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Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Sleep Enough

Jul 01, 2023
Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Don't Sleep Enough
Sleep is undervalued in society. When you don’t get enough sleep, your body can’t repair and restore itself for optimal function. Sleep deprivation increases your risk for chronic and acute diseases. Here’s how.

You may think that sleeping is a waste of time. After all, what can you accomplish when you’re lying in a bed for the recommended 7-9 hours a night? Turns out, you’re doing plenty while you sleep. And if you don’t get enough sleep, your brain and the rest of your body pay a heavy price. 

At Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, our sleep medicine experts diagnose sleep issues and treat them so your body can do the work it needs to do at night. 

What happens to your body when you don’t sleep enough? This brief helps you understand why sleep is a non-negotiable component for good physical health, mental health, and longevity.

Your heart gets stressed

When you go through all of the cycles of normal sleep at night, your heart and circulatory system get a break. They don’t have to work as hard to pump blood throughout your body as they do when you’re awake and active.

While you’re dreaming, your heart rate increases and is similar to the beats-per-minute rate of your waking hours. But when you’re in light sleep or deep sleep, your heart rate slows down. If you don’t sleep enough to get both light and deep sleep, you’re at risk for:

  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Heart attacks

Even if you’re in bed for 7-9 hours but not actually sleeping — for example, you wake up frequently during the night — your heart gets stressed. One sign that you’re not getting enough quality sleep is feeling drowsy or irritable during the day.

Your hormones become unbalanced

Your circadian clock is timed to produce hormones during certain times at night. If you go to bed too late, have trouble falling asleep, or awaken multiple times during the night, it affects your hormones. 

Sleeping soundly at night suppresses the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, while boosting the production of:

  • Growth hormones
  • Melatonin
  • Thyroid-stimulating hormone
  • Sex hormones

Sleep also regulates the production of ghrelin and leptin, hormones that control how hungry you feel and when you experience satiety. If you don’t sleep enough, you may feel hungry even after eating a full meal, which increases your risk for obesity.

Your brain can’t function 

Like all of your organs, your brain needs sleep to clear away toxins and dead cells and replace them with healthy new cells. Sleep, especially rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, also helps you consolidate memories. When your brain doesn’t get enough sleep, you’re at risk for:

  • Trouble concentrating
  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty remembering things
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Dementia

When you don’t get enough sleep, you may not function well at school or work. You’re also at increased risk for accidents while performing activities that require focus and attention, such as driving or operating equipment.

Your immune system gets weaker

Your immune system, too, requires sleep to stay strong and active. Studies show that even one night of short sleep of four hours reduces the number of natural killer (NK) cells by 72%.

One important function of NK cells is to kill tumor cells. When you have reduced numbers of NK cells, your risk of dying from cancer is 1.6 times higher than it is for those with normal numbers of NK cells.

Lack of sleep affects how well your body can defend itself against pathogens, including viruses. People who don’t sleep well enough or soundly enough tend to have more colds than the general population. They also produce 50% fewer antibodies after vaccination than those who sleep fully.

Help your body do the work it needs to do by giving it enough sleep. If you have trouble falling asleep, staying asleep, or getting back to sleep, contact us for a sleep study and individualized sleep medicine treatment today. Phone our office nearest you, or schedule an appointment online now. 

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At Advanced Medical Care, care is not just a part of our name — it is in our hearts. Our providers strive to put our patients first and find solutions to meet their needs on every level. If you’re ready to start improving your health, we encourage you to schedule an appointment at our office in Queens or Brooklyn.