Many people get less than five hours of sleep per night. Percentage-wise, adolescents are among the most sleep deprived.
The consequences are dire, not just for the individual who isn’t getting enough rest, but for those around them as well. While most people don’t give lack of sleep much thought, there are in fact life-threatening consequences.
It’s important to realize that getting less than six hours of sleep each night leaves you cognitively impaired. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to health effects such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s,1 and cancer. Depression and anxiety disorders are also adversely impacted by lack of sleep.
Maintaining a natural rhythm of exposure to sunlight during the day and darkness at night is one crucial foundational component of sleeping well.
This was addressed in a previous interview with researcher Dan Pardi. In it, he explains how exposure to bright daylight serves as the major synchronizer of your master clock—a group of cells in your brain called the suprachiasmatic nuclei (SCN). These nuclei synchronize to the light-dark cycle of your environment when light enters your eye. You also have other biological clocks throughout your body that are synchronized to your master clock.
One reason why so many people get so little sleep, and/or such poor sleep, can be traced back to a master clock disruption. In short, most people spend their days indoors, shielded from bright daylight, and then spend their evenings in too-bright artificial light.
As a result, their body clocks get out of sync with the natural rhythm of daylight and nighttime darkness, and when that happens, restorative sleep becomes elusive.
An estimated 15 million Americans also work the night shift, and the adverse health effects of working nights are well documented. As just one example, three years of periodical night shift work can increase your risk for diabetes by 20 percent, and this risk continues to rise with time.
What makes sleep deprivation so detrimental is that it doesn’t just impact oneaspect of your health… it impacts many. Among them are five major risks to your mental and physical well-being:
Hence, if you’re sleep-deprived you will have trouble processing information and making decisions. This is why it’s so important to get a good night’s sleep prior to important events at work or home.
For example, research discussed in the film found that diagnostic mistakes shot up by 400 percent among doctors who had worked for 24 consecutive hours. Sleep deprived medical residents also reported a 73 percent increase in self-inflicted needle sticks and scalpel stabs, and when driving home from work, they had a 170 percent increased risk of having a serious motor vehicle accident.
Research4 also suggests that people with chronic sleep problems may develop Alzheimer’s disease sooner than those who sleep well. One of the reasons for this is because sleep is critical for brain detoxification—a process during which harmful proteins linked to Alzheimer's are cleared out.
The studies are quite clear and most experts agree, you are seriously fooling yourself if you think you can do fine on less than eight hours of sleep. But eight hours of sleep is not eight hours in bed. If you go to bed at 10 pm and get out of bed at 6 am, you might say you’ve slept for eight hours. In reality, you probably spent at least 15-30 minutes falling asleep and may have woken during the night one or more times.
“For some, sleep loss is a badge of honor, a sign that they don’t require the eight-hour biological reset that the rest of us softies do. Others feel that keeping up with peers requires sacrifice at the personal level—and at least in the short-term, sleep is an invisible sacrifice.”
Modern man’s penchant for equating sleep with unproductiveness (if not outright laziness) can be traced back to the heyday of Thomas Edison, who was known for working around the clock. According to the featured article:9
This culture of sleep deprivation started with the invention of the light bulb, and has only gotten worse with the proliferation of light-emitting electronics, which disrupt your natural waking-sleeping cycle. The following infographic, created by BigBrandBeds.co.uk, illustrates how your electronic gadgets wreak havoc on your sleep when used before bedtime.10
Sleep apnea is another common cause of sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea is the inability to breathe properly, or the limitation of breath or breathing, during sleep. Obstructive sleep apnea consists of the frequent collapse of the airway during sleep, making it difficult to breathe for periods lasting as long as 10 seconds. Those with a severe form of the disorder have at least 30 disruptions per hour. Not only do these breathing disruptions interfere with sleep, leaving you unusually tired the next day, it also reduces the amount of oxygen in your blood, which can impair the function of internal organs and/or exacerbate other health conditions you may have.
The condition is closely linked to metabolic health problems such as obesity and type 2 diabetes, and according to research,11 even a modest weight reduction can halt the progression of obstructive sleep apnea. Shedding excess pounds might even cure it, according to one five-year long study.12 That said, you do not have to be obese to suffer from sleep apnea. As discussed by Dr. Arthur Strauss, a dental physician and a diplomat of the American Board of Dental Sleep Medicine, factors such as the shape and size of your mouth, and the positioning of your tongue, can also play a significant role.
Making small adjustments to your daily routine and sleeping area can go a long way to ensure uninterrupted, restful sleep and, thereby, better health. I suggest you read through my full set of 33 healthy sleep guidelines for all of the details, but to start, consider implementing the following changes to ensure more shut-eye:
Natural health expert Dr. Joseph Mercola
Sources and References: