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How Lack of Sleep Can Affect Your Life

Joni Prince, Ph.D.

“Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise” or so said Ben Franklin.     What  do we know about sleep now?


In our never-stop world, where downtime is only a dream, it is easy to believe that seven to eight hours of sleep each night is a mere luxury.  Certainly, it is not a necessity.  How many people do you know who actually get seven to eight hours of sleep a night, every night?


Odds are, you need to be one of them.


In recent years, there has been a great deal of research on the effect of performance and other variables for people who get less than eight hours sleep.  For example, in an article in Fast Company entitled “How Insufficient Sleep Makes you Fat, Stupid and Dead,” sleep deprivation is tied to disasters such as Chernobyl, the Challenger, Exxon Valdez and Five Mile Island.


A psychologist, Dr. Roehrs, performed a study in which people with varying levels of sleep were asked to take risks in video games.  Those with the most sleep had the best sense of when to pull back on their risk, whereas the more sleep-deprived subjects tended to either quit early (and give up money) or keep going further into the game, even when they were making more mistakes and so losing money.   His conclusion was that decision-making was impaired by sleep loss.


In terms of weight, in recent years, we’ve learned how hormones affect  us.  The hormone leptin, which signals the brain to stop eating, is created/released while we are sleeping.  With less sleep, there is a lower level of leptin.  The double whammy comes in with the hormone ghrelin, which is appetite stimulating and is higher in those who are sleep deprived.


Further information in Jane Brody’s New York Times’ article reveals that a number of bodily systems are affected by insufficient sleep including the heart, lungs, kidneys and immune functioning.


To read more:

“Cheating Ourselves of Sleep,” The New York Times, June 17, 2013.

Sleep (2004).  Roerhs, T. 

“How Insufficient Sleep Makes You Fat, Stupid, and Dead. Fast Company.  June 20, 2013.

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