Lack of sleep, whether intentional or unintentional, can be extremely dangerous as well as unhealthy. Drowsy driving is one result of not enough sleep and this is known to have caused tragic and likely preventable car crashes. Studies have also linked a lack of sleep to diseases such as cancer. Getting enough sleep each night is important. Children, teens and young adults may need at least 10 hours while most adults require seven or eight hours of sleep per night.
Less than six hours of sleep nightly can lead to problems. Lack of sleep can cause difficulty in thinking and focusing. It also causes sleepiness and dozing off during the day and many fatal and serious car crashes have been caused by sleep deprived drivers who just "close their eyes for a minute." The body requires enough sleep to function properly just as it needs enough food and water.
Studies of sleep deprived people show that they have more inflammation in their bodies that places them at a higher risk for disease than people who consistently get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep disrupts proteins, hormones and other balances in the body. Sleep deprivation is thought to be a risk factor for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease as well as obesity.
Some people intentionally try to function on less sleep to have more time awake, but this is thought to be an unhealthy way of living. The entire body including the brain needs adequate sleep for proper functioning. In some cases, lack of sleep isn't intentional but rather people have problems falling asleep and this is called insomnia. Sleeping pills aren't recommended for dealing with insomnia since a person may become addicted to the medication. Avoiding caffeine and stressful events before bedtime can help prevent insomnia.
Staying with a regular sleep schedule can be one of the best ways to avoid insomnia and lack of sleep since the body becomes used to a regular sleeping pattern. People with disorders such as sleep apnea should get treatment since this condition causes a lack of sleep as well as prevents proper breathing. Those with sleep apnea have interrupted sleep because they may stop breathing hundreds of times during the night. Symptoms of sleep apnea include dosing off and experiencing fatigue during the day as well as waking up during the night.