How lack of sleep can affect your health

Do you know that according to the latest figures in the US, 1 in 4 people have problems with sleep (1)?

In the UK these figures are even higher, where 60 % of adult population claim to have chronic sleep problems (2).

by Elia Strange

lazy cat

Sleep is very important to our health, and the lack of sleep can badly affect our attention, memory, and language skills (3). If a person had a poor night sleep, his or her performance, mood, and even interpersonal relationships may be negatively affected.

How much sleep do we need?

The Royal College of Psychiatrists recommends that, on average, people need 8 hours of sleep, and it is very important that after sleep the person feels refreshed and well rested (4).

Older people also need to sleep 8 hours, but they often reach the deepest stage of sleep in the first 3-4 hours, after which their sleep becomes very light. In the last few hours of the night they may dream less and wake up more often. Sleep is a complex process and involves rebuilding and repairing our bodies, while the brain tries to recover and regenerate from its daytime activities.

The Royal College of Psychiatrists explained that when a person doesn’t sleep well for several nights, the person may feel:

a) tired and even exhausted all the time,

b) sleepy to the point of falling asleep during the day,

c) having difficulty with focusing on tasks,

d) having difficulties with making decisions,

e) experiencing low moods and even depression,

f) having worrying thoughts about getting a full night's sleep.

How sleep deprivation can affect us?

In some cases, sleep deprivation may be also dangerous, as it is commonly known that thousands of drivers get into serious road trouble after falling asleep at the wheel every year.

Sleep deprivation can also affect our physical health: the affected person may develop high blood pressure, become overweight, and even develop diabetes (4).

Does my lack of sleep affect my family?

American Academy of Sleep Medicine in 2008 reported that when parents have regular sleep problems (insomnia), their children may also develop similar problems with sleep when they reach adolescence (5).

What’s worse, these adolescent children may also suffer from daily fatigue, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, and may even attempt suicide more often than the children of parents who generally sleep well.

So tackling the sleep problem may be very important not only to you, but to your children as well.

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'Lack of Sleep' Article Reference:

1 – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2011) Sleep and Sleep Disorders.

2 - Mail Online. (2011). Sleep-deprived Britain: Two thirds of us suffer from debilitating insomnia, 28 January 2011.

3 - Mental Health Foundation. (2011). Sleep matters: The impact of sleep on health and wellbeing. London: Foundation for People with Learning Disabilities.

4 - RCPsych. (2011). Sleeping well. Royal College of Psychiatrists, June 2011.

5 - American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2008). Insomnia in parents can result in sleep problems, suicidal behaviour among their offspring.

6 - NHS. (2011). Insomnia. National Health Service Web site:

7 - Sleep Disorders Centre. (2011). Common adult sleep problems/disorders. University of Maryland Medical Centre (UMMC): Sleep Disorders Centre.

8 - Carter, P. A., & Clark, A. P. (2005). Assessing and treating sleep problems in family caregivers of intensive care unit patients. Critical Care Nurse, 25 (1), 17-26.

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