You may have read my articles about the side effects of sleep deprivation, both mental and physical - lack of concentration, stress, weakened immune system, fatigue. But those apply to folks who are really sleep deprived, who only get four or five hours of sleep every night. Right? For a person who loses only an hour or two most nights, none of this applies. Right? Wrong
Most people realize the consequences of severe sleep deprivation, but a study by Penn State College of Medicine shows that losing as little as one or two hours of sleep a night can have adverse effects.
In the study, lead researcher Alexandros N. Vgontzas mimicked what is more common in real life, restricting sleep by an hour or two every night for a week, similar to what many people do in order to stay up for the late news or to watch a favorite TV show.
The one good thing about this method of sleep deprivation was that the subjects, on the nights following the study, were able to fall asleep faster and get to a deeper level more quickly. However, this was outweighed by the adverse effects.
As many people know, it's difficult if not impossible to "catch up" on sleep. The subjects suffered from daytime drowsiness and dozed off during the day if put in a quiet, dark room.
But an even more serious result - immune systems were disrupted which could lead to an increase in the likelihood of infections and disease.
Another adverse reaction was an increase in a molecule that controls metabolism. This, in turn, could lead to obesity and on to obesity related problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea. In older men, slight sleep deprivation caused a decrease in testosterone levels.
This study serves to emphasize the importance of getting a full night's sleep every night. Eight hours is recommended for ultimate health and well being.