What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?

What happens if you don’t get enough sleep?
Published 1 years ago on Feb 26, 2023

There is no denying the importance of sleep, as a good night's kip can set you up for a positive and productive day. 

Sleep is one of the most important things we can do for our body, along with exercise and a fully balanced, nutritionally complete diet - it is integral to ensuring we stay healthy and happy. 

And now hormone doctor Dr Martin Kinsella has revealed how a lack of rest can impact the endocrine system in a number of ways.  

He told FEMAIL: 'The endocrine system is a system of glands that make the hormones that allow cells to talk to each other. They're responsible for virtually every cell, organ and function in the body.'  

While a hormonal imbalance may be to blame for lack of sleep, not sleeping can also cause hormones to become imbalanced.

Dr Kinsella continued: ‘Studies have shown that people who get less than seven hours sleep a day tend to gain more weight and have a higher risk of becoming obese than those who get seven hours.'

Whilst one of two broken or shorter night’s sleep will leave you feeling tired, irritable and hungry, it’s unlikely to lead to further problems. 

But Dr Kinsella has explained exactly what a lack of sleep over a longer period can result in:


Dr Kinsella explained that a lack of sleep causes cortisol levels to rise. 

He said: 'When you sleep your cortisol levels will come down because of sleep so when you don't get enough sleep your cortisol levels become elevated.'

Cortisol is the stress hormone and so chronic levels of elevated cortisol are very bad for the body and will put the body into a catabolic state.


‘Cortisol will also break muscle tissue down, this makes the body use glucose and amino acids that make up your muscles,' explained Dr Kinsella.

Amino acids are the building blocks of muscle tissue, so it's harder for the body to build muscle when they're broken down

We also use cortisol to reduce inflammation to when you have chronically raised cortisol you could be in an inflammatory state. 


Think about how one night of bad sleep or not enough sleep can make you feel rotten and irritable the next day. 

The expert explained: ‘Raised cortisol levels can have an effect on the brain, causing changes in neurotransmitters in the brain so you can have imbalances in serotonin - your happy brain hormones. 

'So you can start to get poor mental health,' according to the hormone doctor. 

Plus it can work both ways, sleep loss can affect your mood, and your mood can affect how much and how well you sleep. 


Dr Kinsella explained that when you get high levels of cortisol in the body, it can start to lower other anabolic hormones like your testosterone and DHEA level.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that your body naturally produces in the adrenal gland. 

DHEA helps produce other hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. 

Natural DHEA levels peak in early adulthood and then slowly fall as you age.

High levels of cortisol can imbalance the adrenal glands and lessen the amount of topterone that is produced, thus lowering libido. 


According to the expert, sleep deprivation also lowers leptin levels which affect your appetite. 

Leptin suppresses the appetite and lets your body know when it’s time to stop eating so when you’re sleep deprived you’ll often feel more hungry. 

Similarly ghrelin, produced in the stomach, is another hormone affected by sleep, or lack of it. 

When leptin levels are lowered by lack of sleep, ghrelin levels rise and this also makes you feel hungrier as the hormone's function is to tell the brain that you are hungry. 


A lack of sleep can also affect the thyroid glands, increasing the TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone, according to Dr Kinsella, which slows the metabolism and can cause an under-active thyroid.

An underactive thyroid is where your thyroid gland (a small gland in your neck) does not produce enough hormones.

Symptoms of this can include fatigue, feeling cold, hair loss, weight gain, and depression. 


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