Are You Sleep Deprived? Know the Dangers

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Am I Sleep Deprived?

Today, many of us spend our time multitasking; jumping from one task to another on our smartphone, tablets and laptops. When you add this work and technology overload to family responsibilities, keeping up with fitness and sports activities, and spending social time with friends, it’s no wonder so many in the U.S. are sleep deprived.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 37% of adults in the U.S. sleep less than seven hours each night. That’s one in three people that aren’t getting a full night’s rest. In fact, the National Institutes of Health estimates that between 50 to 70 million people in the U.S. suffer from chronic sleep disorders and intermittent sleep problems that can significantly diminish health, alertness, and safety.

Even if you’re averaging less than six hours of sleep each night and performing well during the day in activities at work and home, the National Sleep Foundation cautions that sleeping less than seven hours per night can be dangerous to your health; putting you at risk for heart disease, obesity, mood disorders and several other health issues.

 

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

Not getting enough sleep causes more than irritability and lack of energy. Sleep deprivation has been linked to serious, potentially life threatening conditions.

Increased Accidents. Studies indicate that driving while sleep deprived is as dangerous as driving drunk. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sleepiness at the wheel is a contributing factor to 100,000 car crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year. And workers not getting enough sleep are more likely to incur an on-the-job injury and call in sick.

Weakened Immune System. Sleep is essential so that your immune system can build cytokines, infection-fighting antibodies, and NK cells (Natural Killer cells)). A recent Mayo Clinic study also found that without enough sleep, our bodies take longer to recover from illness.

If you spend time at the gym, make sure you’re getting enough sleep – it’s essential for muscle recovery.

Obesity. Studies have shown that not getting enough sleep leads to overeating – especially on calorie-laden meals high in carbohydrates. In fact, getting six hours of sleep or less increases the hunger hormone ghrelin and limits leptin, which helps you limit your food intake.

Heart disease. It’s long been understood that not getting enough sleep puts stress on the heart. Consider the findings of a 10-year study performed by Harvard University: After tracking the sleeping habits of more than 70,000 women between the ages of 45 and 65 with no previous history of heart disease, it found that of those that were sleep deprived, 934 of them developed coronary heart disease and 271 died from it.

Stroke. Studies have shown that middle-aged people who get fewer than six hours of sleep each night are at an increased risk of having a stroke – even if they have no other risk factors including obesity, heart disease, or sleep apnea.

 

Am I Sleep Deprived?

Below are some common symptoms of sleep deprivation:

  • Increased hunger. Lack of sleep can cause hormonal changes in our bodies, making us crave foods. Ultimately, this can lead to weight gain and even obesity.
  • Trouble remembering things. Sleep deprivation can cause memory suppression, making it possible to forget even simple things like a coworker’s name.
  • Confusion. Without enough sleep, our brains have trouble putting emotional situations into context. This can lead to anger, frustration and irritability over things that otherwise wouldn’t.
  • Falling asleep anywhere. If you’re nodding off during your daughter’s school play or when you’re catching the evening news, your body is telling you to get more quality sleep.

 

To find out if you are sleep deprived, look online for quizzes from organizations including the National Sleep Foundation and The Ohio State University. These quizzes are a good starting point to get you on your way to a good night’s sleep.

If you’re having trouble maintaining at least six hours of sleep every night, consider eliminating caffeine and nicotine several hours before bedtime, never take your laptop or smartphone to bed with you, and make your bedroom – and bed – as comfortable as possible. Also, keep your bedroom cool. In addition, getting used to a sleep schedule can keep your body and mind on track and ready for a good night’s sleep for a healthy body and mind.

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Photo credit: Mike Petrucci / CC BY-SA 2.0

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