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How much sleep do we really need, and what happens if we don’t sleep enough

Nowadays with our busy lives, long working hours and abundant use of technology, we find ways to eat into our valuable sleeping time.

Most people need between seven and eight hours of sleep a day, however, Lisa Shives who is the medical director of Northshore Sleep Medicine in America, believes that eight and a half hours is advisable to ensure the body gets enough sleep.

Many believe they are receiving enough sleep because they can function throughout the day on coffee or sugary drinks, however the truth and the effects on your body may be very different.

What can lack of sleep lead to?

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1. Obesity

Appetite hormones in your body become out of sync when you stay up late and can lead to binge eating. The levels of leptin, which controls appetite, are reduced staying up late causing you to become hungry. Ghrelin, which is a hormone produced by fat cells increases and you want to eat more and also, more fat calories. A lack of exercise combined with lack of sleep can easily lead to obesity.

Recently research in the journal SLEEP found teenagers who slept less than eight hours a night would consume more fattening foods than those who received more than eight hours.

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2. Heart disease

Those who do not sleep eight hours a night can cause an onset of stress hormones in their body, which in turn, can lead to high blood pressure and poor circulation in the blood vessels.

In men especially recent research has shown that sleep apnea and intentional sleep deprivation can contribute to heart disease.

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3. Diabetes

As mentioned previously, sleep loss can lead to obesity, which is heavily linked to diabetes. The sleep medicine review published in 2007 showed that after a night of sleep deprivation, glucose absorption was impaired. Much research must be done to cement this complex link.

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4. Headaches

Much research is being done into why headaches can be caused by sleep deprivation. Recent studies have shown that REM (The stage of sleep when we dream) may be linked to those who wake with migraine headaches.

Sleep Apnea has also been recognized as a factor as the lack of oxygen caused by this breathing disorder that can cause transient hypertension and morning headaches.

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5. Depression

Again this is a suggestion that is being researched as the chemicals in the brain involved in the sleep cycle are also involved in mood and energy concentration.

6. Lapses of attention/delayed reaction times

Sleep deprivation is linked with a decrease in one’s neurological function. Those who are sleep deprived will usually perform poorly at work or for children at school and those driving are encouraged to pull over and sleep if they can.

7. Death

Recently much has been made of our lifespan linked to sleep deprivation.

In a 2010 study published in Sleep, researchers from the University of Warwick in the U.K. found an association between early death and a lack of sleep.

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Go to Bed

Although much research still needs to be done to prove the true ill effects lack of sleep can cause, the majority of medical opinion is that 8 hours of sleep is advisable. Although we are all different and require different amounts of sleep as to tailor to our personal functions, the risk of ill health is enough to be sensible and go to bed when you are tired!