Sleep isn’t just blissful, it’s necessary. While you sleep, your body is conducting countless activities, including growth and cell repair. It also works on restoring energy and nutrients to worn out muscles and tissues (1).
Sleep also balances out hormones and supports your immune system while working to supporting memory function. That’s why poor sleep can leave you feeling not only groggy and cranky, but also less focused and more forgetful.
Sleep Deprivation And Disease
Here are 6 conditions directly caused by too little sleep.
Since sleep is necessary to remove waste from tired brain cells as well as repair worn or damaged structures. If this isn’t done properly, cognitive decline, dementia, and other brain conditions may occur (2).
In fact, in 2013, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that skipping out on sleep is one of the possible causes of Alzheimer’s disease. The study followed 70 adults between the ages of 53 and 91. Participants who experienced poor sleep frequently were found to have higher quantities of beta-amyloid deposition in their brains on PET scans. Since the compound is a marker for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers hypothesized that poor sleep prevented the brain from clearing up beta-amyloid “waste”, leading to a higher incidence of cerebral disease (3).
2. Obesity And Diabetes
They found that too little sleep led to fatty acid buildup, which impacted both metabolism and insulin sensitivity. By analyzing the sleeping pattern of 19 men over 3 nights, researchers found that men who only got 4 hours of sleep had fatty acid blood levels 15 to 30 percent higher than participants who slept 8.5 hours a night (5).
Short sleepers also showed signs of prediabetes and obesity while people who had more sleep did not.
3. Cardiovascular Disease
In an annual meeting, the European Society of Cardiology presented evidence that sleep directly affects your risk of heart disease (7).
The study, which followed 657 Russian men aged 24-64 for a total of 14 years found that two-thirds of those who experienced a heart attack also suffered from a sleeping disorder. Poor sleepers were also found to have a 2.6 times greater risk of myocardial infarction, a heart attack caused by the heart muscle dying. They even had a one-and-a-half to four times greater risk of stroke.
Poor sleep is known to cause serious mental health problems.
In fact, a 2014 study found a link between incidences of suicide in adults and poor sleep, regardless of past bouts of depression (8).
The 10-year Stanford University of Medicine study examined 420 young and middle-aged adults. Unfortunately, out of the group, 20 participants who suffered from poor sleep committed suicide (9).
Chronic lack of sleep was also linked to a 1.4 times higher risk of committing suicide.
Researchers compared their results to other studies that have concluded that poor sleep also increased the incidence of age-associated health problems, especially in men 85 years old and over.
5. Ulcerative Colitis
Ulcerative colitis is an inflammatory bowel disease characterized by ulcers along the digestive tract. Studies have found that colitis, along with Crohn’s disease, are heavy correlated to sleep deprivation (10).
In 2014, Researchers from Massachusetts General published a study that studied women enrolled within the Nurses’ Health Study (NHS) I since 1976 and NHS II since 1989 and found that women who slept 6 hours of sleep or less (despite other risk factors like age, weight, smoking, and drinking) were more likely to suffer from one of the conditions (11).
Oddly enough, getting more than 9 hours of sleep also put the women at risk, meaning that getting the right amount of sleep every night is key to controlling inflammation in the digestive tract.
6. Prostate Cancer
In a study published in the journal Cancer Epidemology, Biomarkers and Prevention, researchers found that sleep can actually protect your prostate (12).
For 3-7 years,the study followed 2,425 Icelandic 67 to 96 years old and examined their sleeping patterns. Men who had trouble sleeping were 60% more likely to develop prostate cancer while men who had trouble staying asleep were nearly 120% more likely to be affected by the disease. Plus, these men experienced, on average, a more aggressive form of the disease (13).
The Icelandic researchers concluded that prostate cancer was affected by melatonin, a sleep hormone. They noted that other studies proved that higher levels of melatonin actually suppressed tumor growth.