Our society tends to idealize excessive work and neglect the negative effects that sleep deprivation causes. This holds true across various fields, including office jobs, healthcare professions, and athletics. From a young age, we are often taught to prioritize packed schedules and place sleep as a secondary concern to work and achievement.
Inadequate sleep goes far beyond being a mere inconvenience. It has been identified as a global public health crisis. Sleep deprivation is connected to serious medical conditions such as heart disease, respiratory issues, weak immunity, various mental health disorders, diabetes, and an increased risk of certain types of cancers.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
This term refers to a condition where an individual fails to obtain sufficient and high-quality sleep to support normal physiological functions. The factors that can contribute to sleep loss includes:
- Inadequate sleep hygiene
- Sleep apnea
- Mood disorders
- Mental stress
- Medical conditions
The amount and pattern of sleep required vary greatly depending on age.
- Infants may require up to 20 hours of sleep per day
- Children requires around 9 to 9.5 hours per night during adolescence
- Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night
- Older adults (65 years & older) may require slightly less, approximately 7 to 8 hours per night
It is worth noting that the distribution of sleep stages varies with age, with older adults spending more time in light sleep and experiencing more frequent awakenings. Moreover, sleep can be affected by physiological and mental stress levels.
Outcomes of Sleep Deprivation:
Health recommendations are often disregarded due to the perception that they are time-consuming and contradict the “no pain, no gain” mindset. Healthcare professionals, coaches, and media outlets constantly advise us to push ourselves in workouts, eat enough protein, eat a varied diet with fruits, vegetables, and whole grains, and supplement with omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin D. However, the importance of prioritizing our sleep needs tends to fade into the background, becoming a mere background noise.
During sleep, your immune system produce substances like antibodies and cytokines that play a crucial role in fighting infections and protecting your body.
Some specific cytokines have the additional function of promoting sleep, allowing your immune system to operate more effectively in defending your body against illnesses.
Lack of sufficient sleep hinders the immune system from strengthening its defenses. Inadequate amount of sleep compromises the body’s ability to fight off toxins and foreign particles, potentially prolonging your recovery from illnesses.
Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus and heart disease.
Sleep has a significant impact on maintaining the health of your heart and blood vessels by influencing processes such as blood sugar regulation, blood pressure control, and inflammation levels. Additionally, sleep plays a crucial role in the healing and repair of blood vessels and the heart.
Insufficient sleep is associated with a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Research indicates that insomnia is linked to an increased likelihood of experiencing heart attacks and strokes.
There is a reciprocal relationship between sleep and the respiratory system. A breathing disorder, obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) occurs during sleep and disrupt sleep and reduce its quality.
Frequent awakenings during the night due to OSA can lead to sleep deprivation, making you more susceptible to respiratory infections such as flu and cold. Additionally, lack of sleep can exacerbate pre-existing respiratory conditions.
In addition to overeating and lack of exercise, sleep deprivation poses another risk factor for weight gain and obesity. Sleep has an impact on the regulation of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which play a role in controlling hunger and satiety.
Leptin signals to the brain that you are full and satisfied after eating. Insufficient sleep results in decreased levels of leptin and increased levels of ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. This hormonal imbalance may contribute to nighttime snacking or overeating later in the evening.
Moreover, sleep deprivation can lead to fatigue, making it more challenging to engage in regular physical exercise. Over time, reduced physical activity can contribute to weight gain due to inadequate calorie expenditure and a lack of muscle development.
Furthermore, sleep deprivation can affect insulin release in response to meals. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced insulin production and lower tolerance for glucose, potentially resulting in insulin resistance, diabetes mellitus, and obesity.
Adequate sleep has an important role in the hormone production. To promote testosterone production, it is necessary to have at least 3 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Interrupted sleep during night time can negatively impact hormone production.
It also affect the production of growth hormone, especially in growing children. Growth hormone is essential for building muscle mass, repairing cells and tissues, and facilitating other growth-related functions in the body.
Therefore, sufficient sleep and regular exercise is required for promoting the release of this hormone.
Quality sleep is equally crucial as proper nutrition and physical activity for maintaining optimal body composition, overall health, longevity, and athletic performance. Therefore, it’s important to achieve your sleep goals and prioritize your rest for a healthier and more fulfilling life.