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Top 3 Health Risks Linked to Sleep Deprivation

Updated on April 20, 2015

Copyright 2011-2014

There are a number of factors that lead to the lack of good quality sleep or sleep deprivation. The number of "needed" hours of sleep has been debated over the years. But there is an overwhelming consensus from many research studies that shows sleep deprivation leads to three big health risks:

1. Increased risk for heart disease

2. Increased risk of weight gain

3. Increased risk of viral infections

Sleep Deprivation and Heart Disease

A number of studies have linked short-term sleep deprivation with several risk factors for heart disease:

- high cholesterol

- high triglycerides

- high blood pressure.

In a 2009 research report in Sleep, scientists found that women who had no more than four hours of sleep a night were twice as likely to die from heart disease than women who had seven hours or more.

Lack of Sleep Affects Weight

Over 36 different research studies have concluded that a lack of sleep can lead to weight gain. A lack of sleep disrupts hormones that control hunger and appetite. And, of course, fatigue during the day discourages us from exercising.

A 2012 research study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal indicates that while calorie restriction and increased physical activity are recommended for weight loss, there is significant evidence that adequate sleep time and the quality of sleep predicts the success of fat loss in people enrolled in a weight loss program.

The lack of sleep affecting weight gain appears to be especially true among children.The obesity rate among kids is skyrocketing. One out of three kids in the United States is now considered overweight or obese. Increased time in front of the television, social media and playing video games can keep kids up late at night. And for some kids, increased pressure to participate in after school activities while still trying to keep up with their homework can also lead to late nights and less sleep.

Not enough sleep leads to increased viral infections

It's a pretty well known fact that when we are tired and run down, we tend to get sick a little more easily, right? But the question is: how much sleep is really needed to ward off illness?

Researchers found in 2009 study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, found that susceptibility to viral infections is linked to the amount of sleep individuals have. The study tracked the sleep habits of 150+ men and 150+ women for two weeks and then quarantined them for five days and exposed them to a cold virus - that doesn't sound like a a fun study to be in!

What they found is that those that had 8 hours of sleep were 3 times less likely to get the cold virus compared to those that had 7 hours or less sleep a night on average. The difference between 7 and 8 hours of sleep made a difference.

Common Causes of Poor Sleep

There are a number of factors that lead to poor sleep or sleep deprivation:

- stress

- a noisy outside environment

- room temperature

- hormonal changes

- restless or noisy (snoring!) sleeping partner

And one of more common causes of poor sleep: sleep apnea

Sleep apnea life-threatening condition in which breathing stops or becomes shallower hundreds of times each night.

People with severe sleep apnea have been found to be three to five times more likely to die of heart disease than those without apnea. Sleep apnea can trigger arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats) which can also increase the risk of stroke and heart failure.

It's worth taking some time and evaluating your sleeping habits and environment and determining where you can make changes to reduce the health risks related to sleep deprivation!

To learn about how sleep is related to other diseases:

Here are two additional articles that cover the importance of sleep in other health matters:

What Do Diabetes and Mental Illness Have In Common?

New Discoveries In Breast Cancer...

Relevant Research References

Jean-Philippe Chaput and Angelo Tremblay. Adequate sleep to improve the treatment of obesity. CMAJ, September 17, 2012 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.120876


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    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      6 years ago from Indiana

      @Nell - thanks for stopping by. I hope you eventually were able to sleep:) I've had nights like that too!

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 

      6 years ago from England

      Hi, just had to read this as I am having trouble sleeping! lol! interesting stuff, and I will take it all on board thank you, nell

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Hi Amber - yes, definitely shift working! I'm not sure how my mom did it all those years. Thanks for stopping by!

    • Amber Allen profile image

      Amber Allen 

      7 years ago

      Hi Kris

      Having read this hub and comments I think I can add another cause of poor sleep which islandnurse made me remember- shift working. Voted up and useful.


    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Hi Debbie - thanks for stopping by. I agree, small things like that can make a difference. I finally started listening to soft sounds of the ocean and that has helped me drift back to sleep.

    • debbie roberts profile image

      Debbie Roberts 

      7 years ago from Greece

      Interesting hub. Most of us realise how important sleep is, but probably not quite how important it is in regards to our health. Thank you for hubbing it!!

      I always battled to get a good night sleep, purely because I'd get easily disturbed and found it difficult to drop back off to sleep. Then I discovered ear plugs and an eye mask. Such simple things made a huge difference.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana can do it! I made the switch about 5 years ago and it's made a difference and I still get everything accomplished. I think it's mindset thing - give me 3 tasks and 3 hours to do it in and I'll take all 3 hours to do it...give me that same 3 tasks and only an hour and I can still get them done.

    • RTalloni profile image


      7 years ago from the short journey

      Thanks for the reminder--I know it's true! Even though I sleep well, I find myself pushing the limits, often getting only 6 hours of sleep...not good. The one thing I can't seem to get out of my head is that sleep is a waste of time because there's so much I want to do. Each time I read about this topic I try to work on getting more sleep. This time I'll stick to it, right?! Voted up because this is important.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Tsmog and homesteadbound - white noise can help (I have fan running to and I notice a huge difference when I don't have it running). There has been some interesting research focusing on sound waves and the effect on meditation and in a round about way how that can affect sleep. Tsmog - for optimal mental health, 7-8 hours is ideal.

    • homesteadbound profile image

      Cindy Murdoch 

      7 years ago from Texas

      Another great hub. I have never slept well, and have tried many prescription sleeping medications and have not been happy with any of them. I keep a fan blowing in my bedroom just for white noise.

    • tsmog profile image

      Tim Mitchell 

      7 years ago from Escondido, CA

      I headed toward the diabetes hub, turned right and here I am. A most interesting hub. The discussion with Adrienne opens a few doors with white sound. How many hours for mental health is best? Do you feel the lack of sleep, work stress (or school), and high tech stuff outweighs the lack of remedy - exercise & diet?

      Oh, a quick gander shows good work with keywords too. The google ads parallel well with apnea. Your hub is organized nicely. Thank you for information Kris.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Twila and Warren - thanks for stopping by!

    • twilanelson profile image

      Twila Nelson 

      7 years ago from Carmichael, California

      Very interesting and informative Hub. Thank you.

    • Warren Baldwin profile image

      Warren Baldwin 

      7 years ago from Kansas

      Very insightful. Thank you.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for stopping by and for the welcome, Peggy!

    • Peggy W profile image

      Peggy Woods 

      7 years ago from Houston, Texas

      Valuable information in this hub as to the value of getting enough sleep each night. I don't think I would want to be a volunteer in that cold virus study either. Ha! Nice that someone was willing to do it for the gathering of scientific evidence. Voted up and useful. Welcome to HubPages!

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Hi Adrienne, thanks for posting a comment! I've recently turned to doing a CD meditation when going to bed - listening to the sounds of the ocean (or a rainforest) and that has helped me quite a bit. I just take a mental vacation, picture myself there watching the waves and soon I'm sleeping like baby. It doesn't work for all but if you've not tried it, it can't hurt to experiment with it.

    • adrienne2 profile image

      Adrienne F Manson 

      7 years ago from Atlanta

      This is certainly a worry of mine not getting enough sleep. I don't like taking sleep medicine, but in order to get a good nights rest I have to take them. Thank you for sharing an informative article.

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Tammy, hormones can definitely also play into sleeping problems. As women, many of us reach that point and it's a tough battle for some. For some women, it can start in peri-menopause and last for years and for others, they aren't affected nearly as much or for as long.

    • tammyswallow profile image


      7 years ago from North Carolina

      That is very interesting. I have sleep troubles now.. never had them before. I am thinking it is the hormonal problems.. Very helpful!

    • Kris Heeter profile imageAUTHOR

      Kris Heeter 

      7 years ago from Indiana

      Thanks for stopping by the article and for the comment, islandnurse.

    • islandnurse profile image


      7 years ago from Vancouver Island, Canada

      Just got home from a night shift... better get some sleep I guess!! Welcome to hubpages:)


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