8 Health Effects of Sleep Deficiency and the Dangers of Sleep Apnea

Never underestimate the benefits of a good night’s sleep and the health effects of sleep deficiency. Sleep plays a vital role in how the entire body functions, which is why health experts recommend between six and eight hours of sleep per night to help maintain wellness. But when life gets a bit too hectic, those hours are often one of the first things to get cut back. According to Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, one in five people have sleep worries in Japan, and a long-term lack of sleep can have serious health consequences.

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep each night? More than you may think. In the short-term, being tired can make getting through the day incredibly difficult. Over time, sleep deficiency can start to catch up with you, leading to a range of negative physical and mental health effects that even put you at risk for chronic conditions that can be life threatening. Here are 8 Health Effects of Sleep Deficiency:

1. Increased Stress
Stress can really take a toll on the mind and body. When you’re under pressure and experiencing anxiety, stress hormones like cortisol are released which can wreak havoc throughout the body, making us more susceptible to illness, high blood pressure and even uncontrolled weight gain. Getting a full night’s rest helps relax the body and calm the mind to reduce stress so you can remain level-headed and in control throughout the day.

2. Weakened Immune System
While you sleep at night, your body is recovering from the taxing activities of the day so you can be prepared for whatever comes your way, especially when it comes to exposure to bacteria and viruses that can make you sick. Your body’s first line of defense against these invaders is the immune system, which includes the various organs, tissues and cells, including the white blood cells. Not getting adequate sleep limits the amount of antibodies and cytokines the immune system can produce overnight, reducing the body’s ability to fight off infection and making you more at risk for contracting an infection.

3. Weight Gain
Sleep is essential to the function of the body’s digestive system and metabolism, which is the process of converting the food and drink we consume into usable energy. When our metabolism is optimal, we burn calories throughout the day and night, helping us keep our weight within the desired ranged for our height. A lack of sleep can impede this process and make our metabolism sluggish, potentially leading to weight gain over time that can be hard to shed. That is why one of the health effects of sleep deficiency is increased risk for obesity.

4. Impaired Cognitive Function
When you’re tired, you probably feel like your brain is “foggy.” Not sleeping enough impairs cognitive function in more ways than one, impacting your productivity and how you interact with others during your day. Sleep deficiency can make it difficult to concentrate on the task at hand and cause you to have trouble remembering things or retaining new information. This also means you’re more likely to be the cause of human error in the workplace, which can negatively impact the quality of your work. The more sleep you get means the better you’ll perform at work or school the next day, able to make rational decisions in a timely manner, communicate effectively with your colleagues and peers and flex your creative muscles, which is also good for you.

5. Mood Changes
The fifth of the eight health effects of sleep deficiency is mood changes. Many people would describe themselves as “cranky” when they don’t get enough sleep. Being tired can put you in a bad mood that makes you irritable or overly sensitive. This can also impact how well you can read the emotions or reactions of other people in social situations. Long-term sleep deficiency can also put you at risk for or contribute to depression, a serious mental illness. Getting the sleep you need can do wonders for how you feel and your overall outlook on life.

6. Higher Blood Pressure
Having high blood pressure means the blood is pushing too strongly against the walls of your arteries, putting too much pressure on them. This puts you at greater risk for suffering a heart attack or stroke, which could be deadly. Sleep deficiency can cause a rise in blood pressure that can be dangerous, especially when combined with added stress and anxiety, which is why sleeping enough each night is a key component in overall cardiovascular health.

7. Increased Risk of Accidents
Being fatigued can greatly impact how you function physically during the day. If you’re lacking energy from too little sleep, it can make driving a car or operating any time of machinery at work dangerous. You reflexes will be slower and your coordination can suffer, making your reaction to sudden changes delayed which can result in injury to yourself or someone else, making increased risk of accidents the seventh of the eight health effects of sleep deficiency.

8. Greater Risk for Chronic Illness
Over time, not getting the sleep your body craves can catch up with you, contributing to the developing of serious and life-threatening diseases. While you’re asleep at night, the body repairs the vital organs such as the heart, hormones that regulate everything from body temperature to blood sugar metabolism are balanced and the immune system goes to work fortifying your defenses for the coming day. The negative effects of little sleep can mean you have a greater risk of developing chronic medical conditions such as heart disease, kidney disease and type 2 diabetes, which have life-altering effects for you and your family.

How much sleep you get at night may seem like a small thing to worry about with everything else going on, but it can have big consequences on your immediate and long-term health and wellness. Remember, six to eight hours a night is the magic number to strive for to avoid the 8 health effects of sleep deficiency. If you’re having trouble sleeping due to respiratory issues or know that you snore while you sleep, it’s best to see a doctor to determine the cause. One such respiratory condition to be aware of is sleep apnea, which is a condition that causes the airway to be obstructed during sleep, blocking the flow of oxygen. You may not even be aware you have a very treatable condition — it’s said there are more than three million sleep apnea sufferers in Japan, but only 300,000 (about 10 percent) are currently being treated, according to the Japanese Association of Medical Doctors in Drug Industries (JAMDI) SAS Committee industry survey. If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, your doctor may recommend the use of a device from a line such as Respironics from Philips, which includes masks and devices to help you breathe normally while sleeping.

Take your sleep seriously and it will take care of you.

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