Sleep Deprivation Can Be Deadly. Here’s What Sleeping Less Than 7 Hours Per Night Does to Your Body And Brain


About a third of US adults don’t get enough sleep.

And sleep deprivation has serious consequences for your brain and body.

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Many people think they can get by on less than seven to nine hours a night – the amount of sleep doctors recommend for most adults – or say they need to sleep less because of work or family obligations.

The Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that his long work hours were taking a toll on his well-being and raising concerns among his friends.

That prompted Arianna Huffington to post an open letter to Musk about his sleep schedule, telling him that he was “demonstrating a wildly outdated, anti-scientific and horribly inefficient way of using human energy.”

Musk posted his response on Twitter at 2:30 a.m. ET. “I just got home from the factory,” he said. “You think this is an option. It is not.”

Musk seems to understand that working 120-hour weeks is harmful. As Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist who’s an expert on sleep, previously told Business Insider, “The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life.”

Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, and kids have to get even more, though needs do vary from person to person. Some incredibly rare people can actually get by on a few hours of sleep per night, while others on the opposite end of the spectrum are sometimes called “long sleepers” because they need 11 hours nightly.

But regardless of your body’s clock, a lack of sleep will cause your physical and mental health to suffer.

Here are 30 health consequences of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk for certain cancers.

Sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep schedules have been linked to increased risk for several cancers, most notably colon and breast cancers.

Skin doesn’t heal as well from damage when you are tired, leading to skin ageing.

Poor sleep quality is strongly correlated with chronic skin problems, according to research from the University of Wisconsin. Studies have also found that when skin is damaged by the sun or other factors, it doesn’t heal as well in poor sleepers, so those people wind up showing more signs of skin ageing.

Tired people have a harder time controlling their impulses, potentially leading to unhealthy behaviour and weight gain.

People who don’t get enough sleep have a harder time resisting high-calorie foods, more cravings for unhealthy meals, and difficulty controlling their impulses. Researchers think hormonal imbalances that result from sleep deprivation are responsible for this, since those imbalances are linked to a high body mass index and obesity.

People feel lonelier after sleepless nights — and being lonely makes it harder to sleep well.

Researchers have found that sleep-deprived young adults are less likely to connect socially with other people, and that people who report poor sleep also tend to say they’re lonelier. To make things worse, people who feel lonely don’t tend to sleep as well, which can lead to a sort of vicious cycle.

Being sleepy makes it harder to learn and disrupts short-term memory.

Sleepiness has long been a problem for students. Delaying school start times an hour for middle-school kids has been found to significantly increase standardised test scores, and it may have an even bigger effect on teens, who naturally tend to be night owls.

But it’s not just kids – sleep deprivation also wrecks adults’ short-term memory. Several studies have found that sleep-deprived adults have more difficulty remembering words they have learned and have a harder time improving newly learned skills.

Long-term sleep deprivation also seems to damage long-term memory.

Sleep disruptions for elderly people can lead to structural changes in the brain associated with impaired long-term memory. Sleep-related memory deficits have been observed in the general adult population as well – as early as 1924, researchers noticed that people who slept more forgot less.

A growing body of evidence links bad sleep with signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain.

Several studies have found that sleep helps cleanse the brain of the beta-amyloid protein that can build up while you are awake. That protein is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers say that a lack of sleep can lead to a vicious cycle, since the more beta-amyloid protein there is in the brain, the harder it is to get to a cleansing deep-sleep state. People with more disrupted sleep schedules tend to have more beta-amyloid protein built up.

Heart disease risk rises with sleep deprivation.

There’s plenty of evidence that sleep deprivation has a negative effect on the heart. When researchers kept people awake for 88 hours, their blood pressure went up (no big surprise there). Even participants who were allowed to sleep for four hours a night showed an elevated heart rate when compared with those who got eight hours. Concentrations of C-reactive protein, a marker of heart disease risk, also increase in people who are fully or partially deprived of sleep.

Sleepiness leads to irritability.

People feel irritable after sleepless nights (as we’ve all experienced at some point), and research has also found that people get more distressed by common circumstances like interruptions at work when they are tired.

The longer people go without sleep, the harder it is for them to see clearly. People sometimes experience hallucinations when they’re sleep-deprived.

Sleep deprivation is associated with tunnel vision, double vision, and perceived dimness. The longer you are awake, the more visual errors you’ll encounter, and the more likely you are to experience outright hallucinations.

Sleep-deprived people have slower reactions.

Your reaction time is severely impeded when you don’t get enough sleep. Studies have found that college athletes and West Point cadets all did worse on decision-making tests and had slower reactions while tired.

So it’s no surprise that sleepiness makes people clumsier.

Most people notice that when they’re sleepy, they’re not at the top of their game. One study found that one sleepless night contributed to a 20-32% increase in the number of errors made by surgeons. People playing sports that require precision – like shooting, sailing, or cycling – also make more mistakes when they have been awake for extended periods.

The immune system doesn’t work as well when you’re tired.

You know those great things your immune system does when you get a wound but don’t immediately get an infection, or you come near a sick person but don’t get ill yourself? Prolonged sleep deprivation and even one night of sleeplessness can impede your body’s natural defences against infection. Sleep deprivation also seems to make newly received vaccines less effective.

Similarly, over-tired people are more susceptible to colds.

If you’re wondering why you’re sick all the time and seem to pick up every bug that travels around the office, it’s probably because you’re not getting enough sleep. Sleep-deprived people are almost three times as likely as well-rested people to catch a cold, according to one study.

Being tired drains your sex drive and makes it harder to perform.

Testosterone is an important component of sexual drive and desire in both women and men. Sleeping increases testosterone levels, while being awake decreases them.

Sleep deprivation and disturbed sleep, consequently, are associated with reduced libidoand sexual dysfunction. People with sleep apnea are particularly at risk.

Sleepy people express more unhappiness and signs of depression.

In a classic study led by the Nobel Prize-winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman, a group of 909 working women kept detailed logs of their moods and day-to-day activities. While differences in income up to $US60,000 had little effect on happiness, the results found, a poor night’s sleep was one of two factors that could ruin the following day’s mood. (The other was tight deadlines at work.)

Another study reported higher marital happiness among women with more peaceful sleep, though it’s hard to say whether happy people sleep better or good sleep makes people happier. Most likely, it’s some combination of the two.

Insomniacs are also twice as likely to develop depression, and research suggests that treating sleep problems may help treat depressive symptoms.

Risk of Type 2 diabetes rises when people are over-tired, even for people who aren’t overweight.

Being awake when your body wants you to be asleep messes with your metabolism, which in turn increases your risk for insulin resistance (often called “pre-diabetes”) and Type 2 diabetes.

Several studies in adults have found a strong association – though not a cause-effect relationship – between regular sleep loss and the risk of developing diabetes. More sleep may also help reduce diabetes risk for adolescents, according to researchers.

Tiredness is associated with bad decision-making that can put lives and finances in danger.

Planning to make some changes to your portfolio? You might want to make sure you’re well rested.

“A single night of sleep deprivation evoked a strategy shift during risky decision making such that healthy human volunteers moved from defending against losses to seeking increased gains,”researchers said.

Other researchers have found that severe sleep deprivation impairs people’s ability to follow pre-established procedures for making a “go” or “no go” decision, something that researchers say contributed to the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the Chernobyl meltdown, and the Exxon Valdez disaster.

Sleepy people are more easily distracted.

“Attention tasks appear to be particularly sensitive to sleep loss,” researchers noted.

If you want to stay alert and attentive, sleep is a requirement. Otherwise, you enter “an unstable state that fluctuates within seconds and that cannot be characterised as either fully awake or asleep,” researchers said. In that state, your ability to pay attention is variable at best.

Tiredness makes it hard to speak normally.

Severe sleep deprivation seems to affect your ability to carry on a conversation – much like having too much to drink.

“Volunteers kept awake for 36 hours showed a tendency to use word repetitions and clichés; they spoke monotonously, slowly, and indistinctly,” one study noted. “They were not able to properly express and verbalize their thoughts.”

Like driving drunk, driving tired can lead to more car accidents.

Drowsy driving is often compared to drunk driving: You really shouldn’t do either.

“Motor vehicle accidents related to fatigue, drowsy driving, and falling asleep at the wheel are particularly common, but often underestimated,” one review concluded.

Pilots, truck drivers, medical residents, and others required to stay awake for long periods “show an increased risk of crashes or near misses due to sleep deprivation,” it said.

Tiredness is connected to urine overproduction.

When people sleep, the body slows down its normal urine production. But when someone is sleep-deprived, that doesn’t happen, leading to what researchers call “excess nocturnal urine production.”

This condition may be linked to bed-wetting in children. In adults, it’s tied to what’s called nocturia, the need to use the bathroom many times during the night.

You need sleep for muscles to get stronger. Without it, muscle atrophy occurs.

Lack of sleep causes hormonal changes that make it harder for your body to build muscleand heal. This makes it more difficult to recover from muscle damage caused by exercise, and it worsens conditions related to muscle atrophy.

Other research has found that the reverse is also true – that during sleep, your body releases growth hormone and heals damage. That’s why fitness advocates will always point out that sleep is an essential part of getting in shape.

Sleepiness makes pain harder to cope with.

People in pain – especially those who have chronic pain – tend to not get enough sleep. This makes sense, since pain can wake you up in the night and make it hard to fall asleep in the first place. But recently, researchers have begun to suspect that sleep deprivation may actually cause pain or at least increase people’s sensitivity to pain.

Tiredness leads to gastrointestinal issues.

Regular sleep loss makes you more likely to develop both inflammatory bowel disease and irritable bowel syndrome, which affects an estimated 10-15% of people in North America. Patients with Crohn’s disease have been found to be twice as likely to experience a relapse when they don’t get enough sleep.

Sleepiness is associated with headaches.

Scientists don’t yet know exactly why sleep deprivation leads to headaches, but it’s a connection doctors have noticed for more than a century. Migraines can be triggered by sleepless nights, and one study found that 36-58% of people with sleep apnea reported waking up with“nondescript morning headaches.”

Disrupted sleep cycles lead to more inflammation, which could worsen asthma, arthritis, and cardiovascular disease.

Our sleep cycle or body clock doesn’t just determine when we’re tired or awake – it also affects the function of every cell in our body. Researchers have started to figure out how disruptions in sleep schedules prevent cells from fighting inflammation, which could explain why tired people often have many problems from inflammatory conditions, including asthma, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, and cardiovascular disease.

If snoring or sleep apnea is causing sleep disruption, it could lead to serious health problems.

Snoring can be an indication that you are dealing with sleep apnea, a sleep disorder that can cause other medical problems over time. It’s caused by decreased airflow, which can strain the heart and cause cardiovascular problems. The condition is also linked to weight gain.

Poor sleep disrupts genetic activity, which may explain some of the health risks of getting too little rest.

2013 study shed some light on why sleep is tied to so many different aspects of our health and wellness: Poor sleep actually disrupts normal genetic activity.

Researchers found that among study participants who slept less than six hours a night for a week, more than 700 of their genes were not behaving normally, including some that help govern immune and stress responses.

Some genes that typically cycle according to a daily (circadian) pattern stopped doing so, while others that don’t normally follow a daily pattern began to do that.

What does this mean? Just one week of less-than-ideal sleep is enough to make some of your genetic activity go haywire.

At any given time, people who haven’t gotten the right amount of sleep are more likely to die.

Many health problems are associated with sleep deprivation and poor sleep, but here’s the big one: People who consistently do not get seven or eight hours of sleep a night are more likely to die during a given period.

Put more simply: We all die eventually, but sleeping too little – or even too much – is associated with a higher risk of dying sooner than you might otherwise.

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Technology and social media are feeding addictive behaviors and mental illness in society


Image: Technology and social media are feeding addictive behaviors and mental illness in society

Smart phones and tablets have become a cancerous growth in our lives – never leaving us, feeding off our essence, and sucking away our attention, life, and energy. Social media is like an aggressive form of brain cancer, attaching to our mind, addicting us to cheap dopamine rushes, replacing human interaction with a digital façade of living. Stealing away our time, technology has become a disease that infiltrates our mental and social health, leaving us depressed, anxious, worried, envious, arrogant, and socially isolated.

What we type and text to others causes over-thinking, rumination, and misunderstanding. The way we respond with type and text can be misinterpreted, leading to social strain in relationships. Digital communication lacks the natural flow of body language, eye contact, touch, voice inflection, tone, and real-life rapport. Accustomed to digital communication, people lose their ability to have adult conversations. This hurts everyone’s ability to work together, discuss ideas, solve problems, and overcome multi-faceted challenges.

Popular social media platforms prey on human weaknesses

On Facebook, the pursuit of likes and comments can become an addicting sensation. When the attention fails to come in, the Facebook user may feel unheard or undesirable. When the user sees their friends getting more likes, they may perceive other people having a better life than they do, leading to depressed feelings. (Related: Former Facebook exec: “Social media is ripping society apart.“)

On Twitter, communication is limited to short bursts. These bursts encourage people to engage in divisive language that is used in inflammatory ways and is easily misunderstood. Twitter is used to build a “following” which becomes a high-school-esque popularity contest that easily inflates egos and gives a platform to the most annoying ones in the bunch.

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Instagram and Snapchat have become more popular as well, making users anxious to show off their lives online 24-7. This infatuation with documenting every moment is an anxious, self-absorbed way to live and it does the person no good, because these technology gimmicks interrupt the actual moment and disturb the flow of real life. Do we really think that everyone cares about every picture, every meal, and everything that we do? As the digital world continues to bloat up with information, pictures, and voices, all of it loses its value and sacredness. Over time, no one genuinely cares. The louder a person gets on social media, the more annoying they are perceived.

Technology addiction destroys sleep, leads teenagers to other addictive substances

As parents pacify their children with screens, the children are exposed to constant light stimulation which excites brain chemicals. The colorful games and videos over-stimulate the child’s mind, making them addicted to the sensation. Consequentially the child becomes more restless and behavioral distress increases over the long term.

Technology has made our lives more selfish, isolated, and interrupted. Social media has preyed on our weaknesses, trapping us in its mesmerizing facade of happiness. According to SurvivoPedia, teenagers who spend more than five hours a day on their devices are at a 72 percent higher risk for suicide risk factors. In order to alleviate the mental health issues associated with social media, teenagers may turn to other addictive substances to take the edge off.

Additionally, these devices interfere with healthy sleep patterns — which are essential for proper brain development. The onslaught of blue light and electromagnetic frequency interferes with healthy melatonin levels in the brain. The things that we post online can keep us up at night as well. The addiction to check the phone for responses and likes can keep a person up, too. All this brain excitement and depression throws off the body’s circadian rhythm, leading to poor sleep and mental fatigue during the daytime.

Check out more on mental health at Mind.News.

Sources include:

SurvivoPedia.com

NaturalNews.com

NaturalNews.com

Your Ancestors Didn’t Sleep the Way You Do


Nobody questions the importance of getting enough sleep. At minimum, it’s essential for rejuvenating the mind and revitalizing the body. But, what is enough? And what does it look like? Many people find they wake during the night and wonder if they’re suffering from a sleep disorder or other health issue. While that could be totally possible, it’s also possible that sleep may not be an all-night thing. In fact, historical records, centuries-old literature, and ancient references to sleep are all revealing a whole new way we should be looking at how we slumber.

Segmented Sleep: More Normal Than You Realize

If waking up during the night is a frequent “problem” for you, you might wonder if you’re suffering from insomnia or sleep apnea. “Segmented sleep” is a seemingly irregular sleep pattern that may not be a disorder at all, but a natural biological response that we, in modern times, have forgotten.

English scholar Roger Ekirch cemented the idea that our ancestors used to naturally practice segmented sleep, using their middle-of-the-night waking hours to pray, meditate, create, or finish chores around the home. [1] Roger Ekirch found references to “first sleep” and “second sleep” in literature, legal documents, and even letters written before the Industrial Revolution.

Many who practice segmented sleep find the in-between hour or hours to be one of the most relaxing periods. This may be because this middle period between first sleep and second sleep is around midnight where the brain produces prolactin, a hormone that supports a feeling of relaxation.

Before Reaching for That Sleeping Pill, Consider This

Our natural biorhythms are governed by exposure to light and darkness. Before the introduction of the light bulb, almost everyone scheduled their day around the rising and setting of the sun. When the sun rose in the morning, so did humans, and when the sun hit the horizon in the evening, we more than likely went to sleep around the same time.

Our brain produces serotonin in response to sunlight, and this neurotransmitter provides an energetic, wakeful feeling.[2] In contrast, when we’re exposed to darkness – meaning no artificial light whatsoever – our brain produces sleep-regulating melatonin. Computers, television screens, smartphones, tablets, and every other source of light in the evening hours is artificially extending our waking hours and interfering with our neurochemistry.

Also see: The Dark Side of Blue Light — How Tablets, Computers and Smartphones are Making Us Fat, Sick and Stupid

Because of this, it is possible that the practice of segmented sleep naturally fell away from public knowledge. We stay up longer, produce serotonin when we’re not supposed to, and eat less-than-ideal food — all of which could be the reason why we usually sleep throughout the night without waking and view this as normal. Even most medical professionals and sleep specialists have never heard of segmented sleep and aren’t trained to handle this natural occurrence.

So if this is happening to you, do a little more research into segmented sleep and its possible benefits before you reach for a sleeping pill. You may be more in tune with your ancestral rhythms than most people.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night? What do you do during that time? We’d love to hear your thoughts and insight!

References:

  1. A. Roger Ekirch. Sleep We Have Lost: Pre-Industrial Slumber in the British Isles. Am Hist Rev. 2001;106(2):343-86.
  2. Simon N. Young. How to increase serotonin in the human brain without drugs. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 Nov; 32(6): 394-399.

How to handle sleep deprivation, according to a Navy SEAL


Everybody always says the same thing when you announce you’re expecting: “Better catch up on your rest!” Or, “Sleep in while you still can!”

Or even worse, “I’m your carefree single friend who stays out until 2 AM and then goes to brunch!”

navy seal

All of them also think they’re sharing a secret, as if they’re frontline soldiers watching new recruits get rotated to the front. These people are incredibly annoying. Or maybe they’re not. Who knows, you’re in a groggy, sleep-deprived haze.

How you deal with sleep deprivation defines your first years as a parent. If there’s anyone who knows a thing or 2 about propping up sagging eyelids, it’s John McGuire.

A Former Navy SEAL, he not only survived Hell Week — that notorious 5-day suffer-fest in which aspiring SEALs are permitted a total of only 4 hours of sleep — but also the years of sleep deprivation that come with being a father of 5. McGuire, who’s also an in-demand motivational speaker and founder of the SEAL Team Physical Training program, offered some battle-tested strategies on how to make it through the ultimate Hell Week.

Or as you call it, “having a newborn.”

Get your head right

It doesn’t matter if it’s a live SEAL team operation or an average day with a baby, the most powerful tactic is keeping your wits about you.

“You can’t lose your focus or discipline,” McGuire says. In other words, the first step is to simply believe you have what it takes best the challenge ahead. “Self-doubt destroys more dreams than failure ever has.”

This applies to CEOs, heads of households, and operatives who don’t exist undertaking missions that never happened taking out targets whose the Pentagon will not confirm.

Teamwork makes the lack of sleep work

“In the field, lack of communication can get someone killed,” says McGuire.

And while you might not be facing the same stress during a midnight diaper blowout as you would canvassing for an IED, the same rules apply: remain calm and work as a team.

Tempers will flare, but the last thing that you want, per McGuire, is for negativity to seep through.

One way to prevent this? Remind yourself: I didn’t get a lot of sleep but I love my family, so I’m going to really watch what I say. At least that’s what McGuire says.

And when communicating, be mindful of your current sleep-deprived state: “If you are, you’ll be more likely say something along the lines of, ‘Hey, I’m not feeling myself because I didn’t get enough sleep,’” he says.

Put the oxygen mask on yourself first

The more you can schedule your life – and, in particular, exercise – the better, says McGuire. And this is certainly a tactic that’s important with a newborn in the house.

“It’s like on an airplane: You need to place the oxygen mask on yourself first before you can put one on your kid.”

Exercise reduces stress, helps you sleep better, and get the endorphins pumping.

“You can hold your baby and do squats if you want,” he says. “It’s not as much about the squats as making sure you exercise and clear the mind.” Did your hear that, maggot!?

Don’t try to be a hero

McGuire has heard people say that taking naps longer than 20 minutes will make you more tired than before you nap. Tell that to a SEAL (or a new dad). McGuire has seen guys sleep on wood pallets on an airplane flying through lightning and turbulence. He once saw a guy fall asleep standing up. The point is, sleep when you can, wherever you can, for as long you can. “Sleep is like water: you need it when you need it.”

Know your limits

Lack of proper sleep effects leads to more than under-eye bags: your patience plummets, you’re more likely to gorge on unhealthy foods, and, well, you’re kind of a dummy.

So pay attention to what you shouldn’t do as much as what you should. “A good leader makes decisions to improve things, not make them worse,” says McGuire. “If you’re in bad shape, you could fall asleep at the wheel, you can harm your child. You’ve got to take care of yourself.”

Embrace the insanity

It would be cute if this next sentiment came from training, but it’s probably more a function of McGuire the Dad than McGuire the SEAL: Embrace the challenge because it won’t last long.

Even McGuire’s brood of 5, which at some point may have seemed they may never grow up, have.

“You learn a lot about people and yourself through your children,” he says. “Have lots of adventures. Take lots of pictures and give lots of hugs,” he says. It won’t last forever — and you’ll have plenty of time to sleep when it’s over.

How sleep deprivation harms memory


sleep deprivation research

Researchers from the Universities of Groningen (Netherlands) and Pennsylvania have discovered a piece in the puzzle of how sleep deprivation negatively affects memory.

For the first time, a study in mice, to be published in the journal eLife, shows that five hours of sleep deprivation leads to a loss of connectivity between neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory.

“It’s clear that sleep plays an important role in memory – we know that taking naps helps us retain important memories. But how sleep deprivation impairs hippocampal function and memory is less obvious,” says first author Robbert Havekes, PhD, Assistant Professor at the Groningen Institute for Evolutionary Life Sciences.

It has been proposed that changes in the connectivity between synapses – structures that allow neurons to pass signals to each other – can affect memory. To study this further, the researchers examined the impact of brief periods of sleep loss on the structure of dendrites, the branching extensions of nerve cells along which impulses are received from other synaptic cells, in the mouse brain.

They first used the Golgi silver-staining method to visualize the length of dendrites and number of dendritic spines in the mouse hippocampus following five hours of sleep deprivation, a period of sleep loss that is known to impair memory consolidation. Their analyses indicated that sleep deprivation significantly reduces the length and spine density of the dendrites belonging to the neurons in the CA1 region of the hippocampus.

They repeated the sleep-loss experiment, but left the mice to sleep undisturbed for three hours afterwards. This period was chosen based on the scientists’ previous work showing that three hours is sufficient to restore deficits caused by lack of sleep. The effects of the five-hour sleep deprivation in the mice were reversed so that their dendritic structures were similar to those observed in the mice that had slept.

The researchers then investigated what was happening during sleep deprivation at the molecular level. “We were curious about whether the structural changes in the hippocampus might be related to increased activity of the protein cofilin, since this can cause shrinkage and loss of dendritic spines,” Havekes says.

“Our further studies revealed that the molecular mechanisms underlying the negative effects of sleep loss do in fact target cofilin. Blocking this protein in hippocampal neurons of sleep-deprived mice not only prevented the loss of neuronal connectivity, but also made the memory processes resilient to sleep loss. The sleep-deprived mice learned as well as non-sleep deprived subjects.”

Ted Abel, PhD, Brush Family Professor of Biology at the University of Pennsylvania and senior author of the study, explains: “Lack of sleep is a common problem in our 24/7 modern society and it has severe consequences for health, overall wellbeing, and brain function.

“Despite decades of research, the reasons why sleep loss negatively impacts brain function have remained unknown. Our novel description of a pathway through which sleep deprivation impacts memory consolidation highlights the importance of the neuronal cell network’s ability to adapt to sleep loss. What is perhaps most striking is that these neuronal connections are restored with several hours of recovery sleep. Thus, when subjects have a chance to catch up on much-needed sleep, they are rapidly remodeling their brain.”

Staff should start work at 10am to avoid ‘torture’ of sleep deprivation


Forcing staff to start work before 10am is tantamount to torture and is making employees ill, exhausted and stressed, an Oxford University academic has claimed.

A man with his head on the desk

Before the age of 55, the circadian rhythms of adults are completely out of sync with normal 9-to-5 working hours, which poses a “serious threat” to performance, mood and mental health.

Dr Paul Kelley, of Oxford University, said there was a need for a huge societal change to move work and school starting times to fit with the natural body clock of humans.

Experiments studying circadian rhythms have shown that the average 10-year-old will not start focussing properly for academic work before 8.30am. Similarly, a 16-year-old should start at 10am for best results and university students should start at 11am.

Dr Kelley believes that simply moving school times could raise grades by 10 per cent. He was formerly a head teacher at Monkseaton Middle School, in North Tyneside, where he changed the school start day from 8.30am to 10am and found that the number of top grades rose by 19 per cent.

Similarly, companies who force employees to start work earlier are also likely to be hurting their output, while storing up health problems for staff.

A man in bed reaching for his alarm clock
Dr Paul Kelley said work and school starting times should fit with the natural body 

“This is a huge society issue,” Dr Kelley told the British Science a Festival in Bradford. “Staff should start at 10am. You don’t get back to (the 9am) starting point till 55. Staff are usually sleep-deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society.

“It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body.

“Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.

“We cannot change out 24-hour rhythms. You cannot learn to get up at a certain time. Your body will be attuned to sunlight and you’re not conscious of it because it reports to hypothalamus, not sight.

“This applies in the bigger picture to prisons and hospitals. They wake up people and give people food they don’t want. You’re more biddable because you’re totally out of it. Sleep deprivation is a torture.”

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have major impacts on health. Just one week with less that six hours’ sleep each night leads to 711 changes in how genes function.

Lack of sleep impacts performance, attention, long-term memory and encourages drug and alcohol use.

It also leads to exhaustion, anxiety, frustration, anger, impulsive behaviour, weight gain, risk-taking, high blood pressure, lower immunity, stress and a raft of mental health conditions.

Neuroscientists say teens are biologically predisposed to go to sleep at around midnight and not feel fully awake and engaged until around 10am.

Dr Kelley said that almost all students were losing around 10 hours of sleep a week because they were forced to get up too early.

“Just by changing the start time you can improve quality of life for whole generations of children,” he added.

“There are major societal problems that are being caused by that. But the opportunities are fantastic. We have an opportunity here to do something that would benefit millions of people on Earth.”

Teenager's sitting their GCSE's
Teenagers are being allowed to start school at 10am to see if it improves their GCSE scores CREDIT: PA

Tens of thousands of children are starting school at 10am in a ground-breaking experiment by Oxford to prove that later classes can improve exam results.

GCSE students from more than 100 schools across England will take part in the four-year project based on scientific evidence which suggests teenagers are out of sync with traditional school. The team is hoping to publish findings in 2018.

A Department of Education spokesman said: “We have given all schools the freedom to control the length of the school day because they are best placed to know what’s best for their communities.

“Allowing more time for supervised study and extra-curricular activities has been shown to benefit disadvantaged pupils in particular by giving them access to purposeful, character-building activities, which is why we are helping schools offer a longer day.”

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher regularly survived on four hours’ sleep a night

Sleep habits of those at the top

  • As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher famously slept for just four hours a night during the week, though she took regular daytime naps.
  • When asked how many hours sleep people need, Napoleon Bonaparteis said to have replied: “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.”
  • US President Barack Obama is understood to only sleep for six hours a night.
  • Business magnate Donald Trump boasts just three to four hours sleep nightly.
  • Sir Winston Churchill managed on just four hours sleep a night during World War Two – but insisted on a two hour nap in the afternoon.
  • Scientist Albert Einstein reportedly slept for 10 hours a night, plus daytime naps.
  • Bill Gates, former chief executive of Microsoft, says he needs seven hours of sleep to “stay sharp”.

Staff should start work at 10am to avoid ‘torture’ of sleep deprivation


A man with his head on the desk
Work should begin at 10am for those under 55, study finds

Forcing staff to start work before 10am is tantamount to torture and is making employees ill, exhausted and stressed, an Oxford University academic has claimed.

Before the age of 55, the circadian rhythms of adults are completely out of sync with normal 9-to-5 working hours, which poses a “serious threat” to performance, mood and mental health.

Dr Paul Kelley, of Oxford University, said there was a need for a huge societal change to move work and school starting times to fit with the natural body clock of humans.

Experiments studying circadian rhythms have shown that the average 10-year-old will not start focussing properly for academic work before 8.30am. Similarly, a 16-year-old should start at 10am for best results and university students should start at 11am.

Dr Kelley believes that simply moving school times could raise grades by 10 per cent. He was formerly a head teacher at Monkseaton Middle School, in North Tyneside, where he changed the school start day from 8.30am to 10am and found that the number of top grades rose by 19 per cent.

Similarly, companies who force employees to start work earlier are also likely to be hurting their output, while storing up health problems for staff.

A man in bed reaching for his alarm clock
Dr Paul Kelley said work and school starting times should fit with the natural body clock

“This is a huge society issue,” Dr Kelley told the British Science a Festival in Bradford. “Staff should start at 10am. You don’t get back to (the 9am) starting point till 55. Staff are usually sleep-deprived. We’ve got a sleep-deprived society.

“It is hugely damaging on the body’s systems because you are affecting physical, emotional and performance systems in the body.

“Your liver and your heart have different patterns and you’re asking them to shift two or three hours. This is an international issue. Everybody is suffering and they don’t have to.

“We cannot change out 24-hour rhythms. You cannot learn to get up at a certain time. Your body will be attuned to sunlight and you’re not conscious of it because it reports to hypothalamus, not sight.

“This applies in the bigger picture to prisons and hospitals. They wake up people and give people food they don’t want. You’re more biddable because you’re totally out of it. Sleep deprivation is a torture.”

Sleep deprivation has been shown to have major impacts on health. Just one week with less that six hours’ sleep each night leads to 711 changes in how genes function.

Lack of sleep impacts performance, attention, long-term memory and encourages drug and alcohol use.

It also leads to exhaustion, anxiety, frustration, anger, impulsive behaviour, weight gain, risk-taking, high blood pressure, lower immunity, stress and a raft of mental health conditions.

Neuroscientists say teens are biologically predisposed to go to sleep at around midnight and not feel fully awake and engaged until around 10am.

Dr Kelley said that almost all students were losing around 10 hours of sleep a week because they were forced to get up too early.

“Just by changing the start time you can improve quality of life for whole generations of children,” he added.

“There are major societal problems that are being caused by that. But the opportunities are fantastic. We have an opportunity here to do something that would benefit millions of people on Earth.”

Teenager's sitting their GCSE's
Teenagers are being allowed to start school at 10am to see if it improves their GCSE scores 

Tens of thousands of children are starting school at 10am in a ground-breaking experiment by Oxford to prove that later classes can improve exam results.

GCSE students from more than 100 schools across England will take part in the four-year project based on scientific evidence which suggests teenagers are out of sync with traditional school. The team is hoping to publish findings in 2018.

A Department of Education spokesman said: “We have given all schools the freedom to control the length of the school day because they are best placed to know what’s best for their communities.

“Allowing more time for supervised study and extra-curricular activities has been shown to benefit disadvantaged pupils in particular by giving them access to purposeful, character-building activities, which is why we are helping schools offer a longer day.”

Margaret Thatcher
Margaret Thatcher regularly survived on four hours’ sleep a night

Sleep habits of those at the top

  • As Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher famously slept for just four hours a night during the week, though she took regular daytime naps.
  • When asked how many hours sleep people need, Napoleon Bonaparteis said to have replied: “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.”
  • US President Barack Obama is understood to only sleep for six hours a night.
  • Business magnate Donald Trump boasts just three to four hours sleep nightly.
  • Sir Winston Churchill managed on just four hours sleep a night during World War Two – but insisted on a two hour nap in the afternoon.
  • Scientist Albert Einstein reportedly slept for 10 hours a night, plus daytime naps.
  • Bill Gates, former chief executive of Microsoft, says he needs seven hours of sleep to “stay sharp”.

The Spooky Effects of Sleep Deprivation


It’s no surprise that a night without enough Zzzs can lead to a groggy morning.  But bleary eyes and gaping yawns aren’t the only things that can happen when your body needs more shut-eye.

Indeed, there are more nightmarish side effects to sleep deprivation.

If a person is deprived of sleep, it can lead to “tremendous emotional problems,” said Dr. Steven Feinsilver, the director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. “Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture,” he said.

There isn’t a clear definition of exactly how long a person must go without sleep, or how little sleep a person has to get to be considered sleep-deprived, and different people need different amounts of sleep, so there may be no universal definition of “sleep deprivation.” Rather, a person is considered sleep-deprived if they get less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert, researchers say.

But still, research over the years has shown that people can be physically and psychologically damaged from not getting enough sleep, said David Dinges, a professor of psychology and the director of the Unit for Experimental Psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania.

In fact, the damage is so apparent that it is unethical to coercively deprive someone of sleep, Dinges said. In the studies of sleep deprivation that Dinges and his colleagues conduct in their lab, healthy volunteers are placed in medically safe environments and constantly monitored.

But studying sleep deprivation is important, according to these researchers and others who study the condition. They say that learning what happens in people who are deprived of sleep can help researchers better understand the function of sleep and its importance for both physical and emotional health.

Emotions askew

The problems can start on a somewhat minor scale.

“Clearly, your brain doesn’t work very well when you’re sleep-deprived,” Feinsilver said. Even a low level of sleep deprivation has an impact on cognitive and emotional function, he said.

Dinges explained that some of the first emotional impacts of sleep deprivation involve positive emotions. “When people get sleep-deprived, they don’t show positive emotion in their faces,” Dinges said. A sleep-deprived person may say they’re happy, but they still have a neutral face, he said.

And they won’t recognize other people as happy, either. A positive look on someone’s face can appear neutral to a sleep-deprived person, and neutral look is often interpreted as a negative look, Dinges said. The sleep-deprived brain may not be as capable of detecting positive emotions as a more rested brain, he said.

And sleep-deprived people also don’t tolerate disappointment very well, Dinges added.

Microsleeps

As little as a single night of sleep deprivation can result in a person having a phenomenon called “microsleeps,” the next day, Feinsilver said.

A person begins to fall into mini-snooze sessions, which last up to 30 seconds. Some people’s eyes remain open during microsleeps, but the disturbing thing about microsleeps is that during sleep, the person is essentially blind, even if their eyes are open, Feinsilver said. They’re not processing information, he said.

Studies show that during microsleeps, the brain goes into a sleep state rapidly and uncontrollably, Dinges said. People can force themselves awake, but they will soon fall into another microsleep, he said.

Both Dinges and Feinsilver said that this condition can be incredibly dangerous, especially if you’re behind the wheel.

Delirium

People often say they feel loopy after a night of no sleep. But in more extreme cases, losing sleep may cause delirium.

True delirium occurs when a person becomes completely disoriented, Feinsilver said. “Sleep can play a role in that,” he said. [5 Things You Must Know About Sleep]

Patients who have been hospitalized in intensive care units — where lights and sounds may continue all day and night — can develop a condition that doctors call “ICU delirium,” he said. And while it’s unclear if sleep deprivation is the cause of this delirium, doctors do think that loss of sleep is one reason people  in the hospital for extended periods develop bizarre behavior, he said.

The worst thing you can do for sleep is put someone is a hospital, Feinsilver added. It’s fairly common for for hospitalized patients to develop insomnia, he said.

Hallucinations

Seeing things that aren’t there can be a side effect of chronic sleep deprivation, but whether sleep deprivations can induce true hallucinations may be up for debate.

Feinsilver said he personally experienced hallucinations due to sleep deprivation, in October of his first year out of medical school. A newly minted medical resident, Feinsilver said he had been chronically sleep-deprived for several months.

“I [knew] it was October, because I was in the ICU after a night on call,” and there was pumpkin by the nurses’ station, he said. “I had a very vivid feeling of the pumpkin talking to me,” he said.

But Dinges was more skeptical about hallucinations.

“There’s no question that misperceptions can occur,” Dinges said. When people are very sleepy and performing a task, they may see something flicker in their peripheral vision, or they may think they see blinking lights, but not be sure, he said. All of these are indications that the brain isn’t interpreting information clearly, he said.

Can you die of sleep deprivation?

In a famous series of animal experiments, researcher found that total sleep deprivation could kill lab rats.

In 2012, a Chinese man reportedly died after going 11 days without sleep.  However, it’s unlikely that lack of sleep alone caused his death (other factors likely played a role, such as drinking and smoking).

Of course, studying this phenomenon in humans is difficult – even when you put aside the clear ethical dilemmas.

“Can you die of sleep deprivation? It’s not easy,” Feinsilver said. “Because you’ll fall asleep,” he added.

Dinges agreed.

“I don’t believe that people can keep themselves awake until they succumb to death,” because the drive to sleep turns on, and then continues to turn on, he said. “You can’t will yourself to stay awake that long,” he said.

Still, there’s no question that sleep deprivation has “serious adverse health effects,” Dinges said.

“Everything we know about sleep loss is harmful,” he said. But — on a more positive note — most of the effects of sleep deprivation dissipate after you sleep, he added.

What Happens to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep


If you eat well and exercise regularly but don’t get at least seven hours of sleep every night, you may undermine all your other efforts.

Sleep disorders expert Harneet Walia, MD, says it’s important to focus on getting enough sleep, something many of us lack. “First and foremost, we need to make sleep a priority,” she says. “We always recommend a good diet and exercise to everyone. Along the same lines, we need to focus on sleep as well.”

What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Get Enough Sleep

How much sleep do you actually need?

Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest.  But now, thanks to a report from the National Sleep Foundation, you can aim for a targeted sleep number tailored to your age.

The foundation based its report on two years of research. Published in a recent issue of the foundation’s journal Sleep Health, the report updates previous sleep recommendations. It breaks them into nine age-specific categories with a range for each, which allows for individual differences:

  • Older adults, 65+ years: 7-8 hours
  • Adults, 26-64 years: 7-9 hours
  • Young adults, 18-25 years: 7-9 hours
  • Teenagers, 14-17 years: 8-10 hours
  • School-age children, 6-13 years: 9-11 hours
  • Preschool children, 3-5 years: 10-13 hours
  • Toddlers, 1-2 years: 11-14 hours
  • Infants, 4-11 months: 12-15 hours
  • Newborns, 0-3 months: 14-17 hours

Dr. Walia says there’s evidence that genetic, behavioral and environmental factors help determine how much sleep an individual needs for the best health and daily performance.

But a minimum of seven hours of sleep is a step in the right direction to improve your health, she says.

What happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

Your doctor urges you to get enough sleep for good reason, Dr. Walia says.  Shorting yourself on shut-eye has a negative impact on your health in many ways:

Short-term problems can include:

  • Lack of alertness: Even missing as little as 1.5 hours can have an impact, research shows.
  • Impaired memory: Lack of sleep can affect your ability to think and to remember and process information.
  • Relationship stress: It can make you feel moody, and you can become more likely to have conflicts with others.
  • Quality of life: You may become less likely to participate in normal daily activities or to exercise.
  • Greater likelihood for car accidents: Drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

If you continue to operate without enough sleep, you may see more long-term and serious health problems. Some of the most serious potential problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation are high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression and lower sex drive.

Chronic sleep deprivation can even affect your appearance.  Over time, it can lead to premature wrinkling and dark circles under the eyes. Also, research links a lack of sleep to an increase of the stress hormone cortisol in the body. Cortisol can break down collagen, the protein that keeps skin smooth.

Make time for downtime

“In our society, nowadays, people aren’t getting enough sleep. They put sleep so far down on their priority list because there are so many other things to do – family, personal and work life,” Dr. Walia says. “These are challenges, but if people understand how important adequate sleep is, it makes a huge difference.”

Sleep May Hold Key to PTSD


Sleeplessness on the battlefield may lay the groundwork for PTSD

  • Medpage Today

Human volunteers who learned that a certain visual signal leads to an electric shock were more likely to respond fearfully to the signal days later when they were sleep-deprived, compared with controls allowed to sleep normally, a researcher said here.

The finding suggests that “treating sleep [problems] might enhance treatment of PTSD” or post-traumatic stress disorder, said Laura Straus, a doctoral candidate at the University of California San Diego who led the prospective, parallel group study.

It showed that retention of what is called the extinction of fear — a normal process in which after exposure to some trauma, people “unlearn” the association with circumstances that accompanied the initial event when the same circumstances later occur with no trauma — was impaired in sleep-deprived individuals.

Straus presented the study in a platform session atSLEEP 2015, sponsored by the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

After being trained to associate a blue circle with electric shock (a low-level current applied to the wrist), those who were then made to stay awake 36 consecutive hours the next day were more likely to still be showing electromyographic patterns in the eyelid (blink EMG) that are known to signal fear, she said.

A number of animal experiments involving extreme sleep deprivation had previously indicated that fear responses were prolonged when rodents were kept awake. In particular, both the extinction of fear (which normally occurs within a day or two) and the subsequent retention of that extinction were impaired in sleep-deprived animals. But such an experiment with human subjects has not been reported before, Straus said.

For the trial, she and colleagues recruited 61 mostly young, healthy volunteers (mean age 24, range 18-38) of whom 39% were women. They were randomized to three groups and, over the course of 4 days, tested four times with blink EMG: once at baseline, once after the shock training, and twice more over the later days.

For the shock training, all participants underwent a series of short sessions during which they were shown either a blue or a yellow circle. When it was blue, a shock was delivered; when yellow, no shock was delivered. At the end of this and subsequent sessions, participants underwent blink EMG testing when shown the colored circles.

At the next session, the next day, participants were again shown the blue and yellow circles in repeated sessions, but this time no shocks were delivered with either one. Ordinarily, blink EMG-signaled fear responses to the blue circle would be attenuated in this session as part of the fear extinction process.

The final session was structured similarly. Again, the normal response is an attenuation of responses to the blue circle.

The group assignments varied the timing of sleep deprivation. In the control group, they were allowed to sleep normally throughout the study. Group 2 was made to stay awake 36 hours between the training session and the next session that would measure fear extinction. In the third group, the 36-hour sleep deprivation occurred between the third and final testing sessions, so possibly affecting recall of extinction but not affecting the initial strength of the extinction.

Results were that, compared with the controls, Group 3 showed no significant differences in the attenuation of fear responses over the course of the study.

 In contrast, Group 2 — somewhat surprisingly, Straus said — showed close to the normal level of extinction, but recall of that extinction was significantly poorer as measured in the final session. That is, they showed significantly greater blink EMG signals compared with the control group at the final testing.

This impairment of extinction recall is similar in many ways with the development of PTSD in humans, and the role of sleep deprivation is especially relevant in the context of military personnel. In battle (and often elsewhere in the general theater of combat operations) people often go without sleep for more than 24 hours.

Some previous studies in humans have suggested not only that trauma leads to sleeplessness, and also that sleep deprivation prolongs retention of fearful memories and associations, but not with a prospective design and such long periods of deprivation, Straus said.