Sleeping normally should be the goal of everyone who aspires for a disease free and happy life. Sleep deprivation may affect not only the individual concerned, but also others involved with him. One employee may be overzealous and may burn the midnight oil, but when he is part of a team, the performance and the decision making of the team as a whole may suffer.
Sleep debt is a term which describes the phenomenon of sleep deprivation. When the sleep deprivation happens on a regular basis, the sleep debt will also increase. Nobody has so far calculated as to how much sleep debt an individual can carry. Sleep debt can lead to altered hormone secretion patterns which ultimately lead to increase in appetite. This leads to weight increase and subsequently diabetes. Sleep debt is also producing risks for the development of hypertension and heart disease. Sleep debt will reduce growth in children. It also reduces the capacity for wound healing. The efficiency of the immune system is also reduced. The higher cognitive functions are impaired and the ability to remember is also reduced. Long term sleep debt can even produce dementia.
The most serious risk from sleep debt lies in getting involved in accidents. Since cognitive functions are impaired, it is difficult to concentrate on the road and on the traffic. Good driving requires good judging abilities. This ability will be lacking if you have sleep debt. The reaction times are also significantly lowered. To cap it all, there is always the possibility of falling asleep while driving. Hence, if you have not slept well, it is safer to avoid driving.