Sleep deprivation happens when a person does not get the sleep they need to sustain their health and well-being. It is common for people to sacrifice sleep for work, school, or fun, but even one night of inadequate sleep can leave people feeling tired, less productive, and more prone to mistakes the next day.
As sleep debt grows over time, it begins to take a toll on mental and physical health. Long-term sleep deprivation can reduce quality of life and may increase the risk of health issues including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Learn more about the impacts of sleep deprivation, including its causes, and how prioritizing sleep hygiene can help people get the rest they need.
Research has found that sleep deprivation affects systems throughout the body, leading to a wide range of negative effects.
Daytime sleepiness: Not getting enough sleep is a common cause of people feeling tired during the day. Daytime sleepiness can leave a person without the energy to do the things they enjoy and cause problems at work, school, and in relationships.
Impaired mental function: One of the most noticeable effects of sleep loss is cognitive impairment. As sleep debt grows, person becomes less alert and may have difficulty multitasking. Reductions in attention make a sleep-deprived person more prone to mistakes, increasing the risk of a workplace or motor vehicle accident.
Mood changes: Sleep loss can lead to mood changes and make a person feel more anxious or depressed. Without enough sleep, people may feel irritable, frustrated, and unmotivated. They may also struggle to deal with change and to regulate their emotions.
Reduced immune function: Sleep is important for maintaining a healthy immune system, so sleep deprivation can weaken immune function. In fact, research suggests that people who are sleep deprived are less responsive to the flu vaccine and are more likely to get infections like the common cold.
Weight gain: Sleep is important for maintaining a healthy weight. Not getting enough sleep can affect appetite and metabolism in ways that can lead to weight gain. Insufficient sleep has been associated with an increased risk of obesity.
Diabetes: A lack of sleep can make it more difficult for the body to process sugar, contributing to glucose intolerance and increasing the risk of type 2 diabetes.
Heart disease: During normal sleep, blood pressure drops in ways that are believed to support heart health. Sleep deprivation prevents this drop in blood pressure and triggers inflammation, heightening the risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart disease and stroke.
Mental health conditions: Sleep deprivation is closely linked to mental health. Sleep loss may increase the risk of mental health issues, and those issues can make it harder to get enough sleep.