World Sleep Day: How Lack Of Sleep Affects Your Health

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March 15, 2019, is observed as World Sleep Day. The aim of the day is to shed light on the benefits of a good night’s sleep and raise awareness about sleep disorders.

Believe it or not, a good night’s sleep is all you need to kickstart your day with a bang, beat stress and stay healthy. And on the other hand, lack of sleep or sleep disorders can cause a serious and long term impact on your physical and psychological well being. This World Sleep Day, let’s understand some key facts about lack of sleep and common sleep problems.

Lack of Sleep: What You Need To Know

Sleep deprivation and disorders are quite common all over the world. A study by the International Journal of Epidemiology[1] found that 20% of 25–45 year-olds slept 90 minutes less than they needed to be for good health. Various studies[2] worldwide have shown the prevalence of insomnia in 10%–30% of the population, some even as high as 50%–60%. It is common in older adults, females, and people with medical and mental ill health. The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnoea which is characterized by respiratory difficulties during sleep is also very high with estimates of 9–21% in women and 24–31% in men[1].

The rapid advent of the 24X7 society which involves round-the-clock activities and an increased night time use of TV, internet and mobile phones, indicate that adequate sleep durations may become increasingly compromised in the near future. Studies[3] have suggested a decline in sleep duration of up to 18 minutes per night over the past 30 years. This has not only lead to a decrease in the quality of sleep but also the frequency and an increase in lighter sleep (quick naps compared to recommended 8-hour sleep). Moreover, it has lead to an increase in nocturnal sleep disruption and daytime sleepiness.

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Health Effects of Lack of Sleep

Sleep problems are associated with short and long-term effects on health and well-being. The immediate effects include poor performance, daytime sleepiness, and fatigue. The long term complications caused due to sleep deprivation include premature mortality, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance, and psychiatric disorders, such as anxiety and depression.

Some of the common effects of sleep deprivation include:

Accidents: According to a 2013 study[1], it is been estimated that around 10-15% of fatal accidents are caused due to sleepiness or driver fatigue. It is expected that the number of deaths due to motor-vehicle crashes can double to 2.3 million by 2020. Off these, approximately 230000-345000 might be due to sleepiness[1].

Heart disease: Insomnia and obstructive sleep apnoea have also been linked to higher rates of hypertension. Moreover sleep loss can affect inflammatory markers, which in turn can increase the risk of heart disease. Studies[1] have shown that inflammatory responses are increased in people with obstructive sleep apnoea.

Obesity: The role of obesity and sleep loss is bidirectional. The prevalence of obstructive sleep apnoea is over double among the obese. It is reported that 3–5% of the overall proportion of obesity in adults could be attributable to short sleep[4].

Diabetes: Sleep restriction and poor quality of sleep are linked to increased risk of diabetes. Lack of sleep is linked to glucose dysregulation and an increase in hunger and appetite via hormonal imbalance. It causes down-regulation of the satiety hormone, leptin, and up-regulation of the appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin[5].

Mental Health: Lack of sleep can lead to mental disorders such as stress and anxiety. However, depression is also one of the most prevalent of the conditions associated with troubled sleep. Poor sleep can up the levels of stress hormones and in the long run, can affect mental health. Insomnia can negatively affect work performance, impair decision-making, damage relationships and decline overall quality of life.

Hence, this world sleep day, let’s pledge to get our daily dose of sleep to prevent health complications caused due to lack of sleep. Also, do not think twice before taking a doctor’s advice if you suffer from severe sleep deprivation or want to know the exact cause of sleep deprivation and get it treated.

**Consult India’s best doctors here**

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

7 Daytime Habits That Will Help You Get A Goodnight’s Sleep

Find Out The Common Causes Of Excessive Sleep


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5. Spiegel K, Tasali E, Leproult R, Van Cauter E. Effects of poor and short sleep on glucose metabolism and obesity risk. Nat Rev Endocrinol. 2009 May;5(5):253-61.

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7. Mondal G, Bajaj V, Goyal BL, Mukherjee N. Prevalence of sleep disorders and severity of insomnia in psychiatric outpatients attending a tertiary level mental health care facility in Punjab, India. Asian J Psychiatr. 2018 Feb;32:8-13.

8. Gupta R, Das S, Gujar K, Mishra KK, Gaur N, Majid A. Clinical Practice Guidelines for Sleep Disorders. Indian J Psychiatry. 2017 Jan;59(Suppl 1):S116-S138.

9. Stranges S, Tigbe W, Gómez-Olivé FX, Thorogood M, Kandala NB. Sleep problems: an emerging global epidemic? Findings from the INDEPTH WHO-SAGE study among more than 40,000 older adults from 8 countries across Africa and Asia. Sleep. 2012 Aug 1;35(8):1173-81.

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