Sleep Deprivation Can Literally Kill You, So Parents Are Pretty Much Screwed

by Julie Scagell
Image via Istock/Getty Images

Sleep deprivation can have serious and lasting impacts on our health

Everyone knows how important it is to get a good night’s sleep. And while the benefits are many — increased productivity, a boost to your overall mood, less dark, baggy circles under your eyes, and the overall key to a healthy lifestyle — getting eight hours of sleep a night just isn’t possible for some. Like, anyone with a child, pretty much. But did you know the risks of sleeplessness can literally be the difference between life and death?

Wonderful. That’s just great to hear.

Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently told the New York Times in an interview that his lack of sleep is taking a toll on his health. “It’s not been great, actually,” Musk said. “I’ve had friends come by who are really concerned.” He also admitted he missed his birthday because he was in one of his factories for 24 hours, barely took time off to attend his brother’s wedding, and hasn’t had a vacation since 2001, prompting parents everywhere to shake their heads in unison and sleepily mumble, “Same.”

Of course, we aren’t all out changing the world and exploring new frontiers, but Musk’s 17-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week work days do sound vaguely familiar. I mean, if we aren’t up with the kids, we’re up worrying about the kids, or trying desperately to check the other 547 things off our To-Do lists while they slumber.

And Musk isn’t alone. About a third of U.S. adults don’t get enough sleep and according to the CDC, adults over 18 should be getting between seven and nine hours per night, every night. And while parents everywhere are undeniably laughing so hard they’re peeing their pants, the results of not getting enough sleep are sobering.

A lack of sleep (especially quality sleep) can cause your physical and mental health to decline at a fairly rapid rate. According to Business Insider, some of the health consequences of sleep deprivation are aging skin, weight gain, loneliness, long term memory loss, and irritability. So, basically they just described anyone with children.

But other, more severe symptoms can be a real danger to your life, including an increased risk of cancer, heart disease, slower reaction time (which can lead to an increased risk of car and work accidents), and a weakened immune system.

So, what can parents do? Luckily (hopefully) our lack of sleep will eventually correct itself, you know, when our kids eventually leave the nest. Until then, squeeze in sleep whenever you can get it (yes, that means go hide in your closet), give your kids their iPad and take a snooze on your couch, or put your spouse on night duty and get some ZZ’s.

Do whatever you need to do to get the much needed rest you deserve and don’t feel a single bit guilty about it. Your health is literally on the line.