Sleep is of extreme importance for the overall health of the individual, both, mentally and physically. It is a way to recharge after the long and stressful day.
While sleeping, millions of processes continue to happen in the body, helping the brain to store the important data in the memory, and the cells work to repair the damaged tissue and regenerate.
On the other hand, when we lack sleep, all these functions fail to be done on time, and we wake up cranky and have difficulties to concentrate the entire day, but what’s more important, we experience numerous side effects which can significantly endanger our health.
Studies have found that sleep deprivation can cause serious, even life-threatening conditions, from heart diseases, diabetes, to cancer. Here are some of the conditions which are caused by the lack of sleep:
1. Obesity and diabetes
According to researchers at the University of Chicago, fatty acids hinder the speed of your metabolism, along with the ability to regulate blood sugars. In their study, they found that those who lacked sleep had a fatty acid buildup, causing their metabolisms to slow down, whereas those who slept enough didn’t have higher fatty acid levels.
Researchers concluded that the increase of fatty acids resulted in greater insulin resistance, which, along with a slowed metabolism that can cause obesity, is also attributed to pre-diabetes.
2. Alzheimer’s disease
A 2013 study out of John Hopkins University found that too little sleep can cause Alzheimer’s, while an ongoing lack of sleep can hasten the progression of the disease. The researchers found that those who experienced poor sleep each night had a greater amount of beta-amyloid buildup in their brains on PET scans. This compound is a known marker of the disease.
The researchers concluded that sleep was essential for getting rid of “cerebral waste,” which can cause dementia when accumulated.
3. Cardiovascular disease
The link between heart problems and the lack of sleep has been suggested numerous times before, but the strongest evidence for the strong correlation has been found by a recent study and presented at EuroHeartCare, the annual meeting of the European Society of Cardiology.
For 14 years, the team of researchers followed 657 Russian men between the ages of 25 and 64 and found that two-thirds of the individuals who experienced a heart attack had a sleep disorder as well.
Moreover, the men who complained to have sleep disorders also had a 1/5 to 4 times greater stroke risk, and 2.6 times higher risk of myocardial infarction.
4. Ulcerative colitis
This common inflammatory bowel disease produces ulcers in the lining of the body’s digestive tract. According to a study led by NHS, the condition can be triggered by a lack of, as well as an excessive amount of, sleep. Researchers found that, when people got less than six, or more than nine hours of sleep each night, they experienced a greater risk of getting ulcerative colitis.
It’s necessary to note that these results were only found within adult women. Yet, the chances of developing the disease occurred regardless of other factors such as age, weight, and lifestyle choices like smoking and drinking.
5. Prostate cancer
Researchers of a 2013 study published in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found a greater rate and seriousness of prostate cancer in patients with sleep concerns. The study, which analyzed more than 2,000 men from Iceland between the ages of 67 and 96 for 3 years, concluded that men who didn’t sleep enough had a 60 percent higher chance of developing prostate cancer. This number doubled in those who had a tough time staying asleep.
According to the researchers, this link is the result of melatonin suppression, since melatonin both allows for better sleep quality as well as represses tumor growth.
6. Hormonal imbalance
Hormone production is dependent on your sleep. For testosterone production, you need at least three hours of uninterrupted sleep. Waking up throughout the night could affect hormone production.
This interruption can also affect growth hormone production, especially in children and adolescents. These hormones help build muscle mass and repair cells and tissues. The pituitary gland releases growth hormones continuously, but sleep and exercise also help induce the release of this hormone.
7. Weak immunity
While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like 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. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body may not be able to fend off invaders. It may also take you longer to recover from illness.
In 2014, researchers found an unfortunate connection between a lack of sleep and suicidal thoughts in adults, even if they were not reported to experience depression. The study, out of the Stanford University of Medicine, was conducted over a 10-year time period, examining 420 participants, and 20 of those who had difficulty sleeping took their lives during the course of the study.
According to the researchers, the most vulnerable of those who reported poor sleep were white males 85 years or older.