7 Unexpected Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation


If you’re like most people today, getting a good night’s sleep is not high on your to do list. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that over a third of Americans are sleep deprived, which means they average less than 7 hours of solid sleep every night. While in many ways, sleep deprivation has been normalized and even upheld as an ideal state, it is in fact very harmful to our health. Researchers have uncovered numerous negative outcomes associated with chronic sleep deprivation. 

Weight Gain

Sleep deprivation can alter the mechanisms your body uses to reach satiety, or the internal sensation of feeling full. That is because sleep deprivation causes the body to overproduces the ghrelin hormone, which stokes appetite. At the same time, levels of the hormone leptin, which is responsible for curbing hunger pangs, plummet. This imbalance leads to overeating and eventually weight gain.

Feeling exhausted due to a lack of sleep can contribute to poor eating choices, such as foods loaded with sugar. While this can give you a quick energy boost, it is short lived. This cycle of binging on high-sugar foods to maintain energy can trigger weight gain.

Cognitive Disorders

One of the more troubling side effects of sleep deprivation is its impact on the brain. Normally, brain cells known as astrocytes work like a clean up crew to clear away dead cells. Researchers found that sleep loss caused astrocytes to destroy connections between healthy neurons in mice. If the same phenomenon occurs in humans, it could mean that sleep deprivation can increase the risk of neurodegenerative disorders, like Alzheimers. 

Memory Loss

If you’ve ever missed a night of sleep, you know that it can be difficult to concentrate the next day. When you sleep, the brain retrieves and stores information it has learned throughout the day. Most of this process occurs during deep sleep cycles. Being sleep deprived means you don’t spend enough time in these cycles to fully consolidate new information. As a result, you may experience lapses of memory, or difficulty retaining new information. 

Irrational Fears

A poorly rested brain is too overloaded with unprocessed information to shift through data and make logical conclusions. Instead, a sleep deprived brain will start to exhibit a phenomena known as persecutory ideation. Essentially, you can start to develop irrational explanations and fears that others are out to get you. For example, your brain may interpret an unreturned text as a sign that a friend no longer likes you. These thoughts can lead to withdrawal, isolation, and eventually depression. 

Low Libido

Sleep deprivation can cause a steep decline in the sex drives of both men and women. Scientists believe that this is the result of an overproduction of cortisol, a hormone released by the body’s fight or flight response. Sleep loss puts stress on the body, causing a spike in cortisol. However, cortisol reduces testosterone, a hormone associated with sexual arousal in both genders. These effects are reversible. In one study, an extra hour of sleep increase a woman’s chances of having sex the following day by nearly 15%. 

Early Aging

The phrase beauty sleep has a ring of truth. Cortisol spikes caused by sleep deprivation wreck havoc on the skin’s natural repair mechanisms. High levels of cortisol attack the body’s stores of collagen, a protein that gives the skin its springy and smooth appearance. Without enough deep sleep cycles, the body also cannot produce an adequate amount of human growth hormone, which supports tissue and muscle repair. 

Poor Judgment

You may have heard that sleep deprivation can impair your driving ability just as much as having a few drinks. That is because sleep loss causes a severe drop in our ability to assess our environments and employ sound judgment. Multiple studies have linked sleep deprivation with reductions in mental acuity, coordination, and alertness. 

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

People become sleep deprived for a variety of reasons. Stress and anxiety are some of the leading causes of sleepless nights. Many people can benefit from a night routine that promotes relaxation. This can include drinking tea, taking CBD tablets, or listening to white noise 10 to 15 minutes before bedtime. 

Demanding schedules and heavy workloads also contribute to high rates of sleep deprivation. This can be addressed by setting clear boundaries to separate your workday from your personal life. Some tips include shutting down email after 5 o’clock and avoiding doing any work from bed. 

About Author

LaDonna Dennis

LaDonna Dennis is the founder and creator of Mom Blog Society. She wears many hats. She is a Homemaker*Blogger*Crafter*Reader*Pinner*Friend*Animal Lover* Former writer of Frost Illustrated and, Cancer...SURVIVOR! LaDonna is happily married to the love of her life, the mother of 3 grown children and "Grams" to 3 grandchildren. She adores animals and has four furbabies: Makia ( a German Shepherd, whose mission in life is to be her attached to her hip) and Hachie, (an OCD Alaskan Malamute, and Akia (An Alaskan Malamute) who is just sweet as can be. And Sassy, a four-month-old German Shepherd who has quickly stolen her heart and become the most precious fur baby of all times. Aside from the humans in her life, LaDonna's fur babies are her world.

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6 months ago

You are right, sleep deprivation can greatly affect your health as well as your ability to be effective. I often thought where to buy nembutal to save myself and improve my sleep. I have found several places where this can be done.