Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Main health effects of sleep deprivation.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There is no question that eating the right amount of the right kinds of food is foundational to good health.  Even though there are many of us who struggle to do it, we all know that a healthy diet is part of maintaining good health.  What many of us don’t know is that getting enough quality sleep is just as important to achieving and maintaining good health.  We also live in a society that doesn’t treat sleep as a priority.  If many of us struggle to eat healthily in a society where being overweight is unacceptable, what hope can we have to get enough sleep when society downgrades its importance, seeing it as a luxury or something to be sacrificed?

Sleep has a real impact on our overall health.  When we are sleep deprived it impacts everything from our physical body to our ability to function to our mental health.  We also feel the impact of sleep deprivation much faster than we feel the impact of poor food choices.  It only takes one night of lost sleep to impair our judgment equal to that of a drunk driver according to the National Sleep Foundation.  Studies have also shown that skipping sleep to cram for a test can actually result in a lower grade than just getting enough sleep because lack of sleep impairs cognitive functions like memory.

The bottom line is that getting enough sleep needs to be as high on your list as exercising and eating right.  To bring this point home, here are some of the reasons that getting the sleep your body needs is critical to getting healthy and staying healthy.


Immune System Impairment

During sleep, there is a lot going on in your body.  One of the most important things your body does while you are sleeping is boosting and improving your immune system.  If you don’t get enough sleep it degrades your immune system’s ability to function optimally making you more susceptible to illnesses of all types from the flu to cancer.


Mood and Mental Health Maintenance

The amount of sleep you get and your overall mood are very closely related.  Everyone knows that one of the surest signs that someone is overtired is that they are irritable and crabby.  Getting the sleep you need helps stabilize your mood while also decreasing the likelihood of some mental health conditions.  Research indicates that sleep deprivation increases your risk of some mental health conditions like depression.


Cardiovascular System Condition

We all know how important it is to promote and protect our cardiovascular health but not many of us realize the direct connection between cardiovascular health and sleep.  Not getting enough sleep can contribute to high blood pressure and other cardiovascular system conditions.  Researchers also believe that lack of sleep may increase the risk of dying from a heart attack.



Research cited by the National Sleep Foundation indicates that there is a link between hormonal changes resulting from sleep loss and an increased risk of developing type II diabetes.