There can be profound consequences for not acquiring the desired approximately 8 hours of sleep at night. Although most of us associate lack of sleep with feeling grumpy irritable and stressed the physical consequences are not as well identified. If your sleep patterns are irregular for relatively long periods then this can lead to heart disease, obesity and diabetes. Lack of sleep can cause a shortening of life expectancy. Sleeping soundly is essential for a long and healthy life. It has been suggested that 8 hours sleep is a general guideline for most of us although some may need more and some can cope with less. As a rule if you spend the days feeling like you need to take a nap in the daytime then it’s probable that you are not getting enough sleep.
A boost to the immune system
Lack of sleep can cause disruption to your immune system and therefore you may become susceptible to illness. So, if you’re consistently getting colds or minor ailments it may well be due a lack of sleep.
Obesity and sleep
Studies have shown that those who only get 7 hours of sleep may in fact put on weight and risk becoming obese. The hunger stimulating hormone ghrelin increases due to lack of sleep along with leptin, the chemical that makes you feel full are said to be the main reasons why people put on weight with lack of sleep.
Sleep and mental illness
In a study by those suffering from anxiety and depression it was found that most sufferers only got 6 hours or less per night of sleep. Most of us have become irritable and moody at one time or another due to lack of sleep so these results are hardly surprising.
Sleep and diabetes
If you sleep less than five hours per night studies suggest that you may have an increased risk in type 2 diabetes. This is because our bodies adjust to processing the amount of glucose that the body uses for energy.
Sleep and libido
Men and women can suffer from decreased fertility if they are not getting enough sleep. This is caused by reduced hormones secretion relating to reproduction.
Sleep and your heart
If you go without sleep for a long time this may well increase your heart rate coupled with an undesirable increase in blood pressure means your heart is working harder.
Measures to return your sleeping pattern to normal
There is only one thing that you can do if you’ve been deprived of sleep for a while and that’s find ways of sleeping more to compensate for the sleep debt that your body is in. Recovery from being deprived of sleep may take several weeks so don’t expect a single night’s sleep to be the answer. According the NHS website you can address your ‘sleep debt’ by ‘starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or 2 of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you're tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!). Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level. Don't rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.’