How many hours do you sleep at night? Eight hours? Seven hours? Less? Not getting enough sleep every night, or sleep deprivation, can be damaging to your health. Sleep deprivation can have short-term and long-term health effects, though recent studies have shown that these effects may be reversed.
Short-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation
The Palo Alto Medical Foundation states that sleep deprivation can affect your health in the short-term. Cognitive functions can be affected, resulting in memory problems (retaining new information) and thinking clearly; for example, you may find it harder to do work when you have not been sleeping at least eight hours. Other cognitive problems from sleep deprivation include forgetfulness, distractibility, and decreased alertness. You may also become more anxious, and will be more drowsy. Resulting problems from these short-term effects include stressed relationships, car accidents, and injuries at work.
Long-Term Effects of Sleep Deprivation
The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are even more serious. The Palo Alto Medical Foundation notes that the anxiety from the short-term effects can escalate into an anxiety disorder; another psychiatric problem is depression. Quality of life is also affected, and you have an increased risk of obesity and high blood pressure. Resulting issues from these health problems include stroke and heart attack.
Research on Sleep Deprivation
Science Daily reports research by the Wake Forest University School of Medicine showed that administering orexin-A to monkeys reverses the effects of sleep deprivation. According to the article, “orexin-A, also known as hypocretin-1, is a naturally occurring peptide produced in the brain that regulates sleep. It's secreted by a small number of neurons but affects many brain regions during the day and people who have normal amounts of orexin-A are able to maintain wakefulness. When people or animals are sleep-deprived, the brain attempts to produce more orexin-A, but often without enough success to achieve alertness past the normal day-night cycle.”
The researchers tested the monkeys' cognitive functions after the sleep deprivation; however, when orexin-A was injected or given as a nasal spray, the negative effects of sleep deprivation were reversed. The best effects were with the nasal spray administration of orexin-A. However, the researchers note that orexin-A does not provide any cognitive boost when the monkeys were not sleep deprived. While this research has shown that orexin-A can reverse the effects of sleep deprivation in monkeys, try making changes in your life to get enough sleep.
Elizabeth Stannard Gromisch received her bachelor’s of science degree in neuroscience from Trinity College in Hartford, CT in May 2009. She is the Hartford Women's Health Examiner and she writes about abuse on Suite 101.