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Sleep Disorders

Regarding Less sleep

06/21/2007

Question:

Hi, I wanted to ask that is it ok if I sleep just 4-5 Hrs a day. What side-effects may it cause if any? There is some information on the internet, but I dont know what to believe.

Thanks for your help.

Answer:

The biggest problem with decreased sleep is excessive sleepiness during the day. Decreased concentration, focus and memory problems are also seen. Sleep needs tend to be genetically determined and most people need 7-9 hours of sleep per night, though there are some individuals called "short sleepers" who need less. Generally, individuals can tell if they are getting enough sleep by how they feel.

There is debate about the long term effects of forgoing sleep. While we don't completely understand the reasons we sleep and what the function of sleep is, growing research suggests that adequate sleep is important for the process of functioning and health. Studies have found that individuals that are sleep deprived tend to perform poorly in test situations, have reduced concentration and tend to be more irritable and anxious. All these could create problems for you not only at work and home, but during your job interviews as well. Chronic partial sleep deprivation can also affect our ability to learn and thus can have a significant impact on school and job performance.

In addition, recent research has shown, in pretty convincing fashion, that insufficient (lack of enough) sleep can contribute to significant weight gain. This appears to be due to changes in hormones that control appetite and cravings for certain foods. Weight gain, in turn, can lead to other medical problems, such as diabetes, hypertension, sleep apnea, etc. While not as clear, chronic lack of sleep by itself may contribute directly to the development of hypertension. As mentioned above, another area of concern is the impact that insufficient sleep has on vigilance, ability to concentrate and daytime sleepiness. These all can be impaired by insufficient sleep and, as a result, can have wide ranging consequences, including increased rates of car accidents and work-related accidents. Some of the largest man made disasters in modern times were attributed, in part, to sleep deprived individuals making poor decisions (Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez, etc.).

As you can see, lack of adequate sleep can have serious consequences, affecting your learning, health and social function. As such, it's important that you obtain an adequate amount of sleep for your needs. How you feel should serve as one guide for this.

If you have other specific questions about sleep, lack of sleep, or other sleep disorders, please visit the American Academy of Sleep Medicine website. In addition to information, the website contains a list of Sleep Centers and Sleep Specialists across the country so that you may locate one near you. The website Sleep Education.com also contains plenty of consumer friendly information about sleep.

For more information:

Go to the Sleep Disorders health topic, where you can:

Response by:

James   Knepler, MD James Knepler, MD
Formerly, Assistant Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati