Sleep is very much a contemporary concern. We blame technology, work schedules, caffeine and alcohol; the inability to turn off and enjoy a good night’s sleep.
For some years now, we have been warned that the modern world is sleepwalking into ‘a global sleep crisis.’ The issue is that our modern life is moving faster; it is advancing and changing in a way that interrupts our relationship with sleep for the worse with an increasing number of people now suffering sleep deprivation. The obvious blame was swiftly put on technology, but many aspects of modern society seem to be playing their part with a lack of sleep resulting in many increased risks to our health.
Are You a Risky Sleeping Type?
Firstly, who is most at risk of sleep deprivation and why?
Our sleep preference, or types, and our circadian (24-hour) rhythm are predefined by genetics and are largely dictated to by science rather than other factors. These types, can be categorized into three formations: morning types, evening types and those who lie in between. Morning types have a slight majority over the other two, which make up roughly 30% of the population each.
Our modern society is tuned to these morning types, who wake around dawn and can adapt to work and daily activities relatively easily. Those who fall victim to modern society are evening types; failing to fall asleep until 3am obviously makes rising for a 8am start a true struggle.
Science is now honing in on exactly what the effects of modern sleep issues and deprivation can mean to our health. The recent chronobiology study from the University of Surrey reported that evening types have a 10 percent increased risk of dying in comparison of morning types, due to health issues resulting from there shorter sleep durations. The most common cause of death in these individuals was cardiovascular disease, with other’s mortality relating to a range of health issues including psychological disorders, diabetes or respiratory disorders.
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The Physical Effects
Very often when we get ill, be it struck by the flu or that run-down feeling from overworking, sleep is our go-to remedy. If you are sleep deprived your immune system won’t be functioning at its best; you’ll be more susceptible to picking up bugs and you’ll take a bit longer getting rid of them.
Though the mentioned mortality threat above is a bit of a shock, generally the risk of death is low. There are, however, greater risks to physical and mental health: risk of damage to your immune system, of diabetes, respiratory disease, gastrointestinal problems, and psychological illnesses.
The University of Surrey’s study into chronobiology shows that evening types are have an increased risk of diabetes. To break this down simply, this is because a lack of sleep alters the body’s ability to effectively control blood sugar.
Regular sleep deprivation has also been shown to impede carbohydrate metabolism and reduces glucose tolerance. When cells are unable to effectively control blood sugar, they become less responsive to insulin leading to an increased risk of developing into hyperglycaemia: the prediabetic state. This results in a decreased insulin sensitivity, increasing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Sleep alone isn’t causing obesity, but it is a contributing factor; alongside diet and sedentary lifestyle. A lack of sleep results in decreased levels of the hormone leptin, which detects satiety - that feeling of a balance between energy and appetite. It simultaneously results in the increase of the hormone ghrelin, which signals hunger.
Also, a tiredness can affect your motivation; leaving those aiming to get fit or increase their exercise in a pickle. Read more about the effects of sleep on exercise in our article the effect of sleep on exercise.