We are living in a fast world. People are always on the move. As a result, they sleep less. But missing out on the recommended eight hours of quality shut-eye has profound consequences on your wellbeing. As we mark World Sleep Day tomorrow, Manuel Ntoyai outlines the dangers caused by poor slumber
1. Can lead to weakened immunity
When you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances such as cytokines. It uses these substances to combat foreign invaders such as bacteria and viruses. Cytokines also help you sleep, giving your immune system more energy to defend your body against illness.
Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces. Also, if you don’t get enough sleep, it takes you longer to recover from illness. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases your risk for chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
2. Low sex drive
Lack of sex has been cited as one of the leading causes of low libido and lack of interest for both men and women. A study published in the Journal for Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2002, suggested that men with sleep apnea have low testosterone levels. Sleep apnea occurs when your breathing is disrupted during sleep.
3. Can make respiratory diseases worse
A nighttime breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt your sleep and lower the quality of your sleep. As you wake up throughout the night, this can cause sleep deprivation, which leaves you more vulnerable to respiratory infections such as common cold and flu. Sleep deprivation can also make existing respiratory diseases, such as chronic lung illness worse.
4. Weight gain
Sleep affects the levels of two hormones, leptin and ghrelin, which control feelings of hunger and fullness. Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant.
The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in night. Sleep deprivation also prompts your body to release higher levels of insulin after you eat. Higher insulin levels promote fat storage and increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.
5. Causes skin to age
Many people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of missed sleep. Chronic sleep loss can lead to lacklustre skin, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain is triggered to produce cortisol, a stress hormone. When produced in large amounts, cortisol breaks down skin collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.
6. Can lead to depression
Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to symptoms of depression. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. In a 2007 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. Sleep loss often aggravates the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems can help depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.
7. Makes one forgetful
During the night, various sleep cycles play a role in “consolidating” memories in the mind. If you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember what you learned and experienced during the day. When sleeping, your brain forms connections that helps one process and remember new things through what researchers call sharp wave ripples and occur during the deepest levels of sleep.
8. Sleep loss may make you appear dumb
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.
9. Risk of heart disease
Sleep deprivation may lead to increased blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation, both of which play roles in accelerating heart disease.
10. Poor balance
Lack of sleep can affect your balance and coordination, making you more prone to falls and other physical accidents. Fatique and less sleep has become a public hazard not only to drivers and passengers, but also to pedestrians. A number of road accidents have been blamed on drivers sleeping on the wheels.