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Top 8 Effects and Maladies Caused by Sleep Deprivation

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Millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation. If you can lie down in the middle of the day and fall asleep within 10 minutes, then you too are sleep deprived. There are many reasons for this ranging from too much work to simply staying up watching TV. In this article we will explore what the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation are and the maladies that it can cause.

1. Impaired glucose tolerance.

Without sleep, the central nervous system becomes more active, something that inhibits the pancreas from producing adequate insulin, the hormone the body needs to digest glucose. "In healthy young men with no risk factor, in one week, we had them in a pre-diabetic state," says researcher Van Cauter when referring to a study that he conducted on the effects of sleep deprivation.

2. Possible link to obesity.

Growth hormone (GH) is secreted during the first round of deep sleep. As both men and women age, they naturally spend less time in deep sleep, which lowers GH secretion. Lack of sleep at a younger age, however, could drive down GH prematurely, accelerating as a result the fat-gaining process. In addition, there is also research that indicates a lowering of the hormone testosterone as well, something that would also make the gaining of fat and the loss of muscle and easy thing for the body to do.

3. Increased carbohydrate cravings.

This is due to the fact that sleep deprivation negatively affects the production of a hormone called Leptin. This hormone is responsible for telling the body when it is full. However, with decreased production of this hormone, your body will crave calories (especially in the forms of carbs) even though its requirements have been met. Not a good situation to be in for a dieter.

4. Weakened immune system.

Research indicates that sleep deprivation affects adversely the white blood cell count in humans as well as the body’s ability to fight infections.

5. Increased risk of getting breast cancer.

Richard Stevens, a cancer researcher at the University of Connecticut, has speculated that there might be a connection between breast cancer and hormone cycles disrupted by late-night light. Melatonin, primarily secreted at night, may trigger a reduction in the body's production of estrogen. But light interferes with melatonin release (since melatonin is secreted in response to a lack of light), allowing estrogen levels to rise. Too much estrogen is known to promote the growth of breast cancers.

6. Decreased alertness and ability to focus.

A recent study showed that people who were awake for up to 19 hours scored worse on performance tests and alertness scales than those with a blood-alcohol level of .08 percent–legally drunk in some states. Also, this can lead to injury in the weight room since lack of alertness can cause you to neglect securing a machine correctly or even lose balance as you perform an exercise.

7. Hardening of the arteries.

Stress imposed on the body due to lack of sleep causes such a very sharp rise in cortisol levels. Such an imbalance can lead to hardening of the arteries, something that can cause a heart attack. In addition, we also know that very high cortisol levels lead to muscle loss, increased fat storage, loss of bone mass, cause depression, cause hypertension, cause insulin resistance (the cells in the body lose the ability to accept insulin), and lower growth hormone and testosterone production.

8. Depression and irritability.

Lack of sleep also causes depletion of neurotransmitters in the brain that are in charge of regulating mood. Because of this, sleep deprived people have a “shorter fuse” and also tend to get depressed more easily.

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