What do the horrific accidents at Three Mile Island, Chernobyl and aboard the Exxon Valdez have in common?
Answer: Sleep-deprived personnel running things.
Warning signal, folks — you’re not at your best if your sleep isn’t at its best. Sleep deprivation not only leads to 100,000 car crashes — and 1500 vehicular deaths — a year, but it also takes its toll in the work environment in terms of under-performance and, alas, accidents as well.
Of course, we’re all thinking: “Not me. I know how to handle lack of sleep. A few cups of Joe and I’m fine. Gotta love that caffeine.”
However, even if you avoid (for now, anyway) accidents on the road and at work, lack of sleep still takes its toll on your physical and emotional well-being.
Consider some of the effects of consisent loss of sleep, or of consistent poor sleep due to a disorder:
Memory and concentration problems: Poor sleep can rob you of full mental functioning in the daytime, and worse, it can interfere and even prevent consolidation of learning from the day before. You won’t remember what you learned the day before!
Serious health issues: We’ve been beating the drum on the health-associated risks of poor sleep for a long time, but if you’re sleep deprived — for whatever reason: choice, stress or a sleep disorder that can be cured — you open yourself up to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, irregular heart beat, heart disease, heart attack and stroke. These are not eventualities to be taken lightly, needless to say.
Diminished sex drive: Poor sleep wrecks one’s libido, and worse, men with sleep apnea show lowered levels of testosterone, according to studies.
Depression: Yes, indeed, poor sleep can lead to depression, and depression can lead to poor or poorer sleep, so you’re dealing with a double-edged sword here.
Premature aging: Poor sleep retards the generation of the hormones needed to refresh and brighten your skin, so you’ll age before your time if you’re not sleeping right.
We can go on and on about all the perils of poor sleeping. If you deprive yourself of sleep by choice, it’s time to wake up and smell the roses. You’re not gaining anything but losing much by burning the candles at both ends. If you’re not getting the proper sleep because of physical or psychological reasons, you need to seek help immediately. Sleep problems don’t go away by themselves. You definitely have to take action.