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Lack of sleep may cause your health irreversible damage.  And the statistics speak for themselves! It turns out that sleep deprivation can harm your mental and physical health and that of those around you.

You may be guilty of cutting back on your sleep for daily demands, especially work.

And it’s totally understandable.  

But maybe if you knew just how detrimental sleep deprivation really is, you would probably find some ways to improve your sleeping habits and ensure you’re getting the right amount of quality sleep every night.

Take a look at the effects of sleep deprivation below.

Increased pain sensitivity

UC Berkeley did a study on a group of healthy undergraduates who did not suffer from sleep or pain disorders. First, they made them sleep the whole night then, they  deprived them of sleep.

In both instances, the scientist gave them pain in the leg while recording their brain activity.

The study found that the participants felt pain sooner when they were deprived of sleep than when they had enough sleep.  This was due to the decreased activity in the nucleus accumbens, which plays a vital function in pain management and is an effective source of analgesia—the inability to feel pain.  

Weakened immune system

If areas in the body need to heal, the brain can trigger the release of hormones like growth hormone, which encourage tissue growth to repair blood vessels. This not only speeds up the healing of wounds but also helps to recover strained or damaged muscles.

In addition, four hours of sleep for one night reduces natural killer cell activity to an average of 72%. These cells are critical in the body’s immune response, acting as the first line of defense against cancer cells, bacteria, and other potential dangers. 

Sleep helps you fight against sickness while a single night of poor sleep can impair your natural killer cells’ activity by as much as 70 percent!

A 2009 study states that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are 3x more likely to develop a cold than those who sleep 8 hours or more. In another study, findings state that women sleeping 5 hours or less a night have a 70% chance of developing pneumonia.

Hair loss

Your hair goes through a growth cycle between the anagen (growth phase), catagen (the transition phase), and the telogen (resting phase). 

The active phase is when the cells in the root of your hair divide the fastest, forming more new hair. Next is the transition phase, where hair follicles shrink, and hair growth slows. Lastly, the resting phase is when the hair does not grow but stays attached to the follicle. These are the hairs that you lose every day, especially when combing! Then the cycle repeats, returning to the active phase.

When the body is stressed due to hormonal imbalance or an illness—all of which may be due to a lack of sleep, you can develop telogen effluvium—also called stress-related hair loss. This condition alters the normal hair cycle where the anagen phase slows down, and a high percentage of your hairs enter the telogen phase.

So instead of having 50-100 hair strands entering the telogen phase daily—the average number that is shed every day—you have thousands or more. Around 30 percent of hair follicles enter the telogen phase, causing massive hair shedding! 

You can recover in 6-12 months; however, chronic telogen effluvium can last up to 7 years.

Memory impairment

Lack of sleep causes alterations in brain cells that disrupt communication between other brain cells. 

Sleep is essential for memory formation and recall. And this is because the brain waves are responsible for storing memories produced during sleep. These brain waves help transfer memories from the hippocampus to the prefrontal cortex, which stores long-term memories.

When you’re sleep deprived, memories remain in the hippocampus and they don’t reach the prefrontal cortex. This explains why you’re forgetful and have difficulty remembering terms during exams.

Studies suggest that sleep deprivation can worsen existing diseases and increase your risk of developing health problems like:

Obesity

According to studies, people who sleep less than six hours each night are far more inclined to have a body mass index (BMI) higher than the average, whereas those who sleep eight hours have the lowest BMI.

Poor sleep increases the production of cortisol, or the “stress hormone.” It puts your body into survival mode because it senses danger. And one of the common reactions is to overeat! It’s because your brain thinks you need fuel to fight stress; thus, you may eat more than what your body needs.

High blood pressure

During sleep, blood pressure is about 10% to 20% lower. 

Sleep helps the body in controlling the hormones that regulate stress and metabolism. And sleep deprivation can impair your body’s capacity to regulate stress hormones that keep your blood pressure higher for a longer time.

People who sleep less than six hours have an increased risk of developing hypertension by 37%.

And if you already have high blood pressure, sleep deprivation will worsen your blood pressure.

Constipation

Here’s an unlikely contributor to your constipation.

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey conducted a survey of 4,590 persons aged 20 and up from 2005 to 2010 to find the relationship between sleep and constipation.

The study followed guidelines from the National Sleep Foundation. And sleep was split into three categories: short (less than 7 hours), normal (7-8 hours), and long (more than 8 hours).

They concluded that constipation rates were significantly lower among normal sleepers (8.3 percent) than short sleepers ( 12.5 percent) and long sleepers (11.0 percent).

Aside wreaking havoc to your health, lack of sleep may also cause you more immediate problems.

It causes work-related accidents.

Have you heard of the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant? The 1986 disaster was caused by a human mistake. It was discovered later that the workers in charge were sleep-deprived!

Insufficient sleep duration causes cognitive deterioration. It impairs cognitive processes, impacting everything from memory to reflexes. This causes you to make more mistakes and poorer decisions. It means you are more likely to miss critical steps in a safety process, forget safety precautions, and misjudge or completely overlook dangerous conditions!

Studies have shown that nurses working the night shift made 32% more mathematical errors than nurses working the day shift. And drivers who sleep for six hours or less are 33% more likely to have an accident on the road than those who sleep for seven or eight hours. 

So if you have never really given serious consideration to sleep.as an important ally  in your quest to achieve your health and personal goals, this is the time to start.

DrKapavik