What is Sleep Deprivation and What Does it do to the Body?

Posted at 2:58 PM on Mar 11, 2022


We all experience sleepless nights, some more than others. Unfortunately, these lead us into the next day feeling mentally and physically drained. The feeling of just not being with it. Sound familiar? This is sleep deprivation…your body not getting the sleep it needs to function properly.  You may also hear terms like sleep deficiency and sleep insufficiency to describe not getting the quality sleep you need.

Types of Sleep Deprivation

Every person and every situation is unique, but generally, sleep deprivation can be broken down into 2 types:

  • Acute (short-term)
  • Chronic (long-term 3+ months)

Many of us are familiar with acute sleep deprivation where we may miss a good night’s sleep occasionally. However, many others experience ongoing sleep deprivation which can have serious consequences on the body and brain. You can learn more about the importance of sleep here.

Sleep Deprivation Versus Insomnia

Yes, they are different. Generally, those who are sleep deprived are missing out on sleep by choice. While those with insomnia simply can’t sleep. This means that someone who is sleep-deprived may use the weekend to “catch up” on sleep while someone with insomnia cannot sleep even if they have the time. You can learn more about the causes that may impact sleep in our article, “Sleep Better”.

It is important to note that there is no such thing as “catching up on sleep”.  When you miss a night of sleep there is no making up for that. The only option is to make sleep a priority moving forward, and your body will slowly heal itself. 

Seeing your physician can help determine what kind of sleep disorder you are experiencing. They can then provide the best treatment plan for better sleep.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The effects of sleep deprivation can be mild to very serious. The most common effects are the feelings of lethargy, tiredness, inability to think/focus, and moodiness. Sleep plays a fundamental role in every function of the body. Therefore, when we miss out on sleep, we can experience effects on the entire body.

Mild effects from short term sleep deprivation:

  • Problems concentrating
  • Irritability
  • Poor judgment
  • Memory impairment
  • Drowsiness
  • Lower sex drive
  • Lack of energy 
  • Decreased activity throughout the day
  • Increased consumption of caffeinated products
  • Increased risk for car accidents

Serious effects of chronic sleep deprivation:

  • Decreased quality of life
  • High blood pressure
  • Increased risk of cognitive decline and dementia
  • Increase risk of diabetes
  • Decreased immunity
  • Increased risk of work injuries
  • Increased risk for obesity
  • Increased risk for cardiovascular complications such as heart attack, heart failure, or stroke
  • Cancer – research is not definitive on this, but sleep deprivation has been connected to greater “wear and tear” on cells, potentially leading to the type of DNA damage that can give rise to cancer.

Sleep Deprivation - The Solution

It is time to make sleep a priority. Just like diet and exercise, sleep is incredibly important part of our overall health. Far too often we overlook sleep and how important it really is. It’s time to wake up and see the effects lack of sleep is having on us. 

Make changes today and learn more about how to sleep better.