7 Sleep Deprivation Effects on Your Health 

By Val Silver

Whether you are not getting enough sleep, sleep deprivation effects can take a toll on you. It takes surprisingly small amounts of sleep loss to affect you physically, mentally and socially.  

Getting daily adequate amounts of quality sleep is as necessary as breathing air, drinking water and eating healthy food. Without it, your health and well-being will suffer.

Some folks cheat themselves out of much needed rest because they try to squeeze extra hours out of the day. Others suffer from not enough sleep due to insomnia, even when they do their best.

Either way, it does not take long for sleep deprivation effects to manifest in your mind and body. You may not even be aware of the changes, believing all is well and you are the exception to the rule.  

Speaking personally, after enduring three consecutive sleep deprived nights, the connection between health, well-being and sleep becomes very obvious. I feel crabby, dazed and unable to cope and function properly. It feels like my mind is separate from my body. And those are only the sleep deprivation effects I am aware of.  

Seven Sleep Deprivation Effects

Not getting enough sleep affects all the organs in your body.  Even one poor night of sleep affects you physically and mentally - and not for the better.

Being sleep deprived is stressful.

Stress and sleep can affect each other in positive and negative ways.

Not getting enough sleep affects your health and well-being significantly. One consequence is that lack of sleep stresses your mind and body, making you vulnerable to the negative health effects of stress.  You can even make the argument that many of the effects of sleep deprivation are due to stress.

A good sleep can reduce stress, making it easier to cope and problem solve. When you are highly stressed, you stay awake, exacerbating your dis-stress. Unchecked, this can create a vicious cycle. When stress hormone levels are high, it is difficult to fall asleep because you feel wired, alert and wide awake. After a sleepless night, you feel more stressed. And so the cycle continues. 

The same cycle is evident with pain. Pain interferes with sleeping well. Lack of sleep increases feelings of pain, and so you have more trouble sleeping.

sleep deprivation effects

You are more likely to gain weight.

With less than seven hours of sleep, you have a higher chance of gaining weight.

A study in the Public Library of Science showed that people who slept less had higher levels of ghrelin and lower levels of leptin, two hormones associated with appetite regulation

Leptin drops when you are sleep deprived, even after one day. Less leptin means more feelings of hunger. Plus the stress of not being tired causes you to crave sweets and fatty treats.

You are at higher risk for illness. 

 Regular sleep deprivation, whether by choice or because of insomnia, contributes to diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and infection.

Lack of sleep weakens your immune system. Your immune system functions best when you are sleeping.

Levels of inflammatory proteins rise. This increases risk of high blood pressure and heart attack over time. Blood sugar levels rise to that of pre-diabetes after only a few nights of not enough sleep.

Your energy levels also suffer, because muscles repair and regenerate energy supplies during deep sleep.

Being sleep-deprived increases your risk of injury.

Your risk of injury goes way up when you don't get enough sleep. Tired people are more likely to get into accidents of all kinds.

One million car crashes a year are blamed on lack of sleep. When you are less alert, your chances of stubbing your toe, tripping, cutting yourself and dropping things are higher. 

Your brain may get permanently damaged.

A long-term effect of sleep deprivation and irregular sleep habits is permanent brain damage. Research shows that mice lost 25 percent of the neurons in the locus coeruleus of the brainstem. This affects wakefulness, and other cognitive processes.

Lack of sleep and other sleep disturbances are linked with a higher risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

Your brain does not function optimally. 

Brain fog is a common symptom of sleep deprivation. This affects your ability to think clearly and concentrate. This makes it more difficult to solve logic and math problems, remember things, be creative, and make good decisions.  

Since your brain processes learning and memories at night, your ability to remember, and remember correctly. is compromised with lack of sleep. Your brain is susceptible to creating false memories or leave holes in memories if it does not have enough sound sleep to process your day. 

Children's brains also suffer sleep deprivation effects. Children need more sleep than adults. Just like adults, learning is impaired. Unlike adults, who act and appear tired, children may respond differently. According to a 2009 Journal of Pediatrics study, seven and eight year olds getting less than eight hours of sleep show behaviors that mimic ADHD. The children lack focus, are overly active, and impulsive. 

You are more likely to be moody.

Emotional regulation suffers when you are not well rested. You are more likely to feel irritable, depressed, and anxious. You may laugh when something is not that funny or cry more easily. It may be harder to hold your tongue. You may react without taking the time to think and respond appropriately.


There is a strong connection between sleep and health.

Sleep deprivation affects you whether you realize it or not. It can play havoc with you mentally and physically in the short and long-term.

There is an old saying that goes, "When you snooze, you lose." It appears that just the opposite is true. Getting enough sleep is one of the healthiest lifestyle habits you can have. When you get enough quality snooze time, your health and well-being wins.

If you have trouble sleeping night after night, health problems may be keeping you awake. There are several important reasons why you can't sleep. Learn important insomnia facts here.

Source: Public Library of Science sleep study

Sleep deprivation effects updated 04/2022

For Educational Purposes Only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. It is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult with your health provider before using natural remedies and/or complementary therapies if you are pregnant, nursing, or you are being treated for a medical condition. Be aware that certain herbs and supplements interact with medications.

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