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The Effects of Sleep Deprivation can Damage Your Health

The benefits of adequate, high quality sleep are many and widely known, and so are the effects of sleep deprivation. Most people have experienced symptoms such as fatigue, forgetfulness, reduced reaction time, mood swings, difficulty concentrating and lack of energy as a result of not getting adequate amounts of sleep. And yes, snoring is one of them, too!

You are probably aware of the fact you need your sleep; it will make you feel more rested and less stressed. But are you aware of the fact that sleep deprivation has much more serious consequences, and can be harmful to much more than just your general well being?

One of the sources of poor sleep is a stressful lifestyle with a busy job. Paradoxically, today, more than ever before, there is a lot of focus on public health. You can hardly turn on the TV without being confronted with health programs that teach us to make healthy, low fat meals and encourages plenty of exercise. Still, in our busy modern lives, sleep is the one aspect of health that often gets ignored.

 Furthermore the damages of smoking and excessive drinking are being widely informed about in all media. The significance of sleep is proven to often have as much effect on your health as a bad diet, smoking and drinking. Several studies from around the world prove this. Sleep really is vital to your health.

effects of sleep depivationWorking schedules are partly to blame. Whereas people used to generally work an ordinary 8-4 work day, people nowadays often have a much more varied schedule and especially young people have a tendency to stay up very late and get up very late.

New technology has meant that we are constantly online, which has created a completely new way of working that we do not know all the consequences of. Sleep deprivation, however, is one of them.

Mental and Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Strangely enough, there are often no immediate, physical consequences of a lack of sleep. People can ordinarily go jogging, do aerobics or swim even if they are getting far too little sleep.  Sleep is first and foremost about the brain and its function, although lack of it can also lead to more serious symptoms: snoring being just one of them.


Scientists claim that the mortality rate in people who do not get much sleep is much higher than in people who do. It is estimated that just 17 hours without sleep has an effect on the brain corresponding to a blood alcohol content of 0.05: close to the limit for drunk driving. 


Sleep deprivation will eventually have these effects on most people:

  • Speech impairment
Without enough sleep it will be harder for you to find words and your speech will become slurred.
  • Lack of focus
Your ability to concentrate will be significantly lowered if you are deprived of sleep. Many people find it difficult to do their work, both because they feel slow and because it is harder to get motivated.
  • Lack of creativity
As mentioned above, sleep deprivation can make you less able to work. If you need to be creative and think “out of the box,” getting enough sleep is essential.
  • Mood swings
Most people can attest to feeling much less patient and flexible when they are tired. It is easy to get irritated with co-workers, family etc., and generally be in a bad mood, when you do not make sure to get good night’s sleep.
  • Memory loss
Your memory gets worse the more tired you are. If you are suffering from serious sleep deprivation, this symptom can be very noticeable.

All in all, the mental effects of sleep deprivation can be damaging to your everyday life and prevent you from feeling and performing better. 
  • Snoring
Once you do manage to fall asleep however, the increased fatigue combined with low-quality sleep will often cause you to snore.

One of the ways that researchers can see whether a person lacks sleep is the number of so called “microsleep episodes” they experience. During these episodes, which are often caused by sleep deprivation, mental fatigue, depression, sleep apnea, hypoxia, narcolepsy and hypersomnia, a person falls asleep briefly for seconds without realizing it. This, of course, increases the risk of accidents in all activities, but especially when driving, operating machinery etc. The episodes can be compared to losing consciousness for a few seconds every now and then, which obviously would be considered very dangerous.

Increased risk of accidents is one reason why people who get too little sleep often live a shorter life than others. Sleep deprivation is believed to have caused the Exxon oil spill, the Challenger space shuttle disaster and the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. Furthermore it is estimated that about one in every 6 road accident fatalities happen because the driver has not slept enough.


effects of sleep deprivationSleep deprivation also has an impact on your lifespan in other ways. It appears, for instance, that lack of sleep can contribute to cancer, because melatonin - "sleep hormone" - prevents cancer cell formation.  The production of melatonin slows down with less sleep. 

Melatonin is important for a strong immune system, and many scientists believe that it helps to prevent and combat tumors in the body. Lack of sleep therefore leads to a weakened immune system, and can easily lead to ailments such as colds and in long term to much more serious diseases.

Melatonin is also called the growth hormone, and is essential for growing children, but certainly also adults; lack of it results in a decreased ability to build muscle and burn fat. So you could say that a lack of sleep directly contributes to both sleep apnea and weight gain.

When you do not sleep enough, your body also produces less cortisol, which is essential to increase blood sugar, strengthen the immune system, and aids in fat, protein and carbohydrate metabolism. This hormone is especially important if you are trying to lose weight, which will definitely make you sleep better.

Sleep deprivation and snoring, for the above reason and many others, can also disturb your appetite and thereby give you higher risk of obesity and diabetes. Overall, sleep deprivation can have serious consequences to your overall health, so anyone who has trouble sleeping should find a way to sleep better and stay healthier.

Are you experiencing some of the symptoms described above? Are you wondering whether you're suffering from sleep deprivation? The Epworth Sleepiness Scale is a tool that's often used to determine how serious a person's sleeping problems really are. Take the test, and see for yourself!

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