HomeSleep Science11 Consequences of Losing a Single Night of Sleep

11 Consequences of Losing a Single Night of Sleep

By - Last Updated: August 23rd, 2019

Sleep is essential for almost every aspect of your health.

Even a single night of restless slumber has consequences on the way your body functions and how you feel.

But what actually happens after a single night of poor sleep? Below is 11 negative effects sleep deprivation has on your mind, body, and health.

1. Sleep Loss Reduces Your Ability to Focus and Pay Attention

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Your ability to pay attention is one of the first things to be affected after a poor night of sleep.

Every second we’re awake, we’re bombarded with lots of information in our environment. This includes sights, sounds, smells, and sensations.

Some of this information is important and deserves our attention, while other information isn’t valuable and can be ignored.

When we need to focus our attention on something important, such as reading a book or studying, our brain goes through a process of filtering out unimportant distractions.

A single night of sleep loss makes it much harder for our brain to ignore distractions in our environment. Without the filtering process, we find it extremely difficult to pay attention to things that are actually important.

2. Sleep Loss Makes Your Learning and Memory Worse

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One night of sleep loss is all it takes to reduce your ability to learn new information and recall memories.

Scientists believe your learning and memory are affected by sleep loss in two ways:

  1. As discussed above, sleep loss negatively affects your focus and attention. When you can’t focus, it makes it extremely hard to learn new information.
  2. Sleep plays a major role in storing long term memories in your brain. Without sleep, any new information you acquired during the previous day won’t be consolidated making memory recall difficult.

3. Sleep Loss Slows Your Reaction Time

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Sleep deprivation has a major effect on your reaction time which makes you more prone to accidents.

Losing sleep can have the same effect on your reaction time as drinking alcohol.

Scientists discovered that one night without sleep reduces reaction time by 50% and has the same impact on your brain as having a blood alcohol content (BAC) or 0.05%.

Longer periods without sleep raise the BAC equivalency to levels above 0.1%, which is the same as being drunk.

This means that driving or doing other dangerous activities while being sleep deprived is as dangerous as driving under the influence.

Driving while tired is such big issues that a study by The National Sleep Foundation found that sleep loss causes over 100,000 traffic accidents each year. 

5. Sleep Loss Raises Your Stress Hormones

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Sleep is important for the regulation of many hormones. This includes the hormones that regulate stress.

The stress hormone cortisol is released at high levels when you’re stressed.

When you have increased levels of cortisol in your system, you’re more prone to anxiety.

Cortisol rises when you don’t get enough sleep and once levels are high the stress it causes can make it even more difficult to get the rest you need.

6. Sleep Loss Lowers Your Physical Performance

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Sleep is important conserving the energy we need to perform physical activities. It also helps your metabolism create the energy your body needs.

A night of bad sleep can decrease the production molecules used for energy during physical activity.

Without sleep, you’ll also have reduced energy, increased fatigue, slow reaction time, and poor focus.

Not only is your energy affected, but it also affects your body’s ability to heal from physical-related injury.

Without sleep, you can’t perform at your best and you’ll be more prone to injuries that affect your physical output.

7. Sleep Loss Makes Your Blood Sugar Spike

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Sleep is super important for regulating insulin, the hormone that regulates the level of sugar (glucose) in your blood.

When you don’t get enough sleep, insulin release becomes out of whack and blood glucose levels spike.

When there’s too much glucose in your blood, it raises your risk of developing type-II diabetes.

High blood sugar and diabetes have big consequences on your health and can even result in early death if left untreated.

8. Sleep Loss Makes You Store More Fat

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One of the consequences of increased blood sugar from poor sleep is that your body increases its storage of fat.

Most of this fat ends up around the abdomen and increases your risk for health conditions like cancer and heart disease.

Sleep loss also messes up the balance of hormones that control hunger.

Scientist discovered that even one night of sleep reduces a hormone called leptin that’s responsible for telling your body when to feel full.

Ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating your appetite increases when you don’t sleep.

This imbalance in leptin and ghrelin, along with higher blood glucose levels explain why sleep loss is associated with obesity.

9. Sleep Loss Affects Your Mood

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Sleep and mood are intimately connected.

When you’re sleep-deprived, your brain has a difficult time regulating emotions and stress. This makes it more likely for you to feel moody and on edge.

Chronic sleep loss is also associated with an increased risk of developing a mental illness such as anxiety or depression.

On the other hand, sleep loss can make existing mental illness symptoms much worse and slow recovery.

Mental health disorders commonly associated with insomnia include:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Panic Disorders

10. Sleep Loss Makes it Easier to Get Sick

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Sleep is super important for the optimal functioning of your immune system.

During sleep, your body works hard to create important immune cells and antibodies that fight off disease.

When you’re sick, sleep also helps to increase the strength and activity of that same disease-fighting cells so you can get rid of infections faster.

Sleep loss not only makes your immune system weaker but it also makes your ability to fight off illness less efficient. This means you’re more likely to get sick and stay ill for longer.

11. Sleep Loss Makes Your Brain Accumulate Waste

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During the day your brain uses tons of energy which requires high levels of metabolic activity.

A byproduct of metabolic output is an accumulation of waste products in the brain.

This build-up of junk is cleared out of your brain during your deep sleep stage. When you don’t get enough deep sleep, the waste accumulates.

Poor waste clearance is associated with learning and memory difficulties, mental health disorders, and neurodegenerative disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.