If you thought that stress is affecting your health, lack of sleep might be doing the same. According to the findings published in the journal Sleep, lack of sleep has very similar effects on our immune system as stress: it jolts our immune system into a full alert.
Sleep and immunity
A group of scientists from Holland Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam, together with their British colleagues from the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences at the University of Surrey, looked at the way our immune system gets jolted by the lack of sleep by comparing the number of white blood cells, especially granulocites, in people who had enough sleep and those who did not.
The authors based their research on previous studies which found a connection between sleep deprivation and various diseases such as hypertension, obesity and diabetes. There is already an established link between sufficient sleep and healthy immune system. What they wanted to establish is the molecular mechanism which causes immune system to respond to the lack of sleep just like it responds to an attack from a pathogen or stress.
Lack of sleep and other problems
Scientists from California found that we make poor food choices when we are sleep-deprived, because sleeplessness affects the region in our brain responsible for making food decisions. That is why junk food is so appealing when we are lacking sleep.
In another research, scientists from the University of California at Berkeley linked sleeplessness to anxiety. That is why we expect the worst when we lack sleep. Lack of sleep is also linked to increased risk of stroke.
Sleep deprivation is particularly alarming among adolescents, who prefer to spend the night in front of their computers, and then stumble through the day drowsy from lack of sleep, or stoked up on energy drinks.
Sleep is a crucial part of healthy living, just like healthy nutrition and active lifestyle. Although we do not need the same number of hours of uninterrupted sleep, we are fooling ourselves into believing that we do not need that basic 7 or 8 hours. Our bodies need their due, even when the mind wants to think otherwise.