15 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

The struggle is real, friends.

Sure, we’d all love to achieve the holy grail of eight hours of deep and restful sleep every single night. But as anyone with a job, an empty wine glass, and a Netflix account knows all too well, real life will always find a way of cutting your slumber short. Unfortunately, this isn’t good. For proof, see these 15 harmful side effects on your body courtesy of good-old sleep deprivation. So read on, and think twice before you decide to stay up past your bedtime. And if you find that you’re still having trouble getting a good night’s rest, don’t miss these 70 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.

1
Your Memory Weakens

When the brain is running on low fumes, it has trouble keeping track of the information it’s receiving. A study conducted by researchers at UCLA tested the effect of sleepiness on cognitive function and found that the groggier the subjects, the slower they were at categorizing images.

“The neurons responded slowly, fired more weakly, and their transmissions dragged on longer than usual,” lead study author Dr. Yuval Nir explained to Medical News Today. And if you’re having trouble remembering things, try these 7 Ways to Boost Your Brain Power After 40.

2
Your Mood Plummets

Have you ever gotten a poor night’s rest and woken up feeling agitated and irritable? If you have, then you’re in good company. Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania found that subjects who were limited to 4.5 hours of sleep for just one week reported feeling more stressed, angry, and sad. Upon returning to their normal sleep schedules, the subjects’ moods drastically improved.

3
You Become Depressed

People with depression and anxiety often report staying in bed all day, but ironically enough, it’s a lack of sleep that can cause the depression in the first place. In fact, a study of 10,000 adults found that insomniacs are five times more likely to become depressed and 20 times more likely to develop panic disorder. Those aren’t the kind of odds you want to mess with.

4
You Gain Weight

As if walking around like a zombie all day isn’t bad enough, a lack of sleep can also lead to weight gain and obesity in the long term. According to a study of 68,000 women published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, those who got 5 hours of sleep or less per night gained 2.5 more pounds than women who slept soundly every night, and their risk of becoming obese was 15 percent higher.

“Usual sleep times of less than 7 hours are associated with a substantial increase in the risk of major weight gain and incident obesity,” the study authors noted.

5
Your Risk of Developing Diabetes Increases

When the body is running on little sleep, it has to compensate by excreting high levels of stress hormones like cortisol to keep us awake. As a result of this, less insulin is released as we digest, and glucose stays in the bloodstream longer than it should. The longer this persists, the higher the risk of developing diabetes becomes.

6
You Put Your Heart Health on the Line

Every organ in the body needs sleep to function, the heart included. Researchers in Japan analyzed several studies determining the effect of sleep deprivation on heart health and found that 5 hours of sleep or fewer is directly correlated with an increased risk in hypertension and coronary heart disease. Worried about your heart? Try these 40 Ways to Prevent Heart Disease After 40.

7
Your Immune System Weakens

Whether it’s flu season or there’s a virus going around, our best line of defense is always our immune system. However, when the body doesn’t get enough sleep, the immune system becomes compromised, and suddenly we become more susceptible to the diseases plaguing the population. One study tested this on 11 pairs of identical twins and found that the sleep-deprived twin had a weaker immune system. “The immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep,” lead author Dr. Nathaniel Watson said in a press release.

8
You Lose Your Libido

Men and women alike suffer from a lack of sex drive when they don’t get enough sleep. For men, it has everything to do with testosterone: This hormone gives men both energy and desire, and levels are significantly decreased when sleep is lacking. For women, it’s all about how we feel: Sleepless nights result in depleted energy levels and irritation, which in turn doesn’t exactly put us in the mood. Long story short: Go to bed and you’ll go to bed.

9
You Put Yourself More at Risk for Cancer

We may not know all of the things that cause cancer, but there are some things that we can point to and pin the blame on for now—one of those things being sleep deprivation. One study published in the International Journal of Cancer found that women had a 30 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer when they worked irregular schedules that impacted their sleep. And in another study, researchers found that sleep-deprived individuals were almost 50 percent more susceptible to developing colon cancer.

10
You Become More Susceptible to Alzheimer’s

When a person develops Alzheimer’s, a protein known as amyloid-beta builds up in the brain and disrupts cell function. Just one night of sleep deprivation can significantly increase levels of amyloid-beta in the brain, so chronic sleep deprivation is detrimental to the brain’s health. And if you really want to protect your brain health, Boost Your Brain with This Science-Proven Trick.

11
You Get Hungrier

We human beings are supposed to eat for survival, but most of the time we eat because, quite frankly, food tastes delicious. Unfortunately for those of us who are sleep-deprived, this is even more so the case—as a lack of sleep makes us crave food the same way marijuana does.

“Sleep restriction boosts a signal that may increase the hedonic aspect of food intake, the pleasure and satisfaction gained from eating,” Erin Hanlon, PhD, told Medical News Today. “Sleep restriction seems to augment the endocannabinoid system, the same system targeted by the active ingredient of marijuana, to enhance the desire for food intake.”

12
You Become Less Alert

It goes without saying that when you get little to no sleep, you are going to be exhausted. However, this fatigue doesn’t always just affect you. When you are drowsy, your body is less alert, and this can result in a decrease in performance at work or worse. In fact, a report released by the AA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that drivers who get five or six hours of sleep are twice as likely to crash as drivers who are well rested.

13
Your Reflexes Weaken

Should you ever (God forbid!) encounter a life-threatening situation where you have to act fast and escape, you’re definitely going to wish you were well-rested. Studies have found that after 17 hours without rest, people function as if they have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.05%. After 20 to 25 hours without sleep, that number raises to 0.1%, well over the legal driving limit in the United States.

14
You Shorten Your Lifespan

You know what they say: Only the sleep-deprived die young. Okay, maybe they don’t say that, but they should. In a British study of 10,308 people, researchers found that those who slept just five hours a night were twice as likely to die. I think people are taking the whole “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” thing a bit too literally.

15
Your Skin Ages More Rapidly

Poor sleeping habits don’t just affect your body on the inside. Researchers at University Hospitals Case Medical Center found that women who didn’t get enough sleep showed increased signs of aging skin, including reduced elasticity, more fine lines, and a reduced ability to heal from sunburns.

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Posted in: Sleep