Let me begin this article by saying that there really is no definitive definition of sleep deprivation. That’s because different people have different capacities to tolerate the negative effect of sleep deprivation, so much so that it’s next to impossible to agree on an average time line that would work on the average human. Even so, there is no denying that sleep deprivation do affect people greatly, and it’s only a matter of time of you getting impacted if you continue to skip on your sleep!

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Now these effects of lacking sleep may range from something as silly as reacting inappropriately when talking to others to something as grave as being responsible for the lives of you and your friends. Curious? Read on!

It makes your body weaker

And I don’t just mean that physically. The fact remains that during your sleep, your body’s immune system goes on to produce protective cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies. These, in turn, help your immune system to ward off as many infections as possible.

Now if you’re not sleeping properly, it means your body cannot produce as many cytokines and infection-fighting antibodies as is required to keep you healthy and infection free. Not only this, if you’re sick, then your body will take a much longer time to recuperate and recover than it normally would.


It increases your chances of getting type 2 diabetes

Bet you didn’t see this one coming! But it’s true. Several independent scientific and medical studies have shown a direct relation between type 2 diabetes and sleep deprivation. But how?

  • Well for starters it’s no secret that the sleepier you are, the more food you eat in order to maintain your energy levels. Now until and unless you’re a healthy eater, this usually translates into eating a lot of junk food, processed food and consuming a lot of sugary food items. This, in turn, spikes your blood sugar levels.

  • A more scientific reason is that when you lack sleep, your body either does not produce enough insulin or your cells are unable to use the insulin properly.


It affects your respiratory system

Among all effects of sleep deprivation, this one is vital to know. When your immune system is weak, it automatically means your body is more prone to infections. And the one place you can feel this the most is your respiratory system. Flu and common cold become very easy to catch and difficult to get rid of.


It affects your body weight

Did you know that if you don’t sleep well, your body produces less of a fat-regulating hormone called leptin? And to top it off, it increases ghrelin, a hormone that signals the body to eat more. Sucks, doesn’t it?


It affects your cardiovascular system

When you’re sleeping, your body repairs your heart and blood vessels. So if you’re skipping on sleep, you’re skipping on this major repair process too. And this could lead to serious cardiovascular problems like strokes and heart diseases. In fact, it can also give you a high blood pressure throughout the entire next day.


Micro-sleeps occur

If you have ever been sleep deprived, then you have definitely experienced such effects of sleep deprivation. Essentially, micro-sleeps are nothing but small snooze sessions that can last for up to half a minute. The worst part is that even though some people’s eyes are open, they’re practically blind otherwise.

Which is okay, except when you’re, say, driving. A 5-second delay can be the bridge between life and death when you’re on the road, so who is to say what will happen if you just suddenly snooze for 30 seconds? This brings me to my next point…


It brings lots of safety hazards

The thing is, sometimes you can get away with micro-sleeps, like when you’re at college or simply at home. However, when you’re at a place or have a job which involves heavy duty work or something that may risk the lives of others, that’s where things get serious. Imagine lifting a forklift, falling asleep for 30 seconds and realizing you rammed it right into a group of innocent bystanders!


Your emotions go haywire

Now this is something most people won’t notice, especially women. Society expects women to “act crazy” when “on their periods”, but the truth is that your mood swings could be a result of your sleep deprivation. The thing is, sleep is required for your brain to rest. If your brain is in overdrive, it stops functioning properly. You’re neither able to recognize the emotions on the faces of people, nor are you able to emote properly yourself. And that’s because the brain’s capacity to detect humans becomes diminished in its sleep deprived state.


You may have hallucinations

Ah, now this is one effect that most of us are aware of. Now, there’s absolutely no denying that misunderstandings and misconceptions occur due to the brain’s decreased activities. But there’s also no denying that depending on how long you’ve been awake, around 80% of people will suffer from visual hallucinations to some extent. Patients suffering from schizophrenia can even have auditory hallucinations.


Delirium may happen

Now you might feel a little off when you don’t get enough sleep, but in extreme cases, the effects of lacking sleep include delirium. In fact, this condition is so common among people hospitalized in ICUs that it’s been labeled as “ICU delirium”.

Can You Die of Sleep Deprivation?

Long answer short, we don’t know the answer but in all probability, it’s a no. When lab animals were experimented on, effects of sleep deprivation did include death for them. In fact, it was also said that lack of sleep was also the reason why a man from China (circa 2012) died. However, in all likelihood other factors were also at play, which resulted in his death. Practically speaking, people cannot die of sleep deprivation because at one point of time, they will get to sleep, no matter for how short a period of time.


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