Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Health

About 30% of people suffer from poor sleep, and they often blame stress, computers and taking work home as the culprit. Many of us have experienced the fatigue, short temper and lack of focus that often follow a poor night’s sleep. And although an occasional night without sleep does make you feel tired and irritable the next day, it won’t harm your overall physical health. But after several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious.

You will suffer from brain fog, which makes it difficult to concentrate or make decisions. You will feel down, and experience the so-called micro-sleep several times during the day. This increases the risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road.

However, the cost of all those sleepless nights is much more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. You probably do not realise what it can do to your sex life, memory, health, looks, and even your ability to lose weight. If it continues, lack of sleep also affects your overall physical health and makes you prone to serious medical conditions, such as obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes, and it shortens your life expectancy. It is now clear that a solid night’s sleep is essential for a long and healthy life.

The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are very real.

Here are 10 surprising, and serious effects of sleep loss on your health.

  1. Lack of Sleep Causes Accidents

If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations, you are seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there. You may also end up experiencing micro-sleep during the day. During these episodes, you will fall asleep for a few to several seconds without realizing it. Sleep deprivation played a major role in some of the biggest disasters in recent history: the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill, the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl, and a few others. But sleep loss is also a big public danger every day on the road. Going into micro-sleep is out of your control and can be extremely dangerous when you’re driving. Drowsiness can slow reaction time as much as driving drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is the main cause in over 100.000 car crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths per year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old. Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep also causes accidents and injuries in the workplace because it is decreasing coordination. In one study, workers who complained about severe daytime sleepiness, had significantly more accidents on the job, particularly repeated work accidents. They also had more sick days per accident.


  1. Lack of Sleep Dumbs You Down

Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. Lack of sleep hurts these cognitive processes in many ways. First, it impairs attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving. This makes it more difficult to learn new things efficiently. Second, during the night, various sleep cycles play a role in securing memories in the mind. Pathways are being formed between nerve cells (neurons) in your brain to help you remember the new information you’ve learned during the day. When you don’t get enough sleep, you won’t be able to remember these things. Third, sleep deprivation leaves your brain so exhausted, that it can’t perform its duties as well as needed.


  1. Lack of Sleep Can Lead to Serious Physical Health Problems

Sleep disorders and chronic sleep loss increases the risk of: Weakened Immunity: Too little sleep weakens your immune system’s defences against viruses like those that cause the common cold and flu. You are more likely to get sick when you are exposed to these germs. High blood pressure: If you sleep less than 5 hours per night, your risk for high blood pressure increases. Risk of heart disease: Sleep deprivation may lead to increased blood pressure and higher levels of chemicals that are linked to inflammation, both of those play huge roles in heart diseases. Risk of diabetes: A lack of sleep influences your body’s release of insulin, a blood sugar-lowering hormone. People who do not get enough sleep have higher blood sugar levels and an increased risk for type 2 diabetes. According to some, it is estimated that 90% of people with insomnia, which is a sleep disorder characterized by trouble falling and staying asleep, also have another health condition.


  1. Lack of Sleep Kills Sex Drive

Sleep specialists say that sleep-deprived men and women report lower libidos and less interest in sex. Lowered energy levels, tiredness, sleepiness, and increased tension may be largely to blame. For men with sleep apnoea, a respiratory problem that interrupts sleep, there may be another factor in the sexual drive loss. Studies suggest that men with sleep apnoea often also have low testosterone levels. In one study, nearly half of the men who suffered from severe sleep apnoea released severely low levels of testosterone during the night.


  1. Lack of Sleep Is Depressing

Sleep deprivation can make you moody, emotional, and ill-tempered. Chronic sleep deprivation influences your mood and can lead to anxiety or depression, which may escalate. Over time, lack of sleep and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. Many of the people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were also more likely to sleep less than six hours at night. The most common sleep disorder, insomnia, has the strongest link to depression. Studies show that people with insomnia were 5x as likely to develop depression as those without. In fact, insomnia is often one of the first symptoms of depression. Insomnia and depression feed on each other. Sleep loss often increases the symptoms of depression, and depression can make it more difficult to fall asleep. On the positive side, treating sleep problems often helps in lowering depression and its symptoms, and vice versa.


  1. Lack of Sleep Ages Your Skin

Most people have experienced sallow skin and puffy eyes after a few nights of lack of sleep. But it turns out that continued lack of sleep cause lacklustre skin, and an increase of fine lines and dark circles under the eyes. When you don’t get enough sleep, more of the stress hormone cortisol is being released. In excess amounts, cortisol breaks down skin collagen, which is the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic. Sleep loss also causes the body to release too little of the human growth hormone. When we are young, the human growth hormone promotes growth. When we grow older, it helps increase muscle mass, thicken skin, and strengthen bones. Growth hormone is released during deep sleep, the stage we call slow-wave sleep. It seems to be part of normal tissue repair, like a patching of the wear and tear of the day.


  1. Lack of Sleep Makes You Forgetful

Trying to keep your memory sharp? Make sure that you get plenty of sleep. During sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember new information. A lack of sleep can negatively impact both short- and long-term memory. Several studies discovered that brain events called “sharp wave ripples” are responsible for consolidating memory. The ripples also transfer learned information from the hippocampus to the neocortex of the brain, where long-term memories are stored. Sharp wave ripples happen mostly during the deepest levels of sleep.


  1. Lack of Sleep Can Make You Gain Weight

When it comes to body weight, it is quite possible that if you snooze, you lose. Lack of sleep seems to be related to an increase in hunger and appetite, and therefore to obesity. People who sleep less than six hours a day are almost 30% more likely to become obese than those who sleep seven to nine hours. With sleep deprivation, the chemicals that signal to your brain that you are full are off-balance. As a result, you are more likely to overindulge even when you have had enough to eat. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin. Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite. Not only does sleep loss appear to stimulate the appetite. It also stimulates cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods. Ongoing studies are proving that adequate sleep should be a standard part of weight loss programs.


  1. Lack of Sleep May Increase Risk of Death

Many studies showed that sleep patterns seriously affected mortality rates with several diseases. People that had cut their sleep from seven to five hours or less per night nearly doubled their risk of death from a number of causes. Especially a severe lack of sleep doubled the risk of death from cardiovascular disease.


  1. Lack of Sleep Impairs Judgement, Especially About Sleep

Lack of sleep also affects our interpretation of events. This hurts our ability to make correct judgements because we may not assess situations accurately and act on them properly. Sleep-deprived people seem to be especially prone to poor judgement when it comes to estimating what lack of sleep is doing to them. In our increasingly fast-paced world, functioning on less sleep has become a kind of badge of honour. Many sleep specialists say that if you think you’re doing fine on less sleep, you are likely to be very wrong. And if you work in a profession where it’s important to be able to judge your level of functioning, this can become a big problem. Studies show that over time, people who are getting six hours of sleep, instead of seven or eight, begin to feel that they’ve adapted to that sleep deprivation. They often have gotten used to it. But in several tests on mental alertness and performance, it shows that they keep going downhill. So there is a point in sleep deprivation when we lose touch with how affected we are. It causes trouble with thinking and concentration. Your concentration, creativity, and problem-solving skills aren’t up to par when you do not get enough rest.


Reading all this would scare a lot of us and in a way that is not so bad at all because when we improve on our sleeping habits, we will get both our mental and physical health back again. Getting a good night’s sleep seems a waste of time to many people, they have so much to do that they try to gain time by sleeping less. But they forget, that when they are adequately rested, they are able to do most things faster and better. In the end, you actually are not gaining but losing time.

So, get yourself a good night’s sleep, it really is much more important for you than you think. Next week we will discuss how you can get the most out of your sleep and how you can improve on your sleep. If you have any comments, questions or experiences you wish to share, please do so here in the Facebook group.


Dawn Cady


Dawn Cady is Australia’s premiere transformation & pain management coach and winner of multiple awards for her groundbreaking work. The Neural Alignment Method®  is Dawn’s remarkable brainchild, bringing together the world’s best healing and mindset techniques. With unique expertise and passion, she has helped countless others to achieve real, tangible success, along with a renewed enjoyment and satisfaction in all areas of life.