Chronic sleep deprivation is significantly more dangerous than most people would suspect. Inconsistent or inadequate sleep can lead to the development of many other sleep disorders, as well as other internal and external problems. These consequences can include episodes of sleep walking, sleep paralysis, and sleep-related hallucinations. Moreover, it’s important to note that sleep deprivation can also exacerbate conditions like insomnia, as fatigue may cause people to feel more stressed and anxious, in turn further contributing to the inability to sleep.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, at least 40 million Americans suffer from chronic, long-term sleep disorders, and another 20 to 30 million experience occasional sleep problems. These sleep problems typically manifest in the forms of sleep deprivation and related insomnia. This cycle of sleep deprivation and insomnia can result in negatively impacted mood, as well as decreased energy, stunted productivity, and the incapacity to handle stress. Ignoring chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to weight gain and cognitive impairment, in addition to seriously affecting your overall health and well-being.
Who Experiences Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is considered a common health problem in the United States. In fact, people of all age groups and demographics have reported not getting enough sleep. Sleep deprivation has been linked to many chronic health problems. These include kidney failure, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, depression, and heart disease.
A health survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and cited by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute found that between seven and nineteen percent of adults in the United States report that they feel the effects of sleep deprivation on a daily basis. Additionally, it is reported that “nearly 40 percent of adults report falling asleep during the day without meaning to at least once a month.”
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation can result in an increased risk of injury in all age groups, from adults to teenagers and children. This can lead to dangerous situations such as driving while sleepy, which is considered comparable to drunk driving and has been responsible for car crash injuries and even death.
Sleep deprivation can also have prolonged adverse effects on the brain and on one’s cognitive function. The brain needs to work much harder to accomplish simple tasks when sleep deprived, and it will automatically compensate to speed up its cognitive function. This can cause permanent damage to the temporal lobe, which is the region of the brain responsible for language processing.
In addition to the neurological damage, sleep deprivation can also cause a host of physical problems. These problems include heart disease, weight gain or weight loss, headaches, blurred vision, fainting, weakened immune system, hernias, and many other physical issues. In fact, the consequences of sleep deprivation have often been equated to the cognitive impairment of being intoxicated. Losing just two hours of sleep impairs performance at a level equal to that of having a .05 blood alcohol content reading, which is close to the legal driving limit in the United States of .08 BAC.
It is a common misconception that people can learn to function with less sleep to mitigate the effects of sleep deprivation over time. However, this is simply not the case: sleep deficiency can have devastating effects on one’s physical and mental health in the long-term, and threaten one’s quality of life and level of alertness during critical times.
Schedule a Sleep Study With Dr. Shukla
If you are suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, schedule a sleep study with Dr. Shukla today. For this and related advice on how to detect a sleep disorder, consult with Dr. Shukla and his caring staff at the Asthma Allergy Sleep Center of New York.