"Road rage is very often related to people who are very, very short-fused and irritable because they're sleep deprived," he says. "[The effects are] relatively hard to measure, but the consequences should be taken very seriously. It's relatively subtle, but it exacts a major toll."
Late nights have also been liked with overeating and could be part of the national obesity problem, says Richard Castriotta, MD, sleep disorders expert and associate professor of internal medicine at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston.
"The later you stay up, the more you eat," he tells WebMD. "It's a natural tendency. Instead of eating three meals a day, you're going to get a fourth one in."
Sleep Gets No Respect
In the survey, insomnia caused poor sleep in the majority of cases (74%). However, Castriotta also puts the blame on too much computer use.
"The computer allows people to stay up passively, but interacting so that it's stimulating you to stay awake," he tells WebMD. "People are busy on the computer, suddenly it's 3 a.m. and they're not even feeling tired. All of this has taken a toll."
People view sleepiness as an annoyance and nothing worse, Mahowald says. "Most of us were raised to think that sleep was negotiable. Sleep deprivation was a badge of honor."
Your employer probably considers working round-the-clock to be a positive trait, he tells WebMD. "The less sleep you get, the better worker you're perceived to be, the more committed, the more dedicated."
"We never brag about how much sleep we get; we only brag when we get too little sleep," Mahowald says. "The attitude is that sleep deprivation is more respected. The fact is no degree of commitment or dedication can override the need for sleep."
Beware the Energy Drinks, Caffeine Pills
Whole industries have emerged to help us stay awake during the day. It's no accident that, in virtually every society in the world, coffee is the daytime beverage of choice, says Castriotta.
"People have always taken stimulants to stay awake," he tells WebMD. In fact, people today are downing caffeine pills, herbal caffeine pills, and nutritional supplements like ENADA to fight drowsiness.