Sleep plays a vital role in brain function and systemic physiology across many body systems. Problems with sleep are widely prevalent and include deficits in quantity and quality of sleep; sleep problems that impact the continuity of sleep are collectively referred to as sleep disruptions. Numerous factors contribute to sleep disruption, ranging from lifestyle and environmental factors to sleep disorders and other medical conditions. Sleep disruptions have substantial adverse short- and long-term health consequences. A literature search was conducted to provide a nonsystematic review of these health consequences (this review was designed to be nonsystematic to better focus on the topics of interest due to the myriad parameters affected by sleep). Sleep disruption is associated with increased activity of the sympathetic nervous system and hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, metabolic effects, changes in circadian rhythms, and proinflammatory responses. In otherwise healthy adults, short-term consequences of sleep disruption include increased stress responsivity, somatic pain, reduced quality of life, emotional distress and mood disorders, and cognitive, memory, and performance deficits. For adolescents, psychosocial health, school performance, and risk-taking behaviors are impacted by sleep disruption. Behavioral problems and cognitive functioning are associated with sleep disruption in children. Long-term consequences of sleep disruption in otherwise healthy individuals include hypertension, dyslipidemia, cardiovascular disease, weight-related issues, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and colorectal cancer. All-cause mortality is also increased in men with sleep disturbances. For those with underlying medical conditions, sleep disruption may diminish the health-related quality of life of children and adolescents and may worsen the severity of common gastrointestinal disorders. As a result of the potential consequences of sleep disruption, health care professionals should be cognizant of how managing underlying medical conditions may help to optimize sleep continuity and consider prescribing interventions that minimize sleep disruption.
Keywords: adolescents; adults; children; health status; sleep; sleep disorders.