The Career and Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon an article about the productivity and health risks of sleep deprivation (something I’m guilty of myself, for quite some time already), and today I just want to share what I’ve learned in that article with you.

The (Very) Real Dangers of Sleep Deprivation


A study from the University of Rochester found that only when you’re asleep, your brain can adequately remove toxic proteins from its neurons that are the by-products of neural activities when you’re awake.

So when you don’t get enough sleep, the toxic proteins remain in your brain cells. Any short-term productivity gains from skipping sleep to work are canceled out, and then some, by the detrimental effects on your mood, ability to focus and access to higher-level brain functions. It slows down your ability to process information and solve problems, and kills your creativity. It also impairs your ability to control your emotions and remain calm under pressure.

The negative effects of sleep deprivation are so great that people who are DRUNK outperform those lacking sleep!!


Being sleep-deprived is also linked to a number of serious HEALTH problems such as heart attack, stroke, type 2 diabetes and obesity. The body produces excess cortisol – the stress hormone – when it’s sleep-deprived. Higher and more prolonged levels of cortisol in the bloodstream have been shown to cause higher blood pressure, decrease in muscle tissue, decreased bone density and blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia. It also wreaks havoc on your immune system and makes you look older, because it breaks down skin collagen – the protein that keeps skin smooth and elastic.

Not sleeping enough also makes you overweight. When you sleep less you have more difficulty burning the calories you consume. Sleep deprivation also makes you hungrier by increasing the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin and makes it harder for you to get full by reducing the levels of the satiety-inducing hormone leptin. For men, not sleeping enough reduces testosterone levels and sperm count.

How Many Hours Should You Sleep?

As a rule of thumb, you would need SEVEN to NINE hours of sleep a night to feel sufficiently rested. Few people are at their best with less than seven hours of sleep, and few require more than nine without an underlying health condition. Age is also a factor, with children generally needing more sleep than adults. Of course it also depends on how you feel with a certain amount of sleep.

Read my follow-up piece: How to get Better Quality Sleep


10 thoughts on “The Career and Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation”

  1. I generally start to sleep from 9 or 9.30pm and set my alarm to wake up at 4am to start my day with some self-improvement activities. But that makes me only have 7 hrs or less of sleep. So I guess I’m at the bare minimum or less given the quality of sleep matters too. Sometimes, I might be woken up by my kids for instance. Unfortunately this is a routine I can’t quite change else I will be really short of time. I do see this can have some effect on my health. 

    • Although self-improvement activities are really beneficial, a good sleep is as well. You’re not waking up hours earlier just for self-improvement activities, are you? When you get a good night’s rest your self-improvement activities are going to have more of an impact.

      Right now, the most important activity for me is making sure I meditate at various times of the day, and that takes about 20-30 minutes each time. So there is time for sleep as well.

  2. Anybody with babies and toddlers in the house are likely to suffer from sleep deprivation. I was certainly seriously sleep deprived when my boys were babies and often had to function on about four hours of sleep a night. There were many days where I felt that I was not functioning properly. Thankfully it was only for a certain time in my life. 

    Personally I need at least seven hours of sleep a night and know that I function better and am more alert if I have a good night’s sleep. 

    • I’m also glad you are getting enough rest nowadays. As human beings we need adequate rest, and being sleep-deprived for days at a time is certainly no joke.

  3. I think everyone knows what you said, but as an adult who has to support a family, sometimes there is no way to go to bed early. If you have a part-time job or side projects after your daily work, you may work late. My record is that I only sleep for four to five hours a month. I know it is very harmful to my body and my views on the things around and the world hanged during that time. Now I try my best not to do this, always trying to go to bed before midnight.

    • When you said four to five hours a month, I assume you mean four to five hours each day for a month, yeah? Else, I am sure you would not be alive right now!

      I think your decision to sleep more now is going to turn out to be a really good one. When you are well-rested, you would perform better at your daily work as well as any side projects that you have.

  4. A lot of people say you need 7-8 (or 9 apparently) but I often get 6 hours and honestly I feel fine. Sometimes it’s hard for me to get up but it has come to the point that my body naturally wakes up after 6 hours. On the weekends I get a full 8-9 hours of sleep but I feel like I am equally productive with only 6.

    • It is true that each person’s body requirement is different, but it is always important to get sufficient rest. You may have heard about the sad demise of Ranjan Das, CEO of SAP India, who died because of lack of sleep and stress. He was only 42 and was very active in sports.

  5. Wow I really had no idea. This explains a lot. While I was reading this it occurred to me that people on drugs namely Meth (which keeps you up for days) have all the symptoms you described of being sleep-deprived. We unfortunately have an addict in our family and are always researching. Thanks for the post. Lee


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