How Is The Body Affected By Sleep Deprivation?

Updated on February 11, 2023

The average adult needs at least 7 hours of sleep daily. In some cases, you need more depending on your level of activities. Unfortunately, a large number of the population worldwide is considered sleep-deprived. Many take sleep for granted. 35% of adults don’t get to sleep 7 hours every night, according to the data presented by the CDC.

And this is a problem across different ages. 40% of people aged 40 to 59 don’t get enough sleep, while 37% of people from 20 to 39 years old are considered sleep-deprived. On top of that, 50 to 70 million people in the US alone are known to suffer from one or many sleep disorders.

From an economic standpoint, sleep deprivation can be problematic. According to a study, sleep deprivation costs the economy $411 billion annually. This affects the person’s overall productivity in the workplace, and it is also common that they make a lot of mistakes because they tend to lack the focus needed for work.

So what happens to the body once you lack sleep?

You Increase Your Chances Of Getting Infected

One of the reasons why people get sick is because they don’t get enough sleep. A study was conducted in the Netherlands and in the United Kingdom, where men were made to sleep for less than the number of hours recommended by health experts. The researchers compared their white blood cells. Respondents who were sleep-deprived sleep mimicked the body’s response to stress.

In a separate study, the body produces fewer cytokines when it doesn’t get enough sleep. Cytokines are a type of protein that is responsible for fighting inflammation. This is something that can be produced and released while you get enough sleep. For this reason, those suffering from chronic sleep deprivation tend to make a flu vaccine to be less efficient.

Obesity and Diabetes

Lack of sleep due to obesity
Correlation between lack of sleep and obesity

According to a Harvard study, 3-5% of adults suffering from obesity could potentially be caused by their lack of sleep at night. A lot of medical experts are looking into the body’s metabolism when it lacks sleep. According to current data, sleep deprivation can alter two things that can affect the body’s ability to burn calories and maintain optimum health.

Sleep deprivation can decrease the hormones that help in the body’s metabolic responses. There is a decrease in the level of leptin and an increase in the level of ghrelin in those who are not sleeping enough at night. Ghrelin is called the “hunger hormone”. The rise in ghrelin can increase food intake and even encourage the body to store body fats. On the other hand, leptin is responsible for the body’s long term food intake and energy expenditure.

Next, glucose metabolism is also affected. These two factors increase a person’s risk of diabetes and obesity.

Increased Risk for Cancer

Yes, there is a chance that those who lack sleep can increase their chances of having cancer. Cancer cells are normal cells turned into abnormal cells. But is there a connection between the lack of sleep and cancer? In one study by Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center researcher, it has been discovered that 25% of people who had childhood cancer suffered from sleep deprivation and are having difficulty falling asleep.

Diminished Mental Ability

A woman tired while driving
Sleep-deprived and driving

If you are trying to learn or if you need to focus on an exam, the last thing that you want is not to have a good sleep the night prior. Sleep deprivation can affect the memory and general learning capability by making it difficult for you to pick up new information, plus you also have a difficult time focusing when you are sleepy.

You also get to have decreased reaction time when you don’t have enough sleep, which is bad for driving, whether long or short distances. This is responsible for 100,000 crashes that have been reported. Others believe that 20% of all crashes are caused by drivers being sleep deprived.

Skin Problems

Have you ever heard of the term beauty rest? That’s because there is a correlation between the amount of sleep and your skin. Sleep deprivation can affect your skin in different ways. It can affect wound healing capability, and collagen growth, which is responsible for keeping the skin hydrated and free of wrinkles.

And since inflammatory responses are higher in those who are sleep deprived, it is common to see acne and other skin problems such as eczema appear.

Heart Problems

The lack of sleep can make your heart prone to cardiovascular conditions. Though the study isn’t exactly clear, researchers think that disruption in your biological processes, such as your metabolism and inflammatory response, may cause the heart to work harder.

Recent research has discovered that those who are sleep deprived have higher chances of developing cardiovascular conditions.

Decreased Libido

A man and woman with low sex drive
Low sex drive causing issues

If you lack sleep, you may have a problem having sex. This is something that can affect both men and women. For men, it has been discovered that those who lack sleep tend to have a difficult time getting an erection. On the other hand, for females, they experience problems having an orgasm.

The lack of sleep can cause problems with your testosterone level and can lead to a decrease in sexual desire in general.

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation?

There are many causes of insomnia and reasons why you experience sleep deprivation. It could be from your caffeine intake or perhaps the presence of artificial light in your room. In some instances, it is due to stress or even by the presence of blue light coming from mobile devices, keeping you awake.

If you want to prevent sleep deprivation, it is important first to know the cause of the problem. Also, make sure that you are going to bed relaxed and ready to call it a day. By doing so, you get your body to shut down and fall asleep quickly.

Prolonged sleep deprivation has many effects on the body. It can even increase the likelihood that you get conditions that can be fatal.

Sleep is a physiologic requirement of the body. Unfortunately, our busy lives may have caused a lot of disruption to how we rest. And for a lot of people, it is common to see them sleep-deprived. But given these negative effects of sleep deprivation, are you still going to look at sleep the same way?

If you’re struggling to sleep, check our article about the top 10 tips on how to sleep better.