6 Ways Sleep Deprivation Harms Your Brain and Body

If you are anything like me, then you know what it is like to be tired. No, not “feel”, actually be so tired to the point that you can feel it in your bones. You are exhausted, and here is the kicker; you’re too exhausted to sleep. Does that sound familiar? My husband does not understand this. For him it is as easy as laying down and passing out. I envy him. If it were that simple, I would be out like a light right now. But the reality is, I’ll probably be awake until five in the morning watching Peaky Blinders or playing Tomb Raider.

In case you don’t know it yet, I am an insomniac. I can’t sleep. In fact, I am too tired to sleep. I don’t know how that works out, but it does, and I am miserable because of it. I have tried to find ways that might make me fall asleep earlier. Everything from good old chamomile tea, to counting sheep, to munching on chewable melatonin tablets. They do the job for a short while, but eventually they stop working. When it comes down to it, this is a problem. I can’t function during the day. I have a hard time focusing on my homework or standing for long periods of time. Even laying down has its limits. I am so tired that I am restless. I yawn excessively, I get super irritable, and I am almost always fatigued during the day. So, I just lay in bed and think about all the things that I will eventually get around to doing in the next year or so. I mean, hour or so. Man, I am tired.

Does this sound familiar to you? If this sounds like you, then you might be suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Believe it or not, our bodies need sleep just as it needs air and food to function. Who would have thought? During sleep, the body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Without sleep, our brain and body systems don’t function as they should. All the coffee in the world isn’t enough to override the body’s need for sleep. Trust me, I drink two pots a day and it just doesn’t do the trick anymore. A lack of sleep can take a tremendous toll on your body and on your brain. Below are six ways that sleep deprivation can affect our body functions and systems.

Sleep deprivation can affect our central nervous system:

The central nervous system is the information highway of the body. During sleep, pathways form between nerve cells in the brain that help us to remember new information that we have learned throughout the day. Sleep deprivation leaves the brain exhausted so it can’t perform those duties well. As a result, it might make concentrating on things more difficult. For example, I sometimes have a tough time remembering information from the day before, especially if it is school related. Sometimes I lose my train of thought. Then there are times where I will put homework off altogether. Sleep deprivation works a number on your body. Physically and mentally.

Sleep deprivation can affect your mental and emotional well-being:

As I mentioned above, sleep deprivation can make you feel irritable or impatient, and it can compromise your ability to make decisions. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. It can also lead to impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia, and suicidal thoughts. Additionally, it has been linked to generalized anxiety disorders and PTSD. As someone who does suffer from depression, sleep deprivation is no joke. There are times when I’ll lose interest in things and be fatigued and exhausted all the time. Other times I will procrastinate and put things off. It all depends on the day, and whether I have gotten a full night of rest.

Sleep Deprivation might lead to micro-sleeping:

Micro-sleeping is an episode where you will fall asleep for a few seconds or minutes without realizing it. Micro-sleep may temporarily disable your state of awareness until the body notices what is happening and wakes you up once again. It is out of your control and it can be extremely dangerous when it comes to driving. Micro-sleeping may also be another word for narcolepsy. A person who has narcolepsy may suffer from sleep deprivation, but simply being deprived of sleep does not mean that someone is narcoleptic.


It can affect your immune system:

When you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances called cytokines. The body uses these substances to fight bacteria and viruses. Sleep deprivation prevents the immune system from building up its forces. Without enough sleep, our bodies may not be able to fight off bacteria or infections. This means it can take longer to recover from an illness.

Sleep deprivation can increase the risk of seizures:

This is for those who have epilepsy or are prone to seizures. A lack of sleep can trigger seizures as they are very sensitive to sleep patterns. During normal sleep-wake cycles, changes in the   brain’s electrical and hormonal activity occur. Disruption of that cycle can lead to more frequent seizures whether asleep or awake. I am one of those people who has epilepsy and I have experienced several small seizures, what I call breakthrough seizures, because of sleep deprivation. The thing about seizures is that insomnia is already a side effect. What we experience here is a ricochet between the two. Therefore, it is important for those people who have epilepsy or are prone to seizures to have a stable sleep cycle.

Sleep deprivation can trigger a lower sex drive:

Sleep deprivation can reduce hormone levels in both men and women alike, for example, testosterone. Sleep deprivation lowers testosterone resulting in reduced libido and poor reproduction. Researchers have found that low levels of testosterone in men and women can lead to sexual dysfunction. For men this can be erectile dysfunction, for women it can be sexual    distress an dysfunction.This is due to the depleted energy, sleepiness, and increased tension that is related to sleep deprivation.


I don’t know about you, but I have officially been scared into going to sleep. Writing this article      has been eye opening for me. Has it for you? Of course, just reading something doesn’t always change the way things are but we can try and hope for the best! And now we have some good      information to keep in mind for when we are up until the wee hours of the morning studying for  that test or getting ready for work.


Did you enjoy this article? If you did, here are some others that you might enjoy as well.









Duffy, S. (2012). The relationship between sleep disturbances and PTSD, major depression, and generalized anxiety (Order No. 3544625). Available from Psychology Database. (1237146179). Retrieved from https://search-proquest-com.contentproxy.phoenix.edu/docview/1237146179?accountid=35812

Jordan, P. (2018). Microsleep: Causes, Dangers, and Prevention. Retrieved from https://sleephabits.net/microsleep

Peri, C. (2005-2018). 10 Things to Hate About Sleep Loss. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/10-results-sleep-loss#1

Pietrangelo, A., & Watson, S. (2017, June). The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Your Body. HealthlineRetrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/sleep-deprivation/effects-on-body


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