Health knowledge and news provided by doctors.

How Sleep Deprivation Is Linked to a Loss of Antioxidants

Empty bed

There is a reason sleep deprivation is used as a torture method. Depriving the body of sleep renders it quite powerless and robs it of the ability to defend itself. Antioxidants counteract free radical damage, but one study linked sleep deprivation to antioxidant loss.


A study was conducted at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, investigating the impact of sleep deprivation upon systemic metabolism. This included major redox metabolites and DNA methylation levels. The results were published in the July 2017 issue of PLoS ONE.

The study found that when the body remains awake for extended periods of time that the metabolic cycle is disrupted. This imbalance creates an imbalance of equilibrium between reactive oxygen species (ROS) and antioxidant defense mechanisms. Sufficient sleep restores redox (oxidation and reduction activities) which is essential for cell feasibility, proliferation, activation, and organ function.

During the study, 19 adult participants underwent total overnight sleep deprivation. They had all received 8 hours of sleep the previous night. Both saliva and plasma from blood samples were collected and analyzed. The data revealed that after just one night without sleep, levels of the antioxidants glutathione (GSH), ATP, cysteine, and homocysteine were significantly reduced. All of these antioxidants play an important role in redox metabolism.

Role of Antioxidants

Antioxidants act as a protective barrier between your body and free radicals. What are free radicals you ask? They are highly reactive, unstable atoms or groups of atoms with a missing electron. It is really all a matter of chemistry. The highly reactive free radicals can damage DNA, proteins, carbohydrates, and lipids that comprise and surround cells as they attempt to steal the missing electron from a neighbor. Low antioxidants equal oxidative stress in the body that can damage vital organs in time.

In the body, this domino-effect impairs living tissue. Inflammation escalates the spread of free radicals, blazing a rampant path to destruction. How do free radicals develop you ask? It is complicated, but in essence they develop due to enzymatic or non-enzymatic reactions. These are normal bodily processes, but just like any process it can spiral out of control.

Follow eMaxHealth on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
Please, click to subscribe to our Youtube Channel to be notified about upcoming health and food tips.

Exposure to the items on this list may contribute to free radicals:

• Alcohol
• X-rays
• Cigarette smoke
• Industrial chemicals
• Air pollutants
• Preservatives

Lifestyle Changes

Adequate sleep is just one of many lifestyle changes that combats free radicals. Some others include constant to moderate exercise, reducing sugar and grains in your diet, and relieving stress.

You can get more antioxidants from supplements and foods such as resveratrol, carotenoids (bright colored fruits and vegetables), astaxanthin, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Your body makes glutathione, alpha-lipoic acid, and CoQ10. Asparagus is a food source rich in glutathione. Blueberries are one of the richest food sources of antioxidants.

Just remember that adequate dietary supplementation and intake of antioxidant-rich sources do not benefit you without adequate sleep. When your body doesn’t want to get out of bed in the morning maybe you should take a hint and find a way to get more rest. Sleep deprivation has a scary list of consequences so long it would take another article to write them all, but the realization that sleep deprivation triggers low antioxidants which triggers damage on a massive scale should be enough to make us take our sleep a little more seriously. Good night!

Check out these other great articles by EMaxHealth: 21 Not So Sexy Effects of Sleep Deprivation You Should Know About, Sleep Deprivation Is A Serious Problem, and Lack of Sleep Actually Makes You Hurt.