27 Terrible Side Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep
We all know that sleep is an exceptionally important aspect of keeping fit and healthy. But did you know that there many, many side effects of not getting enough sleep? Here we list 27 unfortunate things that can happen to a sleep deprived body:
1) Dumbs You Down
You may think that this is a myth or an exaggerated fact but I’m sorry to say, it’s true. As much as your body needs time to rest and relax, so does your mind. And in fact your mind doesn’t relax as much as you may think whilst you doze off into a deep slumber. No, in fact your brain works extremely hard at night to deeply encode your happenings and learnings from the day into your mind. This is also linked to your ability to learn and remember.
Jane E Brody told New York Times, “During sleep, new learning and memory pathways become encoded in the brain, and adequate sleep is necessary for those pathways to work optimally. People who are well rested are better able to learn a task and more likely to remember what they’ve learned” (How Insufficient Sleep Makes You Fat Stupid and Dead, fastcompany.com). With less sleep often comes a lower cognitive function and sometimes even a lower mood and higher irritability.
And if you’re worried about losing precious time in your day where you could be getting more work done, think about it this way: with more sleep you are more alert, productive and responsive meaning that although you aren’t working longer, you are working better. That’s surely a win-win right?
2) Leads to Depression
This is a complex one. Lack of sleep can lead to depression and in contrast, depression can lead to difficulty sleeping. The symptoms of depression as well as how the disorder began in the first place differs from person to person, but what we can say is that sleep loss is arguably one of the main triggers of developing depression. There are different types of sleep problems that can occur in a person with depression including finding it hard to get to sleep or difficulty staying asleep.
When a person does not get enough sleep, it leads to them feeling excessively fatigued, moody, low, irritable and sometimes angry. Prolonged periods of sleep loss, combined with these mentioned side effects is what can progress into clinical depression. However, it’s important to remember that having a sleep disorder does not lead to depression in every case, but it is a major player in developing a depressive disorder (Sleep and Depression, WebMD.com).
3) Impairs Judgment
We are faced with decisions every day of our lives. Through a scientific study carried out by William D.S Killgore in 2007, results have shown that sleep deprived individuals are must more likely to make poorer moral decisions than those who have had a sufficient amount of sleep. His studies do not in any way suggest that lack of sleep leads to a decline in a person’s moral beliefs, but that it contributes to how people tend to make decisions regarding what or what is not appropriate in certain situations.
“Our results simply suggest that when sleep deprived, individuals appear to be selectively slower in their deliberations about moral personal dilemmas relative to other types of dilemmas,” said Killgore. (Sleep Deprivation Affects Moral Judgement, Science Daily).
4) Kills Sex Drive
A study by professors from the University of Michigan Medical School found some pretty incredible results about the link before sleep loss and sex drive. Sleep deprivation can lead to lower levels of testosterone in both men and women. This can cause a major negative effect of your libido. When men who had eight hours sleep were compared to men who had got just four hours sleep, their testerone levels were VERY different. Those with half the amount of sleep show much lower levels of the hormone (Hillian, Here Are All The Ways Sleep Deprivation Is Killing Your Sex Drive, splinternews.com).
5) Causes Accidents
Did you know that lack of sleep can sometimes actually can have similar effects on the brain to alcohol consumption? A study that was conducted by Stanford University revealed that slower reaction times, as seen in drunk people, is a direct result of lack of sleep. But why does this occur when you’re sleepy? When you are sleep deprived, your brain is craving a rest and is massively overworked and overtired which causes a slower reaction to stimuli that would normally create a quick reaction speed.
In Stanford’s study they examined some of the 100,000 yearly fatigue-related accidents and found that although many of these accidents occurred due to the driver having one night of sleep deprivation. However, drivers with two nights of lack of sleep caused many more and even worse fatal errors. (Schuder-O’Connor, Sleep Deprivation and Reaction Time, lovetoknow.com)
6) Makes You Forgetful
As we mentioned earlier, your brain works to process your happenings and learnings from the day prior, and turns them into memories. We know two main things about the relationship between sleep and memory: 1. Sleep deprived people have difficulty focusing and absorbing new information, i.e. making you forget this information and 2. Missing out of sleep means missing out on your brain’s nightly activity to store memories.
More seriously than the above, sleep loss really can play a huge part in a person developing dementia further down the line. Why? Your body uses it’s ‘glymphatic system’ to remove amyloid-beta proteins. These proteins form into ‘plaques’ which causes dementia. The glymphatic system is highly active overnight and not nearly as active during waking hours. Now don’t start panicking that you will definitely end up with dementia if you struggle to sleep. It’s not guaranteed that every person who lacks sleep will have dementia, but medical professors have noted that sleep deprivation is just one factor that could lead to the disorder (Gwinn, Lack of Sleep May Cause Alzheimer’s, alzheimers.net).
7) Causes Stress
The right amount of daily stress can be a good thing. It can help us to be motivated to complete various tasks for example. However, the kind of stress you experience when you are sleep deprived is not the kind of stress you want in your daily life. What is tricky about this side effect is that is pretty much swings and roundabouts – meaning sleep loss can cause stress and stress can cause sleep loss. How to try to combat it? Identify. Identify what your biggest stress triggers are. Talk. Talk to people close to you to relieve you from bottling stress up on your own. Exercise. Exercise not only helps you to sleep better at night, but it also produces endorphins which help to relieve stress and make you feel happier (Tips To Relieve Stress and Sleep Better, webmd.com).
8) Impairs Creativity
It used to be said that most creative people get their ideas at night. This may be true but can lack of sleep actually hinder rather than help your creative mind? A study shows that when people were forced to stay awake for 32 hours, versus people who slept normally, those with lack of sleep had many, many more impairments in their performance when they were tested on their flexibility and originality (Home, Sleep Loss and Divergent Thinking Ability, Sleep: Journal of Sleep Research & Sleep Medicine).
9) Heightens Moodiness
Sleep deprivation can lead to heightened irritability and anger and can make a person react more negatively to occurrences throughout the day. According to Psychology Today, “research suggests that sleep deprivation enhances negative mood due to increased amygdala activity (a brain structure integral to experiences of negative emotions such as anger and rage) and a disconnect between the amygdale and the area of the brain that regulates its functions” (Gordon, Up All Night: The Effects of Sleep Loss on Mood). Simply put, being tired can cause greater anger and an inability to control or regulate that feeling of fury.
10) Leads to Poor decisions
It can be said that a sleep deprived brain has more going on in the area where you would analyze positive outcomes of a decision. Whether the decision is big or small, when a person is suffering from sleep loss, there is less activity in the area of the brain that analyzing negative outcomes. This means that sleep loss really could sabotage a decision you need make (Scheve, Does Sleep Deprivation Lead To Risky Decisions? howstuffworks.com).
11) Triggers Tremors
You may have experienced ‘the shakes’ after a sleepless night or two and wonder why on earth your hands or body are uncontrollably shaking. Tremors, twitches or shaking can be a sign of lack of sleep. How and why might you experience tremors when you are sleep deprived? Because your muscles have not had enough time to rest, they may be cramping up or experiencing continuous muscular activity (Lack of Sleep Symptoms, insomnia.ygoy.com).
12) Causes Paranoia
Sleep loss can really affect your psychological health and some common mental side effects include disorientation, paranoia and even hallucinations (more on that next). These symptoms are really only seen when a person has been sleep deprived for a longer period of time than just a few days. And luckily the symptoms also generally disappear when the person has returned to getting a normal amount of rest and sleep (Peters, Common Symptoms and Impacts of Sleep Deprivation, verywell.com).
13) Creates Hallucinations
Hallucinations can also occur when a person has been sleep deprived for a longer amount of time. Jess Vlaanderen from New Zealand experimented forcing herself to stay awake in order to hallucinate. She told Vice Magazine, “I felt I’d seen this colorful, complex universe in front of me, although I was awake.
It was very surreal. It’s like you’re in a cartoon. People and objects become very comical, and I hallucinated a lot. Cars floated, shadows hung from trees, zombies ran at me in the street. I felt like I could control the clouds, as they appeared to morph and mutate. And when I went to the supermarket the items on the shelves appeared to follow me. The shelves also felt like they were leaning in and about to fall” (Richards, What’s It Like To Hallucinate From Sleep Deprivation? vice.com).
14) Lowers immune response
You’ve probably been told to ‘get a good night’s sleep’ when you’re feeling under the weather. Why? Because ‘disease fighting substances’ are actually generated whilst we sleep. These substances are things like hormones or proteins that fight off the illness when we get it. The less sleep you get means less substance is produced, making your body more prone to things like cold and flu. Sleep loss can even make vaccinations less effective as our bodies have not generated enough fighting proteins to build up immunity to that certain sickness (The Effect of Sleep on the Immune System, valleysleepcenter.com).
15) Enhances Risk of Obesity
Sleep deprivation can cause you to want to eat more, at the same time as slowing down your metabolism and not actually processing the food you have eaten in the correct manner. The result? Weight gain. Because you are feeling so tired, you can become lazy and choose to eat junk food because it’s quick. This is known as emotional eating. Or you can often feel sorry for yourself for feeling so tired, and so you choose to reward yourself with a deliciously unhealthy meal. Then you may choose not to exercise because you feel too exhausted. It’s a vicious cycle! Lack of sleep can also cause fat gene activation, meaning you could be more prone to put on weight due to not getting enough solid rest (14 Ways Lack of Sleep Can Be Causing Weight Gain, huffingtonpost.com).
16) Heightens Risk of Heart Disease
No matter your age, weight, general health etc, if you aren’t getting sufficient sleep, then you are increasing your chances of getting heart disease. A healthy heart needs enough rest. When you don’t get enough extended rest, chemicals that assist in lowering your body’s blood pressure and heart rate are not as abundant.
17) Increased Risk of Heart attack
As discussed above, sleep loss can lead to increased risk of cardiovascular problems and high blood pressure. As well as these health issues, lack of sleep can also lead to obesity and overall ill health. All of these points can accumulate into making you very unhealthy and in some cases, can lead to having a heart attack. Not all cases of sleep deprivation will lead to heart attack of course, however it can seriously increase your chances of having one.
18) Increased Risk of Heart Failure
Similar to the above, the other symptoms that often come with sleep deprivation including obesity, weight gain, ill health, lower immune system, high blood pressure and high heart rate can all add up and result in the unfortunate outcome of heart failure. Your heart needs sufficient rest in order to function properly, so inadequate sleep can cause a low-operating heart which ultimately fails the body is resides in.
19) Irregular heartbeat
A common sleep condition called sleep apnea is when sleep patterns are interrupted by pausing in your breathing, which can lead to a racing heart rate or irregular heartbeat. If this becomes a chronic problem, it can lead to the issues spoken about above including heart disease, heart attack and heart failure (Poor Sleep May Increase Risk for Irregular Heart Rhythms, sciencedaily.com).
20) Higher blood pressure
When you have chronic sleep deprivation, your blood pressure can often become heightened and lead to developing cardiovascular issues further down the line. Why? Due to the fact that chemicals that work to lower your blood pressure or keep it at a healthy level are active when you sleep. Without that essential element of sleep, the chemicals are not produced in as much abundance, causing your blood pressure to increase.
21) Increased Risk of Stroke
Professor Francesco Cappuccio from Warwick Medical School said, “If you sleep less than six hours per night and have disturbed sleep you stand a 48% greater chance of developing or dying from heart disease and a 15% greater chance of developing or dying from a stroke.” Why? Sleep loss can lead to a change in metabolism as well as, ‘elevate levels of pro-inflammatory and inflammatory cytokines’ which are factors that can cause a stroke (Westcott, Warning: Poor Sleep Increases Risk of Fatal Heart Attacks and Strokes, express.co.uk).
22) Increased Risk of Diabetes
Research shows that diabetes and lack of sleep are intrinsically interlinked. Sleep loss leads to weight gain as discussed earlier, and eating a high sugar diet can lead to high blood sugar levels. When you sleep, your body works hard to regulate processes such as metabolism, appetite and your immune system. Therefore, when you lack sleep, your body has no time to perform these essential processes. This can cause your blood glucose levels to increase. In turn, having high blood sugar levels can actually hinder you from getting a good night’s sleep. Another vicious cycle (Diabetes and Sleep, diabetes.co.uk).
23) Increased Risk of Death
Sleep deprivation can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, heart failure, strokes, irregular heartbeat, lower immune system, obesity and diabetes, any of which could be a cause of death. As well as a ‘foggy’ mind that is more likely for you to cause an accident, make a poor decision, hallucinate and impairs judgement. Again, any of these factors could quite possibly lead you to wind up dead. You NEED sleep to live.
24) Premature Aging
Lack of sleep has a negative effect on your skin. For example, with sleep loss comes stress, and with stress comes breakouts. But what about aging? Whilst we get our beauty rest, your skins cells work hard to produce special antioxidants that protect our skin.
Dr. Elma Baron who led a research study carried out at University Hospitals Case Medical Center said, “Our study is the first to conclusively demonstrate that inadequate sleep is correlated with reduced skin health and accelerates skin aging. Sleep deprived women show signs of premature skin aging and a decrease in their skin’s ability to recover after sun exposure” (Emling, Sleep Deprivation Linked to Aging Skin, huffingtonpost.com).
25) Dry skin
Sleep deprivation can also mean dry skin. Why? Because with no sleep, your skin becomes inflamed and causes skin-barrier dysfunction, which dries out your skin (Shortsleeve, What Happens to Your Skin When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep, allure.com).
26) Twitchy eye
A very common side effect of sleep loss is experiencing eye twitches or spasms. It simply occurs because you eyes did not have enough time to rest. These involuntary twitches can be extremely frustrating and annoying, but luckily they are not painful or harmful to your eyesight or eyes themselves. The spasms will subside once you have had a good night’s sleep (How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Vision, northsuburbaneye.com).
27) Fertility issues
In women, long term lack of sleep can stop the release of the hormone which creates ovulation. This results in a very irregular and sporadic menstrual cycle which means it could take a woman experiencing this much longer to get pregnant. Sleep deprivation can also cause a large hormonal imbalance. A body experiencing a hormonal imbalance can get very confused and it will struggle to regulate a period and normal hormones. One of these hormones is prolactin. Prolactin’s main function is to produce breast milk after giving birth but low prolactin levels can also affect a woman’s fertility.
In Sleep and Fertility: What’s the Connection? Tracee Cornforth says, “In both men and women, the same part of the brain that regulates sleep-wake hormones (such as melatonin and cortisol) also triggers daily release of reproductive hormones (verywell.com).
Does sleep loss affect men’s fertility too? Yes! For men, they really need a good amount of solid REM sleep. REM sleep is when men produce their testosterone. When men experience a series of sleepless nights, or their REM sleep is interrupted, their body will produce much less testosterone, directly affecting the chances of the couple being able to conceive.
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- American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “Sleep Deprivation Affects Moral Judgment, Study Finds.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 2 March 2007. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/03/070301081831.htm.
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- Cornforth, Tracee. “Concerned About Fertility? Check Your Sleep Habits.” Verywell, www.verywell.com/make-the-most-of-sleep-and-sunlight-3522556.
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- Schuder-O’Connor, Kirsten. “Signs of Sleep Deprivation.” LoveToKnow, LoveToKnow Corp, http://sleep.lovetoknow.com/Signs_of_Sleep_Deprivation.
- ScienceDaily, ScienceDaily, http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/11/161114143833.htm.
- Shortsleeve, Cassie. “What Happens to Your Skin When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep.” Allure, Allure Magazine, 24 May 2017, http://www.allure.com/story/sleep-and-skin-what-happens.
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- Times, The Active. “14 Ways Lack of Sleep Can Be Causing Weight Gain.” The Huffington Post, TheHuffingtonPost.com, 12 Apr. 2016, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/the-active-times/14-ways-lack-of-sleep-is-causing-weight-gain_b_9612080.html.
- Westcott, Sarah. “SHOCK STUDY: Poor sleep increases risk of FATAL heart attacks and strokes, experts warn.” Express.co.uk, Express.co.uk, 31 Mar. 2017, http://www.express.co.uk/life-style/health/786494/poor-sleep-increase-shock-study-increase-risk-fatal-heart-attack-strokes.