Though researchers can’t decide on the definitive reason why humans require sleep, the one thing they all agree on is that we do need it. That fact is not in doubt. Ideally, everyone would get seven to nine hours per night of restful sleep. Sounds great, right? Easier said than done, obviously, as that much rest is a rarity for nearly all adults, these days. And unfortunately that’s where sleep deprivation problems can begin. While the occasional late night or a brief, isolated bout with insomnia won’t result in any long-term damage, extended periods of sleeplessness can actually be quite harmful to us.

What Does Sleep Deprivation Do To The Body?

Even after just one night without adequate rest, some side effects are readily apparent. Drooping eyelids and dark circles under the eyes are common, and you’re likely to be forgetful, unfocused, emotional, and irritable. Not to mention the constant yawning and how your immune system is compromised so you’re more apt to catch a cold or flu. You’ll probably feel hungrier, too, and not only will you likely make poor food choices, you’ll eat larger portions (resulting in unnecessary weight gain).

Chronic sleep deprivation compounds all of the previously mentioned conditions, but can also eventually lead to delirium and hallucinations. You’re also at increased risk of a long list harmful conditions including stroke, obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer. For men, it can even affect sperm count.

Sleep deprivation also leads to what are called microsleeps, where the body forces itself to shut down for as long as 30 seconds at a time. During microsleep, your eyes may even be open, but you’re totally non-responsive. These can happen at any time – even when you are driving or operating machinery – so it’s not only dangerous for you, it’s potentially deadly for others, as well.

All from not getting enough sleep.

If you feel like you’re consistently not getting the rest you need at night, make an appointment to see your care provider about what steps you can take to ensure that you do. Your health depends on it!