Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms, & Treatment

Sleep Deprivation

Lack of sufficient sleep is often not considered a significant issue, but did you know your body needs rest as much as water and food? Sleep deprivation is not to be confused with insomnia. The former means lack of enough time to sleep resulting from daily obligations or behavioral choices, while the latter refers to the inability to fall asleep regardless of sufficient time to do so.

Sleep is a necessary function that helps your body and mind revitalize, allowing you to wake up invigorated and attentive. Additionally, a good night’s sleep enables your body to stay healthy and avoid ailments. At the same time, the brain cannot operate correctly if it does not get adequate sleep.

In this article, we get an in-depth explanation of sleep deprivation, what it is, and its causes. We will also point out good sleep habits that can get you back on the right track to prevent the condition from recurring.

  1. What is Sleep Deprivation
  2. Symptoms & Effects of Sleep Deprivation
  3. Sleep Deprivation Affects Children Differently
  4. Causes of Sleep Deprivation
  5. Types Of Sleep Disorders
  6. Is It Treatable
  7. Good Sleeping Habits

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is defined as receiving less than the recommended quality of sleep. For adults, this varies from seven to nine hours of shut-eye sleep every night. The appropriate quantity of sleep varies among individuals, but the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) recommends that people receive at least seven hours of quality sleep every night. The CDC also estimates that one in every three persons doesn’t get sufficient sleep.

Sleep deprivation is a broad term for a state induced by insufficient quality or quantity of sleep, which includes involuntary and deliberate sleeplessness and circadian rhythm sleep conditions. Traveling to a varying time zone from your hometown or working different shifts can cause your sleep-wake patterns to disrupt, increasing the likelihood of sleep deprivation or compromised sleep quality. This can then lead to a physiological state of fatigue or weariness.

Symptoms & Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation has far-reaching consequences. The CDC estimates that, in the US alone, sleep deprivation causes productivity losses to employers of approximately $1,967 per employee each year, as well as billions of dollars in additional healthcare costs. In addition to this, sleepy driving causes up to 6,000 fatalities per year.

Your body systems and brain processes will not work correctly if you do not get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation may also have a negative impact on the quality of your life by delaying your thought process due to daytime tiredness, making you irritable, and compromising your capacity to carry out daily tasks. In addition, lack of enough sleep raises the chance of premature mortality.

Sleep deprivation has a direct impact on how we feel and think. Whereas the short-term effects are more visible, persistent sleep deprivation may increase the long-term likelihood of mental and physical health problems, as well as jeopardize your overall well-being. Sleep deprivation may exhibit the following consequences:

  • Severe mood fluctuations make it difficult to manage your conduct and emotions. These include stress, irritability, and anxiety.
  • Impaired awareness of your surroundings and circumstances.
  • An increase of susceptibility to hormonal abnormalities resulting from unregulated levels and improper production of certain hormones, which takes place during sleep. Ghrelin and leptin are two hormones that sleep affects. They control the feelings of fullness and hunger. Insufficient sleep may also affect the production of fertility-boosting hormones.
  • Motivational lapse or lack of energy.
  • Encouraging cardiovascular health disorders including stroke, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and high blood pressure. Healthy sleep patterns offer protection against the hardening of arteries which develops into atherosclerosis. Sleep plays a critical function in your body’s capacity to repair, heal, and maintain your blood vessels and heart health, such as blood pressure, blood sugar, and inflammatory levels.
  • Deteriorating hand-to-eye synchronization.
  • Memory problems such as forgetfulness.
  • Sleep deprivation has been linked to a weaker response to vaccinations, along with decreased immune function.
  • Reduced awareness, which, in turn, decreases decision-making abilities.
  • Pain tolerability reduces in sleep-deprived individuals. This, in turn, begins a vicious cycle of sleeplessness and restlessness resulting from worsening pain.
  • Errors of omission (erring by neglecting to do something).
  • Putting on weight.
  • Sleep deprivation impacts the amygdala, which is responsible for emotion, as well as the prefrontal cortex, which is responsible for cognition. Insufficient sleep may sometimes make it more challenging to generate new memories, impacting learning. This can also result in hallucinations and a reduced attention span.
  • Mental disorders and sadness are more likely, encouraging the onset of conditions such as bipolar disorder, anxiety, and depression.
  • Problems with issue solving, focusing, and thinking, thus increasing the risk of fixating solely on a single thought (mentally stalling).
  • The risk of metabolic disorders is increased, such as diabetes (caused by the body’s inability to sufficiently regulate blood sugar levels as a result of insufficient sleep), and obesity, and high cholesterol (resulting from an increase of carbohydrates and calories intake due to poor sleep patterns). When you don’t get sufficient sleep, your brain decreases leptin, which informs your brain when you’ve eaten enough, and increases ghrelin, an appetite stimulant.
  • Accidents are more likely as a result of a shorter response time and worse judgment.
  • Errors of commission, which entail making a mistake by doing something but selecting the incorrect alternative.

However, this is not an exhaustive list of the effects of sleep deprivation. On a positive note, this is a condition that you can manage successfully.

Sleep Deprivation Affects Children Differently

If you notice your child experiencing challenges with concentration or exhibiting increased levels of misbehavior, don’t be too quick to judge them. Lack of sufficient sleep could be the reason for this behavioral change, among other schooling issues. Other symptoms include the inability to get out of bed or grogginess upon waking up.

In teenagers, the effects vary as well. These can range from poor academic performance, ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) and depression, risky behavior, and impulse control issues. Bursts of emotional explodes or temper tantrums may also be a result of sleep deprivation.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation has become more widespread. It is not a sickness in and of itself, but rather the effect of circumstances in life or other disorders. Many individuals strive to adapt their schedules to get as much as possible done, and sleep is often sacrificed, as a result, leading to sleep deprivation. It becomes more of an issue as individuals become older. Sleeping problems affect half of all persons over the age of 65.

Sleep deprivation can happen for many reasons, including:

  • Environmental factors: Low sleep quality due to an uncomfortable mattress or bed, a snoring partner, temperatures that are either too cold or hot, or noisy neighbors.
  • Sleep disorders: Periodic limb movement disorders, snoring, or sleep apnea (breathing difficulties).
  • Illness: Ailments, such as tonsillitis, depression, stroke, cancer, chronic pain syndrome, among others, can fragment your sleep by keeping you up for long hours or causing you to wake up frequently.
  • Toddlers: The presence of an infant in the home will likely cause you to lose sleep or wake up frequently to tend to the infant causing sleep deprivation over time.
  • Work-related factors: Working different shifts may interfere with your sleep patterns or not allow adequate time to sleep. In some capacities, as is the case with medical practitioners and airline crew, work schedules disrupt sleep-wake cycles.
  • Poor sleep hygiene: Habits such as smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee and alcohol just before bedtime makes drifting into sleep less likely as the nervous system receives stimulation from these activities. Additionally, getting into bed and worrying instead of relaxing will affect your sleep quality and duration of sleep.
  • Certain medications: Insomnia is a side-effect of certain medicines, such as those used to treat ADHD or epilepsy.
  • Personal choices: As mentioned at the beginning of this article, most people don’t realize how important it is to have a sufficient sleep on a daily basis. Choices such as late-night reading, socialization, or binge-watching TV late into the night will affect the quality of sleep, thus resulting in sleep deprivation over prolonged periods.
  • Age-related factors: For most people above 65 years, age-related health issues and medications may result in sleeplessness.

Types of Sleep Disorders

Depending on an individual’s circumstances, sleep insufficiency and sleep loss can be classified in a variety of ways:

  • Chronic sleep deficiency: This defines ongoing insufficient sleep either due to sleep disruptions or poor sleep quality.
  • Chronic sleep deprivation: This refers to a condition medically known as insufficient sleep syndrome. According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, this term refers to sleep deprivation that extends for three months or more.
  • Acute sleep deprivation: This describes the significant reduction of one’s sleep time for a short duration (a couple of days).

Is This a Treatable Condition?

The short answer is yes, and the treatment is simple. Ensuring you get adequate sleep each night (typically at least 7 hours) continuously will eliminate the effects of sleep deprivation. If you have left your body deprived of quality sleep for several weeks, then medical intervention will likely be necessary. The doctor can then examine you for sleep disorders or other underlying factors that may be interfering with your ability to experience good quality sleep.

In more severe cases, the doctor will probably conduct a sleep study (polysomnography) to observe your sleep patterns and identify the presence of any sleep disorders, if any. Common sleep disorders are insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, circadian rhythm disorders, restless leg syndrome, and narcolepsy. Each of these disorders has different causes and different treatment regimens.

Good Sleeping Habits

Certain practices can help improve your quality of sleep. Once you make these habits a routine, you’ll be well on your way to improving your general well-being and eliminating the chances of suffering from sleep deprivation. Your actions during the day, particularly before going to bed, can significantly influence your sleep quality – they can either encourage good sleep or lead to sleep deprivation. Improve your overall sleep health by engaging in the following positive habits:

  • Avoid consuming alcoholic beverages, caffeinated drinks, or eating large meals before bedtime.
  • Stay active throughout the day as a tired body tends to fall asleep easier than when you have spent a day sedentary.
  • Frequent exposure to sunshine throughout the day promotes a healthier circadian rhythm, which allows you to be alert during daytime hours and sleepy during night hours.
  • Practice consistency. Stick to a sleep routine where you sleep and arise at the same time every day of the week, including weekends.
  • Create a sleep-conducive environment by ensuring your bedroom is inviting, relaxing, dark, and quiet, with a temperature that’s comfortable.
  • Eliminate screen distractions by removing all electronic devices from your bedroom, including phones, computers, and TVs.
  • Relaxing activities should be done an hour before bedtime. These include taking a bath, meditating, or reading.
  • Limit daytime naps to thirty minutes or less, or avoid taking them, especially during late afternoon hours. If you suffer from insomnia, avoid taking naps entirely.
  • Minimize your fluid consumption before going to bed – and this includes water.
  • Most importantly, ensure you are using the right mattress for a good night’s sleep.

Consider that if you can’t get enough sun exposure, Scientists are working on next-generation LED lighting that might aid in the improvement of human sleep cycles. This new artificial lighting will eventually replicate natural sunshine in a way that is healthier for your sleep.

What can you do?

If you continue suffering from sleep deprivation and you have tried all these aforementioned home remedies to improve your sleep patterns, but without result, consult your doctor. He will carry out an in-depth examination to identify underlying issues that may be affecting your quality of sleep.

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