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Impact of Sleep Deprivation


When we sleep well, we wake up feeling refreshed and alert for our daily activities. Sleep affects how we look, feel and perform on a daily basis and can have a major impact on our overall quality of life.

Studies have found a relationship between the quantity and quality of one’s sleep and various health problems. For example, insufficient sleep affects growth hormone secretion that is linked to obesity; as the amount of hormone secretion decreases, the chance for weight gain increases. Blood pressure usually falls during the sleep cycle, however, interrupted sleep can adversely affect this normal decline, leading to hypertension and cardiovascular problems. Research has also shown that not enough sleep impedes the body’s ability to use insulin, which can lead to the onset of diabetes.

Short sleep duration has been linked with:

  • Increased risk of drowsy driving  
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

The 2011 Sleep in America poll looked at the use of communications technology in the bedroom.  When respondents to this poll were asked how inadequate sleep impacted their lives, 85% of people commented that it negatively impacted their mood.  And 7 in 10 people said that a lack of sleep negatively impacts their family life or home responsibilities. Work quality was also impacted and was mentioned by 71% of the respondents.  And more than 60% said that their social life/leisure activities including their intimate relations were negatively impacted because of not getting enough sleep.

The terrifying aspect is that many people admit that they have driven while drowsy at least once in the past month.  In fact, almost two-thirds of 19-29 year olds who drive admitted to driving drowsy and half of them said they had done so in the past month. (Sleep poll) Drowsy drivers cause over 1,500 fatalities in the US annually according to estimates from the National Department of Transportation. (2014, Gale, Bloomberg)

Students overwhelmingly admitted that the lack of sleep had an impact on their school work. Boston College undertook an international comparison of sleep deprivation in students and the United States was found to have the highest number of sleep-deprived students with 73% of 9 and 10 year olds and 80% of 13 and 14 year olds identified by their teachers as being adversely impacted by this sleep deficiency.  The findings in the US were much higher than the international average of 47% of primary students and 57% of secondary age students needing more sleep. (Coughlan, S. 2013, May 8).

The problem of sleep deprivation plays a significant role in lowering the achievement of students.  This problem is even more pronounced in more affluent countries.  Sleep experts are linking the deprivation to the use of cell phones and computers in the bedroom during sleeping hours.  These researchers found that it wasn’t only that kids are kept awake by messaging their friends or using the Internet.  The light from the screen held close to the face is physically disruptive to the natural sleep cycle and the entire circadian rhythm.

“Having a computer screen that is eight inches away from your face is going to expose you to a lot more light than watching television on the opposite side of the room,” says Karrie Fitzpatrick, sleep researcher at Northwestern University in Illinois. (Coughlan, 2013)

Sleep deprivation is causing such a serious disruption that classroom lessons have “dummied” down to accommodate the sleep deprived learners in the class. This strategy impacts the whole class, slowing down the learners who are not sleep deprived by dumbing down instruction.

People cope with inadequate sleep in a few ways: increased caffeine consumption, daytime napping, and increased sleep on weekends to “catch up”. Perhaps by not taking technology into the bedroom we can circumvent this problem!


National Sleep Foundation. (2011, March 7). Sleepy connected Americans.  Retrieved March 19, 2014.

National Sleep Foundation, Summary of Findings. (2011, March 7). Retrieved March 19, 2014.

Gale, J. (2014, Jan. 7) Bedroom-invading smartphones jumble body’s sleep rhythms. Bloomberg. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.

Coughlan, S. (2013, May 8). Lack of Sleep Blights Pupils’ Education.  Retrieved March 19, 2014.

Taylor, J. (2013, June 24) How your children can get enough sleep in the 24/7 connected world. Huffington Post. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.

Kirkova, D. (2013, Sept. 27) Struggling to sleep? Turn off the phone! Excess texting linked to insomnia in students. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.

Science Daily (2013, Sept. 26). Study links heavy texting, sleep problems in college freshmen. Retrieved on April 22, 2014.