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The Scary Truth About Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Diseases

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The Scary Truth About Sleep Deprivation and Chronic Diseases

We’ve all heard it before, “Get your beauty sleep!" Newsflash - sleep is far more than a cosmetic nicety. Lack of sleep can lead to major health issues, and the link between sleep deprivation and chronic disease has grown significantly. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), these diseases include diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity and depression. This should be reason enough to get that extra bit of sleep that your body so desperately deserves!

Suffering from Sleep Disorders

It is estimated that between 50-70 million people in the United States suffer from sleep disorders, hindering health and the ability to perform everyday functions. When a person is tired, the body sends signals to warn you about your condition. When someone is sleep deprived, they aren’t aware of how impaired they truly are. If you notice any of the following signs, you may be experiencing sleep deprivation:

  • Lack of alertness
  • Decreased productivity
  • Decrease of memory
  • Increase of injury

Short-Term Effects of Sleep Loss

Your judgment, mood and ability to retain information can be affected by sleep loss. Not only do you put yourself at risk for injury, you put others at risk when you are tired. Did you know that roughly 20 percent of serious injuries from motor vehicle accidents are associated with sleepy drivers? That is a staggering number of potentially preventable injuries.

Sleep Loss and Chronic Disease

Regular lack of sleep can be associated with some chronic conditions. Additionally, continued sleeplessness can lead to an increased risk of developing chronic conditions.


Research has shown that the lack of sleep is linked to the development of type 2 diabetes by influencing the way your body processes glucose. Numerous studies have found that adults who didn’t get more than five hours of sleep a night have an increased risk of developing or having diabetes. Improving sleep quality may be a way to enhance blood sugar control in people with type 2 diabetes, according to research.

Heart Diseases

According to research, people with a sleep disorder are more likely to experience coronary heart disease, stroke, irregular heartbeats and hypertension. There is evidence that sleep apnea and heart disease are connected. Sleep apnea is a disorder in which a person pauses in breathing or has shallow breaths while sleeping. People with sleep apnea can wake multiple times throughout the night because of their airways closing once they fall asleep. This sleep disorder could result in the need for a special medical device called an apnea monitor, or CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) device.

Elevated Blood Pressure

Those with high blood pressure who do not get more than five hours of sleep may have worse symptoms. Research found that one night of poor sleep in people with pre-existing problems with hypertension can elevate that person’s blood pressure the following day. Some people with high blood pressure may require monitoring, which can be done through blood pressure monitors.

Increased Metabolic Changes

People who do not sleep for long periods of time or have problems staying asleep throughout the night experience metabolic changes that could cause obesity. Our bodies secrete hormones while we sleep that regulate our appetite, metabolism and glucose processing. Lack of sleep can result in low levels of the hormone leptin, which tells our brain if we have had enough food to eat. Because of this, people may have more food cravings for sweets or salty foods, even after they have eaten. Epidemiological studies have shown the correlation between lack of sleep and obesity in every age group.

Increased Risk for Depression

Depression and sleep have long been connected. Studies have found that people who slept less than five hours a night reported that they were feeling stressed, angry, had declining feelings of optimism and mental exhaustion. Recent research has found that symptoms of depression may decrease once sleep has been restored. When creating a treatment plan for depression, sleep should be considered.

How Much Sleep Does a Person Need?

The amount of sleep a person needs depends on their age. For example, a toddler needs much more sleep than an adult. A child between the ages of 6-13 needs between 9-11 hours of sleep a night, a teenager needs up to 10 hours of sleep, and an adult should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep a night. Older adults only need between 7-8 hours of sleep each night.

Rest Easy with UnityPoint at Home

Let UnityPoint at Home guide you to a happier night's sleep with help from a variety of sleep services. Visit our home care stores or call for more information about our sleep products. Our respiratory therapists can make sure your CPAP device is fitted correctly and working properly. We offer many devices, services and experts to help you get a better night's sleep.