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sleep and obesity

Importance of Sleep and Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Health

Sleep is linked to the most important brain function of concentration, productivity, and cognition. The sleep pattern of a student has a direct impact on his behavior and academic performance.

There is a strong link between sleep and obesity that is proven by many different types of research. Short and irregular sleep patterns lead to obesity and poor growth. Other factors that contribute to obesity include;

  • Excessive use of alcohol
  • Type II diabetes
  • Lack of physical activity and exercise
  • Long working hours
  • Depressed lifestyle
  • Lack of sleep also interferes with a person’s desire or ability to maintain a healthy lifestyle that is indirectly linked to obesity.

Appetite control

A good sleep at night can help a person consume fewer calories during the day. According to research at the National Academy of Science, sleep patterns affect the hormones responsible for appetite. Lack of sleep interferes with the ability of the body to regulate the calorie balance.

Good sleep improves concentration and productivity

Sleep is essential for normal brain function. It improves cognition, concentration, productivity, and performance. Without proper sleep, academic or work performance are negatively affected.

The negative effects of sleep deprivation on mood, behavior, and performance are somewhat similar to alcohol intoxication. Good sleep enhances problem-solving skills and improves memory.

Good sleep boosts your athletic performance

Good sleep essentially improves athletic performance. A study conducted on tennis players showed that longer sleep improves speed, accuracy, reaction time and mental well-being. Less than normal sleep time has been associated with poor athletic performance and mental and physical limitations.

Poor sleep is linked with chronic diseases

People with poor sleeping patterns have a greater risk of developing cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

Social and emotional intelligence

Sleep improves social and emotional intelligence. Sleep-deprived individuals find it difficult to recognize the emotions and expressions of other people and they usually have less emotional empathy as compared to normal individuals.

The individuals’ response to emotional stimuli is linked to the quality of their sleep.

Depression and sleep

To date, extensive research has been conducted to know about the association between depression and sleep and there is only one conclusion that lack of sleep is linked to depression and anxiety.

JAMA psychiatry researched to find out the pattern of death by suicide over the last ten years. It was reported that lack of sleep is a contributing factor to these deaths.

People with sleep disorders such as insomnia do not show normal behavior and suffer from depression.

Sleep recommendations of primary care physicians

Every individual has different sleep needs depending on age, gender, physical activity, lifestyle, and genetic factors. According to the center for disease control, the primary care physician recommends the following standards, according to the various age groups;

  • Newborns (birth to 3 months) 16-18 hours
  • Infants (4 months to 1 year) 12 to 16 hours of sleep
  • Toddler (1-2 years of age) 11 to 14 hours
  • Preschool (3 to 5 years) 10 to 13 hours
  • Children ( 6 to 12 years) 9 to 12 hours of daily sleep
  • Teenagers 8 – 10 hours of sleep
  • Adults 18 -60 years over 7 hours of sleep daily

It’s important to ensure proper timings and quality of sleep. Poor sleep can lead to emotional and mental disturbance. Signs of poor sleep include;

  • Waking up in the middle of the night
  • Walking in the middle of the night
  • Feeling restless even after sleeping for appropriate hours

How long can a person go without sleep?

The exact amount of time that a person can go without sleep is not known. The current world record for a person going without sleep is 266 hours that equates 11 days. Towards the end of 11 days, Gardner grew paranoid and experienced hallucinations. However, he immediately recovered without experiencing any long-term physical or psychological effects.

Sleep deprivation

It occurs when an individual gets less sleep than their body needs. The effects can vary from person to person. The effects of sleep deprivation are more severe in children as compared to adults since they need more sleep. General symptoms of sleep deprivation include;

  • Fatigue and weakness throughout the day
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Lack of alertness and coordination
  • Difficulty in memorizing things or working
  • Irritability
  • Increased appetite
  • Mood changes

Prolonged sleep deprivation can have a chronic effect on the health of a person. It can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

Fatal Familial Insomnia

It is a very rare and fatal sleep disorder caused by long-term sleep deprivation. It is an inherited disease caused by a genetic mutation in a gene that produces misfolded prions. These proteins accumulate in the thalamus of the brain, an area that regulates sleep. The patients typically present with the following symptoms in middle adulthood;

  • Insomnia that progressively gets worse with time
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of appetite
  • Changes in body temperature
  • Dementia that increases progressively

Currently, there is no cure for dementia and death usually occurs within 12- 18 months duration.

The impact of 24 hours without sleep

Normally, the effects of sleep deprivation become visible just after 24 hours. The CDC center of research has claimed that the effects of staying awake for more than 24 hours are comparable to the manifestations of having a blood alcohol content of 0.10 percent. Some general symptoms of sleep deprivation include;

  • Drowsiness
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Concentration and memory problems
  • Reduced coordination and alertness
  • Impaired judgment
  • Short-term memory problems
  • Increased blood glucose concentration
  • Muscle tension and cramps
  • Fatigue and irritability

These symptoms appear in an attempt to conserve energy. The primary care specialist refers to this state as ‘local sleep’, in which the body shuts down in some regions of the brain.

In the state of local sleep, patients appear fully awake, but their ability to work is significantly impaired. A noted preventative care physician in Manhattan, NYC, reported that sleep deprivation affects the natural sleep-wake cycle of the body and impairs the hormonal regulation of sleep, appetite, metabolism, stress, and the immune system.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 12/06/2019

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  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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