The immediate effects of not getting enough sleep are often obvious – you might feel groggy, unable to focus, sluggish and find yourself wishing for either a nap or a strong cup of coffee. There are even more subtle signs that you need more sleep including hunger, being overly emotional and clumsy. Usually a good night’s sleep will remedy these. But there are other, far less obvious side effects of chronic sleep deprivation that can have a very negative impact on your overall health.
- Increased Risk of Stroke – Even without the typical risk factors, like being overweight or having a family history, lack of sleep can increase your risk for stroke, according to 2012 research. Adults who regularly slept fewer than six hours a night had four times the risk of stroke symptoms.
- Obesity – Lack of sleep can lead to less than ideal food choices, including larger portions and junk food. This is due to hormonal changes that occur when you’re not getting enough sleep. Research suggests that less than six hours of sleep increases the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin and suppresses leptin, which helps your balance your food intake.
- Diabetes – A 2012 study examining the link between poor sleep and insulin resistance (a common factor of diabetes) found that among healthy teenagers, those who slept the least had the highest insulin resistance. Their bodies were not using insulin effectively.
- Memory Loss – You’ve likely experienced this one. On the days when you are most tired, you’re forgetful and unfocused. But chronic sleep deprivation can actually lead to permanent cognitive issues. The less we sleep, the less we benefit from the memory-storing properties of sleep. Over time, this can cause brain deterioration.
- Bone Damage – In a long-term 2012 study on rats, sleep deprivation contributed to osteoporosis. Scientists found negative changes to bone mineral density and marrow when they deprived the rodents of sleep over a 72-day period. Scientists have yet to prove that this is true of humans, but they suspect it is.
- Heart Disease – According to a study in 2011, the stress of too little sleep can cause the body to produce more of the chemicals and hormones that can lead to heart disease. People who slept for less than six hours each night had problems staying asleep and had a 48 percent increased risk of developing or dying from heart disease.
While these are frightening side effects of sleep deprivation, the good news is that sleep duration is usually something you can control. If you are taking proper measures to get enough sleep, but are still struggling, it may be time to seek professional help.