Sleeping baby

Is Sleep Deprivation Bad For You (and How to Fix It)?

Sleep deprivation – we’ve all been there, whether due to a few too many nights out with the lads, late nights and early mornings at work, cramming for that exam or just staying up to watch the Late Late Show.

Whatever the reason, we all know the results the next day – grogginess, lack of focus, irritability, and the list goes on. You push through the next day with a few extra cups of coffee, promising to go to bed early that night. You arrive home exhausted, grab some food and turn on the TV or open Watching TVyour most current novel.

Before you know it, it’s midnight and you have to be up early to prepare for that 8:00 a.m. meeting – where did the night go? It’s a cycle all too familiar to everyone.

But what is sleep deprivation actually doing to your body and health? Sleep deprivation actually causes quite an impact, including metabolic disorders (1), mood swings (2) and long-term health implications. According the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the United States, up to 70 million Americans have a sleep or wakefulness disorder. The National Department of Transport reports that over 40,000 accidents are caused by drowsy driving each year in the United States. (3)

How Much Sleep You Should Be Getting

Although the requirements for sleep depend on the age and individual circumstances of each person, on average the following hours are recommended:Father and baby sleeping

  • School-aged children – 10 hours
  • Teenagers – 9-10 hours
  • Adults – 7-8 hours

The National Institutes of Health, however, reports that 30% of adults are getting less than six hours of sleep per night, with over 30% of high-schoolers getting only eight hours of sleep on a school night. (3) Women also are particularly affected with sleep deprivation. (2)

You might be thinking, ok, so I definitely don’t get anywhere near 7-8 hours per night – I’m lucky if I get that once a week. I’ve survived up to now just fine, what’s the worst that can happen? Well, let’s find out!

What’s Happening To Your Body With Lack of Sleep

In addition to the environmental dangers of sleep deprivation, such as car accidents, the overall psychological and health of a person are also negatively affected by insufficient sleep. Effects due to sleep deprivation and shift work include:

  • Decreased testosterone (4)
  • Impaired attention, vigilance and memory, including:
    • Working memory
    • Long-term memory
    • Spatial memory
    • Non-spatial memory
    • Time-based prospective memory (e.g. remembering to take medicine in 30 minutes)
    • Emotional memory (5,6,7,8,9)
  • Increased confusion (2)
  • Negative mood (10)
  • Metabolic disorders such as lowered insulin sensitivity (11)
  • Reduced efficiency and safety in performing tasks
    • In a study published in the Journal of American College of Surgeons in August 2015, residents’ skills were tested by performing a virtual laparoscopy before and after their 24-hour call shift. The study clearly demonstrated reduced efficiency and safety in these procedures by the residents after sleep deprivation. (12,13)
  • Negative impact to the immune system, inflammatory and stress responses (14)

So, on top of all the stuff going on in your body when you don’t get enough sleep, when it comes down to it, no one really wants to be around a Grumpy Greg all the time.

It is really worth it to prioritize your sleep – I mean, Pillsif you don’t have time to sleep, you’re eventually going to have to make time for decreased efficiency you’re going to experience througout the day, the lost networking opportunities because of your foul mood and taking diabetic medication in the not-too-distant future.

It’s Not All Bad News – How to Fix Your Zzz’s

Now you have the picture as to how seriously important sleep is. But what about insomiacs and people who have trouble falling asleep? Fear not, there are remedies for that too.

Recommendations to fall (and stay) asleep:

  • Exercise!
    • Physical activity helps the body actually get to sleep. Almost any activity 2 lbs dumbbellshelps, but aerobics, biking, gardening, golfing, running, weight-lifting and yoga/pilates are usually associated with better, longer sleep times. (15)
    • Exercise has also been shown to have a protective effect on the impact of sleep deprivation, although this is not clearly defined. (4)
  • Get a nighttime schedule and create a bedtime routine
    • Sounds boring, but it works – your body will fall into a pattern and actually want to sleep once you adopt a regular schedule and routine (16)
  • Avoid the caffeine and alcohol
    • You probably know this already, but maybe you may need to check your beverage intake not only before bed but also in the afternoon. Afternoon caffeine and alcohol intake may affect your sleep hours later. (16)
  • Do something about your stress
    • If you’re worried when trying to fall sleep, the quality of your sleep will most likely suffer.
    • Remember to meditate in order to relieve stress and sleep better
  • Lavender essential oil has been shown to Aromatherapyimprove the quality of sleep
    • Lavendar essential oil has been shown to be especially effective for post-partum mothers (17, 18)
    • As a side note, for those with newborns waking every few hours, interruptions in sleep has also been shown to be even more detrimental to positive mood compared with partial sleep from delaying bedtime. (19)
  • Melatonin supplements
    • If you are following the above recommendations and still having trouble sleeping after a few weeks, melatonin may help.
    • Melatonin has been shown to reverse the cognitive dysfunction caused by sleep deprivation in rats. (20)
    • As always, check with your doctor before starting any supplements


Have you experienced better sleep using any of the above methods? Leave a comment and let me know what worked for you!

Wishing you all a great night’s sleep, folks. Yours in health,

Dr. K.



(1) Chua EC, Shui G, Cazenave-Gassiot A, Wenk MR, Gooley JJ. Changes in Plasma Lipids during Exposure to Total Sleep Deprivation. Sleep. 2015 Nov 1;38(11):1683–1691. Available at:

(2) Short MA, Louca M. Sleep deprivation leads to mood deficits in healthy adolescents. Sleep Med. 2015 Aug;16(8):987–993Available at:

(3) Insufficient Sleep Is a Public Health Problem | Features | CDC [Internet]. [cited 2016 Jul 25]. Available from:

(4) Akindele OO, Kunle-Alabi OT, Adeyemi DH, Oghenetega BO, Raji Y. Effects of vitamin E and melatonin on serum testosterone level in sleep deprived Wistar rats. Afr J Med Med Sci. 2014 Dec;43(4):295–304. Available from:

(5) Salari M, Sheibani V, Saadati H, Pourrahimi A, Khaksarihadad M, Esmaeelpour K, et al. The compensatory effect of regular exercise on long-term memory impairment in sleep deprived female rats. Behav Processes. 2015 Jul 17;119:50–57. Available from:

(6) Gevers W, Deliens G, Hoffmann S, Notebaert W, Peigneux P. Sleep deprivation selectively disrupts top-down adaptation to cognitive conflict in the Stroop test. J Sleep Res. 2015 Dec;24(6):666–672. Available from:

(7) Onaolapo OJ, Onaolapo AY, Akanmu MA, Olayiwola G. Caffeine/sleep-deprivation interaction in mice produces complex memory effects. Annals of neurosciences. 2015 Jul;22(3):139–149. Available from:

(8) Esposito MJ, Occhionero M, Cicogna P. Sleep Deprivation and Time-Based Prospective Memory. Sleep. 2015 Nov 1;38(11):1823–1826. Available from:

(9) Tempesta D, De Gennaro L, Natale V, Ferrara M. Emotional memory processing is influenced by sleep quality. Sleep Med. 2015 Jul;16(7):862–870. Available from:

(10) Liu Q, Zhou R, Liu L, Zhao X. Effects of 72hours total sleep deprivation on male astronauts’ executive functions and emotion. Compr Psychiatry. 2015 Aug;61:28–35. Available from:

(11) Mansell EJ, Docherty PD, Fisk LM, Chase JG. Estimation of secondary effect parameters in glycaemic dynamics using accumulating data from a virtual type 1 diabetic patient. Math Biosci. 2015 Jun 17; Available from:

(12) Tsafrir Z, Korianski J, Almog B, Many A, Wiesel O, Levin I. Effects of Fatigue on Residents’ Performance in Laparoscopy. J Am Coll Surg. 2015 Mar 4; Available from:

(13) Basaran K, Mercan ES, Aygit AC. Effects of Fatigue and Sleep Deprivation on Microvascular Anastomoses. J Craniofac Surg. 2015 Jun;26(4):1342–1347. Available from:

(14) Archer SN, Oster H. How sleep and wakefulness influence circadian rhythmicity: effects of insufficient and mistimed sleep on the animal and human transcriptome. J Sleep Res. 2015 Oct;24(5):476–493. Available from:

(15) Yoga, Aerobics, Weight-Lifting Best for Healthy Sleep [Internet]. [cited 2016 Jul 25]. Available from:

(16) Sleep tips: 7 steps to better sleep – Mayo Clinic [Internet]. [cited 2016 Jul 25]. Available from:

(17) Keshavarz Afshar M, Behboodi Moghadam Z, Taghizadeh Z, Bekhradi R, Montazeri A, Mokhtari P. Lavender fragrance essential oil and the quality of sleep in postpartum women. Iran Red Crescent Med J. 2015 Apr 25;17(4):e25880. Available from:

(18) Moeini M, Khadibi M, Bekhradi R, Mahmoudian SA, Nazari F. Effect of aromatherapy on the quality of sleep in ischemic heart disease patients hospitalized in intensive care units of heart hospitals of the Isfahan University of Medical Sciences. Iranian journal of nursing and midwifery research. 2010;15(4):234–239. Available from:

(19) Finan PH, Quartana PJ, Smith MT. The Effects of Sleep Continuity Disruption on Positive Mood and Sleep Architecture in Healthy Adults. Sleep. 2015 Jun 11; Available from:

(20) Kwon KJ, Lee EJ, Kim MK, Jeon SJ, Choi YY, Shin CY, et al. The potential role of melatonin on sleep deprivation-induced cognitive impairments: implication of FMRP on cognitive function. Neuroscience. 2015 Aug 20;301:403–414. Available from:

Dr. K. is a clean-eating, paleo-ish foodie with a passion for health and wellness. She enjoys lifting and sharing how you can live a healthier, happier and wiser life. She loves hearing from readers, so feel free to leave a comment or email her at

2 comments on “Is Sleep Deprivation Bad For You (and How to Fix It)?Add yours →

  1. Great article! Great job of outlining how sleep deprivation affects us and then how we can fix it! I personally love using lavender and other calming blends at night, and also am starting to get a bed time routine! Thank you for your wisdom on this!

    1. Thanks for stopping by Brianna, hope you found the post helpful! Essential oils are terrific way to help make a bedtime routine a regular habit! I’ve also recently started meditating right before bed – this has helped to calm my mind and get a restful sleep.

      All the best,

      Dr. K.

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