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What happens to your body when you are sleep deprived?


Are you sleep deprived, either occasionally or all the time? If so, you might be interested what effect sleep deprivation has on your body. You might be surprised.

Before we list the effects of long-term sleep deprivation, let’s first mention the effects from losing just one night of good sleep. Here is what the research shows:

After one night of sleep deprivation:

You will eat more the next day

People sleep deprived even one night tend to eat more the next day. Humans have a hormone called ghrelin, that when elevated makes us hungrier. After one night of poor sleep, your ghrelin level goes up and you eat more.

More likely to have an accident

Getting less than six hours of sleep triples your chance of having a traffic accident the next day.

More likely to catch a cold

Sleep is the time when your immune system recharges with new infection fighting white blood cells and other factors. If you sleep poorly just one night, your risk of catching a cold virus increases almost three times in the subsequent days.

More emotional

Research from the University of California, Berkeley, and Harvard, has shown, via functional MRI scans, that the brain of a sleep-deprived person is more sensitive. Sleep deprivation puts the brain more on the edge, “boosting the part of the brain most closely connected to depression, anxiety and other psychiatric disorders.”

Besides all of this…you will not look your best after a night without sleep. Now let’s see some of the effects on your body from long-term sleep deprivation (meaning, for most people, getting less than 7 hours of sleep for many nights in a row).

After many nights of sleep deprivation:

Weight gain

Sleep deprivation alters the hormones in your body that regulate appetite (ghrelin and leptin), so you have less control over when to stop eating. One study showed that test subjects who slept only 4 hours for 5 nights in a row, gained almost 1 kilogram.

Cancer risk increases

The reason is not yet known, but suspected to be from hormonal and immune changes from sleep deprivation. Colon and breast cancer in particular have been correlated to chronic sleep deprivation.

Increased risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, and diabetes

Again thought to be due to hormonal disruptions, blood pressure tends to rise along with more stress to your heart and blood vessels. A study in the European Heart Journal showed a 48% increased chance of developing heart disease, and a 15% increased chance of suffering a stroke for those who chronically sleep less than 6 hours a night.

Decreased sperm quality

Having problems getting pregnant? The problem could lie with your male partner, as a Danish study of nearly 1000 healthy young men showed that men with high levels of sleep disturbance had a 29% lower sperm count than men who slept well.

Note also that many studies have shown that sleeping too long on a chronic basis is also harmful, and could lead to the same chronic health problems noted above.

While some few people are totally refreshed with only 6 hours per night, most adults should aim for 7 to 9 hours per night. For hints on how to sleep better, see the posts listed here:

How to sleep better (part 2)

A good night’s sleep can help you lose weight

How sleep can help clean your brain

A computer at bedtime can harm your sleep. Really?

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Esta postagem também está disponível em: Portuguese (Brazil)

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