Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is necessary for physical and mental well-being. Sleep is like a food for the brain. Sleep deprivation is the condition when one doesn’t get enough sleep, it can be either acute or chronic. People are sleep deprived for many reasons – Unintentional: family obligations, shift works, demanding jobs; Intentional: Educational goals, entertainment and money making pursuits. Other reasons may include medical conditions such as insomnia, depression, obstructive sleep apnea, hormone imbalances and some chronic diseases. The immediate effects of sleep deprivation are that you are unfocused, groggy, sluggish and dying for a nap.

Impaired Brain Activity/Cognitive Dysfunction

Sleep deprivation is bad for brain function and hurts cognitive process in many ways. It impairs alertness, attention, reasoning, concentration, and problem-solving. All the areas of the brain may not react in the same way to sleep loss. Research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (a brain imaging technique) suggests brain of sleep deprived people shows reduced metabolism and blood flow in multiple brain regions which are linked to impaired cognitive function and behaviour. Sleep deprivation also increases the risk of brain-related diseases such as dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and multiple sclerosis.

Serious Health Problems

Sleep deprivation increases the risk of many disorders like diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Sleep loss affects the overall metabolic system of your body. 90% of the people with chronic sleep deprivation also have another health condition.

Kills Sex Drive

Sleep loss affects almost every aspect of your sex life from hormone levels to the sense of well-being in your relationship. Being tired is the most common reason people give for not having sex with their partner. Loss of sleep can lead to low energy, fatigue, and sleepiness which in turn decrease the libido and interest in sex. Research shows that men suffering from severe sleep loss secreted abnormally low levels of testosterone. So a good night’s sleep is likely to promote healthy sexual responses through its regulatory actions on hormones.


The connection between sleep and depression is complex. People with sleep disorders such as Insomnia, Hypersomnia, Obstructive sleep apnea, Restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy have a 10-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well. Depressed people may suffer from a range of symptoms – difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep and daytime sleepiness. Most people who reported being unhappy reported not sleeping enough at night.

Weakened Immune Response

Sleep and circadian system exert a strong regulatory influence on your immune system. Lack of sleep suppresses the immune function and has been found to increase susceptibility to the common cold, flu and even slow wound healing. Studies show that Immunological signaling molecules, cytokines (protective proteins) such as tumour necrosis factor, Interleukin – 1 and Interleukin – 6 play a significant role in sleep regulation.

Skin Aging

Signs of skin aging include fine lines, uneven pigmentation and reduced skin elasticity. Skin is most commonly exposed to the stressors such as the sun and environmental toxins. Sleep deprivation is extremely hazardous to both interior and exterior of the skin. Slumber is the nature’s most powerful skin beauty treatment. If you do not get enough sleep, your body releases stress-inducing hormone cortisol which in turn breaks the main structural protein of the skin, collagen which keeps the skin firm and plump. So the best tonic to look and feel better is a good night’s sleep.

Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation is associated with lower levels of leptin (obesity hormone) and higher levels of ghrelin (hunger hormone). These differences in leptin and ghrelin increase your appetite and there is a possible increase in your BMI too. Even the stress hormone, cortisol is also increased which further increases your appetite. Sleep loss also increases resistance to insulin and hinders your body’s ability to process the sugars ending up with high sugars in your blood.

Life Expectancy

Sleep deprivation may shorten your life expectancy. Sleeping less than 6 hours makes you 15% more likely to die prematurely than others who sleep up to 8 hours a night. Even sleeping too much (more than 9 hours) may also increase the risk of death. Sleep loss also increases the risk of many diseases such as stroke, obesity, diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease which eventually leads to shorter life span. The sweet spot for sleep duration is 7-9 hours; however, the amount of sleep can vary from individual to individual.

Reduced Athletic Performance

The quality and amount of sleep athletes get plays a major role in their performance. A good night’s sleep is very important for optimal results. REM sleep provides energy to both brain and body. Sleep loss increases the possibility of low energy, fatigue, poor focus and reduced reaction time at the game time. Research studies show not getting enough sleep inhibit or slow down glucose metabolism by as much as 30-40% and other factors observed were decreased activity of Human growth hormone, decreased glycogen synthesis, and increased levels of cortisol (a stress hormone).

Cause of Traffic Accidents

Evidence shows that sleep deprivation increases the risk of having traffic accidents. Driving requires serious reaction abilities – the ability to respond to multiple situations at one time. Loss of sleep impairs your ability to react and increase the probability of collision. Sleep deprived people who drive at night are more prone to accidents. A major risk factor observed is shift work (involves evening or night shifts, early morning shifts, and rotating shifts which are scheduled outside the traditional 9am-5pm during the day).

                      Scientific research reveals sleep deprivation affects us in many ways. One should be wary of sleep disorders as many people remain undiagnosed for years. A good night’s sleep benefits us in many ways, so get a good sleep and lead a happier life.

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