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Health & Nutrition
Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor

The Damaging Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a significant issue affecting approximately 70 million Americans, primarily due to widespread nutritional deficiencies such as magnesium. Chronic sleep deprivation can cause severe physical and mental effects including impaired cognitive function, hormonal imbalance, increased risk of depression, and obesity. To enhance sleep quality and duration, it's essential to improve sleep hygiene, maintain regular physical exercise, and maintain a healthy diet. Furthermore, incorporating supplements like magnesium bisglycinate can effectively compensate for common nutritional deficiencies. Magnesium bisglycinate is highly bioavailable and aids in inducing sleep by activating the parasympathetic nervous system, promoting melatonin secretion, and reducing neuronal excitability.


Do you know the feeling of falling asleep as soon as you go to bed and waking up refreshed and full of energy the following day?

No? Neither do 70 million Americans who currently suffer from poor sleep that make their lives miserable. But it hasn’t always been like this…

Research shows that currently, Americans sleep approximately two hours less per night than 100 years ago, and the incidence of sleep deprivation has more than doubled.

So what went wrong? One of the answers is “modern nutrition.” Unfortunately, the modern processing and refining of crops and other food sources deplete up to 97% of their mineral content.

The result is widespread deficiencies of essential minerals, the most common being magnesium. Currently, up to 50% of adults in the US are magnesium deficient, and one of the most overlooked symptoms of this condition is poor sleep.

If you also suffer from the debilitating effects of chronic sleep deprivation, keep reading to discover the most natural ways to deal with the condition and why magnesium is an essential mineral for a good night’s sleep.

How much sleep do you really need?

According to the US National Sleep Foundation, you need 7-9 hours per night as an adult (1). If you consistently get less than 7 hours of sleep per night, this will accumulate sleep debt.

Sleep deprivation may occur due to voluntary sleep restriction, such as when your daily schedule forces you to wake up early, or sleep disorders such as insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, and chronic pain.

Some of these conditions decrease the quality of your sleep and may lead to symptoms even if you get more than 7 hours of shut-eye per night.

As a result, you will likely feel the typical signs of sleep deprivation which include:

  • excessive daytime sleepiness and drowsiness
  • reduced physical and mental performance
  • lack of motivation
  • irritability
  • chronic fatigue

Sleep deprivation can also affect the way you look. According to research, sleep-deprived individuals often experience droopy eyelids, redder and swollen eyes, darker under-eye circles, paler skin, extra wrinkles, and fine lines (2).

Your dietary habits may also influence your sleep quality and increase the risk of sleep disorders. For example, drinking caffeine later throughout the day to stay awake can lead to sleep problems and insomnia. 

Even if you have no problem falling asleep right after drinking a cup of coffee, you will still have half of the caffeine in your system by bedtime, which can disrupt your sleep schedule, leading to partial sleep deprivation and we all know how much an extra hour or two can affect us the following day.

That is despite the fact that the beneficial effects you were looking for when you drank your afternoon coffee will be long gone.

Studies show that caffeine has a negative effect on sleep quality even when sleep duration remains unchanged (3). 

Due to excessive sleepiness the next day, you will likely drink even more coffee, which can become a vicious cycle and create a chronic sleep problem.



The invisible effects of sleep deprivation

Effects of sleep deprivation


Effects of sleep loss on the brain

Sleep deprivation has a profound effect on the function of your brain. Scientists have found that sleep deficiency affects how its different parts work, and the amygdala is the most affected area (4). 

This part of the brain is involved in emotion and behavior. Researchers conclude that insufficient sleep can make you more aggressive or irritable and impair your judgment (5)


Just one sleepless night can lead to impaired reaction time while performing demanding tasks.

Scientists also report that sleep deprivation and general poor sleep quality can increase the risk of major depression (6). Long-term sleep deprivation may even be the “unlocking” factor in people with a predisposition to anxiety and depression.

On the other hand, having depression can have a negative effect on the quality of your sleep and turn out to be the underprint of your sleep deficiency.

According to studies, depression affects one of the most important stages of your sleep cycle, called REM sleep (7). 

This stage is most important for dreaming, learning, good mental health and memory. The dysregulation of REM sleep can lead to brain fog, cognitive function decline, and migraines.

Effects of sleep deficiency on your hormones

Inadequate sleep can completely alter the function of your endocrine system. The reason is that your biological clock tightly regulates your hormone production.” 

That is a part of the brain called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, which acts as a pacemaker and controls the circadian rhythm of your body (8).

Sleep deprivation can desynchronize your rhythm, negatively affecting all your systems, especially your hormones’ synthesis.

The result is an increased production of stress hormones such as cortisol and reduced synthesis of anabolic ones like growth hormone and testosterone in men (9).

What is more, the combination of increased appetite and unstable circadian rhythm can have a negative effect on your insulin sensitivity and increase the risk of type 2 diabetes.


The increase in appetite is due to the effect of sleep debt on another set of hormones - leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone, and sleep deprivation increases its levels, resulting in you feeling hungry during the day, and this vicious cycle could lead to weight gain.

Studies confirm that patients who sleep less have a significantly higher appetite and consume much more calories than those with a healthy sleep schedule (10). This puts them at an increased risk of obesity and metabolic diseases.

Studies also show that people who suffer from sleep deprivation have increased overall morbidity and mortality (11). Therefore, insomnia may literally shorten your life without you realizing it.

Ways to improve sleep time and quality

Ways to improve sleep quality

As we already mentioned, a good nights sleep is a vital part of your circadian rhythm, also called the sleep-wake cycle. To improve your sleep quality and quantity, you must first look at your sleep habits, environment, and bedtime routine, collectively termed “sleep hygiene.”

Sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene includes everything related to your sleep schedule and environment - from your bedroom’s temperature and noise levels to your daily exposure to direct sunlight.

The first step to improving your sleep quality is creating a routine.

If you go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, you will optimize the work of your circadian rhythm and synthesize sleep-promoting hormones such as melatonin. Ultimately, the result will be sufficient and high-quality sleep every night.

You can also adjust your circadian rhythm and melatonin synthesis by increasing your exposure to sunlight throughout the day and reducing the amount of blue light you’re exposed to before bed.

Although the whole visible light spectrum has a negative effect on melatonin production, blue light is most potent in suppressing its synthesis (12).

On the other hand, daytime exposure to sunlight boosts alertness and reduces sleepiness (13).

Devices with screens such as your phone and computer emit plenty of blue light to disturb your melatonin production and are not conducive to healthy sleep.

This is why it is crucial to avoid electronics or use a blue light filter when you have to send one last email before bed.

In addition, make sure that your bedroom is as dark, quiet, and cool as possible. Too much light or noise can disturb the quality of your sleep, even if you can fall asleep quickly. 

In addition, the optimal sleep temperature for a bedroom is slightly lower than what we perceive as comfortable throughout the day. The optimal bedroom temperature is considered to be around 65°F (18.3 °C). 

However, the exact temperature may vary a lot from person to person, so it is usually in the range of 60 to 67 °F (15.6 to 19.4 °C).

And money spent on the best mattress you can afford is money well-spent.


Exercise has long been known to improve sleep quality and duration regardless of intensity in adults and older individuals (14).

Being more physically active can help you lose weight, improving sleep apnea symptoms, a common sleep disorder many aren’t even aware they suffer from.

In addition, higher intensity exercise during the day may reduce sleep onset and help you fall asleep faster.

Cardio and low-intensity exercises stimulate the release of endorphins, which promote alertness and leave you feeling energized during the day. Make sure to exercise at least 4-5 hours before bedtime, as increased energy is the last thing you want when lying in bed counting sheep.


Your dietary regime can considerably impact the quality of your nightly sleep. For example, eating too close to bedtime can trigger bloating and gastroesophageal reflux, making falling asleep a struggle.

Meals that are too high in fat or sugar (or both) can increase the acidity in your stomach, which can also worsen your reflux, even if you eat them a few hours before going to bed. 

Avoiding such dietary triggers can help reduce sleep disruption and help you fall asleep faster. On the other hand, eating some carbohydrates at night can help your melatonin production throughout the night. 

That is because high-carb meals increase the transport of the amino acid tryptophan to your brain, where it is used to produce serotonin and melatonin (15). 

Although high-carb meals may not contain amino acids, the increase in insulin affects your body’s transport of amino acids. 

Higher insulin aids the uptake of amino acids by muscle cells, except tryptophan, which becomes the primary amino acid that passes the blood-brain barrier (16).

Dietary supplements

When it comes to vitamins and minerals, arguably the most important micronutrient for adequate sleep is magnesium. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to insufficient sleep in both younger and older individuals (17).

Magnesium deficiency is prevalent. It is estimated that less than half of all people in the US consume enough magnesium (18).

The reason is that the foods with the highest amounts of magnesium are also rich in phytic acid, which blocks mineral absorption (19). Such foods are legumes, cacao, and nuts.

Grains are another excellent source of magnesium, but modern processing and refining of wheat, rice, and corn deplete up to 97% of their mineral content (20). 

Moreover, magnesium in our soil and water has been declining since the start of the agricultural revolution (21).

Therefore, adding a supplement is the best way to get enough magnesium. Different forms of magnesium supplements vary a lot in their absorption and effectiveness.

Oxide is currently the most commonly used form of magnesium supplement, but it has limited effectiveness due to its poor gastrointestinal absorption and bioavailability.

One of the forms with much higher absorption is magnesium bisglycinate. Research reveals that compared to magnesium oxide, magnesium bisglycinate has significantly greater bioavailability, and its absorption remains sufficient even in patients that have undergone intestinal surgery and resection (22



What is Magnesium Bisglycinate?

Magnesium is essential for sleep


Magnesium bisglycinate is a magnesium salt of glycine, consisting of one magnesium atom connected to two glycine molecules. 

It contains 14.1% elemental magnesium meaning that 1000 mg of magnesium bisglycinate will provide you with 141 mg of your daily dose.

Glycine is the smallest amino acid. It is one of the most abundant amino acids in the human body and a non-essential nutrient in our diet.

Due to the small molecule size, it can easily pass through the blood-brain barrier, which helps the magnesium bisglycinate reach its target and help you relax and fall asleep.

Magnesium has numerous benefits for the human body since it is essential for every human cell and acts as a cofactor for over 300 enzymatic reactions (23).

Scientists also suggest that apart from inducing better quality sleep, there is sufficient evidence to recommend the use of magnesium to manage a variety of symptoms of many commonly occurring health conditions, including:

  • migraine headaches
  • metabolic syndrome and diabetes
  • hyperlipidemia
  • constipation
  • preeclampsia and eclampsia (24)
  • premenstrual syndrome
  • various cardiac arrhythmias

Magnesium supplementation is a part of the current guidelines for managing ventricular arrhythmias and preventing sudden death in those patients (25).

How much magnesium do you need?

To get enough magnesium, you should consume about 6 mg per kilogram of your body weight daily. That is over 300mg for women and 400 mg for men.

If you are physically active, scientists recommend increasing your magnesium intake by an additional 20% (26).

Avoid taking magnesium with other supplements or foods that contain calcium or zinc. These minerals compete with each other’s absorption and may decrease the bioavailability of your magnesium supplement (27, 28, 29).

Always consult your doctor before taking magnesium if you have a kidney problem. People with kidney conditions should supplement only under strict medical supervision.

If you have healthy kidneys, there is no risk of magnesium overconsumption or toxicity. Your body can easily modulate its absorption and excretion via the kidneys (30). 

If you take too much magnesium, your body will also reduce its absorption, leading to stomach cramping and diarrhea. This is a clear sign that you are either taking too much of the supplement or it has poor absorption.

Yet, magnesium bisglycinate is less likely to cause a laxative effect than other magnesium supplements.

Magnesium for a good nights sleep


According to scientists, there are three main mechanisms via which magnesium regulates sleep (31).

First, magnesium activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps put your body in “rest and digest” mode instead of “fight or flight.” In other words, it helps your nervous system relax.

Secondly, magnesium helps increase the secretion of the sleep hormone melatonin, which is crucial in inducing sleep.

Lastly, magnesium binds to the receptors for gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) in your brain. GABA is the primary inhibitory neurotransmitter in your central nervous system. Its main effect is to calm you by reducing neuronal excitability, necessary for a deep recharging night’s rest.

This is why it is so important to supplement with magnesium in a form such as magnesium bisglycinate that can easily pass the blood-brain barrier in order to help improve your sleep.

Magnesium bisglycinate is chelated, which means it is an organic compound that your body can easily absorb and metabolize.

We all understand the importance of sufficient sleep on our physical and mental well-being and the steps we can take to improve the quality of our daily recharging. And that truly is what sleep does for us. It’s the time our bodies and minds need to process the day’s stressors - repair and recharge us for the next round.

Poor quality sleep affects every single aspect of our lives. 

A bit of forethought into your sleep hygiene and taking a magnesium supplement if needed can help you say goodbye to the detrimental effects of sleep loss and hello to a whole new, exciting day!

Note: This article is for informational purposes only and not intended for use as medical advice. Always consult your healthcare provider before starting any dietary supplement.

Dimitar Marinov
Senior Product Researcher MD, PhD, Assistant Professor
Dr. Marinov is a licenced physician and scientist with years of experience in clinical and preventive medicine, medical research, nutrition and dietetics. His research is focused primarily on nutrition and physical activity as preventive measures to improve and preserve human health. He is passionate about creating evidence-based content about various medical topics and takes great care in referencing every statement with high-quality evidence.
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