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.