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The Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Updated on February 5, 2016

There are a great number of reasons that we might experience sleep deprivation ranging from alternate work shift hours to jet lag to health related issues but what are the real side effects of failing to achieve adequate sleep for any period of time?

Well, more than likely, you have experienced some of the basic reactions such as feeling more distracted than usual, a bit more irritable about the small things, the inability to reason with others and poor work habits. However, did you know that after more than five days of poor sleep patterns, the body can respond in other ways?

Here are four real side effects that one might experience as a result of poor sleep habits.

Hunger and Weight Gain

As if we need another reason to eat poorly and gain weight, studies have shown that after an extended period of time, the hormone leptin, which is known to inhibit appetite and hunger, is reduced when we do not get sleep. This in turn ultimately leads to increased hunger and a desire to eat more food.

A study in Finland and reported by ABC News showed that women who sleep less than five and a half to six hours each night were at a greater risk of experiencing a weight gain of 11 pounds or more. Men do not escape the statistics. In the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (AJCN), a study was published of men participants who slept for 12 hours one night but had no sleep the following night. They experienced five percent less general energy expenditure, indicating fewer calories overall burned by their bodies.

Source: Coventry, 2015


Immune System Impairment

Sleep allows our bodies to heal and recover every night. Without it, the effects of sleep deprivation can lead to a suppression of our immune system, boosting our susceptibility to catching colds, being at risk for infections and even slow wound healing should we accidentally cut ourselves.

According to an article published by the Journal of Sleep, 164 adults allowed investigators to drop particles of rhinovirus into their noses and conduct detailed examinations of their nasal cavities. Researchers were able to determine that sleeping for only six hours a night - or less may make you far more vulnerable to the common cold than once believed.

Compared to study participants who slept for more than seven hours a night, those who slept for five to six hours were 4.24 times more likely to develop a laboratory-confirmed cold. Even worse, those who snoozed for less than five hours a night were 4.5 times more likely to get sick after being deliberately exposed to the virus.

The people who slept for 6.1 to seven hours a night also were more susceptible than their longer-sleeping counterparts, but their risk of a cold was only 66 percent higher.

Source: Sunday Gazette, September 2015.

Sleep Deprivation Can Place Us on an Emotional Pendulum

Did you know that when we are sleep deprived, we are far less likely to empathize or care about anyone else except ourselves? In addition, we are less likely to feel very optimistic about life in general and overtime shift from being assertive to more of an aggressive individual.

How do the sexes fair? In a recent study, women are more vulnerable mood swings and specifically, tend to experience depression and anxiety symptoms. Men on the other hand share symptoms of confusion following sleep deprivation.


Inability to Connect the Dots

More than likely, you have experienced a haze or fog that sometimes accompanies sleep deprivation. You are unable to retain information or your memory just doesn’t want to fire on all cylinders.

These are just four good reasons to get a good night's rest.


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