While it’s been proven that oversleeping (consistently sleeping for more than nine hours a night) can lead to early death and even indicate potential underlying ailments, a lack of sleep has been scientifically linked to possible early death and other diseases/illnesses. Overall, abnormal sleeping patterns can lead to issues down the road, whether you’re sleeping too much or not enough. So, how can you make sure that you’re consistently sleeping just the right amount? What problems arise from a lack of sleep, and how exactly is a lack of sleep linked to death? Read further to find out!
1. How is a lack of sleep linked to premature death?
Sixteen studies conducted by scientists on more than 1.5 million participants showed that “those who generally slept for less than six hours a night were 12% more likely to experience a premature death over a period of 25 years than those who consistently got six to eight hours' sleep,” according to an article from The Guardian. The discovered evidence was deemed undeniable and ‘unequivocal’ by researchers.
Additionally, a lack of sleep can cause several physical ailments and/or other debilitating diseases, such as cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, irregular heartbeat, stroke, diabetes and obesity. Furthermore, some studies have shown that “90% of people with insomnia also have another health condition” Insomnia, which is the most common sleep disorder, is heavily connected to depression and is commonly known as one of the first symptoms of a depressive state. Research has shown that people who suffer from insomnia have five times the probability of developing depression as those who do not. When a person experiences both insomnia and depression, it can turn into a dangerous toxic cycle. A loss of sleep can cause depression, and in turn, the depression causes difficulty falling asleep.
2. How else does a lack of sleep negatively impact your life?
Separately, a lack of sleep can lead to exhaustion in your everyday life. This exhaustion can impact your overall performance at work and in relationships. A lack of sleep has been proven to be linked to work-related injuries. In a conducted study, “workers who complained about excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents.” Without a proper amount of sleep, the brain can’t work to the best of its ability as sleep is vital for cognitive thinking and learning. “[A lack of sleep] impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving,” therefore impacting a person’s ability to retain information throughout the day and into the next, as sleep cycles help integrate memories into the mind. A lack of sleep can ultimately cause forgetfulness and impair judgment.
Furthermore, a lack of sleep plays a huge factor when it comes to causing accidents. “Sleep deprivation was a factor in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and others.” In addition to these disasters, sleepy drivers on the road are a huge issue. “The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S.”
Lastly, sleep deprivation has been linked with depression. Research has shown that people who suffer from depression or anxiety generally sleep fewer than six hours per night. Additionally, a lack of sleep overtime can even lead to hallucinations and irrational thoughts, as well as anxiety, suicidal thoughts and paranoia.
3. What are the solutions/the ideal amount of hours a person should sleep nightly?
The ideal amount of sleep that a person should get regularly is between 6-8 hours per night. The purpose of sleep is to rejuvenate and restore the body and mind, so without a proper amount, both will most likely deteriorate. While you sleep, your body is repairing itself, recovering, and restoring its chemical balance. Your brain is undergoing recovery as well; forging new connections to aid your memory retention -- it’s not wonder that a lack of sleep leads to a downward spiral!
If you are experiencing anything discussed in this article, You’ve probably wondered by now if there are any treatments, and you may have tried to self-diagnose, self-treat, and pursue therapy on your own accord. Before actually acting and seeking out treatment, it’s important to know exactly what sleep disorder you have so that the doctor knows what is being dealt with. The most common types of sleep disorders are as follows: narcolepsy, sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, movement disorders, and seizures. Once you’ve been diagnosed with one of those or one of the many other forms of sleep disorders, the correct treatment can begin. This diagnosis is often found through a sleep study.
Ironically enough, the best way to prevent sleep deprivation is by, well...sleeping. However, that’s easier said than done, especially when your sleep schedule is off its rocker.
4. How Can I Get My Sleeping Schedule Back on Track?
There are many different avenues that you can take in order to have more of a normal sleeping schedule. Of course, exercising and moving around throughout the day (but not too close to bedtime) can tire your body out. Limit naps during the daytime (no matter how tempting that afternoon nap after your daily workout may be) and limit caffeine consumption after noon. Keep a consistent schedule by going to bed and waking up at around the same time every night and morning. Relax your mind about an hour before bed by partaking in relaxing activities such as reading, yoga, a bath, or meditation. Maintain that relaxation by avoiding bright devices such as your phone or laptop.
If problems persist, consult a trusted, trained doctor who can help assess the problem and find the appropriate solution. Good luck!