How Sleep Affects your Health

Why Poor Sleep Can Do Serious Damage to Your Health


I know that this is technically a nutritionist blog, and we have talked a lot about food and its benefits in the past. We have also talked a little bit about the benefits of exercise. But there is one aspect of health that we have surprisingly not covered on this blog. It is something we do every day but seem to not get a good grasp on. I am, of course, talking about sleep.

Statistically speaking a little more than 1/3rd of the American population are getting the recommended amount of sleep. And of course, like our obesity statistic that we really aren’t proud of, “A lower proportion of adults reported getting at least seven hours of rest per day in states clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains.” So, there is a good chance that most people in the Alabama area are probably not getting enough rest.

“But what does it matter? I can rest when I am dead!”

I hear this addage from a lot of people, usually older than me, who shove aside any major health concerns to keep doing what they are doing.

It turns out, living without proper rest can do a lot of damage to your body, as well as your livelihood.


Lack of Sleep Will Make You Fat

While correlation does not always mean causation, there has been a direct link to sleep deprivation and glucose imbalance. According to a US  study published in 1007 by James E Gangwisch “A key reason to consider sleep duration as a putative risk factor is evidence of a plausible biological mechanism linking shorter sleep to higher risk of obesity and diabetes.”

The explanation provided in the study was stated as such, “The increased load on the pancreas from insulin resistance induced by chronically short sleep duration can, over time, compromise β-cell function and lead to type 2 diabetes. ”

And that is only the pancreas. There are hormonal imbalances that come with not being well rested. Including hormones that control your appetite.

If you aren’t well rested you will be hormonally driven to eat sugary foods for a quick burst of energy.

“Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in the night. A lack of sleep can also contribute to weight gain by making you feel too tired to exercise.”

sleep deprivationLack of Sleep Hurts your Mood

Have you ever been feeling like you are at the end of your rope? Do you just never want to get out of bed? Is the state of the world too depressing? One of the causes of these feelings could come from a lack of rest There have been a series of scientific studies that link insomnia (a sleep deprivation disorder) with depression.

According to a presentation by Melinda Ratini DO MS,” Over time, lack of rest and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.”

And that is not all it can do.

Healthline explains it best, “Sleep deprivation also negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.

If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations—seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other psychological risks include:

  • impulsive behavior
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts”

If you are suffering from a lack of sleep you will literally feel like killing yourself. Or at the least doing something outrageously dangerous and illogical, which brings me to my next point.


Lack of Sleep Can Make You Stupid

If your central nervous system and hormones are already on the fritz from a lack of energy, then what does it mean for your day to day life?sleep deprivation

For starters, it can make learning new things harder.

“For you to be able to access a memory, that memory first has to be encoded into your brain (and you have to have been paying attention when it happened). Without that time to consolidate your experiences at night, you won’t retain what happened during the day.”

And with less memory to work with you are apt to make the same mistakes multiple times.

You also wind up less alert to your surroundings, causing a lack of self-awareness during a work day at best, and a car accident happening to you at worse.



Over 1/3rd of Americans are running around sleep-deprived, unaware of their surroundings, unable to retain memories, and are most likely obese, anxious and outright depressed. How many of those people are in important positions of power? How many of these people are we implicitly trusting with that sort of mental state? It’s a  scary thought. But what can you do to make sure you get a proper night’s rest? Find out next week at