According to Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley and the author of a soon-to-be released book entitled “Why We Sleep: The New Science of Sleep and Dreams,” sleep affects every aspect of our biology. For instance, both Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher were said to be sleep deprived and both of them developed dementia in later life. In terms of economic impact, insufficient sleep costs the UK economy more than £30 billion, or about two percent of GDP, annually, explains Professor Matthew.
Image: U.S. Air Force
Some of the aspects of modern life that have contributed to sleep loss include longer commutes, electric lights, and digital communication devices such as smartphones and computers. The signs of sleep deprivation, according to Professor Walker, include struggling to get out of bed in the morning and struggling to stay awake in the afternoon. With that in mind, some of the common lack of sleep consequences include:
Sleep deprivation could affect your ability to assess situations accurately and make sound judgments. In fact, studies indicate that people who regularly experience sleep loss typically score poorly on mental performance and alertness tests. Moreover, such people may get to a point where they lose touch with how impaired they are. Impaired judgment can be a serious problem if you work in a career that requires you to judge your level of functioning.
Increased Risk of Death
Sleeping for less than seven hours a night could double your risk of death from all causes, according to a long-term study involving more than 10,000 British civil servants and conducted by British researchers. The researchers involved in this study, the “Whitehall II Study,” wanted to find out how sleep patterns affect the mortality rate of the study’s participants. The results of the study, which were published in 2007, revealed that the participants who cut down their sleep hours from seven hours to five hours or fewer a night were twice as likely to die from all causes compared to the participants you got at least seven hours of sleep a night.
Increased Risk of Depression and Anxiety
According to research, sleep loss and related disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression over time. For instance, a 2007 study of 10,000 individuals found that those with insomnia, a common type of sleep disorder, were nearly five times as likely to develop depression compared to the control group — people without insomnia. Additionally, a 2005 Sleep in America survey found that the respondents who regularly got less than six hours of sleep a night were more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. At this point, it is worth noting that treating sleep problems could improve depression symptoms and vice versa.
Premature Skin Aging
In addition to puffy eyes and sallow skin, sleep deprivation could lead to premature skin again. Specifically, research indicates that chronic sleep loss can cause dark circles under the eyes, fine lines as well as lackluster skin.
You should get at least seven hours of sleep a night to improve your overall wellbeing, explains Professor Walker. Sleep deprivation, according to Professor Walker, can cause myriad health problems, such as the problems discussed in this article. Additionally, sleep loss costs the UK economy more than £30 billion every year.