Lacking sleep is something that most individuals struggle with on a day to day basis. When days are busy and work stretches into the night, sleep is often the first thing to come off of our list of priorities in favor of getting things done. The results are apparent the following day, with fatigue, tiredness, and near-exhaustion all taking part. Many people probably think a few all-nighters probably won’t hurt them, but that’s actually a false idea. Lacking sleep on a consistent basis and not getting enough rest that your body requires can have serious long term effects on the body and mind.
Lack of sleep is a large contributor to the development and progression of serious health risks and diseases that develop later in life. Lack of sleep and rest for the brain and body doesn’t allow necessary processes and restorations to occur while you are asleep. Too much of this, and you put your body at risk for developing autoimmune diseases, cardiovascular diseases, and decrease the ability of your body to fight infections.
There are three different types of research that proved links between poor health and poor sleep hygiene. The research has found serious proof that relates poor health and decreased life expectancy with the fact that these subjects are lacking quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation studies: Healthy volunteers of these studies are temporarily deprived of sleep and then examined. Researchers found several short term physiological and physiological changes become apparent after sleep deprivation. Psychosis, depression, hallucinations, increased blood pressure, uncontrollable blood glucose levels, and increased levels of stress and inflammation were all observable and identifiable by the subjects.
Cross-sectional epidemiological studies: Examines individuals’ answers to health and sleep questionnaires that identify the existence of symptomatic diseases and sleep health related problems. Most of the time, when one problem existed, like heart disease, so did another problem, like inability to sleep. On these questionnaires, both sleeping too little and sleeping too much have been linked with high blood pressure and heart rate, obesity, diabetes, and infections. This link between sleep health and overall health can be cyclical, as sleep health can affect overall health, while overall health and diseases can affect sleep health.
Longitudinal epidemiological studies: While many of these studies are still being conducted, there are already some apparent results. Longitudinal epidemiological studies are conducted over years and decades, so throughout the length of a lifetime is an accurate measure of the length of the study. These studies are most reliable because of their results over a long period of time and their consistency. Numerous diseases and health risks have been shown to stem from individuals that have had their sleep patterns tracked over a series of years. These individuals who are originally healthy identify sleep health problems and then are studied as they develop health issues throughout their lifetimes. These studies suggest that adjusting the amount of sleep that an individual gets can greatly increase or decrease the risk of developing other health issues and diseases later in life.
Lack of sleep, as identified by this research, has shown increases of the subjects’ risks of both short term and long term health risk factors that can make them ill or cause disease. While we sleep, our bodies and brains work together to regulate processes like hormone production. When we sleep less and less, our bodies and brains have less time to perform these processes and we end up lacking the time we need to be at our best. During sleep, our bodies release hormones that help control our appetites, regulate our metabolism for energy usage, and break down foods for nutrient absorption. When we don’t sleep as much, our bodies produce cortisol, a stress causing hormone. An increase in stress causes us to gain weight, feel overwhelmed or anxious, and also causes us to possibly do things that are detrimental to our health, like drink alcohol, skip workouts, and eat unhealthy. This bombardment of unhealthy factors all combine to make a deadly cocktail of the possibilities of developing a disease later on.
Research shows that individuals that sleep less than their recommended amount per night are more likely to have a high body mass index. A high body mass index is a factor to developing obesity related diseases, like diabetes. When we are sleep deprived, we take away our body’s ability to secrete appetite suppressing hormones, and control our stress levels. Our brains also lack stimulation that makes us aware of our appetites. Lack of sleep makes our brain think our bodies need additional nutrition, so we crave food and often overeat. In combination with stress, overeating, and fatigue, the energy to eat healthy and workout is sometimes lost, creating an environment for obesity to occur.
When the body lacks sleep, it also lacks the time it needs to process glucose. When glucose isn’t metabolized correctly and used throughout your body for energy, your body may stop responding to it like it normally would, with insulin. Insulin then stops being excreted in response to the glucose, and diabetes develops as a result.
Lack of sleep elevates blood pressure because of the increase of stress put on your body. When the body does not get the rest it needs, it releases cortisol, a stress hormone. The increased stress elevates your blood pressure as a response. Elevated blood pressure over an extended period of time will cause the development of cardiac diseases. When your heart works overtime to pump blood throughout your body in response to stress, your risk of developing a heart condition increases.
Not only does lack of sleep cause fatigue, irritability, and tiredness, but chronic sleep loss can cause depression, anxiety, mental fatigue, and mood swings. Mental and physical exhaustion can lead to an overemotional state. Most of these symptoms vanish and people start to feel better once sleep patterns are restored, but long term sleep issues that disturb your patterns and keep you up, like insomnia, can increase the chance of the development of depression.
When your body lacks the hours it needs between the sheets, you aren’t able to repair and replenish tissues and give organs a rest. The reason why you are normally tired when fighting a cold or illness is because your body gets more done when you are at rest. The more you sleep when sick, the more functional your immune system is at protecting and strengthening your body and its defenses. Without sleep, your immune system struggles to maintain all the protective measures it needs to keep you healthy, and you increase your chances of getting sick or developing an infection.
Overall lack of sleep can cause a disturbing amount of problems throughout your lifetime. These problems can also take years off of your life expectancy. When your body and brain have to fight off a disease or illness while also not getting enough sleep, the years will fly off in the long term. Mortality from all of these risk factors is increased by about 15 percent for all individuals who do not get enough sleep.