11 Negative Consequences of Sleep Deprivation for a Senior

A good many older Americans suffer from a lack of proper sleep. The grim reality is that the lack of proper sleep can have seriously adverse. 11 of the negative consequences of sleep deprivation for a senior citizen are:

  • Memory issues
  • Trouble with concentration and thinking
  • Mood changes
  • Accidents
  • Weakened immunity
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes risk
  • Weight gain
  • Low sex drive
  • Risk of heart disease
  • Poor balance

In addition to the consequences of sleep deprivation, we also discuss some other issues related to sleep that include:

  • Types of sleep deprivation among seniors
  • Symptoms of sleep deprivation among seniors
  • Things to avoid that can interfere with sleep

Memory Issues

While you are asleep, your brain forms connections that are designed to assist you in processing and remembering new information. A lack of a proper amount of sleep has the prospect of negatively impacting both short-term and long-term memory.

Trouble With Concentration and Thinking

A lack of proper sleep can have a truly negative impact on your:

  • Concentration
  • Creativity
  • Problem-solving abilities

Mood Changes

Sleep deprivation has the potential to impact your overall mood in a negative manner. For example, sleep deprivation can make you:

  • Emotional
  • Moody
  • Quick-tempered

Chronic lack of sleep can lead to:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression

These two conditions can escalate if a lack of sleep persists.


Sleep deprivation makes you more prone to accidents of different types. Examples of these accidents include:

  • Automobile accidents
  • Slip and fall accidents

Weakened Immunity

A lack of proper sleep can weaken your immune system. When your immune system is weakened, you become at much greater risk for illness and disease of different types.

High Blood Pressure

Research has revealed that if you get less than five hours of sleep a night, you are at a greater risk of high blood pressure. Keep in mind that for most people, a proper night’s sleep is seven to eight hours.

Diabetes Risk

A lack of an appropriate among of nightly sleep interferes with your body’s release of insulin. This puts you at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Weight Gain

A lack of sleep interferes with those chemicals in your body that signal you that you have eaten enough. As a consequence, lack of proper sleep leaves a person at risk for overeating. Overeating can result in unhealthy weight gain and ultimately obesity.

Low Sex Drive

Research has also demonstrated that sleep deprivation can negatively impact a person’s sex drive. This applies to women and men alike. Senior citizens who have enjoyed an active sex life can see this decline if they do not get sufficient sleep.

Risk of Heart Disease

Sleep deprivation can raise a person’s blood pressure. It can also result in inflammation. Both of these conditions contribute to an increased risk of heart disease.

Poor Balance

Sleep deprivation can result in poor balance and impacted coordination. This makes you more prone to falling. Falls are a primary cause of significant injuries among men and women over the age of 65.

Types of Sleep Deprivation Among Seniors

Sleep deprivation and sleep insufficiency may be categorized in different ways depending on a person’s circumstances. Researchers and healthcare professionals have three primary classifications for sleep deprivation:

  • Acute sleep deprivation refers to a short period, usually a few days or less, when a person has a significant reduction in their sleep time. This can have a more transient or temporary impact on an individual.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep syndrome, is defined by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine as curtailed sleep that persists for three months or longer. This type of sleep deprivation can have a significant impact on an individual’s life.
  • Chronic sleep deficiency or insufficient sleep can describe ongoing sleep deprivation as well as poor sleep that occurs because of sleep fragmentation or other disruptions. This type of situation can also have a major impact on people’s lives and health.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation Among Seniors

There are a number of primary symptoms of sleep deprivation among people of all ages. We list here some of the more commonly occurring symptoms of sleep deprivation among seniors and people of other ages alike:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Reduced attention span
  • Worsened memory
  • Poor or risky decision-making
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes (including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability)

Avoid Things That Interfere With Sleep

One way in which a senior can reduce the incidence of sleep deprivation is to avoid things that have the propensity to interfere with sleep. Some of the things that more frequently interfere with a healthy night’s sleep include:

  • Electronic devices: TVs, cell phones, tablets, and computers can keep your mind stimulated, leaving you still wired when you want to go to bed. The light emitted by these devices can also interfere with your circadian rhythm. As a result, it’s best to avoid using electronic devices for an hour or more before bed.
  • Alcohol: Drinking, especially at night, can disrupt your normal sleep cycle, reducing overall sleep quality and consistency.
  • Caffeine: As a stimulant, caffeine makes you alert, and because it can stick around in your system for several hours, it’s best to avoid it in the afternoon and evening.
  • Naps: To keep naps from interfering with sleep at night, keep them short (30 minutes or less) and never take them in the late afternoon or later. If you are struggling with insomnia, it’s best to avoid naps altogether.

This is not a buffet list of items to select from in order to avoid sleep deprivation. All of these items are to be avoided in order to protect against sleep deprivation.


If you are experiencing what you believe rises to the level of sleep deprivation, you are wise to consult with your doctor. Your doctor may want to undertake some testing to ascertain what might be underlying your inability to consistently get a good night’s sleep. For example, your doctor may want you to undertake testing to ascertain if you might be suffering from sleep apnea.