Sleep deprivation has the same effect on your immune system as physical stress or illness, which helps explain why lack of sleep has been shown to raise your risk of numerous chronic diseases.
Sleep is also intricately tied to important hormone levels, including melatonin — an antioxidant with powerful anticancer activity — which is diminished by lack of sleep, and to brain detoxification and rejuvenation, which only occur during deep sleep.
The Cost Of Sleep Deprivation
Cutting just one hour of sleep a night increases the expression of genes associated with inflammation, immune excitability, diabetes, cancer risk and stress. A single night of poor sleep has also been shown to impair your physical movements and mental focus to a degree comparable to having a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent.
Sleeping well is also important for maintaining emotional balance. Fatigue compromises your brain’s ability to regulate emotions, making you more prone to crankiness, anxiety and unwarranted emotional outbursts
One of the worst things to do is to reach for a sleeping pill. Research shows these drugs do not work and can have serious side effects. One analysis found that popular sleeping pills reduced the average time it takes to fall asleep by a mere 13 minutes compared to placebo, while increasing total sleep time by 11 minutes.
Research also shows people who take sleeping pills have a 35 percent higher risk for certain cancers and are nearly four times as likely to die from any cause as nonusers. These are significant risks for mere minutes of additional sleep.
What Science Tells Us About the Ramifications of Sleep Deprivation
According to an analysis of available research by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, the weight of the evidence suggests adults need somewhere between seven and nine hours of sleep each night for optimal health, with the Goldilocks’ Zone being right around eight hours.
They also determined that consistently sleeping less than six hours a night increases your risk for a wide range of psychological and physical effects.
Sleep Deprivation Ups Diabetes Risk in Both Young and Old
Recent research also confirms that sleep is an important factor in children’s risk for diabetes. A British team evaluated more than 4,500 children aged between 9 and 10 years of varying ethnic backgrounds. On average, their parents reported the children slept between eight and 12 hours, with the average sleep time being 10 hours.
Previous studies have shown children need more sleep than adults and this study confirms that view. Even at eight hours a night, children were at increased risk of obesity and insulin resistance when compared to those who slept the most.
Light Pollution and EMF Decrease Sleep Quality and Quantity
If you’ve ever gone camping, you’ve likely noticed a change in your sleep quality. Chances are you slept deeper and arose more rested. Aside from factors such as grounding to the earth and spending time in fresh air and nature, the most influential factor resulting in better sleep is the drastic reduction in exposure to artificial lights and electromagnetic fields (EMFs).
Exposure to light at night interrupts your circadian clock and melatonin level, both of which play a role in how deeply you sleep and how well-rested you feel the next day. LEDs and fluorescent lights are particularly troublesome because the blue light peaks are not balanced by red and near-infrared Incandescent lights are safer, as they emit red and near-infrared wavelengths and very few blue wavelengths.
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