How Sleep Deprivation Wrecks Your Immunity

Written by Dr. Iunis Galina Ivanovna on Wed, 16 November 2022


It's something a new parent, overworked employee, and stressed-out person is familiar with. Sleep deprivation. When you're consistently not getting enough sleep, sleep deprivation kicks in to tell you just how much your body hates being treated like that.

Often, your sleep deprivation may be your own doing. With work weeks as busy as they are, we try to cram all our leisure time into late nights and weekends. Binge watching a show you're really enjoying late at night can be tempting but it's harmful to your sleep patterns, as are frequent nights of partying out with friends. And you might think you can catch up on all that lost sleep on the weekend, but your body is not a bank; you can't accumulate a sleep deficit and then "deposit" it all at once".

A lack of sleep directly affects how you think and feel. But while the short-term effects, like feeling like a zombie, are more noticeable, chronic sleep deprivation can have dire long-term consequences for your immunity and your health in general.

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep isn't just about quantity. It doesn't matter if you sleep eight hours if you wake up repeatedly. That's why sleep deprivation isn't how many hours you sleep, but how well rested you are at the end of it. It's also classified by levels.

  • Acute sleep deprivation is when your sleep time is greatly reduced over a short period, like a few days.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation is when you carry on with significantly less sleep than your body needs for at least three months or longer.

It's important to note however, though insomnia and sleep deprivation both result in a lack of sleep their causes differ. Insomnia is a result of an inability to sleep despite plenty of available rest time. Sleep deprivation however is usually a result of obligations or poor habits not allowing you enough time to sleep.

What happens to your body?

When you don't get enough sleep, your body isn't able to undergo its proper nightly renewal process. This is normally where your cells repair themselves, even as your brain creates new memories and improves its cognitive processes.

  • Without proper sleep, studies have shown that your cardiovascular system greatly suffers. Your blood pressure spikes, and your risk for coronary heart diseases and stroke increases.
  • Insufficient sleep messes up your body's hormone levels, which can prevent it from properly regulating blood sugar. This can lead to you developing diabetes. 
  • Your body produces cytokines (proteins that regulate your immune system) in your sleep. So, without enough of it, you can also say goodbye to your immune system.
  • You can also gain a lot of weight without the right sleep schedule. That's because humans tend to crave carb-heavy foods when they're not sleeping well, the reason for which we still don't fully know.
  • And not just your body, sleep deprivation can harm your mental state too. It's been linked with various mental health depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

Sleeping well

So how do you make sure you get enough good quality sleep?  First of all, curtail any bad sleeping habits you may have. Cut off from your office responsibilities earlier in the evening and don't regularly work late nights. Create an early start routine that lets you wind down in time for an appropriate bedtime. Learn to manage your stress through the week with yoga, exercise, meditation, hobbies, or just quality time with your family.

Treat your body right and it will serve you well in return. You put it through a lot through the week, so make sure your sleep remains sacred, no matter what else is going on.


Dr. Iunis Galina Ivanovna

Dr. Iunis Galina Ivanovna is a Neurologist from Ukraine. She graduated from the Luhansk State Medical University in 1998, and has been in the medical profession since then. In the course of her career as a neurologist, Dr. Ivanovna has gathered extensive experience and expertise having handled a wide variety of cases.

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