Lack of Sleep and Accelerated Aging

Multiple factors influence accelerated aging, including lack of sleep. Because lack of sleep prevents the body from properly restoring itself, those who are consistently sleep deprived tend to look and feel older than others in their age group. But the accelerated aging associated with a lack of sleep goes beyond cosmetic changes. Not getting enough sleep can also increase your risk of contracting a range of diseases associated with aging, such as diabetes and heart disease.

Effects of Lack of Sleep

The effects of lack of sleep are numerous. The right quality and quantity of sleep trigger the production of human growth hormone, which builds muscle mass, thickens skin and strengthens bones. In addition, constant fatigue causes stress and irritability, both of which can contribute to accelerated aging.

Lack of sleep also increases physical stress on the body, putting people at a higher risk for:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart attack
  • Heart disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Obesity
  • Stroke.

Mental Effects of Lack of Sleep

Mental effects of lack of sleep include difficulty concentrating, memory lapses and difficulty performing mental tasks, all of which are associated with accelerated aging.
Lack of Sleep and Appetite

Chronic sleep deprivation impairs the production of leptin, a hormone that signals the sensation of “fullness” after eating. Without enough leptin, a person’s appetite increases, causing overeating and cravings for carbohydrates.

Extra weight causes multiple health problems that accelerate aging, including strokes and heart attacks. Obesity also causes accelerated aging in fat cells, the effects of which are not completely understood.

The Immune System, Aging and Sleep

Lack of sleep impairs cytokine production. Cytokines are proteins that help fight disease and infection. As the body’s levels of cytokines drop, people become more susceptible to illness that can accelerate aging.

Insulin Resistance, Accelerated Aging and Sleep

Lack of sleep worsens insulin resistance, increasing the risk of Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes affects multiple body systems and can lead to serious health complications including heart disease, hypertension and stroke.

Even minor sleep deprivation increases insulin resistance. According to a study published in the “Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism” (2010), measurable increases in insulin resistance occur the day after a sleepless night.

Diabetes affects accelerated aging at the cellular level. According to the American Diabetes Association (2000), the laboratory-determined age of people with diabetes is greater than their chronologic age, suggesting that having diabetes might speed up the aging process.

Avoiding the Effects of Lack of Sleep

Proper sleep hygiene helps prevent accelerated aging caused by lack of sleep. If lack of sleep is a regular occurrence, consult with a doctor or sleep specialist. Lack of sleep may be due to treatable sleep disorders.

Combat lack of sleep by following these tips:

  • Avoid alcohol, nicotine or caffeine before bed.
  • Avoid drinking too many liquids before bed.
  • Avoid or treat heartburn.
  • Create an ideal sleep environment by removing TV or other noise from the bedroom and making it as dark as possible.
  • Exercise regularly, earlier in the day.
  • Keep a regular sleep/wake schedule.
  • Listen to soothing music before bed.


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