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What are the Health Effects of Sleep Deprivation?

What are the Health Effects of Sleep Deprivation?

By Darlene Garcia |September 2021

What are the health effects of sleep deprivation?

  1. Memory Problems
  2. Mood Changes
  3. Impaired Immunity
  4. High Blood Pressure
  5. Risk of Heart Disease
  6. Risk of Diabetes
  7. Decreased Fertility
  8. Weight Gain
  9. Ages Your Skin

If you’ve ever had a restless night, you already know how bad you’ll feel the next day — groggy and cranky. But, did you know that sleeping poorly does more than just make you feel bad the next morning? The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are serious and can cause real damage to you. This article dives into the effects of losing sleep on the different functions of your body.

Memory Problems

Scientists studying sleep deprivation have found that poor sleep can lead to impaired alertness and concentration. This is because the nerve connections we make during our sleep are integral to embedding knowledge and experience into our brains. The different phases of sleep play different roles in processing new information into memories. 

Without proper sleep, this process is cut short, and we have a harder time filing these things into our short-term memories. Thus, without sleep, it’s more likely that we become forgetful and have a harder time concentrating. This makes it harder for us to perform tasks that require memory recall, logical reasoning, and complex thought.

Mood Changes

Man sleeping due to the effects of sleep deprivation

A lack of proper sleep can also alter your moods significantly. We’re all familiar with the irritability that comes with lacking sleep. When we’re tired, we are unable to cope with stress like usual. Research has shown that sleep-deprived people are more likely to get into arguments and perform poorly at school.

When experiencing long-term sleep deprivation, it can also put you at a greater risk of mood disorders, such as depression. Lack of sleep and depression are so closely linked that insomnia or difficulty sleeping is one of the most common symptoms of depression. They have a bidirectional relationship, which means that a lack of sleep can contribute to the development of depression and vice versa. This complex relationship shows that sleep can seriously impair your ability to regulate your mood. 

Impaired Immunity

Sleep is an important part of our immune system function. When we sleep, we produce protective antibodies and cytokines, which help combat infections and bacteria. We need these to deter foreign invaders, such as viruses. 

Sleep deprivation impairs this production, which prevents your immune system from building up to its defenses. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body has a harder time fighting off infections, which may lead to sickness. Worse, it can also take you longer to recover from simple illnesses, such as colds or coughs. 

High Blood Pressure

Woman getting her blood pressure checked

Sleep is also important to our body’s production of helpful hormones. These hormones help us regulate the effects of stress, such as inflammation. Without proper sleep, we are at greater risk of these effects. Additionally, when we’re stressed, the muscles in our bodies can tense up without us noticing. This tenseness paired with inflammation can lead to increased blood pressure, faster heart rates, and an inflamed circulatory system. 

Risk of Heart Disease

As a lack of sleep can cause high blood pressure, it can also affect the health of our heart. During sleep, our heart vessels and the heart itself heal and repair overnight. As previously stated, proper sleep can also help control blood pressure and inflammation control. Too little sleep can disrupt this process and can increase the risk of heart disease, such as:

  • Heart attack
  • Heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Blood clots
  • Stroke

Research shows that lack of sleep can cause this because it can disrupt the parts of the brain which control the circulatory system. This makes you more likely to experience plaque buildup, inflammation, irregular heartbeats, and blood clots — which can all cause heart disease.

Risk of Diabetes

Checking blood sugar

Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can also disrupt our body’s processes for glucose. Without enough sleep, our body struggles to properly metabolize glucose for fuel. Additionally, our body also releases less insulin, which is used to reduce our blood sugar levels. These effects make sleep deprivation a significant risk factor in the development of type 2 diabetes.

Decreased Fertility

Sleep can also affect your fertility and libido, causing devastating impacts for both men and women trying to conceive. The part of the brain that is concerned with our circadian rhythms uses the same rhythm to trigger the release of reproductive hormones. Our circadian rhythms are thrown off balance when we experience sleep deprivation. As a result, our bodies will struggle to produce hormones properly, leading to irregular levels of testosterone, progesterone, estrogen, and other hormones. Due to this, conception can become even more difficult for many couples.

Weight Gain

Weight Gain

Poor sleep can also lead to rapid weight gain. This is because a lack of sleep can trigger higher production of cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Additionally, a lack of sleep can also produce excess ghrelin, which is a hormone that signals the feeling of hunger. The results are increased anxiety, stress, and frequent urges to eat — all factors that can lead to emotional eating.

Sleep deprivation can also lead to a decrease in activity and exercise as you become lethargic and overtired. A decrease in activity, combined with urges to overeat, equals an increased possibility of weight gain.

Ages Your Skin

Most people are familiar with the look of sleepless nights — puffy eyes, and dark undereye circles. However, sleep deprivation can cause more skin problems than you think. You can develop dry skin, new lines, and even pimples from a few nights of poor sleep. 

This is because of the stress hormone, cortisol. As previously mentioned, our bodies produce more cortisol when we lack sleep. In excess amounts, this hormone can break down our skin collagen, which keeps our skin smooth and elastic. The inflammation we experience due to a lack of sleep can also cause more skin problems.

Key Takeaway

A good night’s sleep does so much for our body. It helps keep our brain, heart, and immune system functioning, and also helps to regulate some key hormones. To avoid the effects of sleep deprivation, make sure you’re practicing good sleep habits. If you’re having problems falling asleep at night, consider using Puritan’s Pride’s melatonin. On sleepless nights, our melatonin can help you get quality rest to help you perform at your best!

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