Sleep Deprivation: A Silent Killer

If you think there’s a cheat code for your circadian rhythm, or body clock, there’s not.
A lot of people are burning the midnight oil every night, unaware of the effects of sleep deprivation to their health. There’s just so much to be done, yet too little time in a day. Living life in the fast lane allows you to get more done without realizing the potential dangerous effects to your health.
You spend one-third of your life sleeping. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a normal adult should be able to get at least seven to nine hours of sleep a day, but researchers state this is relative. This is a basic need that is equally important to that of food, water, and shelter. There should be no excuses to getting a complete dose of restful sleep. As experts would put it – it isn’t just the amount of sleep that is important but also the quality of your sleep.

How the Circadian Rhythm Works

The body’s circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, takes its cue from the light. It recognizes the day and night cycles, which is why you feel either drowsy or energetic at certain times of the day. The biological clock, or internal clock, is what sets the timing for the circadian rhythm. However, it’s not just one clock but it’s a whole integrated system of biological clocks that set the pace for your day-to-day biological processes and patterns. This helps regulate sleep patterns.

The Brain and The Body

Your brain and body constantly communicate with each other. In fact your brain and body systems are active even when you are asleep. The master clock, or what is referred to as SCN, controls melatonin production and is a hormone that triggers sleepiness. The light stimulus would be received by the eyes or optic nerves and passed on to the hypothalamus, which relays the information from the eyes onto the brain. Recent studies are now looking into the effect of light exposure coming from mobile devices that keep you awake all through the night.

The Research

A recent research conducted by researchers from Rockefeller University has established that the two genes responsible for sleep are CyCA and Rca1. They are found in fruit flies with sleep patterns that work similarly to humans. Researchers believe that understanding the way these genes influence sleep in fruit flies will help us gain insight into how specifically these genes control sleeping patterns.

Why Sleep Is Important

Sleep is important because it boosts brain functions. In fact, your body is able to regenerate or heal itself when you sleep. Lack of sleep could leave you moody, drowsy, and disoriented the next day.
Sleep affects every single function of your body like mood and metabolism. Chronic lack of sleep especially at night will leave your body weary and tired. Sleep helps remove harmful toxins in your brain and body that build up in your wake times.

How long can you go without sleep?

This biological process remains a mystery with facets still unknown to man. It is considered to be a robust and dynamic process that fascinates sleep experts. According to Dr. Vlad Vyazovskiy of the SLEEPNEED Project, humans can be asleep and awake at the same time. Recent studies on mice show that sleep brain activity does show up in wake cycles.
Signs that You Are Sleep Deprived
Around 70 million adults in the United States are chronically sleep-deprived. Sleep deprivation is also the common culprit to chronic ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, cancer, and depression. It’s not just our cognitive abilities that are reduced by being sleep deprived. Motor skills and even reaction times are impaired as well. This also affects the body’s immune function, metabolism, resistance to diseases, and mood.  

Avoid Too Much Caffeine

Snooze time or sleep is a very important bodily process which helps repair the body tissues and organs from the brain, heart, lungs, liver, and even your skin which is the largest organ of the body. People who are night owls would often resist sleep by drinking coffee or energy drinks which can pose further harm to the body. Complications can arise when one tries to cheat sleep by downing these caffeinated drinks that are sugar-rich and can cause sleep disorders, hypertension, heart diseases, and diabetes; among others. These energy drinks can help energize you temporarily but will slowly lure you into the trap of being sleep-deprived all the time.

Sleep Deprivation Effects Your Relationships

Sleep deprivation symptoms are impossible to dismiss because it effects not just the individual but also their network. Regardless of age, individuals who sleep less or are getting poor quality of sleep tend to have troubles in concentration, decision making, and even are less functional the next day. People who lack sleep look groggy and would even be a bit grumpy, effecting not just their physical health, but creating discord in their relationships. They tend to lack focus and have low performance the next day after staying up all night. People need sleep, but the sad reality is that a lot of individuals fail to realize this until it’s too late.
Imagine these sleep deprivation effects and ask yourself if you should continue depriving yourself with enough sleep.
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The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

  •        Lifestyle Diseases. Sleep-deprived individuals are prone to a number of serious medical conditions such as cardiac anomalies, weight gain or obesity, diabetes, cancer, and high blood pressure. Sleep disorders like insomnia, somnambulism (sleepwalking), and even sleep apnea can present itself. Your body cannot regenerate or heal itself when you are not getting enough sleep. This will wreak havoc to your internal processes and can gravely affect your health especially when you have been habitually staying up late.
  •        Accidents and Injuries. Disorientation and grogginess can cause accidents, such as many road accidents with drivers who choose to drive drowsy. With lack of sleep, your mental facilities tend to be foggy. You will have sluggish or slow reaction times, which makes it quite difficult to concentrate while driving and react promptly. This also applies to your daily tasks at home or in the office. This is especially dangerous for those who work in accident-prone environments like construction sites. If you are a cop or a firefighter, you need to be completely aware of your surroundings. Accidents at home, on the road, or in the workplace are common occurrences when sleep-deprived.
  •        Anxiety and Depression. Many sleep-deprived individuals have nasty mood swings. They have short tempers and can be irritable even due to the smallest blunders. Sleep problems can negatively impact one’s social life and career in the long run. You could end up ruining your relationships at home and even getting yourself fired from work. People suffering from sleep deprivation could also develop manic depression. This would cause the sufferer to feel extremely sad, agitated, helpless, empty, restless, irritable, and empty. These negative emotions are predictable especially for those who have chronic sleep deprivation.
  •        Poor immune defense. Not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis will keep your immune defenses down. That is why a lot of night owls or those who work in night shifts would often catch the common cold or flu. Sleep deprivation will worsen in those people suffering from respiratory condition.

The Worst Effect

What’s the worst sleep deprivation effect on your health? Chronic sleep deprivation can kill you. It is said to be a silent killer. Death is obviously the worst that can happen to anyone who is neglecting their sleep.

How long can you go without sleep?

Sleep is indeed a basic life fuel because you are no able to survive 11 days without sleep. Yes, lack of sleep can kill you! This has happened to a Chinese man who died after not sleeping for 8 to 10 days because of his participation in a series of soccer games. The soccer games would start from 1 a m. to 3a.m. every day. The man was found dead while sleeping.

Research conducted in animals has also found lack of sleep to be extremely fatal.

Not sleeping even for 24 hours can be detrimental to your well-being because it triggers stress hormones, kills healthy cells, and can increase cancer cells. Sleep deprivation can also trigger heart attacks, which can cause immediate death or disability. Sleep loss triggers an inflammatory response. This will damage the lining of the blood vessels and trigger heart attack or stroke.

Keeping Up With The Times

In a very fast-paced world, people would often neglect sleeping in order to pay the bills. Time does not stop for anyone and this is why time is now considered to be a rare commodity. Twenty-four hours in a day will never be enough. Everyone is working with very limited time. 
In order to keep up with the pace, a lot of modern workers or students choose to work at night and sleep during the day. The circadian rhythm and biological clock becomes chaotic and confused with this change. It becomes a complete mess. Sleep deprivation symptoms will start to creep in. This poses a danger to one’s health. It can impact one’s life negatively and affect you emotionally, mentally, physically, and socially. While lost sleep can help augment your income or allow you to catch up on many tasks, it has serious life and death complications that can make you think twice on staying up late at night or not sleeping at all.