This Is What Too Little Sleep Does to Your Body

Here’s a look at how long-term sleep deprivation affects your physical and mental health.

troubled sleepHaving a hard time getting enough shut-eye every night? You may think it’s no big deal to not sleep much if you have found ways to get yourself going for the day. But the fact is that not getting enough sleep can do a number on your health in many ways. In fact, sleep is as important to your overall health as other things you already know about, such as eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly and not smoking.

It is recommended that adults get 7 to 9 hours of quality sleep each night. Understandably, not every person can get in a perfect night of sleep all the time. Missed sleep on occasion is a fact of life. As long as it doesn’t happen too often, it probably doesn’t do much more than make you feel grumpy and groggy the next day. But if you routinely find that you don’t sleep enough – or don’t sleep well because you’re tossing and turning all night – it may have lasting effects on your physical and mental health. These include:

  • Heart issues – A lack of sleep may raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of heart disease. Being tired can lead to unhealthy habits, such as not exercising, making poor food choices and being stressed, which can negatively affect heart health. Too little sleep may also increase inflammation in the body, which contributes to heart disease.
  • Increased risk for diabetes – Not getting enough sleep can increase your insulin resistance, raising your risk for diabetes. It may also leave you feeling hungry and reaching for the wrong foods the next day, which makes it harder to manage diabetes or prediabetes if you have it.
  • Weakened immune system – Your immune system is your body’s defense against invaders like viruses and bacteria. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can weaken your immune response, which leaves you more prone to illness.
  • Weight gain – Not getting enough sleep may throw off the hormones in your body that tell you when you are hungry or full. As a result, you may overeat and gain weight.
  • Memory, concentration and problem-solving issues – Your brain forms connections that help you remember new information when you sleep so short- and long-term memory may be affected if you don’t sleep enough. You may also find it harder to concentrate or solve problems.
  • Mood changes – Not only may you be grumpy and quick-tempered after a poor night’s sleep but over time, a lack of sleep can even lead to anxiety or depression.

In addition to these changes affecting your physical and mental health, being tired may increase your risk of accidents and injuries. It may also affect your productivity, how you learn and your social skills. No good comes out of skimping on sleep – so find ways to make sleep a priority in your life. Your health depends on it!

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Date Last Reviewed: January 18, 2024

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Perry Pitkow, MD

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