sleep deprivation

Think you are functioning normally on less than eight hours of sleep per night? The odds are that you are setting yourself up for a number of potentially negative side effects.

According to sleep specialists at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, most people require seven to eight hours of sleep to function optimally and avoid health risks.

Consistently failing to get enough sleep can affect memory, learning, productivity and emotional stability, as well as your physical health.

Day-to-day effects of too little sleep involve mental processes like learning, memory, judgment, and problem-solving. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they learned. With insufficient sleep, thinking slows, it is harder to focus and pay attention, and people are more likely to make poor decisions and take undue risks. You can avoid sleep disruption by:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule
  • Avoiding late-in-day naps and caffeine
  • Reducing distractions from light, noise, and pets

RELATED: Counting Sheep? How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Brain

The Risks of Sleep Deprivation

Inadequate sleep can affect your body in a major way. More specifically, lack of quality sleep can lead to increased risk for:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease
  • Hypertension
  • Cancer

Poor sleep is also a risk factor for depression and substance abuse, especially among individuals with post-traumatic stress disorder. Metabolism slows when one’s circadian rhythm and sleep are disrupted; if not counteracted by increased exercise or reduced caloric intake, this slowdown could add up to 10 extra pounds in a year.

Moreover, studies have shown that those slept less than seven hours a night were three times as likely to develop cold symptoms when exposed to a cold-causing virus as were people who slept eight or more hours.

Sometimes sleep deprivation is the result of lingering sleep disorders including insomnia, sleep apnea, or restless leg syndrome.

Difficulty falling asleep, racing thoughts, snoring, or stopping breathing when you sleep are common symptoms of sleep disorders. To learn more or make an appointment with one of our sleep experts, call 412-692-2880 or visit the UPMC Sleep Medicine Center.