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The Science of Sleep and Sleep Deprivation

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

sleep deprivation

Story at-a-glance -

  • Healthy sleep consists of several stages, each stage lasting five to 15 minutes, with a complete cycle taking between 90 and 120 minutes. You cycle through each of these stages four to five times during the night
  • Getting less than six hours of sleep in any given 24-hour period will leave you cognitively impaired. In 2013, drowsy drivers caused 72,000 car accidents in which 800 Americans were killed and 44,000 were injured
  • Polls show 63 percent of people do not get enough sleep to be healthy, 69 percent struggle with frequent sleep problems and 22 percent are so sleepy during the day it affects their quality of life
  • Sleep deprivation costs the U.S. economy $411 billion each year in accidents and lost productivity, equivalent to 2.28 percent of the gross domestic product
  • Recent research found people who got seven hours of sleep each night had hearts showing signs of being 3.7 years older, based on biological age, than their chronological age; those who got five hours or less had the oldest biological heart age — 5.1 years older than their chronological age

Sleep deprivation can have a number of health effects and ramifications, ranging from mild to devastating. The 2015 National Geographic video, "Science of Sleep," starts out with the story of third mate Gregory Cousins, whose sleep deprivation led to one of the greatest environmental catastrophes in history.

Cousins had slept only six hours in the past 48 hours when he ran the supertanker Exxon Valdez aground, causing the 11 million gallons of crude oil to spill into Prince Williams Sound, devastating 23 species of wildlife and nearly 13,000 miles of shoreline habitat.

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