Health Watch: Sleep deprivation affects all facets of health

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska Food, water, and oxygen are all essential for human life. There is another component of life that does not get the same respect, sleep. At Tuesday night's 'Healthy Living' lecture series at UAF, Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine Clay Triplehorn, said that's because the effects of poor sleep more gradually develop than the other components.

"Sleep is a little more subtle," said Triplehorn. "It is very disruptive to our health and physiology, but its impact is not as apparent."

The body needs 7 to 9 hours of rest for proper function. Between light fluctuation, unhealthy night habits, and stress, most people fall short. According to Triplehorn, it doesn't take much for sleep deprivation to set in. Just 30 minutes of sleep loss starts to effect the body.

"Just 6 and a half hours of sleep over a five day period can render you as sleep deprived as someone who has been up the entire night," said Triplehorn.

Sleep deprivation first effects motor functions, like reaction time. It also effects memory and decision making abilities relatively early on. Triplehorn says just based off of bad sleeping habits alone, someone can be as impaired as somebody with a blood alcohol level of 0.08.

More than just reaction time and drowsiness, studies show that prolonged sleep deprivation can effect a wide range of the body's functions. Individuals with extended periods of sleep deprivation have an increased chance of developing type two diabetes. In all major forms of mental disorders, from depression to schizophrenia, a lack of sleep agitated patients' symptoms. Triplehorn says there is even a new study that suggests a lifetime of poor sleep can lead to Alzheimer's.

"I would not minimize the impact sleep has on health and physical performance," stated Triplehorn.

Making up sleep is harder than people think. It takes a minimum of three days of good sleep to makeup one night of sleep deprivation.

Triplehorn has some tips for those who struggle with sleeping. First, he suggests lowering the temperature of where an individual sleeps to promote a tired feeling. He also says to avoid watching monitors late at night, because the blue light emitted from screens sends an awake signal to the brain.