10 Effects of Sleep Deprivation on your body

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PIN how sleep deprivation affects the mind and body

I wouldn’t have thought that being at home all day, every day would contribute to the sleep deprivation that has befallen me, but alas, this has become a reality!

Loss of sleep is a common epidemic that affects many people in modern society. Many are busy with their “9-5s”, raising their children during the day, not to talk of burning the midnight oil in a bid to establish that side hustle.

Too much busyness without a break can lead to sleep deprivation, and that’s not good for your holistic wellbeing. It can also be detrimental to your loved ones.

You can’t pour from an empty cup. Take care of yourself

I’m sure you know the way you feel the next day after a night of tossing and turning, and not getting the recommended 7 – 9 hours of sleep. You may feel cranky, tired throughout the day, and have less concentration.

Some people swear by surviving on less sleep, but I have heard that the body would tell otherwise. But hey! What’s good for one may not be good for another!

Sleep has been shown to rid the brain of toxins that build up when we are awake.

Continuous sleep deprivation can have long-lasting ill effects on the body, and it’s important to know what they are so you can be aware and potentially make getting adequate sleep a priority.

The following are some effects of sleep deprivation on the body.

The effects of sleep deprivation

sleep deprivation on student
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Risk of injuries or accidents

Sleep deprivation will put the deprived at risk of car accidents or other injuries. This is due to being drowsy as a result of not getting enough nighttime sleep.

Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted. The brain is the body’s software. An exhausted software cannot effectively control the hardware, in your case, the rest of your body.

Forgetfulness

Have you ever forgotten something that you were certain you knew but somehow it had skipped your mind? It was probably as a result of sleep deprivation.

Our brains are repaired when we sleep, and the nerves which make our memories are also regenerated. 

Lack of sleep, therefore, means that the brain cells are not repaired as they should be. Also, sleep deprivation makes it difficult for brain cells to communicate effectively, which can also affect memory.

It’s no wonder then, that sleep deprivation can lead to forgetfulness.

Low concentration

Another side effect of sleep deprivation is low concentration. If you’re anything like me then you know what I mean. You may have experienced being unable to achieve your tasks effectively, especially if your sleep deprivation is chronic.

The cause of this is that sleepiness slows down the brain’s thought processes and deteriorates cognitive performance.

If you’re not able to concentrate on what you’re doing at any given time, that thing will not enter your short-term memory and consequently neither will it enter your long-term memory.

Low mood

Sleep and mood have a very close relationship. Sleep deprivation can cause irritability and can cause one to be in a bad mood. 

Remember when your children were babies and they cried when you abruptly woke them up from sleep? They were most probably a bit miffed at being woken up from their blissful sleep. This is kinda similar to when we don’t get enough sleep.

Anxiety and depression are common mood disorders that could be caused or worsened by lack of sleep.

As well as sleep deprivation affecting the mood, a low mood can also affect the quality and quantity of sleep. It is therefore important to maintain a positive mindset and seek peace always.

Headaches

Lack of sleep can trigger headaches and migraines, or make it worse for those who already have recurring headaches. 

It’s not quite clear exactly how the relationship works between sleep and headaches but it is known that lack of sleep can cause headaches. Conversely, headaches may also cause sleep disturbances such as sleep apnoea

Headaches as a result of a lack of sleep can occur at different sleep stages i.e. stages 1 – 3 non-REM and stage 4 REM.   

Hallucinations

Hallucination as a result of sleep deprivation is something I am all too well aware of. I mention briefly about when I had a nervous breakdown in this post; How to take care of yourself when no one else will.

That break down was the climax after a while of self-neglect, however, as a direct result of not sleeping for over 24 hours, I began to hallucinate and completely messed up my system.

A scary experience though it may be, severe hallucinations counts as a common effect of sleep deprivation. “Severe” can mean anything from getting a few hours of sleep in one night to going a few days without sleeping.

Fortunately, getting your sleep schedule back on track means that hallucinations and acute paranoia don’t have a lasting effect.

Phew!

Low immune system

While more sleep won’t prevent you from getting sick, not having enough can surely contribute to low immunity.

Without enough sleep, the body does not make enough cytokines. Cytokines are a type of protein which helps the body regulate inflammation and immunity. They are both created and released during sleep, so not getting enough sleep would adversely affect immunity.

Low immunity can manifest in one having the sniffles and generally feeling run down. Of course, there’s more to boosting the immune system such as eating nutritious food and good hand hygiene, but the effect of sleep deprivation on the immune system should not be ignored.

Numerous physical health problems

The nerves of the brain are connected to every part of the body, so it’s no wonder that any part of the body can be affected by a deficit in brain function such as is caused by sleep deprivation.

Continuous lack of sleep puts you at risk of numerous health conditions, including heart disease or failure, high blood pressure, obesity, and diabetes, and an increased risk of heart attacks

Here are some reasons why…

Heart Disease and High Blood Pressure

Researchers have found that there could be a link between sleep and heart disease due to the release of stress hormones in times of sleep deprivation. Over time this build-up of hormones could weaken the heart. 

During sleep, the heart rate and blood pressure are usually lowered. The effect of sleep deprivation is that blood pressure doesn’t have a chance to lower as it should, which could eventually lead to high blood pressure. 

Much like with cognitive disturbances mentioned above, there is a cyclical relationship between heart disease and sleep deprivation. Heart disease can mean that blood is not circulated properly around the body, a sign of this being swollen legs, full of fluid.

When laying down to sleep at night, fluid could settle closer to the heart, making it very uncomfortable and sometimes painful for those affected by it.

Obesity

Research has found a link between sleep deprivation and obesity. One, in particular, found that women who frequently had less than 6 hours of sleep over a period of 16 years became obese, compared to those who had at least 7 hours of sleep.

Additionally, feeling too tired to exercise can also lead to obesity. Lack of sleep also affects the hormones that control appetite, potentially making those affected more hungry than those who get enough sleep. 

As a result of obesity, some people may develop sleep apnoea. Sleep apnoea is a sleep disorder which causes a person to have pauses in breathing or periods of shallow breathing during sleep.

These disruptions lead to a drop in blood oxygen levels which can consequently lead to a strain on the cardiovascular system.

Diabetes

Sleep deprivation also causes the release of insulin, which leads to increased fat storage and a higher risk of type 2 diabetes.

Aches and pains

The cause of aches and pains as we age has been attributed to not getting enough sleep. One study found that in order to reduce the risk of pain in older age, more quality sleep is needed.

Sleep deprivation can also affect pain in several ways, such as lowering pain threshold, increasing pain intensity, and potentially increasing the risk for developing chronic pain.

Lower life span

Studies have revealed a relationship between sleep deprivation and lower life span and suggest that disrupted sleep-wake cycle and chronic sleep deprivation, are strong contributors to age-related diseases. 

It is important therefore not to deprive yourself of sleep over a long period of time.

How to prevent sleep deprivation

how to prevent sleep deprivation
Photo by Daria Shevtsova from Pexels

Friends, it’s not all doom and gloom. The negative effects of not getting enough sleep can be prevented.

To prevent sleep deprivation and its effects, try to observe the following:

  • Eat a balanced, nutritious diet that is high in fibre and low in sugar, as this can help you sleep quicker and could add up to an extra two hours of sleep to your night. 
  • Exercise. Physical activity increases the time spent in deep sleep and may help relieve insomnia. Physical activity uses up energy, which will make you feel tired and in need of rest at the end of the day. Exercise is also a strong anti-anxiety reliever, as just five minutes of exercise can begin to relieve anxiety.
  • Limit daytime naps as this could push your bedtime to a later time than normal, causing you to lose sleep time later on, especially if you have to wake up at a particular time in the morning for work, for example.
  • Sleep with the lights off as this may shorten melatonin duration by about 90 minutes. Melatonin is the chemical responsible for our sleep and wake cycle. The result of this could be a negative impact on sleep, blood pressure, blood glucose, and of course, sleep.
  • Sleep and wake at the same time, even on days off or weekends. This will enhance the body’s circadian rhythm, or simply the ‘body clock’, and ensure wakefulness during the day and a strong need for sleep at night.
  • Limit caffeine intake. One study found that caffeine drunk as early as six hours before sleeping can reduce sleep by more than one hour.
  • No entertainment in bed for at least 30 minutes before bedtime, as this would delay the circadian rhythm and delay or stop the release of melatonin, which would make it more difficult to fall asleep.

To summarise

Sleep is extremely important for your physical and mental health. In reality, there are many more detriments that can occur to health as a result of sleep deprivation and as such sleep deprivation and its detriments should not be overlooked. 

Life can be stressful, but also, life is what you make of it. Continually depriving the body of sleep is not sustainable and can be dangerous for health.

Work hard, build your business, play hard, and all that good stuff. However, don’t neglect to recuperate and refresh yourself with many-a-good nights’ rest. 

Get your sleep on; your body will thank you for it!

So tell me, what effect is sleep deprivation having on your body if any? What steps are you taking to minimise this?

If you consistently sleep optimally, please celebrate yourself, you deserve it!

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31 thoughts on “10 Effects of Sleep Deprivation on your body”

  1. Being sure to get enough sleep is important even in normal times, not just in crisis times like now. This has long been a priority for me because in the past I’ve suffered many of the sleep-deprivation effects you describe in this post. I’ve learned my lesson the hard way, and it’s one I will never forget.

  2. I’m a therapist and talk about this all of the time with my clients! It has a huge impact on mental health!

  3. This is so true. That’s why the baby stage was so hard for me. The lack of sleep definitely contributed to my horrible mood and worsened my PPD symptoms. Even now, on days I don’t get much sleep I’m a raging volcano.

  4. I know how important sleep is, but find myself staying up late after the kids go to bed to get things done! Have to be better about getting that 7 -8 hours

  5. I think that we don’t prioritize sleep enough. Too often not needing a lot of sleep is worn as a badge of honor. But this article shows why we should all be trying to get more sleep!

  6. Goodness, I have almost every single one of these symptoms. Thankfully, I have started setting an alarm on my phone to remind me of bedtime – haha! I have been actively trying to get more sleep and I have felt the positive effects already 🙂 Thank you!

    1. I have set an alarm as well. I ignore it sometimes but for the most part I stick to my alarm. I start to feel ‘fuzzy’ in the head when I don’t go to sleep by a certain time. Thanks for commenting!

  7. I have definitely had a problem sleeping for a long while and it does take its toll, especially on my mental health. I am trying a lot of these things you have suggested here though and hope to see improvement once my 4mo is on a better sleep schedule!

  8. Kassandra Rodriguez

    Great info! I’m so glad my 9 month old sleeps through the night and is on a schedule or I would still be struggling with some of these

  9. Sleep deprivation makes me ache. I swear I feel it in my bones. I am careful to get enough good quality sleep. It isn’t easy and because I wake early to teach from home, I go to bed with my son around 8pm. But we both feel so much better for it!

  10. I have totally felt so many of these symptoms after having my baby! Thankfully she is sleep trained now.
    I will have to keep in mind some of your tips – especially limiting tv before bed im really bad for that!

    1. That’s good to know. Hopefully, this means you can spend more time on yourself and get better sleep. Just take one day at a time. Thanks for commenting.

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