Effects of sleep deprivation on your daily life

sleep deprivation

The human body needs at least seven to nine hours of sleep.

That is a biological fact you can’t get around. Yet, many people run on six or fewer hours on a regular basis. What they don’t realise is that lack of sleep impacts almost all areas of your daily life.

Emotional instability

Without enough rest, the area of the brain that processes emotions becomes hypersensitive to negative thoughts and experiences. That magnifies negative emotions. For example, your boss bumps up the due date of a work assignment, or your teenager slams the front door and you roll your eyes or say things you regret later. Small things that you’d normally be able to shrug off are enough to make you snap at family and co-workers.

Under normal circumstances, another area of the brain called the prefrontal cortex regulates emotions. But when you’re running low on sleep, it becomes dormant and doesn’t keep emotions in check. Irritability, sadness, anger, anxiety and eventually issues of depression can all run amok when you haven’t gotten enough sleep.

Growing hunger and food cravings

Hunger hormones get released in higher amounts after only one night of poor sleep. That’s also coupled with a decrease in satiety hormones. Poor sleep also causes the brain’s reward center to activate in such a way that it gets a bigger “hit” from sugary, high-fat foods. The result is intense cravings for foods full of empty calories that offer little nutritional value. Chronic sleep loss is often associated with conditions like obesity and diabetes due to weight fluctuations that may stem from sleep loss.

Depressed immune system

Your immune system needs sleep too. A now famous study conducted in 2009 found that a lack of sleep increased the chances of catching the common cold. That’s at least in part due to the fact that the immune system uses sleep time to recharge itself. T-cells are theorised to congregate in the lymph nodes where they’re prepared to fight germs and infection the next day. Sleep is also the time when the body develops its immune system memory, building its defenses at night.

Without that time, your body is more susceptible to illness. In addition, it can take longer to get over any illnesses you do develop.

Getting back in good sleep shape

There aren’t many areas of your life that won’t eventually be affected by poor sleep. However, your sleep cycle readily responds to your habits, behaviours, and preferred schedule, which gives you the ability to improve your sleep quality.

• Pick a reasonable bedtime that allows you to sleep at least seven hours every night.

• Relieve stress before bed with a consistent bedtime routine. Start your routine at the same time each night and keep the order of your activities consistent. If stress keeps you awake, consider adding something like meditation or yoga that’s been shown to help with emotional and physical tension.

• Make sure the conditions in the bedroom are conducive to sleep. A cooler room temperature often helps the body maintain the lower body temperature needed for sleep. If you sleep warm, a cooling mattress or mattress topper, ceiling fan, or table fan can help.

• Watch out for stimulants and screen time before bed. Caffeine blocks sleep hormones for four hours or more depending on how your body responds to it. Electronic devices like cellphones and laptops can emit a bright blue light that suppresses sleep hormones. Avoid screens for at least two hours before bed.


Your body needs sleep. Without it, it cannot function as nature intended and your physical, mental and emotional well-being can be affected. When you make time for sleep, you make time to be your best self at home, work, or wherever you may be.


By Samantha Kemp, researcher at SleepHelp.org

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