Lack of Sleep Can Cause Serious Problems

Medical Minutes

How do you feel after you've had a really good night's sleep? Or better yet, how do you feel when you've had no sleep at all?

Unfortunately, more of us can describe that feeling.

Tonight I have more on sleep and why some of us get so little of it.

You probably live or work with someone who has trouble sleeping. Here at KOLO-News Channel 8, our resident insomniac is John Tyson. We say he is "sleepless in the saddle."

Most of you see John Tyson riding the open ranges of Northern Nevada, showing you the beauty of high desert country.

But when night comes . . . there's a different tune.

"I've had the cattle come up to the house and tell me to quit snoring. People who can sleep eight hours undisturbed and wake up feeling refreshed its almost like, they are living a life that I have no knowledge of," he says.

John is not alone. Millions of Americans are problem sleepers.

It can be caused by factors we can't control like menopause, age, or physical problems. But many times we may be unknowingly doing it to ourselves by loading up on caffeine, alcohol, continually working under stress and, to add insult to injury, over the year's we've changed our internal clocks.

Says Pulmonary Specialist Dr. Michael Lucia: "A hundred years ago in the 1900s before the electric light bulb, the average American got anywhere between nine and ten hours of sleep. So in less than two generations we've cut our sleep by over two hours and your genes cannot adjust for that."

While some of us may take sleep for granted, our body does not.

A short night's sleep six-and-a-half hours or less can disrupt glucose disposal, metabolic levels, and carbohydrate processing.

This can lead to obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and mental sluggishness.

Besides the obvious signs of lack of sleep like exhaustion, irritability, memory loss, there are other problems brought on by a sleepless night.

You don't have to tell John about the ramifications of not getting enough sleep - and after seven years he says he's at the end of the trail and ready to seek some help.

Tomorrow we'll follow him as he gets hooked up, the lights out and he is analyzed at a sleep lab.

Experts say if lack of sleep affects your daytime functions, causes depression, makes you dependent on sleeping pills, makes you anxious, or if its been a month or more since you've been able to easily fall asleep or sleep soundly - its time to see your doctor.