1 sept. 2010

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health in the form of physical and mental impairments. Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and moderate our emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal: lab rats denied the chance to rest die within two to three weeks.

Maintaining good health in today’s society often depends upon just how well your health insurance coverage applies to your lifestyle and needs. A little effort can save you a lot of money…compare the offers of several health insurance programs and choose the one that’s best for you.

Without adequate rest, the brain's ability to function quickly deteriorates. The brain works harder to counteract sleep deprivation effects, but operates less effectively: concentration levels drop, and memory becomes impaired.
Similarly, the brain's ability to problem solve is greatly impaired. Decision-making abilities are compromised, and the brain falls into rigid thought patterns that make it difficult to generate new problem-solving ideas. Insufficient rest can also cause people to have hallucinations. Other typical effects of sleep deprivation include:

• depression
• heart disease
• hypertension
• irritability
• slower reaction times
• slurred speech
• tremors.

In this section, we will outline and examine the various effects of sleep deprivation. Our articles will describe how prolonged lack of sleep affects both mental and physical health.

Sleep & Aging

The older we get, the more likely it is that we will suffer from some kind of sleep disorder. In fact, over 50 percent of people over 64 years old suffer from some type of sleep disorder. While the hormonal and physical changes that occur as we age will likely affect sleep, especially in menopausal women, the increased presence of other medical conditions and disorders is also a factor that tends to upset the sleep of the elderly.

One of the biggest sleeping problems the elderly experience is the inability to get deep, restorative sleep. Although they tend to sleep just as much as they did when they were younger, the elderly don’t get as quality sleep, meaning that they often suffer from fatigue and daytime drowsiness. The main reason for this is that older people don’t get as much REM sleep, the deepest, most restorative sleep phase. Keep reading to learn more about the relationship between sleep and aging.

Weight Changes

Dramatic weight changes, especially weight gain, are also common effects of sleep deprivation. Because the amount and quality of the sleep we get affects our hormone levels, namely our levels of leptin and ghrelin, many physiological processes that depend on these hormone levels to function properly, including appetite, are affected by our sleep.

Leptin is a hormone that affects our feelings of fullness and satisfaction after a meal, and ghrelin is the hormone that stimulates our appetites. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, your body’s levels of leptin fall and ghrelin levels increase. This means that you end up feeling hungrier without really feeling satisfied by what you eat, causing you to eat more and, consequently, gain weight. Keep reading to learn more about how sleep affects your weight.

Bouchez, C. (2007). The dream diet: Losing weight while you sleep. Retrieved July 5, 2007 from the WebMD Web site: http://www.webmd.com/solutions/sc/link-sleep-weight-loss/sleep-to-get-thin.

E-Medicine Health Staff. (2007). Sleep disorders and aging. Retrieved July 5, 2007 from the EMedicine Web site: http://www.emedicinehealth.com/sleep_disorders_and_aging/article_em.htm.



Shattered" was a TV reality show made by channel 4 in the United Kingdom. It explored many issues surrounding sleep deprivation in the context of a TV show with a big cash prize. The winner was the person who was best suited to withstanding tough Sleep deprivation tasks.

The cash prize was 100,000 pounds. The contestants had to work together to maintain the fund. Every time a contestant closed their eyes for ten seconds or more a thousand pounds was deducted from the prize fund. So the contestant’s worked as a team to maintain the prize fund.

One really surprising thing was that virtually no money was deducted from the prize fund. The contestants were extremely determined and disciplined. Personally I expected about 10,000 pounds or less to be left in the fund. But at one stage the prize fund even started to grow as the presenter of the TV show lost challenges against the contestants.

Special tasks were devised to challenge the contestants. For instance one contestant had to hold a every large Teddy bear whilst been read a pleasant bedtime story. Another contestant had to listen to an extremely boring lecture on their own.

One of the main features of the show was the attention to health and safety issues. Sleep deprivation is extremely dangerous and can even cause long term damage. The studio was built especially with health and safety in mind. Tables were built without hard edges. If contestant to fell over they would not be hurt by the specially designed furniture.

Still this did not stop people criticizing the show. Such was the concern over health and safety that contestants were allowed to sleep if one of them was suffering extreme health problems associated with sleep deprivation. One contestant for instance started hallucinating openly. So the doctors examined him and then allowed all the contestants to sleep for a few hours. This happened twice during the week long show.

What happens with sleep deprivation is that dreams start to burst into our waking life. That is why this contestant hallucinated. It can get to such a stage that the hallucinations cannot be distinguished from reality. This was considered too dangerous by the doctors.

The winner was a trainee policewoman. The final task was to lie awake for as long as possible whilst in bed. The woman cheated somewhat by drinking vast amounts of water. So physically she was kept awake by needing to go to the toilet.

Many contestants overcame the sleep deprivation with exercise. This seemed to take their mind off their tiredness. Indeed the stronger younger and fittest Contestants performed better. There was a distinct rhythm to the contestant’s performance. They seemed to hit a wall - and for hours they would struggle. Then they would start to wake up again and their concentration levels would improve vastly. The contestant’s helped each other to get through these periods.

Should Shattered be allowed?

News Society Health
Should Shattered be allowed?

Trisha McNair, a doctor on the ethics panel that advised the programme-makers, on the quandaries they faced.

Tweet this Trisha McNair

The Guardian, Tuesday 6 January 2004

The producers of Shattered are hailing the week-long programme as a great experiment, where some risks such as hallucinations and paranoia are predictable but where there is also the possibility that anything may happen. It promises exciting viewing - but is it right to let people risk their health on a primetime TV show for the chance of winning a fat cheque?

Actors are protected by their unions, while those enrolled in medical research are protected by strict protocols agreed by ethics committees before a study is given the go-ahead. But until now little thought has been given to the health of reality TV guinea pigs. For this series, Endemol (the producers of Shattered) took the unprecedented step of putting together an independent ethics panel to advise them on protecting the wellbeing of those taking part. The panel consists of the director of a leading sleep research centre, a professor of psychology, a health and safety expert and myself, a doctor with experience in medical ethics and law. Together, we had to examine how far the producers could be allowed to torture their participants in the name of entertainment.

One of the fundamental principles of medical ethics is that of informed consent - that people should be competent to make a voluntary and informed decision about taking part, understanding the risks and benefits at any stage of the programme. Guaranteeing that consent is truly informed can be difficult especially when the effects of sleep deprivation are unpredictable. Participants had to be fully briefed about the risks that were likely to arise.

After detailed discussions, we on the panel recommended a range of health and safety measures, including banning alcohol from the set, maintaining humidity within the studio (to prevent excessive dryness of eyes held open for long hours under hot studio lights), and making sure that everyone involved was aware of the small but significant risk that sleep deprivation may trigger epilepsy in predisposed individuals. Endemol had already arranged for 24-hour cover by a medical team; we insisted that they should be fully briefed on the particular problems of sleep deprivation.

Our main concern was with the potential for psychological problems, and also the implications these had for consent. People lose the ability to act and think coherently after being substantially deprived of sleep. Because of this, they may not be competent after about four days to make sensible decisions about their participation. For this reason, we insisted that arrangements be made for an independent advocate to act for the individual when necessary after this point.

The production company's initial plan to use a viewer's voting system to allocate small "punishments" to participants was vetoed by the panel, because we felt this could induce an unacceptable state of helplessness. Endemol had also thought of using mild electrical shocks attached to door handles during challenges, or even to toilet seats to waken participants seeking a quick snooze in the loo. But we felt this could cause fear and unnecessary suffering, and would convey inappropriate messages about the safety of electricity to the audience. So the production team were left to dream up alternatives.

The possibility that medical problems might come to light during the programme raised the issue of confidentiality, and it was important that participants were aware from the start about these issues. Plans to film participants in the toilet also worried the panel, although the production team reassured us that this footage would not be broadcast unless the participant fell asleep there.

Throughout the programme, the dignity and well-being of every individual participant must be a priority, and every effort should be made to avoid psychological humiliation. Each participant had to be clear about the rules, how elimination was decided and what would happen if the medical experts felt it was not appropriate for them to continue.

Finally, the panel insisted that some sort of post-show care was needed. Sleep deprivation is intensely stressful, with unpredictable short- and long-term effects. It's important to ensure that each eliminated participant is fully rested before returning to the dangers of the outside world, while a follow-up a few weeks later should reduce the risk that the stress of taking part leaves an indelible mark. We wait to see if those marks will appear.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010

Sleep deprivation show faces probe

Sleep deprivation show faces probe

The sleep deprivation TV programme Shattered is being investigated by a media watchdog after sparking 11 complaints from viewers.
Government regulator Ofcom will probe the Channel 4 show, which challenged competitors to stay awake for a week.

The show, won on Saturday by trainee police officer Clare Southern, has been accused of exploiting participants and endangering health.

But Channel 4 insisted contestants' welfare was "of the utmost importance".

"We have gone to great lengths to ensure their health and safety," a spokesman said.

Over the course of the week, Shattered contestants were put through a series of endurance tests - including watching paint dry for one hour - as they competed for £97,000 prize money.

Each day the worst performing contestant was eliminated, with 19-year-old Ms Southern, from Poole, winning a "sleep-off" to beat the other two remaining contestants in Saturday evening's final.

Shattered competitors were allowed occasional catnaps agreed by the producers, but over the course of the week complained of hallucinations, exhaustion and paranoia.

Psychologists have criticised the show and accused programme makers of putting contestants' health at risk.

Dr Gary Wood, social psychologist at the University of Birmingham, said earlier: "It is humiliation TV and very concerning that what we are doing is putting people's health at risk and causing them psychological harm."

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2004/01/10 22:58:28 GMT


Effects of Sleep Deprivation