The immediate effects of skimping on sleep are obvious. You're groggy, unfocused, sluggish and dying for a nap (or a second cup of coffee). Then there are the sneakier signs you're overtired: You're overly emotional, starving and clumsier than usual. Most of the time, a solid night's sleep will solve all these problems.
Of course, one night of short sleep won't put you at serious risk, but one week can. After just seven nights of too little sleep, researchers observed more than 700 genetic changes that could play a role in consequences including heart problems and obesity, according to a recent study.
Here are some of the most frightening effects of sleep deprivation in the slideshow below. And while these are sobering, the good news is that sleep duration is in your control. For more and better sleep, try these eight ideas.
Sleep deprivation can...
Increase Stroke Risk
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Even without the typical risk factors, like being overweight or having a family history, short sleep can up your risk for stroke, according to 2012 research. Adults who regularly slept fewer than six hours a night had four times the risk of stroke symptoms, HuffPost reported.
Lead To Obesity
Too little sleep can spur some less-than-ideal food choices, including serving yourself larger portions, and a hankering for junk food, thanks to some complicated hormonal changes that occur when you don't get sufficient shuteye. It seems that six hours of sleep or less bumps up production of the hunger hormone ghrelin and limits leptin, which helps you balance your food intake, according to a 2012 review of 18 studies of sleep and appetite.
You probably know that on the days when you are most tired, you're forgetful and unfocused -- but sleep deprivation can lead to permanent cognitive issues. The less we sleep, the less we benefit from the memory-storing properties of sleep. But additionally, a lack of sleep can cause "brain deterioration," according to a 2013 study, which may at least in part explain memory loss in seniors.
"If true in humans, and I expect that it may be, this work will have great impact on our understanding of the impact of sleep deprivation on osteoporosis and inability to repair bone damage as we age," Steven R. Goodman, Ph.D., editor-in-chief of Experimental Biology and Medicine, said in a statement.
Increase Cancer Risk
A small (but growing) body of research suggests that short and poor sleep can up risk for certain types of cancer. A 2010 study found that among 1,240 people screened for colorectal cancer, the 338 who were diagnosed were more likely to average fewer than six hours of sleep a night. Even after controlling for more traditional risk factors, polyps were more common in people who slept less, according to the study.
The stress and strain of too little sleep can cause the body to produce more of the chemicals and hormones that can lead to heart disease, according to 2011 research. The study found that people who slept for six hours or less each night and have problems staying asleep had a 48 percent higher risk of developing or dying from heart disease.