Study: Sleep deprivation worse than being drunk

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GREENSBORO, N.C. -- This St. Paddy's Day is delightful for Kelly Henson, not just because it's sunny outside for her daughter's birthday bash in the park, but because she got a whole eight hours of sleep. As a mom of three children, a full night of Z's is a gift in itself.

"That's always the worst, when your kid goes back to sleep and then you're like, oh no, awake for another three hours," said Henson.

Study after study have shown that people who get enough sleep live longer, healthier lives, but Harvard sleep researchers now say that the negative effects of sleep deprivation are even worse than previously thought on your mood, ability to focus and with overall brain function.

"How can you make good decisions when you're making them and you haven't gotten enough sleep?" said Dr. Veida Bland of The Bland Clinic in Greensboro. "People are so busy these days with kids, parents, work, school. They think they can skip sleep and be OK, but it’s not a luxury, it's a necessity. I don't think they understand how important it is for your overall health."

Bland says adults generally need between seven and nine hours of sleep and not getting it regularly contributes to a variety of health problems, including heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

What may be a big help in getting more sleep is getting rid of the blue light on your phone and computer.

"It interrupts your sleep process because your body senses it and it makes your body stop making melatonin so you feel more alert," said Bland.

F.Lux is one free app that can help with that. Henson says for her family, it has worked wonders. "It takes your computer and gets rid of some of the blue and puts in more red tones and it just helps you not wake up as much."