What happens when you are sleep deprived?

Living by the motto, ‘I’ll sleep when I’m dead’ and clocking in less than six hours of sleep a night, is a product of our hyper-connected lives. The result is that many people are often sleep deprived and the effects on our bodies is alarming.

Just one night of sleep deprivation can:

  • Alter your biological clock. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism found that just one night’s sleep loss can cause the genes that control the biological clocks in your cells to be altered.
  • Make us perform as if we are drunk. The University of Texas Learning Center found that after 19 hours without sleep we perform as if we are legally drunk.
  • Result in lost brain tissue. A small study, published in the journal Sleep, found that a night of sleep deprivation was linked with signs of brain tissue loss.

And while occasional insomnia can happen to us all, chronically not getting enough sleep can be harmful. Sure we’ve all heard that some people just don’t need as much sleep as others. But most sleep experts would agree that anything less than six hours is potentially hazardous to your health.

Getting less than seven hours triples your risk of getting a cold, according to a Carnegie Mellon University study that found a link between people who slept fewer than seven hours a night and an increased risk of getting a cold. But in general, less than six hours causes the most negative effects.

Getting less than six hours of sleep a night can:

  • Alter your genes. A study by UK researchers published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that getting less than six hours of sleep in just one week can result in changes to more than 700 genes – some that are linked to our inflammatory, immune, and stress responses.
  • Triple your risk of having an accident.
  • Severely impact your mood and stress levels. The University of Pennsylvania found that people who had 4.5 hours of sleep a night for one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, sad, and mentally exhausted. Furthermore, Harvard University found that people who experience regular insomnia are at a greater risk of developing depression and panic disorder.
  • Affect your memory.Harvard researchers found that lack of sleep has a negative affect on our long and short-term memory.
  • Decrease your libido. A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that men who slept fewer than five hours a night suffered a 10-15% drop in sex hormone levels.
  • Make you overweight.Several studies by Harvard University have found that you are more likely to become overweight if you’re getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night. The researchers found a correlation between lower body mass index and people who slept eight hours a night.
  • Raises your diabetes risk. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that too little sleep was linked with a host of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes.
  • Increase your likelihood of obesity.Getting less than five hours sleep has been linked to an increase risk of obesity, according to a study published in Sleep and Breathing. Furthermore, The Huffington Post notes that when you don’t get enough sleep you tend to eat more and choose less healthy options, like junk food.
  • Increase the rate of ageing in skin.People who don’t get enough sleep had more fine lines and wrinkles than those who got their recommended dose, according to a study by two universities in Ohio.
  • Raise your risk of aggressive breast cancers.A study published in Breast Cancer Research and Treatment found a link between patients getting less than six hours of sleep and their risk of more aggressive breast cancers.
  • Increase your risk of heart disease and stroke.A study by Warwick Medical School found that you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying of a stroke. For middle-aged and older subjects, a study by the University of Alabama found that those who got less than six hours of sleep a night had four times the increased risk of stroke symptoms, if they were overweight.
  • Increase your risk of death.Researchers at Harvard University have compared several studies and found that sleeping less than five hours a night increases mortality risk from all causes by around 15%. 

From your looks, to your mood and overall health, sleep is vital. Aim for at least six to eight hours a night.