We continue our sleep discussion this week by reviewing the consequences of inadequate quality sleep. As the warm weather continues, some of us are trying to work towards our “summer bodies”- a slightly more fit version of ourselves. It is important to note that dieting while sleep deprived is much less effective in terms of fat loss. If under-slept, 70% of weight loss comes from lean muscle mass. Cortisol levels, a stress hormone, go up, causing our body to produce more insulin. This causes us to crash and crave sugary foods. The hormone, Ghrelin, which causes us to feel hungry, goes up while Leptin, our satiety hormone, goes down. Essentially, lack of sleep is stacking the cards against us, in terms of weight loss.
Hormone dysfunction from lack of sleep doesn’t just affect weight, it can affect our sex hormones as well. Men who get 5-6 hours of sleep have testosterone levels of men an average of 10 years older than them. They also tend to have decreased sperm count. Women who sleep less than 6 hours tend to have a 20% reduction in some sex hormones.
Sleep deprivation can lead to coronary artery calcification (CAD). Studies have shown that people getting 5 hours of sleep or less had a 200-300% increased risk for developing CAD.
Cancer development is also linked to sleep. Cancer starts with a genetic insult that gets missed by the immune system. Natural Killer Cells in our immune system destroy precancerous and cancerous cells. 1 night of poor sleep reduces natural killer cell activity by 70%. Sleep is one of the most powerful modulators of our immune system. Therefore, as we get older and tend to sleep less, the risk of developing cancer increases.
Surgical errors go up by 170% if a surgeon has only slept 6 hours in the previous 24 hours. Federal judges tend to hand out harsher sentences during daylight savings time as they adjust to that lost hour. Heart attack rates increase by 24% during this time as do motor vehicle accidents and suicides.
Human beings are the only species that deliberately deprive themselves of sleep for no apparent reason! (And for the record, staying up to watch cute videos of cats on youtube is not a reason.) We should all be sleeping more and getting quality sleep. If you feel like you are not, make an appointment to discuss what your next steps could be with your doctor or health care provider.
Dr. Mike D.O.
Brooke Rieth NP