Why Sleep Deprivation is Dangerous

in Health & Well-being

If you find yourself tossing and turning each time you go to bed, then you could be suffering from sleep deprivation. Life pressures to earn a living force us to wake up early and sleep late. But, did you know that lack of sleep has severe ramifications for your body functions?

It is when you sleep that your body heals itself and rests. People who do not get the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep often yawn a lot, are irritable and suffer from fatigue. To solve sleep problems people often take caffeine, alcohol or engage in cocaine abuse. These solutions offer short-term results and can be harmful to your body in the long-term.

This article shows you how sleep deprivation affects the body.

Brain activity

When you sleep certain areas of your brain responsible for memories are activated. People who wake up refreshed can remember many things, and they tend to be more creative. Lack of sleep affects the part of the brain that is responsible for cognitive processes and is imparts on problem-solving, concentration, and reasoning. Lack of sleep has been a contributing factor to the increase in road accidents – especially for people driving for long distances. This extends to the number of accidents in the workplace. Drowsy workers constantly drop stuff because they are not alert.

Sleep deprivation contributes to depression

Woman looking at alarm clock in bed

People experiencing sleep deprivation are more irritable, and this causes them to have fluctuating moods. When this continues for an extended period, it can contribute or exacerbate depressive episodes. A poll done on people suffering from depression or anxiety showed that the respondents slept for less than six hours each day. A later study showed that people suffering from insomnia were five times prone to get depression than those who slept the recommended hours. The link between insomnia and depression is a vicious cycle with one promoting the other. Depressed people sleep less and those who have insomnia become depressed.

Poor skin growth

People who are suffering from sleep deprivation tend to have puffy and red eyes. With time dark circles from around the eyes. When you do not sleep well your body releases cortisol – the stress hormone –, which in large amounts breaks down the protein responsible for smooth skin called collagen. The growth hormone responsible for healthy bodies is released when we sleep. That is the reason people who have not slept for a while look like they have aged. This growth hormone is also responsible for repairing damaged cells in our bodies.

Weight Gain

Pinching fat on stomach

It was noted that there is an indirect relationship between lack of sleep and weight gain. There are two hormones involved in the suppression of appetite – Leptin, and Ghrelin. While Leptin suppresses appetite, Ghrelin stimulates hunger. When you sleep less, Ghrelin is increased while Leptin decreases. This leads to subjects consuming more foods –especially fatty foods – during the night and day.

Poor Judgement

People who are sleep deprived make poor judgments when compared to those who have had the recommended 7 to 9 hours a day. This extends to decisions made at work or when operating heavy machinery. Numerous studies have asked participants to take tests to gauge their level of mental alertness and those that sleep less than 6 hours were found to be less creative.

Immune system

Woman sleeping in bed

Cytokines are vital for boosting the immune system. When you sleep, cytokines are released and assist in repairing the body. They are also vital in helping your body fight off diseases. When you sleep less, you do not give the body enough time to release cytokines. In the long term, you should see an increase in lifestyle diseases like heart disease or diabetes.

Respiratory diseases

Lack of enough sleep contributes to respiratory diseases like common cold, flu and chronic lung diseases. That is why it is equally important to take care of any existing respiratory disease like apnea that interrupts your sleep.

Endocrine system

The endocrine system is responsible for hormonal production. Most of these hormones like testosterone are produced within the first three hours of sleep. When you lose sleep and wake up throughout the night, you interrupt the production of these hormones. It has been noted that people who have interrupted sleep experience have low sex drives. It is also when you sleep that the pituitary gland produces growth hormones – this is the case in children. The growth hormones help to repair muscles and cells.

Increase in Cardiovascular disease

Measuring blood pressure

Lack of sleep affects the mortality rate of people. Studies have shown that people who sleep less have more heart-related complications and this contributes to an early death. Rest helps the blood vessels to operate optimally. Hormones produced while we sleep will help repair damaged blood vessels, and this reduces the risk of having high blood pressure, increased blood sugar and inflammation. Insomnia is often linked to increased rates of heart disease. When you are sleep deprived your body produces more insulin. Insulin helps regulate blood sugar in the body and is critical for the storage of fat in the body. Higher concentration of insulin in the body contributes to the risk of type 2 diabetes.


Healthy sleeping patterns are not the preserve of babies and young children. Adults are advised to sleep for between 7 to 9 hours each day. The moment we are sleep deprived we deny our bodies rest, and this affects our daily lives. This extends to the risks of getting heart-related diseases, diabetes, and sexual problems. It is equally important to ensure that there is no external light or noise that will interrupt your sleep. Switch off your phone to avoid distractions.

In specific cases, sleep deprivation is a sign of a medical issue. Sleep apnea is one: it involves breathing pauses that affect the quality of sleep and produce some of the effects mentioned. The leading treatment for sleep apnea is CPAP therapy, in which you use this machine to sleep better every night. See a doctor for advice.

Many people have denied themselves adequate sleep by taking caffeine, alcohol and other drugs. When we are sleep deprived we unable to realize our full potential because our bodies are always tired. We lack concentration and creativity. Sleep deprivation contributes immensely to the road accidents – especially those engaged in long-distance travel. It is time you took you sleeping patterns seriously and work towards to getting the recommended hours per day.

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