Top 3 Health Risks Linked to Sleep Deprivation
There are a number of factors that lead to the lack of good quality sleep or sleep deprivation. The number of "needed" hours of sleep has been debated over the years. But there is an overwhelming consensus from many research studies that shows sleep deprivation leads to three big health risks:
1. Increased risk for heart disease
2. Increased risk of weight gain
3. Increased risk of viral infections
Sleep Deprivation and Heart Disease
A number of studies have linked short-term sleep deprivation with several risk factors for heart disease:
- high cholesterol
- high triglycerides
- high blood pressure.
In a 2009 research report in Sleep, scientists found that women who had no more than four hours of sleep a night were twice as likely to die from heart disease than women who had seven hours or more.
Lack of Sleep Affects Weight
Over 36 different research studies have concluded that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep disrupts hormones that control hunger and appetite. And, of course, fatigue during the day discourages us from exercising.
A 2012 research study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that while calorie restriction and increased physical activity are recommended for weight loss, there is significant evidence that adequate sleep time and the quality of sleep predicts the success of fat loss in people enrolled in a weight loss program.
The lack of sleep affecting weight gain appears to be especially true among children.The obesity rate among kids is skyrocketing. One out of three kids in the United States is now considered overweight or obese. Increased time in front of the television, social media and playing video games can keep kids up late at night. And for some kids, increased pressure to participate in after school activities while still trying to keep up with their homework can also lead to late nights and less sleep.
Not enough sleep leads to increased viral infections
It's a pretty well known fact that when we are tired and run down, we tend to get sick a little more easily, right? But the question is: how much sleep is really needed to ward off illness?
Researchers found in 2009 study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that susceptibility to viral infections is linked to the amount of sleep individuals have. The study tracked the sleep habits of 150+ men and 150+ women for two weeks and then quarantined them for five days and exposed them to a cold virus - that doesn't sound like a a fun study to be in!
What they found is that those that had 8 hours of sleep were 3 times less likely to get the cold virus compared to those that had 7 hours or less sleep a night on average. The difference between 7 and 8 hours of sleep made a difference.
Common Causes of Poor Sleep
There are a number of factors that lead to poor sleep or sleep deprivation:
- a noisy outside environment
- room temperature
- hormonal changes
- restless or noisy (snoring!) sleeping partner
And one of more common causes of poor sleep: sleep apnea
Sleep apnea life-threatening condition in which breathing stops or becomes shallower hundreds of times each night.
People with severe sleep apnea have been found to be three to five times more likely to die of heart disease than those without apnea. Sleep apnea can trigger arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) which can also increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.
It's worth taking some time and evaluating your sleeping habits and environment and determining where you can make changes to reduce the health risks related to sleep deprivation!
To learn about how sleep is related to other diseases:
Here are two additional articles that cover the importance of sleep in other health matters:
Relevant Research References
Jean-Philippe Chaput and Angelo Tremblay. Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity. CMAJ, September 17, 2012 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.120876