Can Lack of Sleep Make Your Legs Feel Weak?
In our culture, sleep deprivation in the name of accomplishment has become a badge of honor, letting the world know that you are going the extra mile to succeed and provide for your family. But the health repercussions of inadequate sleep may eventually net you diminishing returns. While an occasional shortage of sleep won't hurt you, chronic sleep deprivation can impede your mental and physical performance, and can lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome and neuromuscular weakness.
Sleep Deprivation and Health
The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research lists numerous repercussions of inadequate sleep. Cognitive brain function, memory and the ability to learn are impaired. The endocrine system, which produces hormones for thyroid function, glucose metabolism and other important processes during sleep, is unable to do its job. The digestive system and the kidneys are negatively impacted by lack of sleep. A 2007 study published in "Experimental Psychology" established a correlation between sleep deprivation and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to heart disease marked by increased abdominal fat and diabetes-like insulin resistance in the cells.
- The National Center on Sleep Disorders Research lists numerous repercussions of inadequate sleep.
- The endocrine system, which produces hormones for thyroid function, glucose metabolism and other important processes during sleep, is unable to do its job.
Physical Performance and Sleep
The National Sleep Foundation notes that adequate sleep is crucial to peak athletic performance, citing tissue repair and the release of growth hormone as two vital processes that occur during sleep. Increased cortisol levels and decreased glycogen storage have been observed in athletes deprived of sleep. Your body uses glycogen, the storage form of glucose, for muscular contraction. Depletion of glycogen coupled with insulin resistance in the cells may manifest as a feeling of weakness in the large muscles of the legs.
- The National Sleep Foundation notes that adequate sleep is crucial to peak athletic performance, citing tissue repair and the release of growth hormone as two vital processes that occur during sleep.
Neuromuscular Function and Sleep
Chronic fatigue syndrome is a common cause of neurological muscle weakness, defined as "decreased muscle strength compared to perceived effort." The central nervous system, or CNS, includes your brain and the nerves that run along your spinal cord. Your brain sends messages via the CNS to the peripheral nervous system and the neuromuscular junction where nerves meet and transmit information to muscles. Sleep deprivation interferes with brain function and slows the delivery of information to the muscles during physical activity.
- Chronic fatigue syndrome is a common cause of neurological muscle weakness, defined as "decreased muscle strength compared to perceived effort."
- The central nervous system, or CNS, includes your brain and the nerves that run along your spinal cord.
Making Sleep a Priority
How to Stimulate REM Sleep
While some people truly have a schedule that limits available sleep time, most of us choose other activities over sleep. Socializing, watching television and cruising the Internet often displace sleep as priorities in our lives. Excessive caffeine consumption during the day and alcohol consumption in the evening are known to interfere with sleep quality. Sleeping with the television on has been shown to keep you from entering into deep stages of sleep. Daily physical activity, an established bedtime routine and a cool, quiet, darkened room promote good quality sleep.
- While some people truly have a schedule that limits available sleep time, most of us choose other activities over sleep.
- Socializing, watching television and cruising the Internet often displace sleep as priorities in our lives.
How to Stimulate REM Sleep
How to Lose Weight Working the Night Shift
Definition of Healthy Lifestyle
How to Get Hyper
Evening Yoga Poses to Promote Weight Loss
What Happens If I Eat After 6 PM?
Lack of Sleep & Bodybuilding
Drug Interaction Between Lithium and Caffeine
Harmful Effects of the Cocaine Energy Drink
- Ask the Neurologist: Neurological Weaknesses
- National Center on Sleep Disorders Research: Information About Sleep
- National Sleep Foundation: Sleep, Athletic Performance and Recovery
- "Experimental Psychology"; Sleep and the Metabolic Syndrome; Robert Wolk and Virend K. Somers; 2007
- National Institutes of Health: Your Guide To Healthy Sleep
- Waters F, Chiu V, Atkinson A, Blom JD. Severe Sleep Deprivation Causes Hallucinations and a Gradual Progression Toward Psychosis With Increasing Time Awake. Front Psychiatry. 2018;9:303. doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00303
- Lo JC, Ong JL, Leong RL, Gooley JJ, Chee MW. Cognitive Performance, Sleepiness, and Mood in Partially Sleep Deprived Adolescents: The Need for Sleep Study. Sleep. 2016;39(3):687-98. doi:10.5665/sleep.5552
- Finan PH, Goodin BR, Smith MT. The association of sleep and pain: an update and a path forward. J Pain. 2013;14(12):1539-52. doi:10.1016/j.jpain.2013.08.007
- Liu MM, Liu L, Chen L, et al. Sleep Deprivation and Late Bedtime Impair Sperm Health Through Increasing Antisperm Antibody Production: A Prospective Study of 981 Healthy Men. Med Sci Monit. 2017;23:1842-1848. doi:10.12659/MSM.900101
- Medic G, Wille M, Hemels ME. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 2017;9:151-161. doi:10.2147/NSS.S134864
- Mullington JM, Haack M, Toth M, Serrador JM, Meier-ewert HK. Cardiovascular, inflammatory, and metabolic consequences of sleep deprivation. Prog Cardiovasc Dis. 2009;51(4):294-302. doi:10.1016/j.pcad.2008.10.003
- Chaput JP, Dutil C, Sampasa-kanyinga H. Sleeping hours: what is the ideal number and how does age impact this? Nat Sci Sleep. 2018;10:421-430. doi:10.2147/NSS.S163071
- Sundelin T, Lekander M, Kecklund G, Van someren EJ, Olsson A, Axelsson J. Cues of fatigue: effects of sleep deprivation on facial appearance. Sleep. 2013;36(9):1355-60. doi:10.5665/sleep.2964
- Cousins JN, Fernández G.The impact of sleep deprivation on declarative memory.Prog Brain Res. 2019;246:27-53. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2019.01.007. Epub 2019 Mar 21.
- Dorrian J, Centofanti S, Smith A, McDermott KD.Self-regulation and social behavior during sleep deprivation.Prog Brain Res. 2019;246:73-110. doi: 10.1016/bs.pbr.2019.03.010. Epub 2019 Apr 10.
Michelle Matte is an accomplished fitness professional who holds certifications in personal training, pilates, yoga, group exercise and senior fitness. She has developed curricula for personal trainers and group exercise instructors for an international education provider. In her spare time, Matte writes fiction and blogs.