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Sleep deprivation causes, or contributes to, many health problems

Sleep deprivation leads to less than optimum functioning during the day.
Sleep deprivation leads to less than optimum functioning during the day.

Getting enough sleep is extremely important for people, yet a huge proportion of our society walks around in a condition of severe, long-term sleep deprivation. Many people feel they're laggards if they get enough sleep at night. It seems to be stylish to see who can function with the least amount of sleep. But in reality, humans need to sleep about a third of each day. Those who suffer long-term sleep deprivation are playing with fire.

Immune system

The first thing we know from extensive research is that the body repairs its immune system while we sleep. If you go without the proper amount of sleep for a long enough period you will, without a doubt, get sick. A recent study led by Sheldon Cohen, PhD at Carnegie Mellon University found that people who get fewer than seven hours of sleep a night are almost three times as likely to develop cold symptoms as people who sleep for eight or more hours.

The percentage of time in bed spent asleep, which is called sleep efficiency, is important as well. People with a sleep efficiency of 85 percent or less are five times as likely to develop cold symptoms as those with higher efficiency.

Cellular level

According to Richard G. Stevens, PhD, night lights can contribute to breast and prostate cancers by interfering with the production of melatonin. The hormone melatonin is produced in our pineal glands and is the main hormone for regulating our sleep patterns. Recent studies show that melatonin also inhibits cancer cell growth. Even a small amount of light slows melatonin production.

It is really important to make the bedroom as dark as possible, blocking out street lights and other small lights such as those on phones, VCRs, clocks, etc. If you must have a nightlight to keep from stubbing your toes on something make it a red one, which is less disturbing to our melatonin production. Or use a small flashlight, keeping it on only long enough to find your way to and from the bathroom.

Cardiovascular system

Another study, coming out of Warwick Medical School, found that women who get less than five hours sleep a night are prone to high blood pressure. The study, however, found that the same was not true for men. Their online abstract ends with the line “Sleep deprivation may produce detrimental cardiovascular effects among women.”

Largest organ of the body, skin

In Beautiful Skin by David E. Bank, and Estelle Sobel, sleep deprivation is referred to as one of the six “beauty burglars.” He goes on to say, “Lack of sleep is the fourth beauty burglar. Sleep is absolutely essential to looking your best. If you don’t get your 40 winks, you’ll pay for it with a droopy-looking face. Why? As your systems try to shut down, muscles become fatigued, and the face begins to sag and droop. Your skin can also take on a sallow appearance, as your pulse and blood pressure drop, causing less blood to pump into the face – not an attractive way to look.” Body repair is thought to take place during the deep-sleep phase.

This is part one. Part two contains information about:

  • how sleep deprivation affects hormone systems

  • brain and nervous systems and sleep loss

  • The Epworth Scale for assessing how sleep deprived you are

Part three will discuss drug-free ways to get more and higher quality sleep.

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  • Tim W. 5 years ago

    This is SO true that sleep deprivation causes many serious and chronic health problems. Certain foods can serve as sleep deprivation agents such as protein, spicy/greasy food, alcohol during the evening hours. A healthy diet is important for contributing a good quality of sleep amongst others.


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