Sleep Resources

What Happens When You Don't Sleep - Effects of an All-Nighter

By Helga George

You know that adrenaline rush when you do an all nighter? That feeling of productivity as you take advantage of all that “extra time?” It almost feels like it can go on forever.

But it can’t. And it shouldn’t. 

Going without sleep on a long-term basis can literally increase your chances of getting cancer and shorten your lifespan.

Yet despite these potential health problems, more than one third of the adults in the US don’t get enough sleep. (They get less than seven or eight hours of sleep a night.)

The situation is so bad that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers insufficient sleep to be a public health problem.

Let’s go into the details of the effects of sleep deprivation.

Your Brain Suffers

A good night’s sleep is necessary to process information and form memories. When you don’t get enough shut-eye, you become forgetful.

Your problem solving abilities suffer, and your speed of thinking slows down as the flow of blood is reduced to areas of the brain that control these types of thought processes.

You are Much More Likely to Get Into a Car Accident

If you drive after being awake for 19 or 20 hours, you are as impaired as if you are legally drunk. 

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drowsy driving causes an average of 82,000 crashes a year. And one percent of them are fatal. 

You are More Likely to Get Cancer

You may not know that our bodies make special immune cells that hone in on cancer cells and zap them. However, after just one night of 4-5 hours of sleep, you make 70% fewer of these critical cells.

This translates to an increase in cancer for people chronically deprived of sleep, especially prostrate, breast, and colon cancer.

In fact, a study published in the FASEB Journalshowed that even partial sleep deprivation reduced the numbers of these immune cells.

Doctors take this link so seriously that the World Health Organization classified any type of shift work at night as a “probable carcinogen.”

Your Risk of Heart Attack or Stroke Increases Dramatically

Another problem if you go without sleep, your blood pressure rises. That might not seem like a big deal, but high blood pressure makes it way more likely that you can have a fatal heart attack or stroke.

Just look at the daylight savings time change in the spring. That lost hour translates to a 24% increase in heart attacks the next day.

People with a chronic lack of sleep like getting 6 hours a night of sleep or less have a 200% higher risk of dying from a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime.

This risk is even greater for people with sleep disorders like sleep apnea, which can also affect your heart rate.

Your Sex Drive Will Suffer

While being tired alone is enough to make you want to avoid sex, we know that for men, a lack of sleep can age you by almost a decade.

If you sleep just five to six hours a night, your testosterone levels will be at the level normal for someone 10 years older than you.

You are More Likely to Gain Weight

There are several reasons why a lack of sleep can cause weight gain. One is that your body’s hormones that are involved in weight regulation stop working properly.

Another reason is that your metabolism may become slower as your body conserves energy to make up for your lack of sleep.

As if gaining weight weren’t bad enough, you are more likely to get diabetes if you sleep less than seven hours a night.

You are More Likely to Get Sick

One of the side effects of the changes in your immune system that are due to a lack of adequate sleep is that this system stops functioning well.

Not only are you more likely to catch a disease and get sick, but if you get vaccinated, the vaccine may not be as effective. For example, this could leave you vulnerable to hepatitis B.

Curb Those All Nighters!

Hopefully, it is now clear how poor sleep habits can wreak havoc on your immediate and long-term health.

Many of these health hazards kick in if you get fewer than six hours a night, so going without any sleep takes an even more severe toll. 

Plus, it can take more than one day to recover. In fact, many sleep experts say that you can never really recover from lost sleep.

Listen to them!


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