Sleep deprivation effects on the brain range from a lack of focus, to emotional instability and memory problems. It can also cause weight gain by disrupting the production of important hormones such as cortisol and leptin.

Not getting an adequate amount of sleep increases your chance of heart disease or stroke. In the short term, sleep deprivation can affect mood and behaviour.

People who are deprived of sleep for as few as three days may begin to feel depressed or show signs of paranoia.

They may also experience hallucinations because their brains aren't able to function normally. One study found that after two months of sleeping fewer than six hours a night, participants began to have trouble reading other people's emotions.

A Stanford University study found that sleep deprivation increased a person's chances of developing the common cold, which scientists believe is because a good night of sleep helps regulate immune function.

In this article, we will look at the effects of sleep deprivation and the negative long-term effects it has on an individual's health.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is getting less than 7 hours of quality sleep over a long period. Sleep is as essential as food and air. 

Restorative activities go on while you sleep- Your brain creates new thought connections and helps with memory retention. Your body, on the other hand, heals itself and restores its chemical balance.


Signs of Sleep Deprivation

• Yawning frequently

• Feeling fatigued all-day

• Increased sleepiness

• Irritability

The above are the initial external signs of sleep deprivation. Still, the internal symptoms can cause more health issues if left unattended, let's check the internal causes and see How it's effect can impact our quality of life.


Immune system

While sleeping, your body produces antibodies and cytokines that fight infections, viruses and bacteria. This supports your immunity efficiency to protect your body against illness.

Chronic conditions like Heart disease & diabetes. Mellitus are increased when you have long-term sleep deprivation.


Central nervous system

Sleep deprivation can disrupt how your body typically sends message and process information- While asleep, pathways are formed between neurons in your brain, this is responsible for the recollection of whatever you learn.


So when you are deprived of sleep:

1. Your brain becomes exhausted and won't function as it should

2. You'll find it difficult to concentrate or learn new things

3. The communication within your body will be delayed, which will compromise your concentration

4. Risk of Accidents at work and on the road

5. Impacts your Emotional state and Mental Abilities 

6. You'll become susceptible to mood swings

7. It can affect your creativity and decision making

8. It can cause micro-sleep which can be dangerous if it occurs while you are behind the wheels or at work with heavy equipment.


Digestive System

Sleep affects two hormones 

1. Ghrelin

2. leptin

Leptin is responsible for informing your brain that you're full, and it's time to stop eating. However, when you are sleep deprived, your leptin is reduced by your brain, it then increases your Ghrelin which stimulates appetite. This explains overeating or snacking at night.


Sleep deprivation or lack of sleep:

① Is one of the reasons for becoming overweight or obese.

② causes your body to release less insulin after eating

③ Makes you tired to exercise

④ Decreases your body's glucose tolerance which is connected to insulin resistance. This can result in obesity and diabetes mellitus


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Respiratory system

There is a connection between your respiratory system and your sleep. If you struggle with a breathing disorder called OSA-obstructive sleep apnea, it can affect your quality of sleep which also impacts the quality of life.


Once sleep deprivation affects our respiratory system; it can

1. Make us prone to flu and the common cold

2. Worsen existent respiratory disease like chronic Lung illness. 


Cardiovascular system

Sleep deprivation compromises the Health of your heart and blood vessels processes-as well as the blood pressure, blood sugar processes and inflammation levels. The ability of your body to heal and repair is also linked to the quality of your sleep.

Research has shown the link between sleep deprivation/lack of sleep & heart attacks and stroke.


Endocrine System

There are significant & grave consequences of insufficient sleep on the endocrine system. Endocrine is like a microcosm of all aspect of sleep.

Hormone production relies on your sleep quality. Disrupting this production can affect growth hormone as well.

The pituitary gland is responsible for releasing growth hormones. However, exercise plus adequate sleep also helps release this growth hormone. 


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Final thought on sleep deprivation effects

For you to treat sleep deprivation, start by getting good quality 7-9 sleep every night. A bedtime routine will come in handy. It's going to be easy cos you are trying to change your body's sleep rhythm to a consistent one but keep at it.

Now, if you have been struggling for a significant time with sleep deprivation, you should try to see a sleep specialist or a doctor so they can diagnose and check for a sleep disorder. 

Sleep disorders affect the quality of your sleep may increase the effects of sleep deprivation discussed above. 

Let me know your thoughts on this topic. Have you struggled with sleep deprivation before, tell us the approach you took. Or are you going through one? Which one step do you see yourself working on asap? Comment below.  


More Resources

About the Author Funmi

Funmi is a Certified Functional Health Coach. She is passionate about helping female entrepreneurs transform from Stress and burnout so they can begin to thrive in their body and, by extension, their businesses. 

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