Sleep deprivation effects health and productivity

Priya Thapliyal

Priya Thapliyal

Jan 04, 2024 · 2 min read

Got enough sleep? Trouble sleeping? Did you rest well? You look tired. Are you having trouble sleeping? These are the common questions one may have heard of. Not very serious. We do lack sleep sometimes. Some of us might sleep for just a few hours. It's not that serious, or is it?

Sleep deprivation means a lack of sleep. Sleeping in odd hours, poor-quality sleep, and not having an average hour of sleep are all sleep deprivation.

How is the body affected by sleep deprivation?

An average sleep of 8 to 10 hours per day is required for good general health, cardiovascular health, metabolism, mental health, and longevity. The state instability hypothesis states that due to increasing homeostatic pressure for sleep with fluctuating circadian pressure and a compensatory attempt to remain functioning. Sleep deprivation causes cognitive performance to become increasingly unpredictable. It means that increased sleep drive causes growing attentional state instability, which makes neurobehavioral performance more erratic.

Sleep restriction interferes with the life cycle, like work, school, and regular social functioning. Chronic problems like heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and depression are associated with it.

Immune Mechanisms of sleep deprivation

Lack of sleep reduces hypothalamus-pituitary axis stimulation, sympathetic nervous system activation, and release of norepinephrine and epinephrine into the bloodstream. Some of these hormones enter the systemic circulation. These neuromediators may work in conjunction with additional potential stimuli accumulated after sleep deprivation, such as reactive oxygen species (ROS), adenosine, and metabolic waste products (such as amyloid) not eliminated during normal sleep. Gut microbiota dysbiosis causes altered local and systemic patterns of metabolic products. Additionally, there have been modifications to the profile of neuroendocrine hormones, such as prolactin, growth hormone, and changed melatonin secretion circadian rhythm. Recruitment of transcriptional regulators of pro-inflammatory gene expression, primarily nuclear factor (NF)-B, causes inflammatory activation in immune cells in the brain and peripheral tissues. It results in the release of cytokines, chemokines, acute phase proteins, etc. They may also interfere with the circadian rhythmicity of clock gene expression, metabolic, immune, and stress response genes. The immune mechanism of the entire body is somehow disturbed.

The Role of Hormones in sleep deprivation

Sleep is responsible for regulating many hormones. Cortisol, also called stress hormones released by the adrenal gland. It also regulates other hormones. Sleep regulates Cortisol. As Cortisol levels get disturbed, they also affect progesterone and estrogen levels in the body. Poor quality sleep disturbs the balance of leptin, ghrelin, and insulin, causing insulin resistance, weight gain, disrupting hunger, appetite, etc. Growth hormones are the hormones released during deep sleep. They perform the function of cell growth and repair. It is also associated with growth changes, body composition, and metabolism. Melatonin controls sleep patterns. Melatonin produced by the Pineal gland regulates the circadian rhythm.

A growing concern of chronic sleep deprivation in adolescents

Youth Risk Behavior Survey found that 72.7% of the adolescent population does not get enough average hours of sleep necessary for good health and longevity. This disproportionate sleeping routine affects multiple health and academic consequences. It increases the chances of developing depression and is often a surplus responsible for frequent mood swings. Students can have insomnia and depressive symptoms. It is associated with metabolic disorders and even obesity. Data has shown that people show an increase in weight with decreased sleep time. Sleep restriction interferes with attention span and academic performance. Cognitive performance is affected, causing poor performance in schools and colleges.

Some Recent Findings related to sleep deprivation.

According to experimental research, sleep is necessary for waste removal from brain metabolism. Traumatic brain injury patients experience severe sleep disruptions. An elevated cerebral tau and amyloid- load and an increased Alzheimer risk are also associated with it. More in-vivo research indicates that sleep deprivation affects the molecular clearance of substances from the human brain and that a single night clearance failure may not be made up for by subsequent sleep.

Memory, learning, attention, and emotional reactivity are just a few cognitive processes affected by acute sleep deprivation. Days and weeks of not getting enough sleep might potentially be deadly. Humans develop a random or family form of insomnia that worsens sleep deprivation. It leads to dementia and death. Alzheimer's and general neurodegeneration are the results of chronic sleep deprivation.

Do you know sleep deficiency can also cause death?

Yes, that is right. You must have heard of accidents due to the person driving fall asleep while driving a vehicle. Humans tend to make more mistakes. There have been numerous tragic accidents in history recorded due to sleep deprivation. In 1986, Space Shuttle Challenger Explosion due to poor judgments made because of a lack of sleep and sleep-deprived shiftwork. The people were continuously working with less than two hours of rest. According to a report by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, nearly 328,000 driving accidents (annually) occur due to drowsy driving.

We all must have heard of the Chernobyl Nuclear power plant meltdown. It is the only nuclear accident recorded till time, and it reformed Nuclear Power Science for the better, but at what cost, one may ask. It was no ordinary accident but a fatal mistake that brought death, diseases, and suffering. We did not only lose human life, but the biodiversity was severely affected in Chernobyl and nearby areas. The physical damage to the land, water, and air due to radiation is immense. There were many reasons for how it happened, but one of the disastrous decision-making was also the result of sleep-deprived operators.

We can only estimate the seriousness of these mistakes by the numbers and data we have gathered. We can only assume the negative effect through much research, published articles, and suggestions from sleep scientists. Sleep deprivation has not just been an issue for human health; when such a person handles the steering wheel, that person becomes a social threat. When these people work in industries; factories, they become responsible for the community they work in. It is no longer personal, but we can handle and manage personally. The responsibility here is extreme if you think carefully!


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Hudson, A.N., Van Dongen, H.P. and Honn, K.A., 2020. Sleep deprivation, vigilant attention, and brain function: a review. Neuropsychopharmacology, 45(1), pp.21-30.

Eide, P.K., Vinje, V., Pripp, A.H., Mardal, K.A. and Ringstad, G., 2021. Sleep deprivation impairs molecular clearance from the human brain. Brain, 144(3), pp.863-874.

Garbarino, S., Lanteri, P., Bragazzi, N.L., Magnavita, N. and Scoditti, E., 2021. Role of sleep deprivation in immune-related disease risk and outcomes. Communications biology, 4(1), p.1304.