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woman sleeping on desk and papers at workPillow Talk
By Dr. Winston Craig

        Today's society is chronically sleep deprived. In fact, sleep deprivation is considered a way of life for many Americans. Going without sleep is considered by many as a sign of conscientiousness, while others are considered lazy who get appropriate sleep.

        Unfortunately, people who are chronically sleep deficient often don't realize that they are, because they have become so accustomed to feeling so blah. Many Americans, especially college students, average less than 6 hours of sleep a night. Twenty percent of college students polled said they pull an all-nighter at least once a month.

           Sleep deprivation can make you feel cloudy-headed and hurt your academic performance. A tired brain is slower, less efficient, less productive, more forgetful, and makes more mistakes. Fatigue caused by sleep deprivation decreases blood flow to the frontal cortex where discernment, initiative, creativity, judgment and other decision-making functions transpire. A person experiencing a period of 24 hours of wakefulness has the cognitive function and reaction time.  The cumulative long-term effects of sleep loss are associated with a wide range of deleterious health  consequences Lack of sleep decreases your ability to handle stress and lowers your immune defenses, thereby increasing your risk of colds and infections. Sleep deprivation can raise your risk of heart disease, stroke, chronic anxiety and depression, cancer, obesity, diabetes and impaired blood sugar levels, and other health problems.

           Women who slept less than 5 hours a night were  45%  more  likely to have heart problems than women who slept 8 hours.  In a l0-year study, persons who got 5 hours of sleep or less were more than twice as likely to develop hypertension as those who got 7 to 8 hours a night. In another study, risk of hypertension increased 37% for every hour sleep was reduced.

           A chronic loss of sleep can almost double the risk of obesity. A loss of sleep can cause the hormones that control appetite to get out of balance. Sleep deprived people may increase their caloric consumption by as much as 15%, setting the stage for weight gain. The hormone ghrelin stimulates appetite, while leptin signals the brain when you are full. Sleep deprivation causes leptin levels to drop, so you don't feel as satisfied after eating, while ghrelin levels rise, so you want to eat more.

          Chronic loss of sleep may impair insulin secretion by 20 to 30%. Adults who reported 5 hours of sleep or less were 2.5 times more likely to have diabetes compared with those getting 7 to 8 hours per night. After only one week, healthy young men who slept only 4 hours a night developed insulin and blood sugar levels characteristic of pre-diabetes.

By Winston Craig, PhD
Andrews University

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Books by Dr. Winston Craig