How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Health: A HealthCentral Explainer

ATsai Editor
  • Recent studies have shown that sleep may affect our quality of life in unexpected ways. At the same time, our daily behaviors may be contributing to how well we sleep. The more that research sheds light on the role sleep plays in our lives, the more important a good night’s sleep seems to become.


    Here’s what some of the recent sleep research has found:


    Smoking makes it harder to sleep well

    Though we already know smoking is detrimental to our health in many ways, including causing cancer and heart disease, new research suggests it also affects our ability to sleep well. The study, published in The FASEB Journal has found that smoking disrupts the circadian clock function in the lungs and the brain. In other words, smoking ruins good sleep and can lead to cognitive dysfunction, mood disorders, depression and anxiety.

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    The analysis, done in mice, found that tobacco smoke affects clock gene expression rhythms in the lungs with parallel inflammation and reduced levels of brain locomotor activity. Both short- and long-term smoking decreased a molecule known as SIRTUIN1 (SIRT1), an anti-aging molecule. That altered the level of the clock protein in lung and brain tissue.

    The researchers concluded that quitting smoking is very important if you want to sleep better.  

    Sleep is essential for brain health

    Sleep deprivation may actually lead to brain damage, according to research published in the journal SLEEP. Swedish researchers deprived healthy young men of one night of sleep and found that it increased blood concentrations of brain molecules to levels seen in brain damage.

    For the study, researchers looked at 15 young men who spent two nights in a sleep laboratory. On one night the men were totally deprived of sleep; the other night they slept normally for eight hours. Before and after each night, the men gave fasting blood samples, which were measured for certain brain molecules.


    When these molecules have raised levels, it usually means there is damaged brain tissue, something is wrong with the blood-brain barrier, or both. Results showed that sleep deprivation increased these levels by around 20 percent, compared to levels after a normal night of sleep. 

    Sleep deprivation linked to diabetes

    A recent study published in the journal Aging Cell has found that sleep deprivation in mice causes cellular stress in the pancreas, which disrupts glucose homeostasis—a sign of type 2 diabetes. In addition researchers found that younger mice have more resilience to sleep deprivation.

    For the study, researchers examined tissues for cellular stress in mice that had been acutely sleep deprived. They found that older mice fared worse than younger mice. Though all the mice had increased plasma glucose levels, the younger mice had improved control of their blood sugar levels, while the older mice became hyperglycemic and could not maintain plasma insulin concentrations.

    The study concluded that sleep deprivation causes stress in the pancreatic cells, which may contribute to endocrine cell dysfunction, and that the effects may become more severe as we age. 

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    CPAP Therapy Improves Golf Performance


    Another benefit of getting good sleep is improving your golf game. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, middle-aged men with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) who use continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) therapy improved their golf performance.

    Up to six months of treatment with CPAP therapy resulted in  significant improvements in self-reported daytime sleepiness and sleep-related quality of life. This also resulted in an 11 percent drop in their average golf handicap, an index that estimates a golfer’s skill level. Among the more skilled golfers with a baseline handicap of 12 or less, the average drop in handicap was 31.5 percent. The study attributed the better performance to improved concentration, endurance and decision-making.


    Federation of American Societies for Experimental. (2014, January 6). "Want a good night's sleep? Quit smoking." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    Paddock, C. (2014, January 3). "Good night's sleep good for brain health." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    Weber, B. (2013, December 16). "Sleep deprivation and increasing age linked to diabetes." Medical News Today. Retrieved from


    American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (2013, December 18). "In men with sleep apnea, CPAP therapy improves golf performance." Medical News Today. Retrieved from



Published On: April 16, 2015