The recommended amount of sleep you should get is between seven and nine hours. Unfortunately, many of us are struggling to get even seven hours of sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to obesity, heart disease, stroke, depression, mild cognitive impairments, and other changes to the brain and health.
A new study suggests that regularly getting six or fewer hours of sleep has the same effects on the body as binge drinking and alcohol abuse. The study found that being awake for 18 hours causes the same cognitive effects as being drunk. Furthermore, driving while sleep deprived was found to be similar to drunk driving. Clearly, a lack of sleep can have a very detrimental effect on the body and even increase your risk of injury or death.
Worse yet, a Quebec-based research group found that the accumulated effects of sleep deprivation often go unnoticed from the individual suffering from them. So, a person who is sleep deprived may not even realize the cognitive and physical changes that are occurring.
It’s important to keep in mind that these effects do not occur after just one night of poor sleep. These changes occur as a result of continuous nights of getting less than six hours of sleep.
Researcher Dr. Adrian Owen explained, “Sleep plays an important role in regulating the hormones that influence hunger (ghrelin, cortisol, and leptin) that’s why sleep deprivation increases appetite and leads to overeating and weight gain.”
The longer you are awake, the less stable your brain becomes, making it increasingly difficult for you to complete tasks or process information.
Reports have suggested that in one in three Canadians suffer from sleep deprivation.
Additional research has found that long-term sleep deprivation causes the brain to eat itself. The study was conducted on mice and the researchers found that “clean-up” cells were more active in sleep deprived mice. These cells work like a vacuum, cleaning up brain connections that may be weak or that have broken apart.
Although this process may seem alarming, it actually is beneficial as the brain removes useless connections that aren’t beneficial. This leaves room for newer, stronger connections. Unfortunately, this may be the only benefit to sleep deprivation, as sleep deprived brains are often more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. It is not recommended you deprive yourself of sleep as a means of “cleaning up” your brain.
The take away from all of these studies on sleep deprivation is that aiming for seven to nine hours is ideal. If you are suffering from sleep deprivation, you need to take the necessary steps to improve your sleep.