Effects of sleep deprivation

Most people need seven to eight hours of sleep a  night to function properly. But statistics say one  in three of the world’s population suffers from  poor sleep.  It is obvious that losing sleep causes tiredness, lack of focus  and increased irritability, but its side effects on physical  health are often neglected. A recently published TIME  article revealed that sleep deprivation can cause noticeable  changes in the heart. In this study about twenty healthy  radiologists had their hearts imaged before and after a 24-  hour shift in which they got an average of three hours sleep.  Comparing the two images showed increases in heart strain,  which can be a precursor to heart problems. Their blood  pressure, heart rate and thyroid hormones were also  increased. Although the mood effects of insomnia have been  known for a long time these new findings drew attention to  the importance of adequate sleep for physical health.  Although the effects of occasional sleep deprivation will not  be serious, chronic sleep deprivation can have irreversible  consequences for the body. The physical health effects of  insomnia are not only on the heart. The immune system  and the nervous system are also vulnerable. Sleeping is as  much needed as breathing and eating food. When sleeping,  the body refreshes physical and mental activities getting it  ready for a new day. Sleep deprivation interferes with the  proper functioning of the brain affecting cognitive abilities  and emotional states. Skipping sleep leaves the brain  exhausted with effects like yawning, feeling sluggish, loss of  concentration and loss of both short term and long term  memory.  If the lack of sleep continues, the immune system’s function  will be impaired and will increase the risk of developing  diseases. When sleeping, the immune system produces  antibodies and cells which will be used to fight foreign  invader bacteria and viruses. Lack of sleep means that the  immune system does not have time to be re-equipped with  its tools. This will not only increase the risk of becoming ill  but also makes recovery from illnesses longer and harder.  Even the chances of developing chronic illnesses like  diabetes and cardiovascular diseases get higher.  The growth hormone is also released during sleep in both  children and adults. Therefore adequate sleep is needed for  building muscle mass and repairing cells and tissues,  especially for growing children and those in puberty. On the  other hand, sleep deprivation increases the level of the  stress hormone, cortisol, and a biochemical called ghrelin  which is an appetite stimulant. The combination of these  two chemicals can cause gaining weight and obesity. So  Health  M  Effects of  sleep deprivation  22 January 2017  adequate sleep in children is an important factor in the  proper growth and avoiding childhood obesity.  Lack of sleep can also make the skin age faster. The  immediate effect of losing sleep is sallow skin and puffy  eyes. Increased cortisol levels also break down skin collagen,  the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Chronic  sleep loss can lead to pale skin, fine lines, and dark circles  under the eyes. In addition, inadequate sleep patterns have  been linked to slower recovery from external stressors, such  as ultraviolet (UV) exposure, substandard air quality, and  other environmental factors.  Another cardiovascular effect of losing sleep is hypertension.  Sleep plays a vital role in the body’s ability to heal and  repair blood vessels and the heart. According to Harvard  Medical School, for people with hypertension, one night  without enough sleep can cause elevated blood pressure all  through the next day. The researchers found that people  who take longer than 14 minutes to fall asleep have a 300  percent higher risk of high blood pressure. The longer they  took to fall asleep, the greater their risk.  Anxiety and depression are the main causes of sleep  disorders. In fact, symptoms of depression (such as low  energy, loss of interest or motivation, feelings of sadness or  hopelessness) and chronic sleep deprivation can be linked,  and one can make the other worse. The good news is that  both are treatable regardless of which came first. Lifestyle  change is usually the best approach to both anxiety and  depression. Fortunately, safe medication therapy is also  available for both.  While anxiety and depression are the most common causes  of sleep disorders, chronic insomnia can have several other  psychiatric and medical reasons. The medical causes  include nasal/sinus allergies, gastrointestinal problems such  as reflux, arthritis, asthma, chronic pain, low back pain and  endocrine problems such as hyperthyroidism. Sometimes  foods play an important role in sleep disorders. For example,  caffeine is a very strong stimulant and consuming it before  bedtime can cause serious sleep disorders.  A 2005 National Sleep Foundation poll found that people  who drank four or more cups/cans of caffeinated drinks a  day were more likely to experience at least one symptom of  insomnia at least a few nights each week than those who  drank zero to one cups/cans daily.  In some cases, taking sleeping pills for a short time can help  to get some rest, while behaviour and lifestyle changes can  help over the long term. Doctors recommend taking sleep  medicines only now and then or only for a short time. They  are not the first choice for treating chronic insomnia.  Anyone can become dependent on sleep medicines.  To change lifestyle, adopting new habits can be useful.  Sticking to a regular sleep routine, even at weekends, can  help to support the biological clock. Drinking caffeinated  beverages should be stopped eight hours before bedtime.  Taking a nap during the day can interfere with the biological  clock. If it is necessary to do it, it should be limited to 30  minutes before 3 pm. Heavy fat-rich foods should be eaten  at least two hours before bedtime. It takes a long time for  fatty foods to be digested and acidic and spicy foods can  also cause heartburn. Last but not least regular exercise is  the best habit to adopt to regulate the body’s activity and  rest modes.

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