11 Jan Naturopathic Doctor on The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
What happens to your brain and body when you don’t get enough sleep?
We certainly know that a lack of sleep will actually prevent your brain from initially making new memories. It’s almost as though without sleep, the memory inbox of the brain shuts down and we can’t commit new experiences to memory. So those new incoming informational emails are just bounced, and you end up feeling as though you are amnesic: you can’t essentially make and create those new memories.
We also know that a lack of sleep will lead to an increased development of a toxic protein in the brain that is called beta amyloid, and that is associated with Alzheimer’s disease because it is during deep sleep at night when a sewage system in the brain kicks into high gear and starts to wash away this toxic protein, beta amyloid.
Therefore, if you’re not getting enough sleep each and every night, more of that Alzheimer’s related protein will build up. The more protein that builds up, the greater the risk of going on to develop dementia in later life.
What are the effects of sleep deprivation on the body?
Well, there are many different effects. Firstly, we know that sleep deprivation affects the reproductive system. We know that men who are sleeping just five to six hours a night have a level of testosterone which is that of someone ten years their senior. So a lack of sleep can age us by almost a decade in terms of that virility and wellness.
We also know a lack of sleep impacts our immune system. After just one night of four to five hours of sleep, there is a 70% reduction in critical anticancer-fighting immune cells called natural killer cells. This is the reason we know short sleep duration predicts our risk for developing numerous forms of cancer. That list currently includes, cancer of the bowls, prostate, as well as cancer of the breast.
In fact, the link between lack of sleep and cancer is now so strong that recently the World Health Organization decided to classify any form of nighttime shift works as a probable carcinogen. In other words, jobs that may induce cancer because of a disruption of our sleep rate rhythms.
We also know that a lack of sleep disrupts our cardiovascular system because it is during deep sleep at night that we receive this most wonderful form of effectively blood pressure medication: our heart rate drops, our blood pressure goes down. If you’re not getting sufficient sleep, you’re not getting that reboot of the cardiovascular system, and it’s very likely that your blood pressure will rise. We we’re getting six hours of sleep or less, we have a 200% increased risk of having a fatal heart attack or stroke in our lifetime.
There is a global experiment performed on 1.6 billion people twice a year, and it’s called daylight savings time. We know in the spring, when we lose one hour of sleep, we see a subsequent 24% increase in heart attacks the following day.
Another question, perhaps, is what is the recycle rate of a human being? How long can we actually last without sleep before we start to see declines in brain function or even impairments within our body? The answer seems to be about 16 hours of wakefulness. Once you get past 16 hours of being awake, that’s when we start to see mental deterioration and physiological deterioration within the body. We know that after being awake for 19 or 20 hours, our mental capacity is so impaired that we would be as deficient as someone legally drunk behind the wheel of a car.
To end, if you were to ask me what is the recycle rate of a human being, it does seem to be about 16 hours and we need about eight hours of sleep to repair the damage of wakefulness. Wakefulness essentially is low-level brain damage.
If you or someone you know suffers with wakefulness or interrupted sleep, feel free to drop me a line on the “contact us” page on this site. I treat patients locally at my Naturopathic practice in Vancouver, B.C. and worldwide via phone or Skype.
To honoring your health potential!
Dr Tasnim Adatya