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How Sleep Deprivation Harms The Body and Mind

How Sleep Deprivation Harms The Body and Mind

Sleep is a major pillar of well-being, helping us stay healthy and happy. However, it doesn’t get as much attention as other key players of health like diet or exercise. 

That said, sleep deprivation is a worldwide problem. Approximately 62 percent of adults around the world report that they don’t sleep well at night. 

You may be thinking to yourself, “what’s the big deal with feeling a little tired?” Truth is, sleep deprivation is much more than just a small inconvenience — it’s can actually be dangerous. In fact, losing just one to two hours of sleep each night can impact our bodies and minds just as severely as skipping out on sleep for a full day or two. Here’s how. 

Increased Emotional Reactivity

Not getting enough shut-eye is more likely to make you snap at others, lose your cool, and respond with intense and impulsive emotional reactions. 

This is a larger problem than just feeling a bit cranky. Even just one night of sleep deprivation leads to impulsive reactions, according to researchers

We still don’t know about all of the ways sleep and our emotions are linked, but we have confirmed that sleep deprivation affects the emotional centers of the brain. 

When you’re sleep deprived, these complex areas become more active than usual, leading to large and oftentimes irrational emotional responses.

Areas where activity spikes occur include the amygdala, the part of the brain known as the central hub for motivation and emotional behavior. 

As a result, you may lash out at others in anger, frustration, or annoyance more often than usual when you’re tired. But it’s not just negative emotions that become enhanced. 

You may find that positive emotional responses are heightened and enhanced when tired, too. This combination of heightened negative and positive emotional responses may feel like your brain is stuck in a game of tennis, pinging back and forth across the entire emotional spectrum. 

Although activity in the amygdala rises, communication between the amygdala and a separate area of the brain involved in emotional regulation — known as the prefrontal cortex — dwindles. 

The prefrontal cortex handles many complex tasks, helping us manage and decrease impulsive reactions. 

Think of it as a filter that quickly helps us determine if our reactions to certain stimuli and situations are appropriate or not. 

When you don’t get enough sleep, the filtering system begins to fail, leading to less thoughtful emotional behavior. 

But that’s not all. Not only are your feelings and emotions set on overdrive after a lack of sleep - but you’ll also feel more anxious and depressed than usual. 

Heightened Anxiety, Worsened Depression

One of the top signs of a lack of sleep? Heightened anxiety and depression, especially in those who already suffer from one or both of these ailments. 

A lack of sleep and anxiety are linked thanks to melatonin’s active role in both sleep cycles and mood regulation. When your sleep schedule is irregular or shortened, melatonin levels dwindle. 

As a result, our tolerance for daily stress diminishes. 

However, it’s still not clear whether correlation or causation is to blame, as many people with anxiety tend to struggle with sleep, which then worsens anxious feelings and thoughts. 

The same may be said for depression. Many who suffer from depression have a hard time achieving restorative, slow-wave sleep. 

In fact, 75 percent of people with depression report problems falling or staying asleep. 

On the other hand, people with insomnia have a tenfold higher risk of developing depression when compared to people who don’t have any issues sleeping. 

Lack of sleep, anxiety, and depression all feed into each other like a vicious cycle, so treating both our mental health and our sleep quality is key to breaking the link. 

Scientists also believe that sleep is highly important for processing and storing memories. When this process is interrupted due to sleep deprivation, forgetfulness follows. 

Impaired Memory

Have you ever entered a room and forgotten why? This is bound to happen more often after a poor night’s rest. 

Research shows that the nerve connections that help us process and store memories strengthen as we sleep. 

Think of sleep as a filing cabinet for our memories, helping us filter through every detail to decide what information to store and what information to discard.

As a result, the memories we store help us apply the information from the experience to a future situation. 

When this process is disrupted due to a lack of sleep, sleep cycles responsible for consolidating memories remain incomplete. 


@somnifix Lack of #REMsleep is directly tied to issues with #memory processing in both humans and mice! 🐁 #didyouknow #learnontiktok #sciencefacts #learntok 🎥: #Vsauce ♬ Perfect - Bellaaa

If you find yourself forgetting things, misplacing items, or unable to concentrate, it may be because your brain wasn’t able to file every memory away correctly. 

Along with increased forgetfulness, you may find yourself feeling sick more often when suffering from sleep deprivation. 

Lowered Immunity

According to the National Sleep Foundation, chronic sleep deprivation puts the immune system at a huge risk. 

Our immune system acts like a wall of defense from illness by creating antibodies that fight against invaders like bacteria or viruses. 

Sleep deprivation lowers these defenses by preventing your immune system from creating infection-fighting antibodies.

Not only will you get sick more often when sleep-deprived, but it may also take longer to recover from illness in general. 

During sleep, your body also releases cytokines, small proteins that control the activity of immune system cells and blood cells. 

When you’re under stress or faced with an attack by a pathogen, cytokines help the body fight back by regulating the immune system. 

Cytokine levels are proven to rise during sleep. This phenomenon may explain why you tend to sleep more when sick or suffering from an infection. 

If you don’t make time to sleep and stay well, your body may force you to rest and sleep in order to produce the cytokines you need…after you’re already ill. 

A healthy sleep schedule helps to promote optimal cytokine and antibody levels, preventing illness altogether. 

Signs of a lack of sleep don’t stop at increased illness. Your digestive system suffers when you’re sleep-deprived, too. 

Increased Hunger and Digestive Issues

Sleep is supposed to be our time to rest and digest. Sleep also regulates the levels of two hormones related to feelings of hunger and fullness: leptin and ghrelin. 

Leptin communicates to your brain that you’ve eaten enough food and feel satisfied, while ghrelin increases our feelings of hunger, causing the drive to eat. 

Without enough sleep, our brain reduces leptin levels and increases ghrelin, causing a stimulated appetite. 

That means digestive issues, increased nighttime snacking, and overeating can all be signs of a lack of sleep. 

Sleep deprivation may lead to reduced insulin after eating, too, which normally helps to lower blood sugar levels. 

Without regulated insulin, the body’s tolerance for glucose dwindles and insulin resistance may follow. 

Over time, that means a higher risk of diabetes and obesity. 

As if that isn’t reason enough to correct your sleeping habits and address insomnia, sleep loss may even cause premature aging of the skin. 

Sleep Deprivation Ages The Skin

Ever wake up after a poor night's sleep with puffy eyes and sickly-looking skin? Chronic sleep loss is proven to cause dark circles, fine lines, and other skin issues. 

When you don’t get enough sleep, your body releases more cortisol than usual. Excessive levels of this stress hormone can break down collagen, a protein known for keeping the skin elastic. 

Therefore, another top sign of a lack of sleep? Fine lines and dull skin. Beauty rest is real! 

Sleep loss also decreases our release of human growth hormone known to help increase muscle mass, keep bones strong, repair tissue, and maintain skin thickness. 

As growth hormone levels dwindle with lack of sleep, the skin thins and tissue repair breaks down, leaving the skin vulnerable to more wear and tear. 

But it’s not just the skin that’s left defenseless - so are your pain receptors. 

Chronic Pain

When you’re sleep-deprived, you might be more sensitive to pain than usual. 

Running low on sleep is also known to increase inflammation across the body, causing pain and other chronic conditions. 

Research shows that our ability to feel heat and pressure pain is higher if we’re low on sleep. 

Separate studies found that those who are sleep-deprived may be more sensitive to pain in specific regions, like the esophagus. 

This may explain why those with sleep disorders also report issues with heartburn or acid reflux at night. 

That said, ongoing chronic pain may stem from a separate chronic pain condition that causes sleep loss, so the key to treating sleep loss may be to uncover if it’s linked to a pre-existing pain condition. 

An unexpected way to reduce pain-causing inflammation and correct sleep patterns is right under your nose…because itis your nose. 

The Solution? Nasal Breathing for Superior Sleep

If you’re sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, it’s vital to make quality sleep a priority.

A top issue hindering our sleep? The way we breathe. 

It’s estimated that between 30 and 50 percent of adults breathe through their mouths rather than their noses. 

This is a problem. Why? Because mouth breathing causes dysfunction in the body and places us in a state of fight or flight, activating our stress response. 


@somnifix What’s the big problem with #mouthbreathing 🤔 it leads to #dysfunction within the body! 🩺 #myofunctionaltherapist Sarah Hornsby explains! #didyouknow #learnontiktok #airwayhealth ♬ Lollipop - Lil Wayne

What’s more, mouth breathing is known to cause oral health issues, snoring, and even sleep disorders like sleep apnea.

Us humans were made to breathe through our noses. The nose warms, filters, and humidifies the air, protects us from pathogens, and produces nitric oxide, a vasodilator known to lower blood pressure and boost brain function. 

But how do you nasal breathe if you’re asleep? You tape your mouth shut before bed to prevent it from falling open. 

Yes, we’re serious - and our tape offers a gentle, non-toxic method to achieve blissful nasal breathing known to promote quality sleep. 

Our Mouth Strips are created from recycled materials and feature a gentle gel-like adhesive that’s hypoallergenic, making it the perfect choice for all skin types. 

Moreover, our Strips feature a patented breathing vent in case you become congested as you sleep. 

Take SomniFix to bed to beat sleep deprivation and achieve quality, restorative rest that protects both the body and mind! 

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