What Sleep Loss does to the Body - Healthians

What Sleep Loss does to the Body?

Contributed by- Dr. Pooja Chaudhary

Though sleep is called our best friend, it is a friend who often keeps us waiting!

It is so unfortunate that most of the people do not realize the importance of sleeping solid hours on daily basis. A lot of people surrender their precious sleep for work, night long parties or spend much of their night time playing computer games.

Do you know the lack of sleep can shorten your life?

Sleep is important for us as it helps to restore our brain chemicals and make our body rest. It is believed that the brain organizes and stores memories during sleep. Lack of sleep can affect our daytime functioning, hormonal balance, appetite, and immune system. Our body works tirelessly for the entire day, working hard to support the functioning of the brain. The way we feel during the day is mainly a reflection of how we spend our sleep time.

How is the body affected by sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can affect the body both physically and mentally. Some of the mental health problems include hallucinations and attention deficit disorder. On the other hand, the physical impact is wide. Heart disease, stroke, loss of appetite, lower immune system, weight gain especially due to late night eating, weight loss, obesity, blurred vision, slow reflexes and headaches can be caused due to less sleep.

Sleep deprivation can also prove to be very treacherous. It has been reported, that when sleep-deprived people were tested using a driving simulator or performing hand-eye coordination tasks, they did equally badly or even worse than people who were intoxicated. Sleep deprivation can augment the effect of alcohol on the body. This provides us with the answer for what’s more dangerous: driving drunk or driving drowsy?

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

The main symptom of sleep deprivation is excessive daytime sleeping. Other symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Yawning
  • Depressed mood or mood swings
  • Clumsiness
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty learning new concepts
  • Inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head
  • Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • Diminished sex drive (libido)

Now that you can identify with few of these symptoms, get yourself tested to know the triggers. Many of the above symptoms are similar to those of thyroid disorders. A full body checkup with thyroid will help you start the correct treatment.

Causes of sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation which can be caused by regularly not getting enough time for sleep or due to a physical or mental problem that can prevent restful sleep. Sleep deprivation causes include:

  • Voluntary behaviour
  • Work or study commitments
  • Environmental conditions
  • An overactive thyroid gland (hyperthyroidism) can cause sleep problems. The disorder over-stimulates the nervous system, making it hard to fall asleep, and it may cause night sweats, leading to nighttime arousal. If you are having issue in getting a good night sleep, check your thyroid levels.
  • People with diabetes whose blood sugar levels are not well controlled may experience sleep problems due to night sweat, a frequent need to urinate or due to symptoms of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If diabetes has damaged nerves in the legs, night-time movements or pain may also disturb sleep. If you are experiencing any of these problems, its time to check your sugar levels and monitor them regularly to address these issues timely.
  • Arthritis pain can make it hard for people to fall asleep and to resettle when they shift positions. In addition, treatment with steroids frequently causes insomnia. If frequent joint pains are troubling your sleep, get tested for arthritis as soon as possible.
  • Insomnia: This can be caused due to
    • Anxiety
    • Stimulant medication
    • Psychiatry issues
    • Neurotransmitter imbalance
    • Concurrent medical condition
    • Idiopathic insomnia.
  • Short term illness
  • Sleep apnoea


Identifying the right cause behind your sleeplessness is crucial to treating it. Get a full body checkup that includes sugar levels, thyroid levels, kidney function test, blood pressure etc to recognise the root cause.

How to ensure a good night sleep?

The main treatment for sleep deprivation is to satisfy the biological sleep need, prevent deprivation and billet the accumulated sleep debt. Following are the habits that can be incorporated to get a good sleep:

  • Getting into bed when tired
  • Following a bedtime routine
  • Avoid eating 2-3 hrs before going to bed
  • Exercising on a regular basis
  • Avoiding naps
  • Limiting the intake of alcohol, caffeine and nicotine
  • Keeping the bedroom dark and maintain a comfortable environment
  • Turning off electronic devices before going to bed
  • Medication can be taken under the supervision of a doctor.


It is important to remember that “Sleep is that golden chain that ties health and our bodies together!”


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