Rosa is a worried mother – her son James, who topped his class last year and was always well behaved, has of late been doing badly in his studies.  Repeated queries have only been answered with rather curt replies and to top it all, James has started to lose interest in baseball, a game he used to live for.  Over the last few months, James has been putting on weight and has overall started looking much older than his age.  Worried that James may be suffering from some ailment or God forbid, had gotten into drugs; Rosa finally decided to take him to the doctor.

The Ailment

Her family doctor has known James from his birth.  He was surprised at the change in the young man and equally concerned.  A few tests and a multitude of questions soon shed light on the problem afflicting James.  When her doctor explained the problem to Rosa, she was ridden with guilt.  As a reward for doing well in his previous exams, Rosa had gifted James with a smartphone; his first.  All too soon, a totally new world had opened up to James on his fingertips – social media, videos, offline and online games – all of which James found very exciting and enjoyable.  Since the day was spent at school, James started spending more time at night with his prized possession.  This is where the problem lay – James was substituting his sleeping hours with his new possession.  James himself did not realize the consequences of depriving his body of its much needed and required sleep.

How much Sleep do you Need?

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society, for an adult to stay healthy, they need a minimum of seven hours of sleep daily.  For a teenager like James, the optimum sleep requirement is between 9-10 hours daily.  James was getting roughly six hours of sleep since the last few months.

Roughly 30 percent of adults are sleeping less than six hours per night, a problem so pervasive today that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) now consider sleep deprivation as a public health epidemic.

The doctor sat down and explained the effects of sleep deprivation on the body and mind to James and Rosa.

Mind over Matter

Sleep is a function of the brain and the lack of it affects the brain first.  These effects could range from having headaches, to a lack of concentration; from problems in remembering everyday things to not being able to make decisions.  It also affects you ability to react and respond quickly; in fact, a few hours of sleep deprivation reduces your reaction time to that of a person under the influence of alcohol.

Moody Blues

Lack of sleep causes stress, which in turn enhances your negative emotions.  It affects your ability to regulate and control your emotions – this is why James had started answering back curtly and was irritable most of the times.

Give your Heart a Break

According to a study by the National Sleep Foundation involving over 3000 adults over 45 years old; the chances of a stroke or heart attack nearly doubled for those who slept less than six hours each night.  Their chances of getting congestive heart failure was nearly 1.6 times more than people who got a good night’s sleep.  Another significant finding amongst sleep deprived individuals was an increase in blood pressure at night.

Are you Losing your Immunity?

As sleep deprivation tires you physically, it also reduces your body’s ability to mount an immune response to viruses and bacteria attacking your body.

According to a recent study, sleep deprived people are 4 times more susceptible to catching a cold as compared to those who sleep their required quota every night.

Impaired Glucose Tolerance

As per a study involving normal healthy men who were restricted to four hours of sleep every night for a week – each one of them showed impaired glucose tolerance.

Yes, sleep deprivation does and can affect your blood sugar levels.

Scared of your Weighing Scale

According to research findings published in the Journal of Sleep Research, just one night of sleep deprivation can raise your ghrelin levels.  This sends a signal to your brain indicating hunger – remember that midnight snack.  Lack of sleep slows down your metabolism and increases your appetite; all perfect ingredients to put on weight and make you start feeling scared of your weighing scales.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall

Beauty sleep – how many times have you heard those words?  Yes, they are true – sleep deprivation does affect your overall appearance.  Lack of sleep causes more wrinkles, darker under eye circles and even makes you look sadder.  While these are the long term effects, a single night of sleep deprivation can cause your eyes to look bloodshot and your face to look drawn and haggard.

James is a Changed Man

Fortunately, James understood that things were not going the right way and promised Rosa that he would not allow his sleep to be disturbed or restricted in the future.  I know that he has kept his promise – its only 9.30 p.m. and I just called James; only to find that his mobile is switched off.

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