Sleep deprivation proved an aggravating factor in the death of legendary pop artist Michael Jackson.
Getting your seven or eight hours a night might not seem like a matter of life and death. But being chronically sleep deprived can have serious health implications.
Prior to his death in 2009, Michael Jackson suffered from severe insomnia and didn't sleep for 60 days. In lieu of sleep, Jackson's doctor gave him infusions of Propofol, a sedative that provides rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
As Harvard Medical School sleep expert Charles Czeisler told CNN, the disclosure could mean that Jackson is the first person ever to go two months without rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Those who witnessed Jackson's rehearsal prior to an attempted world tour saw the performer exhibit signs of sleep deprivation, including visual and auditory delusions, paranoia and weight loss.
Though Jackson was an extreme case, in his case contributing to his death, even losing a few hours can affect your health.
A single night of sleep loss can have an immediate effect on the body.
Losing a single night's sleep can have an immediate effect on the body. According to a study published in 2008 in the journal Biological Psychiatry, missing out on even a few hours of sleep can result in tissue-damaging inflammation, especially worrisome for those with heart disease or autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis.
Missing out on your Zs can lead you to gain a few LBs.
If you're always tired and carrying a few extra pounds, a lack of sleep could be to blame. According to a study published last year in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, sleep deprivation can lead to an increase in the hormone ghrelin, which is associated with increased appetite. Similarly, losing rest can lead to decreases in the hormone leptin, which is tied to feeling full.
Furthermore, sleep-deprived people in the study were more inclined to seek out sugary and fatty foods when tired, and eat more of them due to being awake for longer hours.
Being tired and sick is no way to go through a day.
Sleeplessness can even get you sick. A lack of sleep can suppress immune function, increasing the chances of showing symptoms of a cold or flu infection when exposed to the virus. Furthermore, those who suffer from a lack of sleep are also likely to get less of a benefit from flu vaccine, because our bodies develop less antibodies when sleep-deprived, according to an article post on WebMD.
Sleep-deprived children can act out if they don't get their rest.
The school bully might not just be angry; he or she may also be sleep deprived, according to a University of Michigan study published in the journal Sleep Medicine in 2011. Children prone to disruptive or bullying behavior in schools were twice as likely as their peers to exhibit sleep-disordered breathing.
In fact, when students fall into poor sleep patterns, the symptoms that manifest as a result of sleep deprivation can mimic another common issue among adolescents, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). A sleep-deprived child could be misdiagnosed with ADHD because of the overlap.
Gambling and sleep deprivation are as winning a combination as alcohol and firearms.
Can losing sleep make you feel like a winner? According to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience in 2011, sleep deprivation can lead to a false sense of optimism and risky decision-making. As Las Vegas has long known from shepherding through generation after generation of drowsy gamblers, this means that sleep loss can be as damaging to your wallet as it is to your health.
Sleepy isn't sexy.
Missing out on sleep can not only hurt your body, but also potentially bruise your ego, according to a study published last month in the journal SLEEP.
Men who were sleep-deprived were more likely to overestimate a woman's interest in and intent to have sex. The researchers compared the cognitive effect of sleep deprivation with that of alcohol in terms of sexual perception.
Losing sleep can mess with your genes.
Losing a few hours of sleep in a night can not only mess with your day; it can affect your genes. Getting less than six hours of sleep can lead to significant changes in gene activity, according to research published earlier this year in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. These genes are responsible for everything from the body's immune system to stress levels.
Driving while drowsy isn't a leading cause of crashes, but it is among the most preventable.
Sleep loss can not only put you at risk, but also anyone on the road whenever you take a spin behind the wheel. Getting less than six hours of sleep can affect hand-eye coordination and lead drivers to doze off on the road. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (PDF), an average of 83,000 crashes a year could be attributed to drowsy driving between 2005 and 2009. The majority of those crashes occurred at night, between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m.
Sleep loss can impact memory and learning ability.
Sleep deprivation can affect not just how you think, but also could physically shrink the size of your brain. A study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry in 2010 compared the brain scans of 24 older, chronic insomniacs with those of normal sleepers. Researchers found that the less well-rested group showed a lower volume of gray matter in their scans.
What the researchers couldn't determine from their study, however, was whether gray matter loss preceded sleeplessness, or the other way around.
Long-term sleep deprivation can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and other potentially life-threatening conditions.
Messing with the rhythms of your REM can also take a toll on your ticker. Disrupted sleep patterns and prolonged sleep deprivation can increase the chances of heart attacks and potentially fatal cardiovascular disorders, according to research published in 2011 in the European Heart Journal.
The researchers, seconding the advice of many experts in the field, advised that everyone get around seven hours every night to avoid serious long-term health problems associated with sleep deprivation.