Sleep experts generally agree that for most people, the target amount of sleep is between 7-9 hours each night. This number varies by age. Younger people need more sleep, and as we get older we tend to need less sleep. Yes, I know there are those rare people who function perfectly fine on much less sleep. The odds that you are one of those people are very slim.
Quantity of sleep is important, but perhaps more important is the quality of sleep. After all, if you have a drunken binge and pass out and sleep for nine hours, this isn't exactly quality sleep. For one, alcohol is an extremely powerful suppressant of REM sleep.
One of the chapters in the sleep ebook I'm writing details what happens when we do not get sufficient sleep. The latest figure is 40% of American adults are sleep-deprived. This means they are getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours of sleep consistently each night.
I don't want to freak you out but I do want to freak you out. Lack of adequate sleep is serious. The following is a list of some the effects of inadequate sleep.
Effects on the body
Cancer - Sleep deprivation has been linked to several cancers, in particular colon, breast, ovarian, and prostate cancers.
Skin damage - Poor sleep is correlated to chronic skin problems. Skin damage does not heal as well, and there are more signs of skin aging.
Impulse control - Sleep-deprived people produce more of a hormone called ghrelin, which increases appetite. Sleep-deprived people produce less leptin, a hormone that indicates you are full.
Weight gain - People who get six hours of sleep per night are 23 percent more likely to be overweight. Get less than four hours of sleep per night and the number goes up to 73 percent! Sleep LESS, weigh MORE.
Heart disease/Heart attack - BP, heart rate C-reactive protein. Losing a mere one hour of sleep per week has been connected to a higher risk of a heart attack.
Type 2 diabetes - increased risk
Weakened immune system - Even one night of poor sleep reduces the effectiveness of the immune system. Sleep deprivation makes newly-received vaccines less effective.
Hormonal changes - Harder for body to build muscle and heal. During sleep the body releases human growth hormone
Vision changes - longer sleep deprivation causes visual issues
Slower reaction times
Impaired driving - After being awake for seventeen to nineteen hours, you can experience levels of cognitive impairment equal to having a blood alcohol level of .05 percent.
Increased pain sensitivity
Genetic activity disruption - Just one week of bad sleep can lead to gene malfunction
Higher risk of death - The incidence of death from all causes goes up by 15 percent when we sleep five hours or less per night.
Effects on the mind and brain
Cognitive impairment - Poor sleep leads to a decline in the ability to think. In two weeks of getting six hours of sleep, your performance drop-off is the same as someone who has gone twenty-four hours without sleep.
Learning problems - Sleep-deprived individuals have difficulty remember facts they just learned and trouble with improving newly-learned skills.
Long-term memory problems - Elderly people who have chronic sleep deprivation demonstrate impaired long-term memory.
Alzheimer’s risk - Proper sleep cleanses the brain of beta-amyloid protein that builds up when you are awake. Lack of sleep cuts short this process and can lead to an accumulation of this protein in the brain, which is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease.
Poor decision-making - Risk taking
Decreased energy - Poor sleep lowers the production of orexin, a neurotransmitter that stimulates physical activity and energy
Effects on relationships
Loneliness - Young adults who are sleep deprived are less likely to socially connect with other people. People who report poor sleep also say they are lonelier.
Irritability - People feel more irritable after poor sleep.
Unhappiness and signs of depression
Good thing the rest of the ebook is all about improving your sleep. I'm not a doctor or a credentialed health professional. I'm just a guy who had poor sleep habits and figured out how to fix them.