Catching enough zzz’s at night? If not, the consequences can be rather ugly. Medical researchers have done extensive work investigating what happens to the human body and mind when people don’t get a sufficient amount of shuteye. Here, as reported by WebMD, are seven things that happen when Mr. Sandman proves a bit too elusive.
• Sleepiness causes accidents: Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and others. But sleep loss is also a big public safety hazard every day on the road. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.
• Sleep loss dumbs people down: Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning and problem solving. This makes it more difficult to learn efficiently. Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If someone doesn’t get enough sleep, they won’t be able to remember what they learned and experienced during the day.
• Sleep deprivation can lead to serious health problems: Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss can put people at serious risk for heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes. According to some estimates, 90 percent of people with insomnia—a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep—also have another health condition.
• Lack of sleep kills sex drive: Sleep specialists say sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Depleted energy, sleepiness and increased tension may be largely to blame. For men with sleep apnea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, there may be another factor in the sexual slump. Research suggests that many men with sleep apnea also have low testosterone levels. In one study, nearly half of the men who suffered from severe sleep apnea also secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone during the night.
• Sleepiness can lead to depression: Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to symptoms of depression. In one poll, people diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. In a study of 10,000 people, those with insomnia were five times as likely to develop depression as those without. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression. Insomnia and depression feed on each other.
• Lack of sleep ages the skin: Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. But it turns out that chronic sleep loss can lead to lackluster skin, fine lines and dark circles under the eyes. Lack of sleep causes the body to release more of the stress hormone cortisol. In excess amounts, cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little human growth hormone. When people are young, human growth hormone promotes growth. As we age, it helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin and strengthen bones.
• Sleeplessness triggers forgetfulness: Trying to keep a sharp memory? Try getting plenty of sleep. Researchers have determined that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples occur mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.
So for those who pride themselves on staying up till all hours, maybe it’s time to think again and get some more sleep—for the sake of physical and mental health.
© 2019 Silver Disobedience Inc.