The A to Zzzzs of not getting enough sleep

October 31, 2018 Providence Health Team

When you don’t get enough sleep, your mind and body are negatively affected.

Lately, you’ve been burning the candle on both ends. Between long hours at work, coaching your child’s sports team, hosting out-of-town guests, and caretaking for an elderly family member, you haven’t found much time for sleep. As a result, you can hardly keep your eyes open while driving, you’ve been irritable with your spouse and kids for weeks, and today, you feel the telltale signs of an oncoming cold.

It’s time to make some changes and prioritize your sleep schedule. Did you know that lack of sleep affects your entire body — physically, emotionally and cognitively — impacting everything from your ability to make good decisions, maintain quality social relationships, and even fight off illness?

Along with eating well and exercising regularly – sleeping enough is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle.

Below are some of the many A-to-Z aspects of our lives affected when we don’t get enough sleep:

Anxiety, anger, attention, athletic performance

Blood pressure

Car safety, chronic disease, cell damage, concentration

Diabetes, decision-making, depression

Emotional well-being

Focus, fatigue, fertility

Grades in school, grumpiness

Heart disease, hallucinations, hormones

Immune system, irritability

Juggling tasks successfully, judgment

Kids’ development

Long-term memory, learning, libido

Memory, mood, metabolism, mental health

Need for stimulants


Problem-solving skills, paranoia, premature aging

Quality of life

Risky decisions, risk of injury

Stroke risk, stress, safety, social interactions

Tiredness, thinking clearly

Unhealthy cravings

Viruses, vitality

Weight gain, work performance, worry

Xeniality (look it up!)


Zzzzz —  your overall health depends on sleep!

Physical health

While you sleep, your body is hard at work refreshing itself: healing cells and tissue, regenerating bone and muscle. When you don’t sleep, this rejuvenation doesn’t happen.  Over time, poor sleep may make it harder for the body to mediate lifestyle factors that play a role in the risk of major health problems like high blood pressure and heart disease.

Because sleep impacts the hormones that affect appetite and the way carbohydrates are processed, lack of sleep can lead to unhealthy cravings and insulin resistance associated with obesity and diabetes.

Sleep also affects the immune system. Without enough, your body might have a harder time avoiding short-term illnesses like colds and flu.

Emotional health

When short on sleep, you might feel irritable, anxious, impatient, and unable to concentrate. Not getting enough sleep affects your overall mood, emotional well-being, and interpersonal relationships.

You might avoid people altogether, or argue with loved ones.

Anxiety is heightened. Nearly everything feels more stressful – daily tasks, decisions, deadlines. Chronic lack of sleep can even lead to depression.

Cognitive health

You’ve probably noticed that you generally think more clearly in the morning, after a good night’s sleep. This is because sleep impacts concentration, the ability to learn new things, memory, and problem-solving skills.

The ability to make good decisions can be impacted, leading to potential risky behaviors. Work or school performance is often affected. And, because reaction time diminishes when sleepy, it can be unsafe to drive a car, for example, since there’s a greater likelihood of being in an accident.

When short on sleep, some individuals have even reported hallucinations.

Are you getting enough?

Sleep quantity and quality are both important. Many issues can impact your ability to get a good night’s sleep, including sleep apnea, disease, and aging.

Take the Providence sleep assessment and ask your primary care provider what you can do if you think you may have a sleep problem.

AK: Providence Medical Group Primary Care

CA: Providence Health & Services Primary Care; St. Joseph Health Medical Group Sleep Medicine; St. Joseph Hospital Sleep Disorders Center

MT: Providence Sleep Disorders and Treatment

OR: Providence Sleep Disorders Centers

WA: Kathryn Severyns Dement Sleep Disorders Center

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This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your health care professional's instructions.

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