The Real Dangers of Sleep Loss
We’ve all heard about how bad a lack of sleep is for our health – even if it’s just missing out on a couple of hours each night. But how bad can it really be, right?
Sure, you can definitely expect to be tired the next day, as well as finding your performance at work being less than stellar. You may even find yourself drifting off at your desk. But what if we told you that’s not even beginning to scratch the surface of what missing out on sleep is doing to you and your body?
Let’s take a look at what the real dangers of getting less than the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night are…
Sleep Loss = Serious Health Problems
Not getting enough sleep can cause some pretty severe health issues. And it only begins with being more prone to catching the flu or a common cold. Here’s a list of sleep loss related health concerns:
- High Blood Pressure
- Heart attack
- Irregular Heart Beat
- Heart disease
- Heart failure
- Reduced Life Quality
Pretty mind-boggling, isn’t it? And while that list may seem long, and even on the extreme side, studies have shown that 90% of people that suffer from insomnia have also been diagnosed with another health condition or disorder. If you’ve lucky enough to be a member of the 10% that doesn’t have to deal with insomnia (or the health problems that are associated with it), you want to make sure that you stay in that fortunate group, for sure! And it you’re part of the sleepy 90%? Don’t panic – there are many ways that you can practice better sleep hygiene to avoid the dangers of sleep loss.
Sleep Loss Makes You Stupid
Ok, we know that sounds pretty harsh, so allow us to clarify. Sleep plays a seriously important role in our cognitive abilities- especially when it comes to being able to pay attention, concentrate on the task at hand, and solve any problems that come along. When you’ve missed out on sleep, your reaction times go way down, and you lose quite a bit of your ability to process and learn new things.
Sleep studies have also shown that a lack of sleep has a negative impact on your memory. If you aren’t getting enough sleep each night, you’ll most likely find yourself having trouble remembering what went on during your day. Don’t think pulling an all-nighter every once in a while to get an important project done is doing you any favors. You’re much better off letting your head hit the pillows, instead of hitting the books.
Sleep Loss Can Cause Depression
In 2005, a poll attempting to determine any kind of link between sleep loss and depression was conducted in America. Results showed that people suffering from anxiety or depression tend to sleep only 3 to 6 hours per night. This proves that while there might not yet be concrete proof that insomnia is one of the causes of depression, there is a definitely strong evidence that shows that it is a contributing factor of depression and its symptoms.
Another study conducted in 2007 with over 10,000 participants further proved the link between sleep loss and depression. Study results showed that insomniacs were 5 times more likely to suffer from depression than those that were getting at least 7 hours of sleep each night.
Further proving the strong connection between insomnia and depression, health and sleep experts have discovered that increased exposure to light during nighttime hours has been shown to affect the brain’s mood center. Another depression and sleep loss study was done in 2012 that demonstrated the negative impact prolonged exposure to light has on special cells in the eyes. These cells are activated by light, and have a direct link to how the brain processes emotions, memory, and learning abilities.
Sleep Loss and the Loss of Life
The hard, cold fact is that sleep loss is a known cause of death – not just for the insomniac, due to related health problems – but also for those in direct contact with those suffering from lack of sleep.
In 1989, the oil spill caused by the Exxon Valdez was responsible for the death of more than 250,000 seabirds, and countless numbers of marine animals. One of the causes of the accident has been uncovered to be the fact that the third mate failed to perform his tasks properly due to fatigue, caused by a lack of sleep in the preceding days.
Sleep loss has also been found to be a hazard to public safety on a daily basis, due to car accidents caused by one of the involved drivers being too fatigued to react in a timely manner, or even falling asleep at the wheel. A shocking 1000,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused by fatigue each and every year in the United States alone, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And sadly, there are an additional 1,550 fatal car accidents on top of that already staggering number.
So What Can We Do?
A conservative estimate of American adults that aren’t getting enough sleep is a whopping 70 million of us. If you find that you can relate to anything shared above, you might be a part of that large (and sleepy) group. So what can we do to avoid the dangers of sleep loss?
Preventing problems is always easier than correcting them, so sleep experts and doctors recommend adjusting your life to accommodate better, and more efficient sleep. Simply setting a sleep routine that allows for the needed 7 hours of sleep per night can go a long way to living (and sleeping) better!