Long Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Health

Serious consequences of lack of sleep on health

photo-blog-sleep-deprivation-effectsThe National Sleep Foundation recommends that the average adult get seven to nine hours of sleep each night. Most American adults don’t get that much.  If you get six hours of sleep or less, you are going to be sleep deprived and there are more serious consequences to lack of sleep than just feeling groggy the next day.


Memory Loss

We all know the most immediate effect of a sleepless night, feeling “groggy” and “out of sorts” the next day. We become forgetful and lose focus.  Deep restorative sleep enables the brain to index and organize information and organize it into memories that we can recall at a later date.  It is thought that one of the reasons older adults begin to lose memories is that they begin to experience fitful sleep patterns, and no longer get long periods of deep restorative sleep.  But this pattern can be also be seen in people with prolonged periods of sleep deprivation.  Like, a broken computer we lose the ability to, “save as”, and  file the information for future recall.

Inadequate Sleep can contribute to cardiovascular disease

Too little sleep can cause stress and strain and cause the body to produce hormones and chemicals that contribute to heart disease. In a large scale Japanese study in the journal “Sleep”, published in 2009, researchers found that women between the ages of 49 to 79 who got less than four hours of sleep were two times more likely to die of heart disease than those who averaged more than seven hours per night.  Even short term sleep deprivation is also associated with an increase in higher blood pressure, higher cholesterol levels and heart disease.  According to another study from the Warwick Medical School, lack of sleep can be linked to strokes, heart attacks and cardiovascular disorders.  Sleep apnea, a more serious sleep related condition which can trigger irregular heartbeats, raises the risk of an earlier death by 46%.

Inadequate sleep can also increase your blood pressure.  Sleep is thought to regulate stress hormones and thereby help our nervous system regulate those hormones that would lead to high blood pressure.

Mental Illness

There is a strong correlation between people with a reported history of insomnia and mental illness, especially among those with depression or anxiety. A study reported by CNN found sleep-deprived high school students three times more likely to be depressed compared to their peers who got the proper amount of sleep. There is a connection between insomnia and depression that is not yet understood. Insomniacs are four times more likely to become depressed at some time in their lives as folks with no history of insomnia.


Inadequate sleep can lead to obesity

Lack of sleep can lead to complex hormonal changes.  It can cause your body to produce more of the hunger hormone ghrelin.  It also limits the output of leptin another hormone that helps you regulate how much you eat.  All in all sleep deprivation especially over prolonged periods of time, leads to unhealthy eating habits and obesity.

It’s all about balance

We all have times that we have to cram, burn the midnight oil, experience crises, or heartbreak that cause us to have sleepless nights.  But, we should not let sleep impairment become a habit.  Staying up too late needlessly watching television, movies, or entertainment is just not healthy.  Getting regular proper sleep is just as important to maintaining good health a healthy diet, and regular exercise.

Want to find out more?
Association of Sleep Duration with Mortality from Cardiovascular Disease and Other Causes for Japanese Men and Women: the JACC Study
8 Scary Side Effects Of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep Deprivation May Be Behind Memory Loss In Elderly
Sleep Habits: More Important Than You Think
Sleep deprivation: Late nights can lead to higher risk of strokes and heart attacks, study finds
Poor sleep in old age prevents the brain from storing memories.
Sleep deprivation linked to depression in teens
Are You Depressed — or Just Sleepy?

Helen Trowsdale, President of AA Care Services, is a nurse administrator with over 30 years of experience as a BSN, psychiatric nurse, and geriatric care manager with adults as well as pediatrics in hospitals, private duty home health care agencies, and residential home health care. Her team of caregivers are dedicated to serving their clients with home care in San Antonio, New Braunfels, and Austin; providing clients with consistent, quality care while minimizing the number of caregivers in the home. Learn more about AA Care Services.


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