10 Surprising effects of sleep deprivation

We all know the feeling of being sleep deprived. We’ll usually feel tired, grumpy, irritable and unable to concentrate. We’ll probably have dark circles under our eyes and want to throttle the next person who says “you look tired”. However, you may not know that a lack of sleep can affect more than just your looks and your day. Sleep deprivation can have a number of effects on our health, happiness, relationships, confidence, work ability and intelligence.  Here are ten surprising consequences of sleep deprivation, which stress the importance of getting a good night’s sleep.

  1. Lack of sleep lowers immune defences: Sleep has a restorative effect on immune processes, so it makes sense that a lack of sleep may impair our immune defence mechanisms and increase our susceptibility to viral and bacterial infections.1
  2. Insufficient sleep can expand your waistline:  Sleep loss appears to stimulate hunger and appetite and shorter sleep duration is linked to weight gain.2   Not only do sleep deprived individuals have a higher appetite but they may also have a preference for high‐fat, high‐ calorie foods.2
  3. Sleeplessness makes you more accident prone: Staying awake for 24 hours leads to reduced hand‐eye coordination similar to having a blood alcohol content of 0.1. This is why sleeplessness contributes to road accidents and work injuries.3
  4. Sleep deprived individuals may have a lower libido:  Recent research has found that men with poor sleep patterns have significantly lower levels of testosterone, which can result in a lack of sex drive.4
  5. Insufficient sleep reduces your ability to perform at your best: Lack of sleep can cause an individual to have trouble paying attention, affect their learning and memory, and reduce their ability to perform at their best on the job or at school.5
  6. Poor sleep habits may speed up the aging process: Sleep debt in healthy, young people is associated with hormonal and metabolic effects similar to those seen with normal aging.6 Sleep deficit can also take a toll on our skin by affecting collagen production.7  Collagen helps maintain skin’s elasticity and preserves its youthful appearance.
  7. Sleep loss increases the likelihood of making mistakes or bad decisions: Lack of sleep reduces your decision‐making skills and increases the likelihood of making mistakes because you forgot to do something or chose the wrong option.3
  8. Sleepless nights ruin your mood:  Even two hours less sleep each night than you would normally get increases the likelihood of moodiness and a bad temper.3
  9. Sleep deprivation in teenagers may affect their grades: High school students who regularly score C,D or F’s in school tests and assignments, on average, get half an hour less sleep each night than students who regularly get A’s or B’s.3
  10. Lack of sleep lowers self‐esteem:  Adolescents who get less than six hours of sleep a night tend to have lower self‐esteem.8

Source:

  1. Irwin M. Effects of sleep and sleep loss on immunity and cytokines. Brain, Behaviour and Immunity. 16 (5):503‐512
  2. Taheri S, Ling L, Austin D, et al. Short sleep duration is associated with reduced leptin, elevated ghrelin and increased body mass index. Plos Med. 2004; 1(3):210‐217
  3. Better Health Channel, Sleep deprivation, Accessed April 2013,http://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/bhcv2/bhcarticles.nsf/pages/Sleep_deprivation
  4. R. Leproult, E. Van Cauter. Effect of 1 Week of Sleep Restriction on Testosterone Levels in Young Healthy Men. JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association, 2011; 305 (21): 217
  5. Natural Standard. Insomnia. Accessed April 2013. http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/conditions/all/condition‐insomnia.asp
  6. Spiegel K, Leprout R, Van Cauter E. Impact of sleep debt on metabolic and endocrine function. Lancet 1999; 354: 1435‐1439
  7. Kahan V, Anderson L, Tomimori J, et al. Can poor sleep affect skin integrity? Medical hypotheses 2010; 75(6):535‐537
  8. Roberts R, Roberts C, Duong H. Sleepless in Adolescence: Prospective data on sleep deprivation, health and functioning. Journal of Adolescence. 2009; 32:1045‐1057