The Euro 2012 event this month is exciting for many football fans around the world. However, watching live broadcasts of late-night matches may cause some problems for football fans here in Thailand _ inadequate sleep or sleep loss.
After a week, we may get used to a sleep-deprived schedule, but our bodily functions can still be impaired. Although there is little evidence that lack of sleep or sleep deprivation causes any immediate damage to the body, it certainly affects how you feel and how your brain works, and it can interfere with work and home life. If it goes on for a long time, there may be some risk that it can cause health problems.
Sleep is as essential for our health and wellbeing as food and water. The amount of sleep a person needs depends on many factors including age, physical activity levels, general health and other factors. For example, infants require about 16 hours sleep a day, teenagers need about nine hours on average, and most adults need seven to eight hours per night.
The amount needed also increases if he or she has been deprived of sleep in previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a "sleep debt", which is much like being overdrawn at a bank. Eventually, your body will demand you repay the debt.
Sleep loss may result in drowsiness during the day, irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate and moodiness. Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime, which increases the risk of falls and mistakes, especially road accidents.
Driving simulators or hand-eye coordination tests demonstrate that sleep-deprived people perform as badly or worse than those who are intoxicated. Moreover, sleep deprivation has been shown to magnify alcohol's effects on the body, so a fatigued person who drinks will become much more impaired than someone who is well rested. Caffeine and other stimulants cannot overcome the effects of severe sleep deprivation.
More importantly, aside from these bothersome side effects, too little sleep may relate to many health problems. It may prevent the brain from committing new information to memory and it can reduce immediate recall, although information acquired before sleep deprivation remains normal.
Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite. In addition, serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels and irregular heartbeat.
Sleep deprivation also alters immune function and increases the chances of becoming sick.
While more research is needed to explore the links between sleep loss and health, it's safe to say that sleep is too important to shortchange. So, football fans, please take good care of your sleep time to be healthy for the final match.
Assoc Prof Dittakarn Boriboonhirunsarn is a member of the Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital. Email: email@example.com
About the author
Writer: Assoc Prof Dittakarn Boriboonhirunsarn