If you find yourself staring at the ceiling in the wee hours of the morning, counting sheep and wishing for sleep to take you under, dark circles under your eyes are the least of your problems.
Consistently missing out on good-quality shuteye can impact many levels of your life—interfering in ways you never imagined. Here, we outline the worst.
1. Falsely Confess a Crime
A groundbreaking study has produced the first direct evidence that depriving a suspect of sleep during an interrogation can lead to a false confession.
Subjects in the Michigan State U. study were given sessions of computer tasks to do and warned not to press the escape key or vital data would be lost. After the last session, some subjects got to sleep in lab bedrooms all night while others were kept awake.
The next morning, all were given a statement falsely accusing them of having hit the escape key. Those who hadn’t slept signed it 4.5 times more often than those who had.
It’s thought that false confessions account for up to 25 percent of wrongful convictions in the U.S. One hopes it won’t be for long.
2. Increase Your Odds of an Accident
Lack of sleep can seriously hinder work performance and ramp up instances of mistakes and accidents, according to information from the National Sleep Foundation.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates fatigue causes about 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths each year in the U.S. Excessive sleepiness can slow your reaction time as much as driving drunk, and the problem is most prevalent among people under 25 years old.
Research, published in Sleep Medicine Reviews, also shows sleep loss is correlated to more accidents and injuries on the job; they also had more sick days per accident.
All is not lost, though; NASA conducted a study on sleepy military pilots and astronauts and found a 40-minute nap improved their performance by 34 percent and alertness by 100 percent.
3. Interfere with Normal Body Functions
According to research from the University of Helsinki, people suffering from sleep loss negatively impacted their immune system, caused inflammation in the body, lowered their ability to metabolize carbs and the hormones that regulate appetite, and had fewer good cholesterol transport proteins, than people who snooze soundly and sufficiently.
"The experimental study proved that just one week of insufficient sleep begins to change the body's immune response and metabolism,' leady study author Vilma Aho says.
If you want to lower your risk for cardiovascular disease, and a number of other conditions, hit the sack and adopt better sleep hygiene.
4. Suffer Shoddy Sports Performance
For athletes, it's normal to feel restless, anxious, and excited before a big game or event. But, according to research published in Sports Medicine, it could really take a toll on performance. When you don't get as much sleep as you're used to, or the quality is poor, it can throw off the balance in your nervous system, even simulating symptoms of overtraining.
What's more, your body increases inflammation-causing cytokines that can lower your immune system, and your cognitive function lags, becoming less accurate. Luckily, a nap can restore some of these setbacks.
5. Plummet Sex Drive
A University of Chicago study, published in Journal of the American Medical Association, revealed men with poor sleep patterns have significantly lower levels of testosterone, and, ultimately, lower libidos than men who have no problem sleeping at night.
Shoddy sleep, identified as less than five hours of sleep a night for a week or longer, disrupts and reduces hormones that are essential for overall well-being and reproduction. And the study subjects weren't old either. On average, the men were 24, lean, and in good health; but their testosterone levels were akin to someone 15 years their senior.
More research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found men with sleep apnea, a condition that disrupts breathing during sleep, are also at risk for low testosterone levels. In the study, nearly half the men suffering severe sleep apnea secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone at the night.