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Sleep deprivation is part of our North American culture. People lament about being dead on their feet yet seem to shrug as if to say, what can you do?
But really, we all know what we can do. It's just that we'd have to change our lifestyles in ways we're not comfortable with. Because when you get down to it, most of us have a choice in the matter.
Lots of people though, just don't take sleep deprivation seriously. They assume that not getting enough sleep will only make them tired.
And it certainly will do that. But it can do so much more.
Lack of sleep can have a full-body, and full-brain, effect.
Your thyroid and stress hormone levels can be affected, causing your immune system to suffer. You're more susceptible to viruses and your recovery time may be slower. If you're not sleeping enough, your body is hindered in releasing its cytokines which fight infection and regulate deep sleep.
This hormones imbalance can have detrimental effects on your blood pressure, your heart and your metabolism, as well as your memory. You're more prone to depression and brain damage. Your brain activity can be altered to become similar to that found in some psychiatric disorders.
Lack of sleep has been linked to blood glucose (blood sugar) problems, and higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
Too little sleep can make you more prone to collecting excess abdominal fat. Abdominal fat is connected to heart disease, type 2 diabetes and stroke.
Hormones that have to do with your appetite and eating habits can be affected.
You don't make enough leptin, which is the hormone that makes you feel full. And to make matters worse, you'll be making way too much ghrelin, which is the hormone that makes you feel hungry. Hardly seems fair.
Research suggests that sleep deprivation triggers carbohydrate cravings. Ultimately sleep deprivation can lead you through the door of pre-diabetes without realizing it until you've arrived.
Other unwelcome hormonal changes can occur. Changes in melatonin production can knock your sleep-wake cycle off kilter.