Sleep deprivation

By maxwell adeyemi

Missing out on your nightly rest has recently been linked to major health problems including heart disease and strokes. Sleep deprivation can also contribute to significant road accidents that can rival drunk- driving.

Many a time we see young persons moving like 'zombies' after depriving themselves of needed sleep because they spent most of their night sleeping times on computer games, facebook, twitter, blackberry messengers, texting and talking on cell phones till early hours of the morning, and by morning time they are tired, reluctant to go to school and unable to concentrate and perform on the job.

But new researches has also indicated that lack of sleep can harm us in more direct ways than say, falling asleep at the wheel of a car. A recent publication in the European Heart Journal linked disrupted sleep patterns to major health problems. "If you sleep less than six hours a night and have disturbed sleep, you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke", the study concluded.

The key to healthy sleeping is achieving at least, six hours of "core" sleep at night which include the "deep" sleep during the first five hours of normal sleep. "Core" sleep gradually gives way to "optional" sleep which maintains sleep until morning awakening.

Getting enough sleep is extremely important. Sleep is how the body restores itself from a day of work, rushing the kids to soccer practice, picking up the house duties when the day is done, meeting deadlines on the job and a host of other functions and responsibilities, all cut into sleeping times.

When you do not get the sleep you need, you begin to build up a sleep debt. For example, if you are losing one hour of sleep a day during the week, by Friday, you have 5 hours of sleep diet. This can make for a dangerous Friday night/weekend driving if the person driving has a sleep debt, especially if they have alcohol on top of it. Sleep debt is caused by not having enough time to get the sleep you need or due to a sleep disorder which disrupts sleep. Sleep is important in effective functioning of many body systems including digestive, immune and cardiovascular systems.


Common symptoms of sleep deprivation include: tiredness, irritability, edginess, inability to tolerate stress, problems with concentration and memory, behavioral, learning or social problems especially in young/ adolescents, frequent infections, blurred vision, vague discomfort, alterations in appetite and activity intolerance. Causes of sleep deprivation may include the following:

1. Not allowing enough time for sleep

2. Sleep disorders

3. Excessive worry

4. Depression

5. Repeated awakening from noise or trips to the bathroom

6. Anything that causes insomnia or poor quality of sleep

7. Medication that may interfere with sleep

8. Lack of exercise


Generally, sleep deprivation may result in: aching muscles, confusion, memory lapses/ loss, hallucinations, hand tremors, headaches,malaise, bloodshot eyes, peri- orbital puffiness (commonly known as "bags under eyes"), increased blood pressure, increased stress hormone levels, increased risks of diabetes, irritability, nystagmus (rapid involuntary rhythmic eye movement), obesity, temper tantrums in children and yawning.

TIME BASED HORMONES: Certain hormones are time dependent in the body,MELATONIN[sleep hormone] is highest at night,CORTISOL the stress hormone is highest in the early hours of the morning,TESTOSTERONE-the sex hormone is also highest in the early mornings,So chaotic lifestyles that interfers with sleep time and thus the levels of these hormones can increase our health risks as the natural hormonal circadian rhythm is violated.

• Sleep deprivation can adversely affect the brain and cognitive functions. The non- rapid eye movement sleep is necessary for turning "off" neurotransmitters and allowing their receptors to "REST" and regain sensitivity which allow them to be effective. This leads to improved regulation of mood and increased learning ability. Also, sleep allows certain enzymesto repair brain cell damages caused by free radicals. High metabolic activity while awake damages the enzymes themselves preventing efficient repair.

• Sleep deprivation also results in reduced cortisol secretions the next day, driven by increased subsequent slow wave - sleep. It enhances activity on the hypothalamic- pituitary- adrenal axis (which controls reactions to stress and regulates body functions such as digestion, immune system, sex or energy usage), while suppressing growth hormone (growth hormone levels increase when sleeping).

• According to a 2000 study published in the British Medical Journal, sleep deprivation can have some of the same effects as being drunk. People who drove after being awake for more than 15 hours performed worse than those with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% (the legal limit).

Another research done in Florida in early 2000 also indicates that continuous night shifts (especially for shift worker has a cardiovascular risk effect of smoking a pack of cigarettes daily overtime as a consequence of sleep disruptions.

• Continuous muscular activity without proper rest time causes cramping and fatigue in sleep deprived individuals.

• Sleep deprivation can negatively impact performance in professional fields including banking, nursing, doctors & pilots, potentially jeopardising lives.

• Sleep loss is also implicated in disturbance of endocrine regulation of energy homeostasis, leading to weight gain and obesity. A reduction of sleep duration to four hours for 2 consecutive nights has recently been shown to decrease circulatory levels of the satiety hormone LEPTIN and increase hunger stimulating hormone, GHRELIN levels thus increasing hunger and food intake that can lead to obesity.

• Sleep deprivationinterfers with the night hormone MELATONIN which in turn causes decrease in insulin sensitivity leading to impaired glucose metabolism, thus increasing your risk of developing diabetes, obesity and impaired lipid metabolism.

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