Sleep deprivation: the long and short-term side effects

August 11, 2020 4 mins read
Sleep deprivation: the long and short-term side effects

Did you know that the side effects of sleep deprivation are more than just waking up in a grumpy mood and feeling unproductive?

Sleep deprivation, if not treated or made aware of, can lead to numerous health and physical issues. In this article, we take a look at the long and short-term side effects that sleep deprivation can have on your overall wellbeing.

What are the short-term side effects of sleep deprivation?

You’ve had the occasional interruption to your sleep for the last couple days, and while it’s a nuisance to your daily routine, you’re managing. However, if you add on more sleepless nights, you’ll start to experience more severe emotional and mental disturbances.

These are the beginning stages of the short-term side effects of sleep deprivation:


Feeling abnormally sleepy or tired during the day after a sleepless night. This is your body’s way of telling you that it hasn’t had enough rest, which may lead to feeling forgetful or falling asleep at inappropriate times.

Short-term memory issues

During sleep, your brain forms connections that help you process and remember new information. Lack of sleep can negatively impact your short and long-term memory, or even forming new memories. The prefrontal cortex, which handles reasoning, and the amygdala, which deals with emotion, are key drivers for your brain’s memory bank, which can be affected by sleep deprivation.


Lack of sleep can affect your interpretation of events and hinders your ability to make sound judgements, as you may not be able to assess situations accurately and act on them astutely. Furthermore, we become a safety hazard behind the wheel as your reaction time can be similar to that of driving intoxicated. If you feel drowsy or experience daytime sleepiness, be aware that this too will affect your productivity and can lead to careless accidents in your workplace.


Feeling moody or irritable? Sleep deprivation has a big effect on your emotional state, often causing you to react irrationally. You may become impatient and quick-tempered, reactive in stressful situations and unpleasant in conversation. Knowing what’s causing poor sleep can help prevent many of these emotional rollercoasters and assist in managing a stressful life.

Motivation loss

When it comes to staying motivated, feeling tired is not something that is going to encourage you to stick to your goals. Sleep deprivation, as we’ve uncovered thus far, harms your ability to function mentally and react accordingly, especially when you are trying to achieve goals or even motivate a team. Your ability to stay in a motivated mood will be overshadowed by the efforts your body is maintaining to keep you awake.

What are the long-term side effects of sleep deprivation?

Short-term effects of sleep deprivation may have simple solutions, but what happens when you enter a regular sleepless state? These are the (more serious) long-term effects sleep deprivation can have on your health:

Weakened immune system

Not getting the correct hours of sleep can harm your body’s efforts to defend against germs and viruses. You’re more likely to fall ill from the flu or a common cold as your immune system will become weak from lack of rest.

High blood pressure

Getting less than five hours of sleep per night puts you at risk for high blood pressure. High blood pressure means your heart is working extra hard to supply blood around the body. Being sleep-deprived can limit your body’s energy response in assisting your heart to supply blood.

Diabetes risk increases

Poor sleep affects your body’s release of insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar. If you don’t get enough sleep, you could have higher blood sugar levels that can increase your risk for type 2 diabetes.

Weight gain

Reoccurring sleep deprivation can be related to an increase in hunger and appetite. The chemicals that signal your brain that you are full become off balance. As a result, this can make you more prone to overeating as well as stimulate your cravings for high-fat, high-carbohydrate foods as your body searches for energy replenishment.

Anxiety and depression

Chronic sleep deprivation can affect your mood and lead to anxiety and depression. Sleep and mental health are closely connected. Those that suffer from existing mental health problems like depression sleepiness and anxiety are more likely to suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders.

Getting more quality sleep

Many people do not get enough quality sleep and, as we’ve explored, the effect our sleep habits have on our health makes it a vital component of every person’s overall health and wellbeing. Getting an adequate amount of rest each night can significantly reduce health issues around weight gain, heart disease, and increased illness duration.

Along with nutrition and exercise, good sleep is one of the important pillars of health and without working on getting better sleep quality, you will not be able to achieve the optimal health your body and mental state deserves.