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The Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

May 5, 2023

We live in a culture that seems to glorify overworking and under-recovering. This is true whether you work in an office, hospital or are an athlete. Inadequate sleep has now been labeled a global public health epidemic. It is linked to serious conditions such as respiratory distress, increased infections, heart disease, diabetes, and even an increased risk of some cancers.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is defined as not achieving enough sleep to support normal physiologic functions. It is estimated between 50-70 million Americans are impacted by some degree of sleep deprivation.

Adults generally need 7-9 hours per night, while older adults (65 and up) require slightly less at 7-8 hours per evening.

Metabolic Disturbance:

Cortisol is necessary for an emergency stress response. However, if elevated chronically, it will lead to muscle loss and fat storage. Sleep is also tied directly to the repair of skeletal muscle and in correcting hormone balance to support weight loss.

Cardiovascular and Immune Problems:

Sleep deprivation increases stress in the body and will activate the sympathetic nervous system. This will induce a widespread inflammatory response in the body, which can be linked to high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and increased risk of heart attack.

It will also decrease the function of the immune system, which will increase risk for viral and bacterial infections.

Poor Athletic Performance:

The better you sleep, the better you perform. Sleep is necessary to repair skeletal muscle and connective tissue after working out. Additionally, some sports require more coordination, decision-making, and focus. Sleep deprivation can impair performance in all these domains.

Tips for Improving Sleep Quality/Quantity:

Set a regular and consistent bedtime ( even on weekends) to keep the body in its natural circadian rhythm. Caffeine has a half life of 5 hours, so try to avoid stimulants after 2/3 pm! Avoid using electronic devices in bed. Blue light from these devices can impair melatonin production, which is a hormone needed to maintain sleep. Keeping a cool and comfortable temperature in your bedroom, really at 65 degrees Fahrenheit! Avoid alcohol and carb- rich foods 2 hours before bedtime. Even though it seems like alcohol may help you fall asleep, it actually puts you in a light sleep and disrupts patterns. Carb-rich foods also contribute to blood sugar spikes.


There is a balance between work and recovery! This is true whether you are working out and seeking results or with life in general and seeking happiness. Sleep is just as important as good nutrition and movement for body composition, longevity, health and athletic performance!

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