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Sleep deprivation, the lasting effects on your body

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BATON ROUGE - Considering the average person sleeps one third of their life, it's safe to say sleep plays an important role in one's daily activities.

Sleep is a way to recharge and heal the body at the end of a busy day. Continuous sleep deprivation is linked to a slew of health risks, including high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.

"Busy schedules and they just say, 'Well, I've got to do it. I've got all these things I have to do I just have to do it,'" Our Lady of the Lake Neurologist Kevin Callerame said. "They don't realize they have to catch up on their sleep."

Doctors recommend six to eight hours of sleep each day. A sleep deprived body can wear down from exhaustion and side effects include loss of concentration and slowed reaction time. People might not even realize it's happening.

"Until things start going wrong for them," Callerame said. "Messing up at work, get in an accident or fall asleep when they're driving."

Shift workers can especially be at risk. Mike Chutz with Baton Rouge EMS remembers a call he responded to a few years ago when a man on his way home from work drove off the road, admitting to falling asleep.

"After working a double shift, he could have died right here on his way home," Chutz said.

Car accidents are one of the top three calls EMS responds to due to distracted driving or fatigue. Chutz compares sleep deprived driving to driving drunk.

As shift workers, EMS have safe guards in place to prevent a person from working when they're too tried to function. Shift workers are forced to sleep whether they're working days or nights.

Michael Houston with the OLOL Sleep Center is also a shift worker and evaluates patients who are sleep deprived by monitoring their sleeping at night. He says sometimes sleep doesn't come easy for him, or his patients.

"Good rule of thumb is if you're in bed for 15 or 20 minutes and you cannot sleep, get up and do something until you're tired," Houston said.

Medications can help but professionals say a lifestyle change can make a big difference. Keeping good sleep hygiene, which includes a good diet and exercise, are the best things a person can do.

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