What Happens To Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep

Maybe it’s just a little yawn now and then. Maybe you feel yourself nodding off while waiting on a red light. Or perhaps you need a caffeine boost to get you through the afternoon. If that sounds familiar, it could be that you’re sleep deprived. Running on empty.

You’re not alone. More than 40 percent of adults have enough daytime sleepiness that it interferes with daily activities at least a few days every month, according to the National Psychological Association. It’s not a minor problem. Lack of sleep has a serious impact on your physical and mental health.

This is what lack of sleep can do:

Age your skin

Just look in the mirror when you’re sleep deprived and it’s hard not to notice a difference in your skin, especially on your face. Inadequate sleep is linked with reduced skin health, premature skin aging, and a decreased ability to recover after sun exposure. People who don’t get enough sleep also tend to be more dissatisfied with their appearance than people who get enough sleep.

Lower your sex drive

If you want a good sex life, you need some good sleep. A 2015 study showed that getting the right amount of sleep benefits a woman’s sex drive. A 2011 study showed that lack of sleep can reduce a man’s testosterone levels. With only five hours of sleep, study participants’ testosterone levels were 10 to 15 percent lower. Insufficient testosterone can affect sex drive, concentration, and energy levels, three things sure to affect your sex life.

Affect your mental health

Lack of sleep can affect your mood and your outlook on life. You’re more likely to be irritable and unmotivated. Researchers say it increases your risk of anxiety and depression.

Muddle your memory

It’s hard to focus when you’re tired and your mind wanders all over the place. We’ve all been there and research does suggest that sleep affects learning and memory. Lack of sleep makes our neurons sluggish, so new information doesn’t stick. It’s also harder to make good decisions because our ability to assess a situation is impaired.

Get you in an accident

Those sluggish neurons an also make you accident prone. An increased risk of work-related injuries and fatal accidents is associated with sleepiness. Lack of focus, poor decision-making ability, and slow reaction time make sleepy driving a serious problem in the United States. The CDC estimates that one in 25 drivers over age 18 have fallen asleep while driving in the previous month. As many as 6,000 fatal crashes a year are blamed on drowsy driving.

Make you more susceptible to illness

You recharge your immune system during sleep. Lack of sleep can leave your immune system weak, so you’re more vulnerable to viruses and infectious diseases. It may also take you longer to recover.

Mess with your metabolism

Large-scale studies show that people who sleep five hours or less per night are more likely to experience weight gain or become obese. There’s also a relationship between how much sleep you get and the risk of type 2 diabetes.

Hurt your heart

Lack of sleep is associated with risk of increased blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease. Shift work has been found to increase risk of death due to heart disease and stroke.

Increase your risk of developing cancer

There is some evidence that lack of sleep may increase your risk of developing breast, colorectal, or prostate cancer.

So, how much sleep do you need?

We’re all a bit different, so we have different sleep needs. Those needs also change during different phases of our lives. The National Sleep Foundation recommends the following sleep ranges by age:

  • newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours per day
  • infants (4-11 months): 12-15
  • toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14
  • preschoolers (3-5): 10-13
  • school age children (6-13): 9-11
  • teenagers (14-17): 8-10
  • younger adults (18-25): 7-9
  • adults (26-64): 7-9
  • older adults (65+): 7-8

If you miss sleeping all week, you can’t really make up for it on the weekend. Napping can help you get through the day, but you need to start sleeping enough every night to give your body time to rest and regroup.

Sleep serves a purpose, but we tend to dismiss its importance as we go about our busy lives. It’s time we make sleep a priority so we can be at our best to tackle those busy days.

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Image Credit: Thinkstock

285 comments

Ruth S
Ruth S18 days ago

Thanks.

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Chad Anderson
Chad A3 months ago

Thank you.

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Fran F
Fran F3 months ago

Thanks for these reminders.

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Thomas M
Thomas M3 months ago

Thanks

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Richard A
Richard A3 months ago

Thank you for this article.

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Marge F
Marge F3 months ago

Thank you for posting this informative article.

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Sheila Miller
Sheila Miller3 months ago

Sleep is really important, and I do try to stay on a sleep schedule. Six hours of rest is what I get, and I know it is not enough. My body just wakes up. A 20 minute nap in the afternoon is a boost for me, but I do not always have the chance to nap. Thanks for the article. Life seems to busy to get enough sleep.

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Julia S
Julia S3 months ago

Thank you!

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Marion Morin
Marion Morin4 months ago

I'm so sleepy sometimes....

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Sandra Vito
Sandra V4 months ago

Thanks

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