Not only is it the favorite thing to do after a long exhausting day, sleeping is also essential for proper functioning of the body. While we sleep, our body recharges and gains the strength for accomplishing further actions. The processes tat happen during sleeping help the brain to commit things to memory, while cells regenerate and repair the tissue that was damaged while we were awake.
Lack of sleep means that these activities don’t happen. This makes us moody and cranky and we have a difficult time concentrating. While we’ve all experienced this, prolonged sleep deprivation can leave more serious consequences.
According to studies that researched what happens to our body in such cases, lack of sleep can cause a slew of serious and life-threatening conditions, ranging from cancers to diabetes, and heart issues. Other conditions can be triggered due to sleep deprivation, including:
According to a 2013 study conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, sleep deprivation can lead to Alzheimer’s disease and impact the speed of the disease’s progression. The study was based on previous findings which indicate that sleep is necessary for the brain to get rid of “cerebral waste,” or the garbage-like buildup that can accumulate and cause dementia.
Their study was conducted on 70 adults, ranging between the ages of 53 and 91, and results showed that those who reported getting poor sleep each night showed a greater amount of beta-amyloid deposition in their brains on PET scans. Beta-amyloid is a compound known to be a definitive marker of Alzheimer’s disease, meaning that lack of sleep is preventing the brain from getting rid of this form of “cerebral waste.”
Source: Spira AP, Gamaldo AA, An Y, et al. Self-reported Sleep and β-Amyloid Deposition in Community-Dwelling Older Adults. JAMA Neurology. 2013.
- Obesity and Diabetes
Diabetes and poor sleep have been linked for a long time. A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago demonstrated how lack of sleep can potentially cause obesity, and ultimately, lead to diabetes. Since fatty acid levels within the blood can impact metabolism speed and insulin’s ability to regulate blood sugar, researchers examined the effects little sleep had on fatty acid buildup.
They conducted the study on 19 men’s sleeping patterns and discovered that those who got only four hours of sleep over the span of three nights had high levels of fatty acid within their blood between 4 a.m. and 9 a.m, which was a 15 to 30 percent increase over those who got 8.5 hours of sleep each night. Furthermore, they discovered that the increased fatty acid levels caused a higher degree of insulin resistance, all signs they attribute to pre-diabetes, while those who got more sleep, did not present the same markers for obesity or pre-diabetes.
- Cardiovascular Disease
Sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease have been linked for some time and a recent study presented at EuroHeartCare, the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology found greater evidence of a strong correlation.
The study examined 657 Russian men between the ages of 25 and 64 for 14 years, and results showed that nearly two-thirds of those who experienced a heart attack also had a sleep disorder. Moreover, those who complained of sleep disorders also were found to have a 2.6 times higher risk of myocardial infraction, a heart attack that occurs when the heart muscle dies, and a 1.5 to four times greater risk of stroke.
As grim as it sounds, it is true. This link was researched during a study conducted in 2014, where it’s been found that there is a connection increased incidences of suicide in adults and poor sleep, regardless of past history with depression. According to a 10-year study conducted by researchers at the Stanford University of Medicine, which included 420 participants ranging in middle to late adulthood, 20 participants found to suffer from poor sleep unfortunately committed suicide. Researchers concluded that those who were experiencing difficulties sleeping on a consistent basis were 1.4 times more likely to commit suicide.
Researchers say that white males of 85 years or older were more vulnerable to this effect of poor sleep.
- Ulcerative colitis
According to a 2014 study, this inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers within the lining of your digestive tract, as well as Crohn’s Disease can be a product of both sleep deprivation, and excess sleep. Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital found that the right amount of sleep is necessary to curb inflammation responses within the digestive system which often lead to the two diseases.
After studying women enrolled within the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) I since 1976 and NHS II since 1989, it’s been found that risks of ulcerative colitis increased as sleep per night decreased to six hours or less. Researchers also discovered that more than nine hours of sleep increased risks as well, meaning that preventing this illness is quite tricky. Even though this response was only found in adult women, the increased risk of developing ulcerative colitis when getting little sleep existed despite other factors like age, weight, and habits like smoking and drinking.
- Prostate Cancer
According to a 2013 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemology, Biomarkers and Prevention, there is an increased incidence and severity of prostate cancer in patients with sleep issues. After examining 2,425 Icelandic men between the ages of 67 and 96 for three to seven years, it’s been found that the risk of developing prostate cancer rose in 60 percent of men who had trouble falling asleep, and the number doubled with men who reported having difficulty staying asleep. Moreover, those who experienced sleep problems were also more likely to have later stages of prostate cancer.
Researchers believe that this is due to the melatonin, a hormone known to regulate sleep. Higher levels of melatonin have been previously found to suppress tumor growth, while levels of melatonin in those exposed to too much artificial light were found to have more aggressive tumor growth.