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15 Awful things that happen if you don't get enough sleep

For whatever reason, all of us have experienced a bad night's sleep at one time or another. Maybe it was because your inconsiderate neighbour was blasting crappy 90s music until 4am, or perhaps you were kept up by nightmares after stupidly watching IT by yourself, or it could be that you were just suffering from good old fashioned insomnia.

Regardless of what it was that kept you from getting your precious shut-eye, I'm sure you felt the effects the next day. But - other than being tired, irritable, and having to suppress the urge to yawn every five minutes - how else does your body react to sleep deprivation?

Let's find out...

1. Weight gain

Not getting the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night could have a detrimental effect on your hormones, which in turn leads to irregularities in appetite, cravings, and impulse control. Over time, this can lead to poor dietary choices and an increased intake of calorific foods.

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2. Vision problems

If you stay awake for a prolonged period of time, you'll begin to notice some undesirable effects on your vision. Sleep-deprived people have reported experiencing tunnel vision, double vision, and - in severe cases - hallucinations.

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3. Headaches

According to research, 36 to 58 per cent of people with sleep apnea - a common disorder in which a person has breathing problems during their sleep - wake with a headache in the morning. Despite its commonness, doctors have no idea what causes them.

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4. Infection

Missing out on sleep doesn't just affect your mental state - it can cause some pretty negative physical problems, too. Normally, the body is pretty good at fighting off infections from open wounds and the like, but not catching enough Zs of a night can impact your ability to defend yourself against harmful microorganisms.

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5. Heart disease

A study comparing blood pressure in people who had differing amounts of sleep found that "subjects who were allowed to sleep for 4 hours a night had an elevated heart rate when compared to those getting 8 hours." It also discovered that concentrations of proteins that indicate higher risk of heart disease were more prevalent in those who had less snooze time.

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6. Needing to pee at night

You might think that having to get up a night to use the bathroom is the reason you're so tired all the time, but really it could be the other way round. When someone is sleep deprived, the bit of their brain that tells them not to pee at night doesn't kick in properly, leading to what scientists call "excess nocturnal urine production."

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7. Speech problems

In a study which kept subjects awake for a whopping 36 hours, researchers found that "Volunteers ... showed a tendency to use word repetitions and clichés; they spoke monotonously, slowly, [and] indistinctly."

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8. Poor sex drive

Testosterone - the hormone which prompts sexual drive and desire regardless of gender - is increased while you sleep, and gradually decreases for as long as you're awake. Not getting enough kip will obviously impact on this, and could mean you miss out on other bed-related activities.

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9. Memory problems

Regardless of age, sleep deprivation can cause slowness and lack of focus - which of course leads to a delay in recall. However, for the elderly, missing out on sleep can lead to physical changes in the brain that are linked to long-term memory. What's more, poor quality of sleep has been linked to higher indications of Alzheimer's.

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10. Cancer

A lot of research still needs to be conducted in order to properly investigate the links between lack of sleep and cancer; but, as the body's circadian rhythm and immunity are both negatively impacted by sleep deprivation, existing studies seem to indicate that failing to get a healthy amount of shut eye increases a person's risk of contracting the disease.

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11. Depression

It's difficult to identify the cause and effect when it comes to sleep and mood problems. It could be that happier people sleep better, or that having a good sleep routine makes people happier - but it's most likely a combination of the two. However, research has shown that treating sleep problems also has a positive effect on the symptoms of depression.

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12. Diabetes

As mentioned in the first point, poor sleep quality leads to poor eating habits - but also a reduced metabolic rate. This leads to a higher risk of insulin resistance, and studies have shown that there is correlation between regular sleep loss and risk of developing diabetes.

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13. Pain

This is another instance in which cause and effect is a little tricky to identify. Of course, some people have sleep problems because they're in pain, but, for others, it may be that a lack of sleep is exacerbating sensitivity to pain, or even being the cause of chronic problems.

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14. Gastrointestinal issues

Regular sleep loss makes a person more likely to develop Inflammatory Bowel Disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome - both of which are fairly common problems in the USA. Plus, people who suffer from Crohn's disease are twice as likely to relapse if they don't get a healthy amount of sleep.

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15. Death

It's dramatic, but it's true. Studies have consistently shown that - on the whole - people who get less than the recommended amount of nap-time had shorter lifespans.

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So, if you were looking for a good excuse to take a quick snooze, here's 15 excellent reasons to do so. Sweet dreams.