Lack of sleep is a very common problem in our society, and it impacts many individuals throughout their lives.
Sleep deprivation is triggered when the body does not get enough REM sleep. Everyone varies on how much sleep they require to not be considered sleep-deprived. Older adults have shown to be more resistant to sleep deprivation, whereas children are more vulnerable.
While periodic sleep disruptions are often no greater than an annoyance, continuous lack of sleep can result in increased daytime drowsiness, psychological problems, low-quality job performance, obesity and a reduced sense of well being.
There’s no questioning the necessity of solid sleep, and action is essential to simultaneously regulate and avoid sleep deprivation.
In this article, we will go over the effects of sleep deprivation, in addition to what you can do to relieve and avoid it.
Quick sleep deprivation facts
Below are a few key facts about sleep deprivation. Additional facts and supporting details are below, in the main article.
- Lack of sleep disrupts your attention as well as a reduced reaction time
- When you neglect to obtain your needed amount of adequate sleep, you begin to build up a “sleep debt”.
- Insufficient sleep continues to be implicated as playing a substantial factor in terrible accidents including nuclear power plants, trains, ships, automobiles, and airplanes
- Sleep deprivation could be a sign of an undiagnosed sleep disorder or another medical issue
- Children and young people are the most susceptible to the adverse effects of sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation will cause minor symptoms at first, but over time symptoms will become worse. Symptoms may include:
- Daytime Sleepiness
- lack of motivation
- reduced sex drive
- difficulty learning
- increase in appetite and cravings
- brain fog
- decreased attention span
Sleep deprivation can slowly disrupt many of your biological processes. These include:
- Preventing one’s body from strengthening the immune system and creating more cytokines to fight illness. This will likely mean an individual can take more time to recuperate from illness on top of having a greater risk of chronic illness.
- Inadequate sleep can impact hormone production, including growth hormone and testosterone in men, which can lead to a whole host of other issues
- Sleep deficiency can impact body weight. Two hormones within the body, leptin, and ghrelin regulate sensations of hunger and fullness. The amounts of these hormones are influenced by sleep. Lack of sleep also triggers the production of insulin, which leads to boosted fat storage and a greater chance of developing type 2 diabetes.
Treatment solutions are only necessary whenever an individual physically cannot fall asleep, caused by either physical or psychological issues.
A therapist or sleep expert is able to provide assistance and coping strategies for achieving a peaceful state to fall asleep.
There are two primary techniques for treatment of sleep deprivation these include behavioral and cognitive strategies and medications.
Behavioral and cognitive treatments
For behavioral and cognitive treatments, there are many effective methods out there. Some of these include:
- Relaxation strategies: gradual muscle relaxation including flexing and relaxing every muscle within the body to relax the body. Meditation techniques, breathing exercises, mindfulness, and focused relaxation will also help in this area. Audio sessions are out there that can assist in falling asleep.
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT): This is often a form of therapy made to help individuals realize and alter their thought patterns with particular habits. It will test the person’s beliefs that might not be healthy and encourage logical, positive thoughts. CBT will help an individual to produce a healthier sleeping pattern, naturally.
- Screen time limits: This requires managing activities 2 hours before bed. For instance, an individual avoiding stimulus might spend time in bed only if they feel tired, which regulates the relationship with being in bed and ready for sleep.
When therapy and other forms of treatment are not successful, drugs are available to help put a person to sleep. Some of these medications are available over the counter, while others require a prescription from a doctor.
Some of these options include benzodiazepines, such as Xanax, or nonbenzodiazepine hypnotics. Both of these types of medications require q prescription.
Over the counter, options include melatonin and diphenhydramine (Benadryl).
Unfortunately, some individuals develop an addiction to sleeping medicines. It is recommended to limit the dose as well as the dosing schedule and attempt to use alternative measures if possible.
All negative side effects will be reversed when the individual gets enough sleep. The cure for sleep deprivation would be to get sufficient sleep which, over time, will pay back your sleep debt.
Some suggested sleep habits include:
- exercising during the day
- being in a quiet location that is both dark and at a cool temperature
- avoiding food 2-3 hours before bed
- going to bed when tired
- keeping a good sleeping routine
- all LED lights and electronic devices turned off before bed
How to pay off sleep debt
Every night you miss the required amount of sleep that your body needs, you accumulate a sleep debt.
If your body needs 7 hours and you get a good 5 hours of sleep, you will be in debt by 2 hours. If you continue getting 5 hours of sleep for 5 days, you will have accumulated 10 hours of sleep debt.
The best way to pay back the sleep debt is to get more sleep to allow your body to recover. Depending on the severity of the sleep debt, it may take time to recover.
Start paying back the debt by getting the sleep your body requires plus 1-2 hours. This should be done until the “debt” is paid off. Once done, your body should have had enough time to recover and you can resume your normal sleeping pattern.
If the sleep deprivation continues, and you are unable to pay back the “sleep debt”, please consult your healthcare provider.
When diagnosing sleep deprivation, it’s important to determine if there’s a persistent cycle of poor sleep.
The first step to take when diagnosing sleep deprivation would be to keep a journal with sleep history and the logging time. Log how many hours you’ve slept per night, how often you wake up and how refreshed you feel in the morning. You can also dedicate a couple of pages to sleepiness experienced throughout the day.
If you sleep next to or in the same room with someone, it may be worth asking them to keep a log of snoring, limb-jerking or gasping as your doctor may require this information.
Sleep experts might also discover a pattern by using polysomnogram or sleep study. This will be performed in a sleep clinic.
Electrodes are positioned at a variety of points on your body, which includes the scalp and face. The individual with presumed sleep deprivation will stay overnight at a sleep clinic, and these monitors will keep track of the individual’s blood, breathing, muscle activity, heart rate as well as brain and eye movements during the night.
Experts can identify sleep deprivation more easily in those who wilfully sleep too little. Diagnosis is often as straightforward as acknowledging that you don’t get sufficient sleep and choosing to make changes.
Sleep deprivation is shown to weaken the ability for reasoning. This is due to your brain’s prefrontal cortex as well as the amygdala being inhibited, which can also lead to abnormal processing of emotions.
When you stay up all night and don’t get adequate sleep, the body stops releasing hormones that are needed to regulate growth and appetite. Stress hormones will start forming which includes norepinephrine and cortisol. These stress hormones, in abundance, can cause a whole host of negative side effects.
Sleep has been shown in studies to be required for learning, forming new memories and helps your concentration the next day.
Lack of sleep can have a huge impact on the brain, including emotional and general functioning in healthy adults and kids. These side effects also include:
- inability to think positively
- lack of impulse control
- poor mood and decreased motivation
- feelings of worthlessness, powerlessness, low self-esteem
- poor job performance
- a general decrease in quality of life
Many of these negative side effects will remain even with stimulants such as Adderall or caffeine.
Sleep-deprived individuals are at a much higher risk of scoring higher on scales of paranoia, anxiety, and depression.
Risk of Accidents
At around the 16-hour mark of being awake, the brain attempts to sleep through short “sleep episodes” called microsleeps.
This is an unmanageable human brain reaction that makes a person incapable of processing environmental stimulation and sensory details for a short period of time.
An individual’s eyes usually stay open through microsleeps, however, they are generally “zoned out.” while these types of attacks are unexpected, the results of a sleep-deprived individual working heavy machinery or driving could possibly be disastrous to both the individual as well as bystanders.
Microsleeps continue to occur regardless of an individual forcing themselves to stay awake. Due to this, it can be nearly impossible for a person to stay awake for over 48 hours without sleep.
The best way to avoid sleep deprivation would be prevention. Some preventative tips include:
- avoid consuming caffeine drink later than 3:00 PM
- avoid smoking and any sort of nicotine close to bedtime
- ensure your bedroom is cold and dark
- avoid eating large meals and drinking heavily 3 hours before bedtime
- Maintain a regular schedule sleeping schedule
- try to exercise regularly
- do not nap over 30 minutes a day
- relax and claim your mind before bed, drink chamomile tea if needed
- try reading a book before bedtime