths caused by traffic crashes involved a drowsy driver.
A 2000 study found that people who drove after being awake for 17 to 19 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of .05 percent. Another study found that performance begins to deteriorate after 16 hours awake, with 21 hours awake being the equivalent of being legally drunk in the U.S.
Further sleep deprivation can mimic psychosis, as distorted perceptions lead to inappropriate emotional or behavioral responses.
Reasons to Get More Sleep
Putting sleep on the backburner of your priority list can have a ripple effect in all aspects of your life. The gap between getting too little and just enough sleep could have a major impact on your overall health and wellness. Sleep affects all aspects of life, including your mood, weight, and even your sex life.
Home Sleep Remedies
Besides keeping your bedroom quiet, cool, dark, and free of distracting electronics, you probably know some remedies for how to get to sleep on those restless nights. Everyone is familiar with counting sheep, but what methods really work when you can’t get to sleep?
If you are interested in finding out more about the importance of sleep, call The Los Angeles Sleep Study Institute at 1-855-690-0563 and one of our representatives will be happy to answer any of your questions.