Sleep Deprivation: Harmful Effects on Hormones & Metabolism

The Harmful Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Hormones and Metabolism

Walker and Huberman discuss the importance of sleep and the consequences of insufficient sleep. A lack of sleep can age you by a decade in just five days, impairing hormonal systems such as testosterone in men and estrogen in women.

The effects of poor sleep on hormones may vary depending on the duration of sleep deprivation, but even a single night of total deprivation can markedly impair these hormones. After a working week of short sleep, these impairments become more apparent.

Insufficient sleep also disrupts the metabolic system, particularly the ability to dispose of blood sugar. Within five nights of short sleep, an individual can move towards a path that’s getting very close to type two diabetes.

The Devastating Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Walker and Huberman discuss the importance of sleep for overall health and well-being. Walker explains that a lack of sleep can have a significant impact on the immune system, reducing the activity of natural killer cells, which are critical for fighting cancer. He also notes that insufficient sleep can lead to a decreased antibody response to flu shots and an increased likelihood of developing the common cold or flu.

In addition to the immune system, cardiovascular health is also affected by sleep deprivation. Studies have shown that losing just one hour of sleep during daylight savings time can lead to an increased risk of heart attacks, hospitalizations, car accidents, and even harsher sentencing by federal judges.

At the cellular and molecular level, a week of sleep restriction to six hours per night can distort the activity of numerous genes, with some being overexpressed and others being impaired. The affected genes are associated with the immune system, tumor promotion, chronic inflammation, and cardiovascular disease.

Huberman emphasizes the positive impact of Walker’s early work in raising awareness about the importance of sleep, despite the potential for causing some anxiety. The two experts agree that while the data may seem dire, it is essential to focus on optimizing sleep rather than becoming overly anxious about the consequences of occasional sleep loss.

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