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Sleep deprivation can kill you — here's what sleeping less than 7 hours per night does to your body and brain

Elon Musk
About a third of US adults don't get enough sleep.
Many people think they can get by on less than seven to nine hours a night — the amount of sleep doctors recommend for most adults — or say they need to sleep less because of work or family obligations.
The Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently acknowledged in an interview with The New York Times that his long work hours were taking a toll on his well-being and raising concerns among his friends.
That prompted Arianna Huffington to post an open letter to Musk about his sleep schedule, telling him that he was "demonstrating a wildly outdated, anti-scientific and horribly inefficient way of using human energy."
Musk posted his response on Twitter at 2:30 a.m. ET. "I just got home from the factory," he said. "You think this is an option. It is not."
Musk seems to understand that working 120-hour weeks is harmful. As Matthew Walker, a neuroscientist who's an expert on sleep, previously told Business Insider, "The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life."
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep, and kids have to get even more, though needs do vary from person to person. Some incredibly rare people can actually get by on a few hours of sleep per night, while others on the opposite end of the spectrum are sometimes called "long sleepers" because they need 11 hours nightly.
But regardless of your body's clock, a lack of sleepwill cause your physical and mental health to suffer.
Here are 30 health consequences of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is linked to a higher risk for certain cancers

Carlos Giusti/Getty
Sleep deprivation and disrupted sleep schedules have been linked to increased risk for several cancers, most notably colon and breast cancers.

Skin doesn't heal as well from damage when you are tired, leading to skin aging

Shutterstock/Timonina
Poor sleep quality is strongly correlated with chronic skin problems, according to research from the University of Wisconsin. Studies have also foundthat when skin is damaged by the sun or other factors, it doesn't heal as well in poor sleepers, so those people wind up showing more signs of skin aging.

Tired people have a harder time controlling their impulses, potentially leading to unhealthy behavior and weight gain

Thomas Peter/Ruters
People who don't get enough sleep have more cravings for unhealthy meals, a harder time resisting high-calorie foods, and difficulty controlling their impulses. Researchers think hormonal imbalancesthat result from sleep deprivation are responsible for this, since those imbalances are linked to a high body-mass index and obesity.

People feel lonelier after sleepless nights — and being lonely makes it harder to sleep well

Etienne Oliveau/Getty Images
Researchers have found that sleep-deprived young adults are less likely to connect socially with other people, and that people who report poor sleep also tend to say they're lonelier. To make things worse, people who feel lonely don't tend to sleep as well, which can lead to a sort of vicious cycle.

Being sleepy makes it harder to learn and disrupts short-term memory

CHAjAMP/Shutterstock
Sleepiness has long been a problem for students. Delaying school start times an hour for middle-school kids has been found to significantly increase standardized test scores, and it may have an even bigger effect on teens, who naturally tend to be night owls.
But it's not just kids — sleep deprivation also wrecks adults' short-term memory. Several studies have found that sleep-deprived adults have more difficulty remembering words they've learned and have a harder time improving newly learned skills.

Long-term sleep deprivation also seems to damage long-term memory

REUTERS/Han Jae-Ho
Sleep disruptions for elderly people can lead to structural changes in the brain associated withimpaired long-term memory. Sleep-related memory deficits have been observed in the general adult population as well — as early as 1924, researchers noticed that people who slept more forgot less.

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