How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Body, Mind, and Mood


Is waking up early a daily struggle for you? Do you need a dose of caffeine nearly every two hours to keep you functioning? Do you get irritated and emotional easily? You might not be getting enough sleep at night. The National Sleep Foundation recommends adults aged 18 to 64 to sleep for seven to nine hours daily. This is a general recommendation since some people may require less or more time to reenergize.

The effects of sleep deprivation can be short-term, such as lack of focus and irritability, or long-term such as stroke, heart problems, and obesity. Sadly, many of us have become too accustomed to our sleep-deprived lifestyle, which Arianna Huffington refers to as “the collective delusion that sleep is simply time lost to other pursuits.” In her bestselling book, The Sleep Revolution, the Huffington Post co-founder explains why we should be renewing our relationship with sleep—from the health risks to poor social relations.

Know more about the effects of sleep on your health by understanding how sleep deprivation affects you.

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Insufficient sleep and your body

Quality sleep is a pillar of health, together with nutrition and regular exercise. Health experts warn that sleep deprivation can increase one’s risk to obesity, diabetes, and health disease and hypertension.

When you get don’t sufficient zzz’s at night, your body fails to secrete the right amount of hormones that regulate your metabolism and glucose processing. This leads to higher levels of insulin associated with weight gain. Lack of sleep also boost the production of the biochemical ghrelin, which stimulates appetite. No wonder you’re craving for pizza whenever you stay up late!

Have you noticed your heart racing a bit faster after a night of little sleep? Sleep deprivation, even for a single night, can increase your blood pressure. For people with existing hypertension or heart problems, this can be a disaster.

Sleep deprivation and your brain function

If you have a major exam coming up or an important sales presentation, the worst thing you could do is to pull an all-nighter before your big day. One of the most common short-term effects of sleep deprivation is the difficulty of focusing. According to the Harvard Medical School, there are three stages of learning: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. “Acquisition and recall occur only during wakefulness, but research suggests that memory consolidation takes place during sleep through the strengthening of the neural connections that form our memories.”

Whenever you’re sleep deprived, the three stages of learning are negatively affected. Your brain neurons get too overworked to coordinate information properly. It gets difficult to acquire and process new information, and access previously learned data.

Little sleep and your moods

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Sleep disorders and its effects go beyond your physical health. Many admit that they’re “not in their element” if they don’t get at least seven hours of sleep daily. Insufficient sleep leads to a higher production of the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol, which is made in the adrenals, is produced whenever is  into the fight or flight response. An elevated level of this hormone leads to lower immunity, poor memory, reduced growth hormone, and mood swings.

Previous studies show sleeping for four and a half hours per night can lead to feeling more stressed, irritable, and mentally exhausted. Inadequate sleep has also been linked to depression, anxiety, and mental distress. The changes in personality due to lack of sleep can impact your relations with others, your optimism, and your perspective in life. In 2016, Japanese employee Matsuri Takahashi committed suicide after clocking over 100 hours of overtime a month. Her last Twitter posts were devastating. In one tweet, she said: “I have lost all feeling except the desire to sleep.”

Lack of sleep and your safety

How lack of sleep affects the brain has an impact on your (and other people’s safety). Studies show that 17 to 19 hours of sleeplessness is equivalent to having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of 0.05 percent. Staying up for 20 hours or more is similar to having a 0.1 percent BAC level. If you’re a driver, you know that most states impose a DUI limit of 0.08 percent for those aged 22 and older.

Drowsy driving is blamed for approximately 1 million road accidents, 500,000 injuries, and 8,000 deaths in the US each year. Insufficient sleep is also linked to medical errors in hospitals. Sleep deprivation causes changes in the brain activity that correspond to reduced alertness and a general propensity to sleep.

Make important life decisions today

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Attaining seven to nine hours of quality sleep should not be an option. It must be the only way you should live. To be a quality sleeper requires commitment in this age of distractions. It should start with your mindset. Yes, you need to drop everything and go to bed at night. No, you wouldn’t be more successful if you stay awake longer than you should. Get rid of the delusion that you don’t need sufficient sleep.

Your sleeping environment is key to a good night’s sleep. For optimal sleep, keep your bedroom temperature low between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit. Block outdoor light and noise. Sleep experts advise sleeping in stark darkness. This helps the brain relax and stimulate relaxation. Choose a high-quality memory foam that can support your body alignment and promote blood flow. Most importantly, try to keep electronic gadgets out of your sleeping area. The blue light in smartphones, tablets, and other electronic devices messes with your body clock, keeping you up past your bedtime.

For mothers, logging a full seven hours of sleep each night can be a challenge. There’s just so much to do that your brain refuses to halt even when you’re lying on your bed. One effective tip is meditation. Karen Brody, founder of Bold Tranquillity, teaches meditative activities that can help in obtaining quality sleep at night. “Let’s face it, women today are tired. Done. Cooked. Fried,” wrote Brody. It’s time to make life changes. Aim for adequate sleep each night.


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