BY: SAMANTHA TAPP
Pulling all-nighters to hit a deadline, only getting three hours of sleep due to too many drinks last night, or simply just so really into that new Netflix show that you must stay up all night to binge watch? Don’t make a habit out of it. Lose one night of sleep and you may just be a bit bitchier than usual. Lose tons of sleep and you are actually damaging your body, potentially permanently.
Sleep is at the top of everyone’s ‘favourite thing to do,’ list and there’s good reason why. Just like breathing, eating and drinking water, sleep is essential to a healthy life. While we’re sleeping and feeling completely relaxed, hormones are being released to help build muscle mass and to repair cells and tissues.
If you’re a repeat no-sleep offender, you’re putting your body at risk of chronic illness by lowering your body’s defence mechanisms. Other than diminishing your quality of life (which alone should be reason enough to go to bed), and even though certain people are already predisposed to certain diseases regardless of sleep, it is inarguable that there are nasty health effects that come with a lack of sleep.
Obviously with a lack of sleep you’ll probably just have a harder time focusing. By staying awake you’re refusing to let your brain rest. When it gets rest, busy neurons get rest, proteins are produced to help cells repair damage, and new pathways are formed so you can function normally and quickly. Without the break, your brain is tired, which affects your ability to concentrate and learn. Your short-term and long-term memory and emotions are affected; you’re pretty much missing a day even though you’re awake.
The longer you go without sleep, the worse. You’re at a high risk of hallucinating, impulsive behaviour, depression and paranoia. In 2013, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore discovered that a lack of sleep is tied to Alzheimers. Shitty sleep leads to an increase in brain levels of beta-amyloid, which is a toxic protein that builds up and creates plaques in the brains of those with Alzheimers. The researchers found that sleep was necessary for wiping out “cerebal waste,” which can cause dementia. The National Sleep Foundation confirmed this research, although it also stated that those predisposed to Alzheimers were more likely to suffer from sleep deprivation.
Obesity & Diabetes
As if a lack of sleep in your life wasn’t stressful enough in itself, you’re actually gaining weight by staying awake. Studies at both Harvard Medical School and the University of Chicago have confirmed that with sleep deprivation comes a fatty acid buildup, causing a slow metabolism. Cortisol, a stress hormone, increases and leptin, a hormone that tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat, lowers.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania even found that people who lacked sleep for only five nights in a row (hello, university), gained about two pounds. On top of that, your body releases higher levels of insulin after you eat, which along with the slow metabolism can cause obesity, which increases your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
As you lose more and more sleep, the negative effects begin to lead to other negative effects; it’s like a snowball effect. Obesity and diabetes meet heart disease. Sleep is not only your brain’s best friend, but your heart’s as well. Sleep plays a key role in healing and repairing your blood vessels and heart. You’re upping your chances of health problems like high blood pressure, heart disease and strokes. To show just how connected sleep and the heart are, according to Harvard Medical School, for people with hypertension, one night without sleep can cause elevated blood pressure for an entire day.
This common disease, an inflammatory bowel disease that causes ulcers in the lining of the body’s digestive tract, has tons of factors that trigger it- age, weight, or smoking habits. But according to a study by the NHS, adult woman are more prone to the disease if they get less than six hours of sleep a day (or more than nine hours). This was the first time there has been a link between sleep deprivation and ulcerative colitis.
Note that there are approximately 70,000 new cases of colitis and Crohn’s disease each year and there isn’t a definite single cause for the disease that scientists have confirmed; there is also no cure.
In 2013, a study was done on more than 2,000 Icelandic men for three years to test the relationship between sleep and prostate cancer. The researchers found that the men who didn’t get enough sleep had a 60% greater chance of getting prostate cancer; that number doubled for men who couldn’t stay asleep. The study, published in the journal ‘Cancer Edipemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention,’ suggests this link is due to melatonin suppression, which allows for better sleep and represses tumour growth.
A year before, a study was completed that suggested that sleep deprivation may cause more aggressive tumors in post-menopausal women. Women who were getting six hours or less of sleep per night on average may develop more aggressive breast cancers compared with those who get more sleep.
A lack of sleep can cause worse than merely a bad mood; it can trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Having issues sleeping does not generally cause depression, but it does it does make depression worse for somebody who is already battling it.
In 2014, a study at the Stanford University of Medicine also found that there is a connection between no sleep and suicide. The 10-year study had 420 participants, and 20 of them who had sleeping issues committed suicide during the study.
Countless studies have been conducted to link sleep deprivation with death itself. No, you won’t die from a lack of sleep, but a SLEEP study did follow over 1,700 men and women for 10-14 years to test mortality rates. It found that men who slept an average of less than six hours a night had a 21% increased risk of death, even after lifestyle adjustments were made for diabetes, hypertension, and other illnesses.
But, the good news is that most of the effects of sleep deprivation will disappear once you finally get some sleep.