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9 Bizarre Side Effects of Not Getting Enough Sleep

Susanna Sisson's picture
Father and son sleeping

Not getting enough sleep can make you look and feel like a zombie. We all need adequate amounts of rest, yet so many of us don’t get enough sleep and that can lead to bizarre negative side effects. The National Sleep Foundation recommends that people over the age of 18 get at least seven hours sleep per night.


1. Not getting enough sleep can affect mood as well as how you feel and look. Even not getting enough sleep for as little as one night can have subtle affects on skin tone, puffiness in the face and around the eyes, and posture. But a recent study (May 2017) published in the Royal Society Open Science also suggests that as bizarre as it may seem, people who are sleep deprived may be a turn-off to other people. Scientists photographed a group of 25 people before and after they were deprived of sleep for a period of two days. Then they had a group of 122 other people rate their photographs on whether or not they would like to socialize with them. They researchers found that the raters had a negative view of people who were sleep deprived and said they would prefer not to socialize with them.

Losing friends might be one effect of not getting enough sleep, but there are also physiologic effects as well.

2. Not getting enough sleep affects your brain and can make you groggy and forgetful. People who routinely lose sleep often experience impaired judgment which can affect work performance. Scientists have discovered people who don’t get enough sleep have lower test scores when being graded on ability make decisions. They also found that people who are deprived of even an hour sleep per night may feel “adapted” and fully able to perform at their best. Yet test scores reflect lower ability to judge their own ability. Lack of sleep is also associated with increases in motor vehicle and other accidents including work related incidents.

3. Loss of sleep affects being able to learn. Not getting enough sleep negatively affects alertness, attention span, concentration, critical thinking, and the ability to retain information. Not getting enough sleep also affects our ability to remember things we learn because our subconscious consolidates information during sleep.

4. Lack of sleep may increase risk of death. British researchers studied more than 10,000 people over a period of twenty plus years. Their findings were published in 2007. What they found was that people who don’t get enough sleep, five hours rather than the recommended seven, have two times higher risk of dying from all causes including doubling their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.

5. Not getting enough sleep can make you fat. Certain chemicals like leptin which signals fullness are decreased in people who lose sleep. That can stimulate appetite and cause overeating. Decreases in leptin and conversely increases in ghrelin can also cause cravings for high fat, high carbohydrate food. Researchers found that people who sleep less than six hours nightly are 30% more likely to become obese.

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6. Sleep deprivation can cause depression. A poll found that people who sleep less than six hours are more likely to be diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Insomnia is a primary symptom of depression and the two are circular so lack of sleep exacerbates depression and vice versa. On a brighter note treating sleep problems often resolved feelings of depression.

7. Chronic sleep loss causes aging. Human Growth Hormone (HGH) has anti-aging effects and protect from muscle and bone loss and thinning skin, hallmarks of aging. HGH production begins to fall off in our late twenties and is produced in lower amounts as we get older. The hormone is released during extended exercise and during slow wave sleep, so not getting enough sleep and or not exercising can slow production to a standstill and make you look old way before your time. Think of getting enough sleep as the fountain of youth! Another issue with not getting enough sleep is that our bodies see sleep deprivation as stress and in response release too much cortisol which can affect overall health and can cause adrenal fatigue. Excess cortisol and lowered amounts of HGH cause decreases in collagen production. Collagen is a protein that keeps skin looking youthful and gives it that bounce back ability or elasticity. Lack of collagen leads to fine lines, sallow skin, and thinning skin which can tear easily and all contribute to looking old.

8. Lack of sleep kills sex drive. Not getting enough sleep can causes fatigue, lack of energy, sleepiness and tension, but doctors also know that abnormally low testosterone levels are associated with not getting enough sleep.

9. Not getting enough sleep puts you at risk for diabetes, heart disease, heart attack, heart failure, arrhythmias, high blood pressure and stroke.

While sleep may elude us from time to time, making an effort to get enough sleep can have lasting benefits. Here are some tips to get enough sleep and make it quality sleep:

• Don’t eat or drink anything containing caffeine, especially energy drinks, after 2pm if you want to sleep at night.
• Don’t exercise before bedtime because exercise revs up metabolism and makes it hard to doze off.
• Take a warm bath before bedtime to help you relax and add Epsom salts. Magnesium is a powerful central nervous system relaxant.
• Make your bedroom a sleep haven. A comfortable room, clean sheets with maybe some lavender tucked inside your pillow case can actually help you get to sleep and stay asleep.
• Make your bedroom a place to rejuvenate not an office or TV room. Turn off your computer at least an hour before bedtime and don’t watch TV or have your computer in your bedroom. Ditch the cell phone, too, because it’s too easy to roll over and check out Facebook if you’re having a hard time getting to sleep.
• If you have trouble sleeping try chamomile tea, melatonin, or magnesium. Sleeping pills can be dangerous and actually don’t give you quality sleep because they interfere with your sleep cycles.

Not getting enough sleep happens occasionally, but make it a point to avoid being the walking dead by trying to get at least seven hours of sleep every night. Who knows? Maybe you’ll have more friends, be healthier, and live longer.