Long-term effects of poor sleep
Nov. 3, 2015
In our last post, we extolled the virtues of a great night’s sleep. With daylight saving time coming to a close and long nights of studying ahead, you should understand the significant havoc that chronically poor sleep can wreak on your body.
“Catching up” on sleep is possible, but it’s not easy, according to Scientific American. Your sleep debt — the difference between the sleep you need and what you get — grows any time you skimp by burning the midnight oil and waking up with the sun. One or two mornings of sleeping in likely won’t erase the deficit, and in the short term you can expect your vision, memory and driving skills to get worse.
To return to a healthy sleeping pattern, add an hour or two per night for several months. Continuing to neglect needed sleep can result in serious long-term effects for both your physical health and your mental performance, which in turn can impact other people’s health.
While some people view sleeping minimally as a badge of honor, the fact is that humans need sleep as much as food, water and oxygen. While you sleep, your body performs routine maintenance on your mental and physical health, preparing you for the next day.
When you shortchange your body of necessary sleep, your brain cannot function at its optimal level, which affects emotional state and cognition. Over the long haul, sleep deprivation increases your risk of chronic illnesses and inhibits coordination, balance and the ability to make sound decisions. Physical maladies that can result from or worsen due to lack of sleep include:
- High blood pressure
- Heart disease and heart attacks
- Increased appetite and obesity
- Reduced sex drive
- Premature skin aging
At a basic level, sleep deprivation causes sleepiness, which can lead to dangerous situations. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, fatigue plays a role in some 100,000 car accidents annually. Sleep loss also contributes to workplace injuries and accidents.
Your ability to think and learn depends heavily on getting adequate sleep. When you’re sleep-deprived, your concentration, alertness, reasoning and problem-solving abilities suffer. In addition, you’re less likely to remember what you learn.
Long-term sleep loss also can contribute to symptoms associated with depression. Sleep deprivation can impair your judgment and make you believe you’re sleeping enough. People suffering from chronic sleep deprivation often feel they’ve adapted to the lack of sleep, but tests indicate that real-life performance does not match the perception.
GET ENOUGH SLEEP AND LIVE LONGER
Cutting sleep by just two hours a night — from seven to five hours — can nearly double the risk of death, one study found. Fortunately, educational institutions are providing vital training to help combat problems associated with insufficient sleep. You can be involved, too, by working with the latest in polysomnographic technology where medical professionals study, record and treat sleep disorders to improve quality of life for sufferers.
See what Concorde has to offer as you dream about your new career in health care. Let our counselors lead you through the decision-making process as you evaluate all of our programs in health care.