Everyone knows that getting anywhere from six to eight hours of uninterrupted sleep each and every night is ideal, however with most of us keeping insanely busy schedules and working long hours, handing over six to eight hours to rest can be next to impossible. A lot of times we forget that we need to slow down a bit and give our bodies the full amount of rest they require, especially if we want to keeping them working properly for us for many years to come.
There are some very real and serious dangers that accompany sleep deprivation. Lack of sufficient sleep can end up leading to a multitude of health problems, including heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke or even diabetes to name a few. Without enough sleep our bodies do not have enough time to properly renew and rejuvenate and we can end up in what is often referred to as a “mental fog”. We find ourselves not being as alert and we can also have trouble with concentration, general reasoning and problem solving skills. This lack of alertness can also result in a loss of attention to details leading to incidents such as car accidents, as well, as work-related injuries on the job.
Many years ago, back in 1947 to be exact, a teenager named Randy Gardner managed to stay away for eleven days and twenty four minutes. At a press conference on the final day he is quoted as saying, “I wanted to prove that bad things didn’t happen if you went without sleep”. Well, boy was he ever wrong! A Lt. Commander by the name of John J. Ross was monitoring Gardner’s sleep deprivation experiment and reported that Gardner experienced serious cognitive and behavioral changes. These included moodiness, problems with concentration and short term memory, paranoia, and hallucinations. On the eleventh day, when he was asked to subtract seven repeatedly, starting with 100, he stopped at 65. When asked why he had stopped, he replied that he had forgotten what he was doing.
It is worth noting however that once Gardner had completed his sleep deprivation experiment and was able to sleep soundly for a period of about fourteen hours or so, he did end up making a full recovery and suffered no remnant effects later on. According to news reports, Gardner’s record has been broken a number of times, but none have been documented as accurately as Gardner’s. Records for voluntary sleep deprivation are no longer kept by Guinness World Records for fear that participants will suffer ill effects and it is a proven danger to one’s health and well being.
Another side effect of sleep loss is the loss of your sex drive. Sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex which is most likely due to a limited amount of energy and stamina and literally being “too tired” to take part in any type of physically driven activities. Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression.
Lack of sleep can also be related to an increase in hunger and appetite which could potentially lead to obesity. Researchers claim that people who sleep less than six hours a day were almost 30 percent more likely to become obese than those who slept seven to nine hours. One of the most scary things that can happen due to lack of sleep is death. In the “Whitehall II Study,” British researchers looked at how sleep patterns affected the mortality of more than 10,000 British civil servants over two decades. The results, published in 2007, showed that those who had cut their sleep from seven to five hours or fewer a night nearly doubled their risk of death from all causes.
These factoids definitely make us want to rethink the amount of shut-eye we are receiving each night! We urge everyone to stay healthy and at least try to make an attempt at getting a solid six to eight hours of sleep per night.