What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

We probably all know what it feels like to not get enough sleep – tired, maybe grumpy, and possibly lacking in motivation or productivity.

But lack of sleep may be having a much bigger impact than you think. And it has serious implications for your health.

In fact, it’s so serious that in 2018, the Australian Government commissioned an enquiry into Sleep Health Awareness. And the report wasn’t good news.1

  • At least 40% of Australians are regularly experiencing inadequate sleep1
  • The impact of insufficient sleep includes increased risk of chronic diseases (see below), mental health issues, impaired judgment, increased risk of accidents and reduced productivity1
  • Causes of inadequate sleep include lifestyle factors, such as work patterns or use of electronic devices, and environmental factors such as noise or light1

If that hasn’t convinced you about the importance of sleep, here are some additional reasons to do something about it.

  • Increased blood pressure and other cardiovascular issues
    Research has shown that lack of sleep contributes to narrowing of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which increases blood pressure, which in turn increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events including heart attacks, stroke and heart failure2
  • Illness
    Lack of sleep can affect your immune system, affecting your ability to fight infections including viruses such as flu and colds3
  • Weight gain
    Ironically, the most sedentary activity we can perform may actually protect us from obesity.4 While we sleep, our body uses the opportunity to regulate the release of hormones that control glucose metabolism, including insulin. A lack of sleep upsets the balance of those hormones as well as boosting levels of others that increase our appetite4
  • Diabetes risk
    Type 2 diabetes (also associated with obesity) is a chronic condition that can lead to serious health problems, including cardiovascular disease. As we read above, lack of sleep interferes with our normal glucose metabolism processes2
  • Increased risk of cancer
    Lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of breast cancer, colorectal cancer and prostate cancer5

What to do about lack of sleep

As you saw above from the Government report, many of our sleep issues are caused by lifestyle factors – which we can control.

Let’s start with the basics – but if you’d like more information, check out this article “Insomnia and ways to overcome it”.

  • Routine
    Go to bed at the same time every night
  • Create a perfect place of rest
    Remove distractions (like televisions) and create a comfortable sleeping environment – just the right temperature, good quality mattress and pillows, aromatherapy, and peace and quiet.
  • Block the light
    Light is one of the biggest factors to limit sleep. If you can’t block light, consider a light blocking mask, such as the Dreamlight masks (click to learn more). They’re comfortable lightweight and effective at blocking 100% of light.
  • Block the sound
    Whether it’s traffic or snoring, invest in some good quality earplugs designed for sleep. Check out the Otifleks range here.
  • Avoid caffeine at night
    Caffeine in tea, coffee, chocolate, energy drinks or colas can interfere with the process of falling asleep
  • Ditch the devices
    Smartphones and tablets emit a blue light that interrupts the production of the melatonin sleep hormone and shouldn’t be used at bedtime.6
  • Regular exercise
    Moderate exercise not only helps maintain good physical health, but it can also help relieve some of the tension or stresses of everyday life and makes for a more restful sleep.7
    (Not too close to bedtime)

In summary, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the US, “Sleep is not a luxury. It is critical to good health.” So, take the advice and go and get a good night’s sleep.

  1. https://www.aph.gov.au/Parliamentary_Business/Committees/House/Health_Aged_Care_and_Sport/SleepHealthAwareness/Report/section?id=committees%2Freportrep%2F024220%2F26953
  2. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/sleep-deprivation/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-heart
  3. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/insomnia/expert-answers/lack-of-sleep/faq-20057757
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3632337/
  5. https://www.healthline.com/health/healthy-sleep/what-happens-to-your-body-when-you-lose-sleep#cancer-risk
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7320888/
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/sleep-and-tiredness/10-tips-to-beat-insomnia/



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