Sleep Not Optional: What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

Sleep Not Optional: What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep?

You’ve probably heard the saying that what goes around comes around. This is true when it comes to sleep.

You can’t cheat on sleep. If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will ultimately pay for it.

It’s tempting to think that you can cheat your way out of sleep. But the results of that nature cheat isn’t going to look pretty.

Getting enough sleep is an essential recharge for our bodies. It helps our bodies to repair themselves and provides us the energy we need to go about our day’s activities.


In this article, we will discuss some of the health consequences of insufficient sleep. So what happens when you don’t get enough sleep?

1. You’ll gain more weight

If you don’t get enough sleep, you risk putting on more weight. Part of the reason is that inadequate sleep causes us to increase our calorie intake. 

In one study of 12 men who were allowed to have only 4 hours of sleep. This sleep deprivation caused them to eat an average of 559 more calories the next day compared to when they had eight hours of sleep. 

Sleep deprivation leads to an increase in appetite which leads to making bad food choices. All these add up to build-up belly fats.

If you’re having trouble sleeping, consider making little changes to help you sleep better at night. For example, keep a regular bedtime schedule or even adjust your sleeping position.

2. You’ll have poor cognitive performance

Sleep is not only an end in itself, but it is also a means to another end. This other end is how we perform after we are rested.

We not only want to feel refreshed and rejuvenated after sleeping, but we also want to be sharper, more energized and more productive.

It’s not surprising that a good power nap for a few minutes in the afternoon when you feel tired after eating can help you regain concentration and focus on your tasks.

One study showed that losing even one night of sleep affects our ability to perform on cognitive tasks.

Examples of cognitive functions that suffer if we don’t get enough sleep include:

  1. Not able to recall words 
  2. Poor attention span and listening
  3. Slow reaction time to simple things
  4. Not able to recognize faces 
  5. Poor decision making

You can see why not insufficient sleep is not worth it when you have important things to do during the day.

3. You’re likely to catch a cold

Common cold or flu can be one of the distracting things to your productivity.

Several studies have shown that if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to get ill after coming in contact with the common cold virus.

In one study, healthy participants were given a dose of the common cold virus. Before the dose was given out, the researchers measured how much the participants slept.

Over the following days, researchers found that participants who had less than five hours of sleep were four-and-a-half times more likely to catch a cold than those who had more than seven hours of sleep at night. 

If you’re wondering how you beat the cold or flu season, the key is to sleep more.

4. You’ll weaken your immunity

Our bodies produce and release different types of proteins to keep us immuned and healthy on its own. One of those proteins is Cytokines. 

Cytokines enable us to fight infection and inflammation, which in turn boosts our immunity. Our bodies produce and release cytokines when we sleep.

So if we don’t get enough sleep, our bodies are less likely to produce less of this helpful protein. If possible, take afternoon naps, so your body can rejuvenate.

Even one research found that people who sleep less than six hours a night might be three times more likely to develop a condition which leads to diabetes and heart disease


On top of that, your body is less likely to recover faster from sickness if you’re not getting enough rest.

5. You risk increasing your blood pressure

Several studies have investigated the relationship between insufficient sleep and cardiovascular health. 

And a common finding is that not getting enough sleep can impact your blood pressure.

Part of the reason is that when we sleep, our bodies regulate stress. This is important for keeping our nervous system remain healthy. 

However, if we don’t get enough sleep over a protracted time, we sabotage our bodies’ stress regulation mechanism, which in turn leads to high blood pressure.

In one study, researchers Doyle and her colleagues aimed to understand this connection of sleep and blood pressure. They recruited 300 men and women who had no issues with heart problems. 

For two days, participants put on portable blood pressure cuffs that took the blood pressure of the participants. 


The researchers found that not getting enough sleep may increase blood pressure that night and the following day.


Think of it this way: sleeping is one of the important ways our bodies reboot, recharge and replenish itself.

Our bodies are complex machines and this process of a reboot is essential for us to perform at our very best.

If you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s time to make little changes in your life to get more rest.