How Lack of Sleep Affects Us

Karla Ilicic
4 min readApr 9, 2020
Photo by Burst

“Snooze, you lose” — a well known saying that goes hand in hand with everything our parents taught us about creating & keeping good habits by waking up bright and early to start our day. But, are those habits actually good for us, or do we require a bit more Zzzzs for our Beauty sleep? Having had problems with sleep myself, I decided to explore how lack of sleep really affects us. Read on!

Sleeping is natural to all living beings, and we are the only ones who created alarms to disrupt it. Every other being wakes up by its own rhythm, when its body and brain are completely optimized. During our time off, every cell in our body recovers, our flight or fight hormones calm down and others synthesize, our digestion works its magic and sends nutrients that build and protect our body, our neurons get some rest, and our whole body rejuvenates. Imagine ourselves like a battery that needs to get charged every night, we cannot run on 5% as efficiently as we can on 100%.

Memory Issues

During sleep we can actually strengthen our memories or even practice skills learned while we were awake; all which improve our long-term memory. Lack of sleep negatively impacts our ability to process and learn new information, as our memories can’t reach the part of the brain where they should be stored. Lack of sleep has also been linked to dementia and Alzheimer’s many, many times in the last 10 years, and new data is being discovered on the daily!

Hunger Attack

Leptin and ghrelin are two hormones that regulate satiety and hunger. Normally,

we should experience a decrease in ghrelin (hunger hormone) and an increase in leptin (the satiety hormone) throughout the night, as our body digests the food and doesn’t need more of it. Sleep deprivation causes us to go on a late-night trip to the fridge, not because we’re hungry, but because our hormones are out of whack! This can lead to obesity, diabetes, water retention, and other issues, as our bodies constantly think we’re in starvation mode, and we cannot intuitively know when to eat and when to stop.

Low Sex Drive (especially in Men)

As the majority of testosterone release happens overnight, lack of sleep can cause a major drop, resulting in lower libido and…no morning sex! If you’ve been wondering why your man is so unmotivated in the morning lately, maybe he just needs some extra Zzzzs :) Try suggesting a cozy night in, Netflix & chill style, and ditch the alarm!

Weakened immune system

Our bodies fight inflammation on the daily; from the food we eat, to the people and environment we expose ourselves to, there are always some viruses and bacteria lurking around the corner. Normally, we produce blood white cells that fight them off, but when sleep deprivation occurs, our production tends to slow down. Continuous sleepless nights make us prone to catch more colds, flu, and impair our ability to fight disease. Sooooo…I don’t know about you, but I’m going to sleep in this weekend! :)

Mood swings

Who wants to have permanent PMS moodiness? Let me think about it…no one! Not enough sleep makes us irritable and less tolerant towards others, as our cortisol levels stay higher than they should. There’s been a lot of research about insomnia, and a very important link between sleep deprivation and depression has been found. According to dr. Lawrence Epstein, Medical Director of Sleep Health Centers and an instructor at Harvard Medical School, difficulty sleeping is sometimes the first symptom of depression.

Heart problems

Maintaining a healthy blood pressure, monitoring insulin resistance, promoting glucose metabolism….all these processes get confused when we don’t sleep through the night. Our body stays in constant fight or flight mode, not knowing when or where to use up the energy. Our stress hormones increase, and inflammation takes over, getting ready to fight whatever may be lurking around the corner. That’s why we cannot use up the energy to repair our muscles, rejuvenate our cells, and keep our blood pressure balanced. It doesn’t come as a surprise then, that the risk for heart disease, diabetes type 2, and other sorts of illnesses is super high.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to talking about how lack of sleep affects us. In addition to the ones already available to read & explore, numerous studies are still being conducted. We’ve learned so much about the importance of sleep in the last 10 years, we should never EVER feel bad about sleeping in when we can…I most definitely know I won’t :)



Karla Ilicic

Freelance writer, yoga teacher, nutritionist, and content creator with a strong passion for health, wellness, fitness, travel, relationships, and good food :)