Sleep Health Articles

6 Important Things Affected by Lack of Sleep

No one likes to feel groggy or sluggish, or be in a generally poor mood— all things you can expect when you’re sleep deprived.

Whether you’re busy, your mind is racing, or you keep waking up at night, sometimes it’s hard to get the right amount of rest. While it may seem like a minor setback, lack of sleep comes with a variety of hidden consequences, other than just being tired. Here are eight things you’re putting at risk when you don’t get enough sleep at night:

Immune System Health
While we sleep, our bodies stay busy repairing themselves and fighting off diseases. Our immune system releases proteins called cytokines that promote a better sleep, but also fight infection and inflammation. When we accumulate sleep debt (the cumulative amount of sleep you miss out on), the release of cytokines may decrease, making our bodies less able to fight off harmful infections. [1]

Skimping on sleep not only makes our immune system more susceptible, but it may also make us more likely to develop serious health conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. [2] 

Cognitive Functioning
Studies have shown that sleep deprivation increases the risk of human-error accidents. [3] When we don’t get good sleep quality, our reaction responses are slower, and our cognitive functions worsen, making us prone to accidents. In fact, car crashes related to sleepiness have fatality and injury rates similar to alcohol-related crashes. [4] A contributing factor to the amount of sleep-deprived accidents could be our ability to not recognize when we are not functioning as well. A study found that sleep deprived individuals fail to notice when they are functioning poorly. [5]

Another study found that sleep debt causes a 20 to 32 percent increase in the number of surgeon errors. [11] In order to optimally operate physically and mentally, it’s crucial to not miss out on vital sleep.

Sleeping causes testosterone levels to increase, and testosterone levels decrease while we’re awake. Since testosterone is a crucial part of both men and women’s libido, low testosterone levels from lack of sleep can put a damper on your sex life.

A study found that 50 percent of men suffering from a sleep disorder secreted testosterone levels that were significantly lower than average. [6]

Lack of energy from sleep deprivation also plays a major role in a low libido.

Studies have confirmed what we’ve always known – sleep debt makes us grumpy. A sleep study reported, “Sleep loss amplifies the negative emotive effects of disruptive events while reducing the positive effect of goal-enhancing events.” [7]

This study showed that responses in the daytime are greatly influenced by the amount of sleep an individual gets at night. The study also determined that sleep loss leads to more negative emotions and fatigue during the day. [7]

Research has shown a correlation between individuals’ weight and how much they sleep: individuals who do not sleep enough tend to weigh more. [8] There are several possible reasons why sleep deprived individuals tend to weight more:

  1. People who don’t get enough sleep may be too exhausted to exercise.
  2. Individuals who don’t sleep enough may simply have more time to eat since they are awake longer.
  3. People with sleep debt may have unbalanced hormones that regulate metabolism and appetite. [9]

The link between obesity and lack of sleep is undeniable, and an easy way to promote a healthy weight is to get at least eight hours of sleep nightly.

As we sleep, our blood pressure drops to the lowest point, tissue repair and growth take place, important hormones are secreted and restoration happens. If we do not get enough sleep, we are not letting our bodies fully restore, which can lead to premature ageing.  Sleep deprivation has even been linked to fine lines, decreased elasticity and premature skin ageing.

Estee Lauder conducted a sleep study that found that sleep deprivation caused skin to age faster, and Dr. Daniel Yarosh, a senior vice president at Estee Lauder Companies said, “Poor sleep quality can accelerate signs of skin aging and weaken the skin’s ability to repair itself at night.”

Another study found sleep debt and sleep loss could cause premature ageing, along with worsening age-related disorders. [10]  Receiving the recommended eight hours of sleep nightly helps to ensure your body is getting adequate time to repair and rejuvenate itself for ideal, healthy, graceful ageing.

What You Can Do To Sleep Better & Longer

  • Try to go to bed at the same time each night. This practice helps your body naturally release melatonin, a hormone that goes into the blood stream when it begins to get dark out, so you can fall asleep fast.
  •  If you have trouble falling asleep, utilize natural sleep aids. Some of the best natural sleep aids are: slow released melatonin, chamomile, lavender, valerian root, and St. John’s Wort.
  • Avoid lights and screens in the evening. Bright lights may throw off the body’s natural response to the darkness of the evening and prevent the release of melatonin. Refraining from artificial light for an hour or so before bed promotes makes it easier to fall asleep faster.

1. Morgenthaler, T. (2012, July 10). Diseases and Conditions — Insomnia. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from Mayo Clinic:

2. Nordqvist, C. (2012, July 2). “Severe Sleep Loss Affects Immune System Like Physical Stress Does.” Medical News Today. Retrieved from:

3. Dinges DF. An overview of sleepiness and accidents. J Sleep Res. 1995;4(S2):4–14.

4. Knipling RR, Wang JS. Research note. Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; 1994. Nov, Crashes and fatalities related to driver drowsiness/fatigue.

5. Clear, J. (2014, July 21). The Beginners Guide to Getting Better Sleep. Retrieved March 11, 2015, from Entrepreneur:

6. Borreli, L. (2014, March 17). Sleep Deprivation: 7 Dangerous Effects Of Long-Term Sleeping Problems. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from Medical Daily:

7. D Zohar, O. T. (2005, January 28). The Effects of Sleep Loss On Medical Residents’ Emotional Reactions to Work Events: A cognitive-energy model. . 47-54.

8. 1. Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity(Silver Spring). 2008; 16:643-53.

9. Chan, H. T. (2015, March 24). Sleep Deprivation and Obesity. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from Harvard T.H. Chan:

10. Medicine, T. U. (1999, October 21). Lack of Sleep Alters Hormones, Metabolism, Simulates Effects of Aging. Retrieved March 24, 2015, from The University of Chicago Medicine:

11. Taffinder NJ, M. I. (1998, October). Effect of Sleep Deprivation On Surgeons’ Dexterity On Laparoscopy Simulatar. The Lancet , 1191,10.