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Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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A girl sleeping on bed suffering from sleep deprivation. Illustration

According to a recent study conducted by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 33.33% of Americans do not get sufficient sleep and experience sleep deprivation. A healthy adult requires 7-9 hours of sleep every day and anything less than the minimum required amount of sleep can make a person feel sleep-deprived. Lack of quality sleep may affect a person’s productivity and can affect our mood and quality of life. 

This detailed blog will help you understand sleep deprivation symptoms, the consequences, treatment, and much more.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation refers to getting sleep less than the minimum required amount of sleep. For an average adult, the required amount of total sleep is between 7-9 hours every night. For children, the amount of sleep required increases. Let’s understand the various types of sleep deprivation.

Types of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can be classified into different types depending on the situation of a person.

  • Acute Sleep Deprivation: It refers to the stage where there is a lack of sleep for a short period i.e. for a few days.

  • Chronic Sleep Deprivation: In this sleep deprivation stage, a person experiences sleeplessness for three months or longer.

  • Insufficient Sleep: It can be referred to as ongoing sleep deprivation that occurs due to various types of sleep disruptions.

How Is Sleep Deprivation Different From Insomnia?

Although sleep deprivation and insomnia are regarded as the same, many sleep experts consider them to be different. People with insomnia face sleeping issues even with a lot of time up their sleeve. On the other hand, people with sleep deprivation don’t have enough time to sleep because of their lifestyle habits or work commitments.

You can easily confuse yourself between sleep deprivation and insomnia; an example of this difference is that a person with a busy work schedule can make up for his loss of sleep on weekends while someone with insomnia faces problems while sleeping, even after having the opportunity to do so.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

There are many factors that contribute to sleep deprivation. The most common factors include lifestyle habits, poor sleeping habits, work commitments, sleep disorders, and other health conditions. 

Your lifestyle choices dictate a lot when it comes to sleep deprivation. If someone stays awake every day to binge-watch web series or an ongoing sporting event will encounter severe sleep deprivation.

Work or personal commitments can be a significant contributor to sleep deprivation. People who work in extended shifts or beyond their working hours may not have the required time to complete their sleep.

People may also face sleep deprivation due to other health conditions such as sleep apnea and anxiety disorder. These health conditions lead to sleep disruptions through the night and affect the quality and quantity of sleep. 

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

After understanding the meaning of sleep deprivation and its causes, let us learn various symptoms of sleep deprivation in the section below. 

Primary signs of sleep deprivation include grogginess during the daytime, mood swings, and reduced concentration. One of the significant symptoms of sleep deprivation is feeling exhausted during the day. People with excessive daytime sleepiness may feel tired and sleepy even when they need to stay awake. It also results in microsleeps where a person naps for seconds and again wakes up. Sleep deprivation directly affects the productivity of a person during day time. 

Some of the most common symptoms of insufficient sleep include:

  • Reduced attention
  • faulty memory
  • poor decision making
  • reduced energy
  • slowed thinking
  • mood swings

The symptoms of insufficient sleep depend on the extent of sleep deprivation, whether it is acute or chronic. According to experts, the symptoms of sleep deprivation are also linked to the genes of a person

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

The effects of sleep deprivation can impact your life negatively and, in some cases, can be life-threatening as well. It can cause unintentional driving errors and accidents. Moreover, it also affects productivity at work and school.

Sleep is the most integral function of the human body, and its deficiency may lead to a wide range of health issues that include:

1. Cardiovascular Diseases

Multiple studies have found a strong association between sleep deficiency and cardiovascular diseases such as heart disease, high blood pressure, and cardiac arrest.

2. Diabetes

Sleep deficiency reduces the body’s capacity to regulate blood sugar levels leading to chronic health conditions such as diabetes.

3. Obesity

One of the physical signs of sleep deprivation is obesity. Your body tends to consume more calories when you get insufficient sleep leading to obesity.

4. Immunodeficiency

Not getting enough sleep may lead to improper working of the immune system and cold response to vaccines.

5. Hormonal Abnormalities

Good sleep helps your body produce and regulate the various hormones increasing the resistance to hormonal problems in sleep-deprived people.

6. Pain and Aches

Sleep deficient people face problems in relieving themselves from pain and possess a higher risk of developing pain.

7. Mental Health Disorders

The impact of sleep on mental health is a common phenomenon. Sleep deprivation and mental health are closely related to each other. Mental health problems like depression, anxiety, and stress are common with sleep-deprived people.

Multiple studies have also suggested that insufficient sleep leads to the risk of death and a lower quality of life.

Sleep Deprivation Treatment

If you are facing problems related to sleep deprivation, consulting a doctor is a good way to get started. According to your body type and history, your doctor may recommend the best possible treatment to overcome sleep deficiency. 

Mentioned below are some effective ways to treat sleep deficiency.

Prepare a Proper Sleep Schedule

The first step to getting rid of insufficient sleep is to prepare a sleep schedule. Decide a fixed time to go to bed, and try to go to bed at that particular time itself, without any excuse. Similarly, set up a wake-up time and wake up at a fixed time every day. It regulates the circadian rhythm of your body and helps you get quality sleep time.

Create Bedtime Rituals

Getting yourself ready every night with the same bedtime habits may help you overcome sleep deprivation. These bedtime rituals include reading books, stretching your hands/legs, preparing your bed, brushing your teeth, etc.

Reduce Caffeine consumption

Consuming excess caffeine keeps you alert, making it difficult for you to fall asleep. It reduces the amount of sleep you get. We recommend you have caffeine at least six hours before bedtime. You can consume other non-caffeinated drinks such as water, tea, or milk. These beverages help in inducing sleep.

Create a Sleeping Environment

Another way to reduce sleep deficiency is to create a good sleep environment. You can create a calm sleeping environment by using dim lights, keeping the electronic devices away, using soft and comfortable Bedding, curtains, and wearing earplugs.

Limit the Use of Electronic Devices

A great tip to get rid of sleep deprivation is to avoid the blue light from electronic devices; it disrupts melatonin production and disrupts the sleep clock of your body. So, if you want to get healthy sleep, we recommend avoiding screens like mobiles, television, tablets, laptops, etc., within an hour before bed.

Reduce Alcohol Consumption

Drinking before bed can disrupt your sleep cycle which reduces your overall sleep quality and sleep routine.

How Much Deep Sleep Do You Need?

The chart below will help you understand how many hours of deep sleep you require according to your age group.

Age Group
Sleep Needed (Hrs)
Deep Sleep Needed (Hrs)
0 to 3 Months
12 – 18
2.4 – 3.6
3 Months to 1 Year old
14 – 15
2.8 – 3
1 to 3 Years old
12 – 14
2.4 – 2.8
3 to 5 Years old
11 – 13
2.2 – 2.6
5 to 12 Years old
10 – 11
2 – 2.2
12 to 18 Years old
8.5 – 10
1.7 – 2
Over 18 Years old
7.5 – 9
1.5 – 1.8

The Final Word

Good sleep can improve your health, lifestyle, and success in life. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, serious concern and can affect your mental and physical health, productivity in work, and overall quality of life. It may also lead to other health conditions such as sleep apnea, anxiety, and depression.

Hopefully, the tips above will help you fix your sleep deficiency, and if not,  we recommend consulting a doctor as soon as possible.

FAQs

Recovering from sleep deprivation is a slow process and it may take several days or weeks to recover from sleep deprivation. In general, it takes around 4 days to recover 1 hour of sleep loss.

You can get a deep sleep by preparing a proper schedule, reducing screen time before bed, creating a calm sleep environment, limiting caffeine within five to six hours of bedtime, exercising regularly, and avoiding heavy meals before bedtime.

During sleep your body undergoes many biological and therapeutic changes such as body repair, memory formation, cell reproduction, injury healing, strengthening of immune systems take place during this stage. 

Sleep requirements depend on a lot of factors and change from person to person. However, an average healthy adult must sleep between 7-9 hours for a healthy life.

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Sleep Consultant with extensive experience who has assisted hundreds of parents with their children’s sleep issues. She also works with adults to educate, support, and motivate them to sleep better.
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Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

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Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by healh experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians

Meet Our Review Board

Each week our team researches, writes and collaborates with industry leaders to bring you simple easy-to-read sleep information.

David Bridge

Sleep Coach

Siddhesh Tiwatne

Sleep Coach

Authored by health experts and journalists

Fact checked and science-backed

Medically reviewed by physicians