Sleeping Late VS Lack Of Sleep – Which Is Worse?

Society has ingrained in our heads that in order for you to be successful you have to work hard 24/7. But you forget that to be able to hustle like your peers, your overall health should be on point too. Think of sleep as your charging station, you need to power up to function efficiently the next day. If we can religiously charge our phones each night, why can’t we do that with our sleep?

sleep is for the weak

Get 7 -9 hours of sleep daily 

According to the National Sleep Foundation, young adults (18-25 years) and adults (26-64 years) should get about 7-9 hours of sleep daily while older adults (65 years above) should get about 7-8 hours of shut eye [1].

The amount of sleep required differs from person to person, depending on their daily habits and lifestyle. You’ll need to adjust the hours until you find the right amount of sleep that you need to feel more recharged when you wake up.

What happens to your body when you sleep?

Your body goes through 2 phases of sleep cycles throughout your sleep, the “Rapid Eye Movement” (REM) and Non-REM (NREM) cycle [1].

source: bedmart
source: bedmart

First phase: NREM or deep sleep. This is where you will experience:

  • No muscle and eye movement and it will be harder for someone to wake you up [5].
  • Your body will be repairing whatever damages it has and strengthen its tissues, bones, muscles and immune system [6].

Second phase: You’ll fall into REM or active sleep cycle in 90 minutes after falling asleep. An average adult tends to have 4-6 REM cycles throughout their sleep. This is what you will experience:

  • Your brain becomes more active. That’s when your dreams start, breathing becomes irregular, heart rate and blood pressure rises [2].
  • The brain cells that you use for learning will be activated during REM so that whatever information you learned during the day will be processed and stored into your long-term memory [3, 4].

Research has shown that people who get more REM sleep will wake up happier so the main catch is to get enough quality sleep [7].

Now that you know what happens when you go to sleep, we’ll let you in on the consequences of sleeping late and not having enough sleep, although there is a fine line between sleeping late and not getting enough sleep.

Sleeping Late VS Lack of Sleep 

What happens to your body when you sleep late:

sleeping late

Just like how a clock functions or a song is played, your body has a circadian rhythm. It’s known as a sleep/wake cycle or biological clock. Here’s how it works:

  1. This body clock is controlled by a small part of your brain that responds to light [8].
  2. It will release melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel lethargic throughout certain times of the day.
  3. It also controls your body’s temperature, hormone secretion, urine production, and changes in blood pressure [9]. Noticed that you feel sleepier in a dark room?
  4. By going to bed late it will disrupt your body’s circadian rhythm, mess up your melatonin flow and body functions throughout the day. You will feel more emotional and negative than usual too, like how you get angry faster over small issues like the after-work jam.

In the long run, you might be prone to suffer these symptoms:

  • Insomnia
  • Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS), where you have difficulty falling asleep during conventional sleeping hours and can only sleep about 2 hours or more later than that which makes it more difficult for you to wake up on time [10]
  • Weakened immunity
  • Increased negative mood
  • Frequent headaches
  • Bad coordination and reflexes

What happens to your body when you lack sleep:

lack of sleep

Did you know that there has been cases of people dying because of not getting proper sleep?

Take the late Michael Jackson for example. According to an expert witness in Michael Jackson’s trial, Michael had no REM sleep for 60 days due to insomnia. He was being treated with propofol, an anesthetic which puts him into a coma-like sleep, but at the same time deprived him of REM sleep [13]. Even though it was the overdose of the drug that caused his death, experts believe that the 60 days of no REM sleep would have eventually led to his death regardless [14].

According to research, not getting enough sleep increases your mortality rate [15]. It also makes you feel more stressed, emotional, groggy and clumsy than usual too [16]. If you are not getting enough sleep in the long run, these are the health risks that you might have to face:

  • Insomnia
  • Obesity
  • Heart diseases. If you don’t sleep enough to remove the stress hormones in your body then those hormones can damage your blood vessels which will lead to hypertension (high blood pressure) [19].
  • Diabetes
  • Depression
  • Delayed Reaction Time. Many road accidents happen because the driver fell asleep while driving. In fact, driving while sleepy is just as bad as driving drunk [21].
  • Stroke. Research has shown that middle-aged to older people who get less than 6 hours of sleep daily is at high risk of developing a stroke even if they don’t have a family history, obesity or sleep disorders [22].
  • Low sex drive
  • Cancer. People who have a disrupted circadian rhythm have a higher risk of developing cancer especially breast cancer in women [23].
  • Memory loss. Some days you might be forgetful on certain things but in the long run, lack of sleep can lead to serious cognitive issues such as Alzheimer’s when you are older [24].
  • Death

The Bottom Line:

If you sleep late but still get a sufficient amount of quality sleep, the repercussions are not that bad (that’s not to say that there are none). But if you combine sleeping late and lack of quality sleep, the health consequences can be life threatening.

Aim to get sufficient quality sleep, and the health repercussions won’t be that bad even if you pull an all-nighter. Make an effort to not stay up late often, try to balance your working hours, relaxation time and set a bedtime routine that prepares your body for a good night’s sleep.

Need help to sleep better? We have some tips for you to try out:

How to Get More Sleep

Say Goodnight to Insomnia: 12 Quick Tips to Fall Asleep

Stress Management: Dietary, Supplements & Herbs

Infographic: Which Pillow Helps You Sleep Better?

If all else fails, seek professional help to identify the root cause for your sleeping problems. We hope you can have an early and fulfilling sleep today!


What are your sleeping habits like, and how has it affected you? Share with us in the comments below or on our Facebook page!

Source: National Sleep Foundation,, Boldsky, Harvard Medical School, National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, How Sleep Works, Sleep Journal, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Huffington Post, Science Daily, Web MD,

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