girl having sleepless nights

How Can Lack of Sleep Affect Your Health

Are you suffering from lack of sleep? We know how hard it can be.

Studies show that sleep is essential to the human body, like food and water. Despite this, most of us find it hard to get sufficient sleep for several reasons. The Sleep Health Foundation also found that 4 in 10 Australians don’t get enough healthy sleep. 

One of the reasons why most people get inadequate sleep is due to a disruption in their sleep-wake cycle. Also, most people prioritise work and other commitments over their sleep. That is why organisations such as the National Sleep Foundation advocate awareness of how lack of sleep could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and other conditions.

Affects bodily functions 

People will immediately feel a change in their usual bodily functions and daily routine due to lack of sleep. Some of these changes could develop into chronic problems if not treated well. So, look out for these symptoms that show how can lack of sleep affect your health. 

Slow Response time 

girl having a hard time waking up

When you deprive your body of sufficient sleep, you will feel intoxicated. Your brain will have difficulty assessing its signals, so your other body parts will respond slowly too. Additionally, it would be hard for you to perform basic tasks such as cooking, cleaning, or even getting out of bed. 

Increased cravings for food with high sugar or carbohydrate content

binge eating sweets and chocolates

One poor night’s sleep may not be a problem, but research shows that chronic sleep deprivation can push you to gain weight and develop conditions such as high blood pressure. You might be wondering how? Sleep loss will increase your appetite and cause you to consume more calories. Food preferences might also change, and you might lean more towards high-carb foods. 

Due to this change in diet, paired with a slow response time, your body might have difficulty keeping your energy levels up. Additionally, if you lack quality sleep and your diet consists of high sugar or high-carb food, you tend to be sluggish or feel the need to nap, further disrupting your sleep cycle. 

Increased blood pressure, heart disease, or heart attack risk would also arise from your sleep-deprived food cravings. So if you frequently experience sleep loss, a domino effect on your body would happen. 

Lowers natural immunity 

sich girl who can't get out of bed

Sleep deprivation not only disrupts your circadian rhythm or your body’s natural 24-hour cycle, but it can also weaken your immunity, making you more prone to infections. Aside from that, it also weakens your response to vaccinations, making it harder for your body to create antibodies that would protect you against a virus or bacteria. 

So if you keep coming down with colds or other viral infections, according to Besedovsky (2012), maybe a lack of good healthy sleep could be partly to blame. In Bedovsky’s study, the production of immune cells peaks during nocturnal times. If you are awake during nighttime, your body might use these cells instead of replenishing them and redistributing them to your immune system. 

Adverse Effects on Cognitive and Mental Health

While most people do not immediately recognise it, lack of sleep significantly impairs your cognitive abilities and could damage your mental health. 

Difficulty in concentrating and learning new things

difficulty concentrating

Adults and children suffer from impaired cognitive abilities due to sleep deprivation. One of the standard tests used to show this impairment is the hand-eye coordination tests and driving simulators. Studies show that your body while lacking sleep, is in a worse state than your body when influenced by alcohol or psychoactive drugs. 

Like any other muscle in your body, you need sleep to repair and maintain your brain’s healthy cycle. Without enough sleep, your brain would go into “overdrive” mode, disrupting your body’s cycle. Additionally, Frequent sleep deprivation and fatigue disrupt genes that govern circadian rhythm, effectively reducing your ability to perform a task.

Lack of sleep also affects the hippocampus or the memory centre of the brain, and as a result, it will decrease your ability to retain information. So even if you pull an all-nighter to study for an exam, you forget some details on the exam day because you will have problems recalling what you reviewed. 

Disrupting your sleep cycle, even once, could lead to partial sleep deprivation and more significant sleep problems. Although you will not feel the effects immediately, sleep problems might cause chronic symptoms. Also, it would still negatively affect your ability to retain attention and even reduce your capacity for cognitive tasks such as analysis, problem-solving, or basic reasoning. 

It could disrupt your mood and lead to irritability

easily irritated person

Are you feeling grumpy, cranky, tired, or just annoyed anywhere due to sleep problems? Then, you are not alone! Most people experience this, and even if they try to relax or rely on their coping mechanisms, nothing beats irritability more than a good night’s sleep. 

Chronic sleep deprivation often leads to frequent negative mood states that could affect personal relationships. Since your brain has difficulty processing information, you will always find yourself trying to concentrate on one thing and get irritable if interrupted. 

That’s not all! Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to interpret and understand emotional signals and even the meaning behind words or statements by other people.

Some studies highlighted the link between poor sleep and mental health through the pattern of young Australian women who had no problem managing social relationships before but found it hard to do so after weeks of poor sleep. 

A study showed that participants who are sleep deprived, could not correctly assess whether facial expressions were threatening or nonthreatening from a series of pictures and random faces. In conclusion, sleep deficiency impairs your nervous system’s functions and makes it difficult for you to have positive social interactions with others. 

Lack of sleep might cause disorders such as Depression and insomnia

depressed person

Researchers often link poor sleep with poor mental health conditions. Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in people with a sleep disorder, such as sleep apnea. 

In a study by Swannell (2021), researchers generally identify Depression as the primary disorder and sleep apnea as a secondary symptom. Additionally, clinicians often prioritise the management of Depression over Sleep Apnea and an expectation that sleep disorder symptoms will lessen when they intake sleep medicine and successfully manage Depression.

In addition, studies show that insufficient sleep reduces people’s resilience to deal with personal problems that could lead to Depression and the inability to manage emotions effectively. Poor sleep is also responsible for cognitive decline in older people. Research by Marshall (2019), while still at an early stage, focused on the role of sleep in clearing the brain of toxins and found possible links between insufficient sleep to the development of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Please Don’t Force it!

Do not force yourself if you lack sleep and need to go to work or school. Should you feel extreme discomfort, or chronic pains due to lack of sleep, contact your GP immediately. Remember not to self-diagnose or rely on information about sleep medicine from unexpected sources. Additionally, always seek advice from a medical professional before taking any sleep medicine or treatment. 

Once you experience symptoms such as fatigue or dizziness, you should get a medical certificate and take ample rest. These symptoms are your body’s way of telling you that a break is necessary, and overexertion might worsen your conditions. 

Getting a medical certificate is easy, and you can do it online. Go to Click Clinic, fill in your details, and submit your request, and the certificate will be sent to you by email without you needing to go to a clinic or add extra stress.


Swannell, (2021). Co-occurring depression and insomnia: treat them both, says review. The Medical Journal

Besedovsky L, Lange T, Born J. Sleep and immune function. Pflugers Arch. 2012 Jan;463(1):121-37. doi: 10.1007/s00424-011-1044-0. Epub 2011 Nov 10. PMID: 22071480; PMCID: PMC3256323.