A night of interrupted sleep, is annoying. A couple of nights running, and your energy starts to lag. Continuous lack of sleep will then start breaking down your ability to concentrate, solve problems, and make decisions.
Being cranky is one thing, but long-term sleep deprivation has proven to be a significant factor in health problems. Many people suffering from a variety of disorders and diseases such as diabetes and asthma, have also been noted as having problems with their sleep habits, although it is not known which one is a product of the other, if they are indeed related and not just coincidental.
The most obvious dangers are the practical things like decision making, and alertness with machinery, or driving a vehicle. More subtle products of sleep deprivation are poor decisions, memory loss and irritability. All of which produces stress, and that in turn, works on our immune system’s ability to keep our bodies healthy.
Insufficient sleep causes the brain’s normal firing patterns to go astray. The cerebral cortex, the outer layer of the brain where our higher order thinking and actions originate, is unable to re-charge itself, something that happens in deep sleep. This is the sleep phase when the human brain releases growth hormones that reinforce the immune system, and facilitate the “repair” of the body.
The stress is so great, that a person will die from lack of sleep, sooner than they’d die of starvation.