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What Happens To The Body If We Don't Sleep? Obesity, Hallucinations And More

Apr 18, 2016 03:59 AM EDT
A student takes a nap in one of the rooms in this German university.
(Photo : Sean Gallup/Getty Images)

With our daily lives getting busier day by day, it's hard to devote time to getting some sleep. For some people, the 24 hours in a day is insufficient to finish all their tasks and napping may be considered a waste of time.

But sleep is actually very significant. Our brain works the hardest when we are asleep, repairing and strengthening our cognitive and other bodily functions.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that insufficient sleep is a public health concern. Their studies showed that with sleep deprivation, several sleep-related difficulties occur, such as failure to concentrate and remember, and even doing everyday activities like driving or taking public transportation.

Statistics also show that not sleeping for 24 hours can be equivalent to having a blood alcohol level of 0.1, which is the legal limit in most U.S. states.

Here are some things that happen to our bodies if we don't sleep:

Higher Risk for Obesity and Diabetes

Studies from Harvard Medical School show a strong link between weight gain and sleep deprivation. These research have shown that people who usually sleep for less than six hours per night are more likely to have a body mass index that is higher than average.

When we sleep, our bodies secrete hormones that aid in controlling appetite, glucose processing and energy metabolism. When we fail to get sleep, we disrupt the balance and natural processes of our body.

Researchers also found that lack of sleep can lead to diabetes since our body processes glucose, or simple sugars, slower. Several studies revealed that adults who sleep less than 5 hours per night have an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Mood Swings

Did you ever feel more irritable when you're running on less sleep? It is possible that chronic sleep deprivation may lead to long-term mood disorders. Anxiety, depression and mental distress have all been linked to chronic sleep issues.

Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director of the Center for Sleep Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine, said that even a low level of sleep deprivation can adversely impact cognitive and emotional function, as per Live Science.

Mood swings, such as short temper, can start very minor, then grow more aggressive and unstable over time.


Microsleeps are very short sleep sessions, which we may not even realize is happening. Studies show that during this phenomenon, even if our eyes are open, we are essentially in sleep state and our brain is not processing information.

Microsleeps can be very rapid and uncontrollable, and can be very dangerous when doing activities that require focus and attention, such as driving.

Insufficient sleep, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, has played a role in accidents involving ships, airplanes and even nuclear reactor meltdowns.

Hallucinations and Delirium

This is the scariest part: With the lack of sleep, we can actually start seeing things. Hallucinations take place when our sleeplessness finally takes a toll on our cognitive functions. Our brain cannot process information well and we will start having misperceptions, as if on a high.

Chronic sleep deprivation can also drive people to madness. People who lack sleep may become completely disoriented and confused, with a reduced awareness of their surroundings.

While research and history cannot fully support that sleep can cause death, it is the activities done while sleep-deprived that can put us in more risk. While we may not be able to fully reverse the negative effects of sleep deprivation on our body, it may be best to catch up on some sleep when we can. So, get to bed!

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