Pillow Talk - Questions and Answers About Sleep

Questions and Answers About Sleep

6 sleep facts on how lack of sleep can affect your body.

This blog was originally posted on April 28, 2010 by Dr. Matthew Mingrone.
  1. Poor quality of life and Problems in Relationships: Sleep-deprived patients frequently report that their quality of life suffers. People cut back on the activities they enjoy because of lack of energy and because they are embarrassed about their problem. Frequent travelers are afraid to travel with friends and loved-ones, business travelers are afraid to fall asleep on a plane. Couples are afraid of failing relationships because of lack of intimacy. According to the 2010 National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep in America poll. “Among married people or couples living together, all ethnic groups report being too tired for sex frequently (21- 26% of the time).” Daytime sleepiness and unplanned naps may be a source of embarrassment and friction in many households causing resentment and relationship conflicts. Sleepiness at work may cause verbal reprimand, denial of advancement or termination of employment.
  2. Changes mental function: Lack of quality sleep can result in significant changes in mental function. Sleepy patients often have an impaired short term memory. Attention span is also be shortened. Sleep deprivation may cause mental status alterations with symptoms mimicking depression or anxiety. People may find themselves more moody, irritable, with a decreased libido or low energy level. According to a recent study jointly published by Harvard Medical School and University of Pennsylvania Medical School, chronically limited sleep progressively and substantially encourage neurocognitive dysfunction and this dysfunction appears to accumulate as chronic lack of sleep continues. These symptoms typically will disappear once quality sleep is restored, but the lack of sleep caused by snoring, must be addressed.
  3. Crashes and workplace errors: Excessive sleepiness is the second leading cause of car crashes in the United States. The Three Mile Island and Chernobyl nuclear power plant disasters, the Exxon Valdez oil spill and the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster have been attributed to the poor judgment of sleep deprived workers. 1
  4. Contributes to heart disease: Lack of quality sleep is linked to increased blood pressure and heart disease. Shorter duration of sleep is strongly correlated with a higher likelihood of developing hypertension. Maintaining quality sleep is associated with a reduction in coronary artery calcification or “clogging”.
  5. Decreases immune function: Lack of quality sleep results in the breakdown of your body’s defenses against infection. Individuals who are sleep deprived are more likely to get sick and stay sick longer.
  6. Alters appetite causing health issues: Sleeping less or lacking quality sleep causes changes in your appetite. Sleep loss is associated with decreases in the hormone leptin which sends the message of satiety when your “stomach is full”. Lack of sleep also causes spikes in the hormone ghrelin which tells your body you are hungry. Significant weight gain is correlated with many long-term health issues such as heart-attack, stroke, cancer, and diabetes.
1 Mitler, MM, Carskadon, MA, Czeisler, CA, et al. Catastrophes, sleep and public policy. Consensus report. Sleep 1988; 11:100.

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