According to the British Sleep Council, the lack of sleep can lead to a host of health problems including death. In today’s society sleep seems to have transitioned from a necessity to a luxury. Sleep, the mysterious shift in consciousness, is something that humanity requires on a daily basis. It is vital for health and wellbeing; what many do not realize is the lack of it, otherwise known as sleep deprivation, is killing people at an alarming rate.
Without at least six hours a night of sleep people are 12 percent more likely to die young. Sleep deprivation can cause heart disease, obesity, strokes, diabetes and can ruin memory, concentration and even youthful looks. Sleep is extremely important to a healthy lifestyle and should not be taken lightly. Daily exercise and eating a healthy diet mean nothing if adequate sleep is not included in the equation.
More than a third of the overall population sleeps less than six hours a night and it is time to start focusing on sleeping better and more frequently. Humanity functions at a low-level when subjected to sleep deprivation, leaving themselves open to a list of long-term health problems. Sleep affects everything from health, to jobs and relationships. The lack of it has become such a big problem that the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared it a public health epidemic. Why… Because sleep deprivation is killing people.
The amount of sleep needed varies from person to person, but generally everyone needs between seven and nine hours in order for the body and brain to perform at its best. Not only is it important to get sleep, but the quality of sleep matters just as much. The brain cycles through different stages of sleep several times a night. Stage one involves the first five to ten minutes of sleep, after which the brain cycles in a deeper sleep which is considered stage two. It hits stages three and four over the next hour beginning with slow-wave sleep before progressing into rapid eye movement (REM) which becomes more active.
The brain cycles through all of the sleep stages sequentially about every 90 minutes before restarting. This is why it is important to sleep through the night so that the quality of sleep matches the quantity of sleep. When these stages are interrupted, the process is less restorative to the brain and the body feels it the next day, even though the required number of hours may have been satisfied.
A study was done back in the 1980s with rats by a research team at the University of Chicago. They wanted to find out what happens when animals are deprived of sleep for long periods of time. After two weeks of being deprived of restful REM sleep, all of the rats were dead. Researchers were confused and studied a little further. What the team found is the body of each rat began to self-destruct the longer it went without sleep.
Sleep deprivation literally killed the rats. They festered sores that would not heal and strange spots on their bodies. Fur began to fall out in clumps and no matter how much they ate, they lost weight. After performing autopsies of the animals, researchers found nothing wrong with their organs which would cause them to die suddenly. The results proved that staying awake for so long drained the animal’s system and made it lose the ability to regulate its body temperature. Sleep deprivation or the lack of sleep killed the rats, just as it is attempting to do with many people today.
People who remain awake for long periods of time start to demonstrate many of the same signs as the rats. Blood pressure begins to increase within the first 24 hours of the body experiencing a lack of sleep. Shortly thereafter, the metabolism levels go crazy causing an uncontrollable craving for carbs. Next, the body’s internal temperature falls off and the immune system starts to weaken. If this process of sleep deprivation goes on for too long, the mind starts playing tricks causing a person to experience visions and hear ghostly sounds which are likened to those of a bad acid trip. At the same time, the ability to recall obvious facts or make simple decisions drops drastically.
Ultimately, the lack of sleep causes a bizarre downward spiral that is all the more peculiar because it can be stopped completely, and all of its effects will vanish, simply by taking a nap for a couple of hours. What time is it? Time to get more sleep because studies have proven that sleep deprivation is killing people.
by Cherese Jackson (Virginia)
Mind Body Green: Sleep-Deprivation Is Actually Ruining Your Life
The Sleep Council: What Is Sleep
i09: Can You Die From Sleep-Deprivation?
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Inside Image Courtesy of Christopher – Flickr License
Inside Image Courtesy of Andreas Møller – Flickr License
Featured Image Courtesy of Lukexmartin – Flickr License
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