Sleep Deprivation Causes, Symptoms, and Effects

Here’s the good and bad news about insomnia: According to the most recent scientific studies, most of us will experience sleep deprivation at some point in our lives. Over 60 million Americans reported dealing with insomnia last year. These numbers go up the older you get, with seniors experiencing the highest percentage of insomnia.

While that may not sound like good news at first, it’s reassuring to know that you aren’t alone in your struggles with sleep deprivation, that it’s very likely temporary, and that there are a number of reasonable solutions out there that can get you back to sleeping like a baby.

level of insomnia level of insomnia symptoms of sleep deprivation causes of sleep deprivation how to sleep better FAQ

What is Sleep Deprivation or Insomnia

While many people have heard the term insomnia, Sleep Deprivation is actually a type of insomnia. It is caused by the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep soundly. In its most basic definition, insomnia is the general sleep disorder of either not being able to fall asleep, or waking in the middle of the night and being unable to fall back asleep. Sleep Deprivation is part of the family of insomnia, and the two diagnoses are often used interchangeably.

COMMON DAYTIME SYMPTOMS

  • Irritability or tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood swings
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
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COMMON DAYTIME SYMPTOMS

  • Feeling unrefreshed immediately
    after you wake up in the morning
  • High level of anxiety
  • Feeling overly stressed
    or anxious
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COMMON NIGHTTIME SYMPTOMS

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Tossing and turning
  • Sleep apnea
  • Constant cycling thoughts
  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
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COMMON DAYTIME SYMPTOMS

  • Irritability or tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood swings
  • Lethargy
  • Weight gain
  • Feeling unrefreshed immediately after you wake up in the morning
  • High level of anxiety
  • Feeling overly stressed or anxious
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COMMON NIGHTTIME SYMPTOMS

  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Tossing and turning
  • Sleep apnea
  • Constant cycling thoughts
  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
While these symptoms can sometimes be caused by other disorders, insomnia is the general term for the sleep disorder that causes you to feel this way: in layman’s terms it means that you’re just not getting the sleep you know you need.

THREE LEVELS OF INSOMNIA

There are three levels of insomnia; transient, acute, and chronic. These refer to the length of time and severity of the symptoms that you experience.

Transient insomnia is the least severe, usually lasting less than a week, it is often caused by other sleep disorders, an abrupt change in your sleeping environment, or stress. Often times the symptoms of sleep deprivation will manifest in small ways during this time. This is the most common form of insomnia, and is usually the easiest to treat. Figuring out what your trigger is for insomnia is key here, in that way you can move forward and deal with the issue.

Acute insomnia is slightly more severe. While it shares many of the symptoms of transient insomnia or short term sleep deprivation, the effects can be more long lasting — from several weeks to a month. Often acute insomnia can be caused by stress or depression. The effects of sleep deprivation can be more pronounced than with transient insomnia, meaning that you may experience some daytime symptoms like a decrease in daytime function. While you aren’t necessarily in the chronic insomnia camp yet, it could be worth noting that this is getting into more serious territory.

Chronic insomnia is the most severe. It means that these symptoms have been going on for longer than a month. This can either by the symptom of a different sleep disorder, or it can be the primary disorder. The effects can be pronounced, including double vision during waking hours and hallucinations or mental fatigue. If you’re experiencing this level of insomnia, it’s important to get to a medical professional to help diagnose and deal with the problem. This is the rarest, and most intense form of insomnia.

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Don’t worry though, help is on the way! Once you identify your symptoms, and most importantly, how to treat this disorder, you can get your life back. It’s important to remember that you aren’t alone, and that with proper sleep hygiene, you’ll be hitting the pillow like a pro.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

In this section we want to dig deep into the symptoms of what makes an insomniac. While there is no one-size-fits-all diagnosis of what it means to be an insomniac, there are a couple of commonalities that are worth exploring: namely the lack of the ability to fall asleep, and the lack of the ability to stay asleep.
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More specifically, here are some ways that insomnia can manifest. Often times insomniacs will fail to be able to fall asleep directly, they won’t be able to find a “comfortable” spot in bed. It many cases insomnia manifests in an inability to return to sleep after waking up in the middle of the night.

This can lead to late-night eating, TV watching, and various other distractions. Often an insomniac or someone who is severely sleep deprived will have trouble staying awake during the day, waking up already feeling unrested and on edge. If you experience these symptoms, it’s worth talking with a sleep professional about a possible diagnosis.

Some symptoms can feel a bit like the chicken or the egg scenario. Which one comes first? Anxiety and depression can be symptoms, but they can also be causes. Very often times one feeds into the other. You can’t sleep, so you feel anxious, so you worry about sleeping, which prevents you from sleeping, which leads to more anxiety, etc. It can feel like trying to win a race with your legs tied together, it just isn’t going to work.

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Causes of Sleep Deprivation

If these questions sound familiar, they might be some of causes behind your sleep deprivation/ Insomnia is a tricky disorder. Its causes can be as varied as the people experiencing them. We’ve already mentioned anxiety and depression. These are two huge ideas, especially for transient depression. Changes in jobs, schools, or money worries can be a giant factors, as well as emotionally devastating changes like the loss of a loved one or a relationship ending.

Irregular Work Schedule

Your work schedule can play into it. If you fly often, there’s a profound effect on your circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is how your body regulates its sleep-wake cycle. When you travel, it can throw this into fits.

Eating Too Late

Eating too late at night can also tie into insomnia. It may cause indigestion, discomfort, and bloating, all physical attributes that can keep you awake, but not only that acid indigestion can lead to chronic breathing problems. That, plus sleep apnea from sudden weight gain makes late night eating a huge factor in many insomnia cases.

Staring at Screens

Poor sleep habits may be the biggest factor in the twenty first century. While the digital age has brought us many innovations, it has also brought myriads of stressors. Blue light, emitted from all digital devices with screens, is a proven enemy of sleep. It sends signals to your brain to limit the creation of melatonin, the body’s natural sleep regulator.

While these symptoms and causes can feel overwhelming in the moment,
it’s important to know that you are in control of this situation. In the next section, we’ll deal with the possible remedies and cures that can work to treat your sleep disorders in any form they take.
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*Studies showed tumor growth accelerates 2-3x in laboratory animals who are sleep deprived
**This means you’ll feel hungry even if you’ve already eaten, impairing your sleep
***Even a single night of poor sleep can impact your ability to think, drive, function and perform clearly the next day

How to Sleep Better

In this section, we present possible treatments, cures, and remedies to overcome a disorder that will effect over 60 million Americans this year. It’s not overly dramatic to say that our country is in the midst of a sleep crisis. If this sleep epidemic is not impacting you directly, it surely impacts others in your life.

With more and more people every year complaining about their perceived lack of sleep, even as sleep scientists shows that the importance of eight hours is paramount, we are in need of ways to cope with a less and less sleep friendly world. So instead of tossing and turning all night, worried that you won’t get the sleep that you crave (and need), here are some proactive approaches you can take to make sure that your sleepless nights are minimized, and your mattress time is maximized.

First off, don’t worry.

It may sound silly, but anxiety is a huge enemy of sleep. If you find yourself staring up at the ceiling, worried about the sleep you aren’t getting, then it’s probably time to try something else. It’s a great idea to get up and walk around the room. It might sound weird, but try it. Listen to music, read a book, really anything that will get your mind off your anxiety. Once you feel like you’re drowsy again, lay down and see if that helps. You could be surprised at how quickly you see results from this simple method.

Add exercise and meditation
to your day.

The combination of exercise and meditation reduces cortisol, increases dopamine, manages weight gain, food cravings, and together helps reduce stress and anxiety which is one of top reason for sleep deprivation. Studies show that when people have regular exercise and sleep patterns they tend to sleep better and experience less insomnia and sleep deprivation. In order to get the most out of your exercise and meditation, people should avoid overly strenuous workouts right before bed and meditate instead.

Save your cardio for a morning wake up, and try a combination of yoga, stretching, and meditation to help you relax into evening sleep. Some people feel they can’t work out in the morning because they feel sore upon arising. Is your mattress too stiff or firm? Do you wake up with stiff back or muscles? NECTAR makes the most comfortable mattress so you can wake up feeling fresh and ready to tackle your day.

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Avoid cell phones and electronic devices before you sleep

The biggest way we sabotage our changes of good sleep is our cell phone - we hurt our ability to sleeping well by looking at our screens and leaving our phone charging on our bedside table. The combination of synthetic light before bed and notifications while we sleep stimulates our mind, preventing us from dropping into deep sleep cycles. One of the best ways to avoid sleep deprivation and insomnia is by staying off of electronics before bed. Try switching from a screen to a book, board game, bath, relaxing meditation, or any way that relaxes you without being plugged in.

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The proper mattress

Foam mattresses, like NECTAR, are effective tools for helping you get to sleep faster and rest longer. They work by layering different types of memory foam to help you combat sleep deprivation and insomnia. For example, people who experience insomnia from sleeping hot can enjoy NECTAR foam mattresses with Tencel cooling covers to help reduce heat. This promotes air circulation and is heat wicking for a cooler sleep. Those can take care of some of the secondary factors that can contribute to sleep deprivation and insomnia. Remember that sleep health is so important to our general health. Memory foam was developed by NASA for a reason – foam mattresses can have long lasting benefits that will cut down on long term healthcare costs, and improve quality of life.
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Good sleep hygiene

Having an environment conducive to sleep is also a huge part in combating insomnia. Sleep experts call this, “sleep hygiene” and it may require you to reassess the way you utilize your bedroom. Try to make this space used exclusively for sleep, that means no computers, no tablets, and no phones. Often the light emitted from these devices can cause your brain to wake up in ways that promote insomnia — so getting rid of them can go a long way in getting you back to a healthy sleeping routine. Another factor is to get “black out” shades, preventing unwanted light from outside as a disruptor of your sleep.

Natural sleep aids

Having an environment conducive to sleep is also a huge part in combating insomnia. Sleep experts call this, “sleep hygiene” and it may require you to reassess the way you utilize your bedroom. Try to make this space used exclusively for sleep, that means no computers, no tablets, and no phones. Often the light emitted from these devices can cause your brain to wake up in ways that promote insomnia — so getting rid of them can go a long way in getting you back to a healthy sleeping routine. Another factor is to get “black out” shades, preventing unwanted light from outside as a disruptor of your sleep.

  • Chamomile is a natural herb that can promote relaxation and calm, especially when mixed with warm milk, which releases hormones to help you relax.
  • Lavender scented candles, incense, or eye pillows can help promote a calm environment and relaxation without ingesting anything.
  • Valerian root even helps with regulating your circadian rhythm, the body’s way of restoring your sleep-wake cycle.

While stronger medication can also work, we recommend talking to your physician before engaging in that type of behavior. That being said, there are so many ways to get past your insomnia that you should have a solution that works for you before you know it.

Remember, your insomnia doesn’t define you, and feeling empowered is the first step back toward a normal sleep routine. We know that you’ll find that sleep, just make the time for it, relax, and let nature do its work.

SLEEP DEPRIVATION AND INSOMNIA FAQ

According to research, if you experience sleep deprivation for a night or two but can get a full 10 hours of sleep the following night, you will likely feel nearly, but not 100% normal, the next day. It is estimated that a second night of recovery sleep or afternoon nap is all that is needed to feel fully restored. However, getting the advised eight hours, or even 10 recovery hours of sleep after prolonged sleep deprivation of over a week or more is not enough to fully normalize you. The study showed that after continuous sleep deprivation the study who got that amount still felt exhausted the next day. In that case, it can take days, or weeks, to feel fully rested again.

You can experience minor sleep deprivation if you get less than 7 hours of sleep in a night. However, a lack of regular hours can add up quickly. After just seven nights of too little sleep, a study showed that 700 genetic changes occurred as a result – changes that could play a role health complications including heart problems and obesity.

It’s possible that given enough time sleep deprivation can kill you. While no human being is known to have died from staying awake, animal research strongly suggests it could happen. Currently the World Record Holder for the longest time awake was 11 days and 25 minutes. It is however, possible to experience health complications from extended sleep deprivation such as heart problems, depression, diabetes and weight gain.

Beyond feeling very very tired, when you lose sleep for more than 48 hours, your body and your mind begin operating in altered states that put your health, and your life, at risk. You might experience cognitive impairment, hallucinations, memory loss, paranoia, or mood swings. According to studies, even when you go a whole day without sleeping (20-25 hours) your performance impairment is similar to that of someone with a blood alcohol level of 0.10 percent.

There’s no guaranteed way to fall asleep in five minutes. However, there is a breathing technique you can try that has been called “instant tranquilizer” and can help you fall asleep fast. Forget counting sheep, and just breath.

  1. Breathe in through your nose for four seconds.
  2. Hold your breath for seven seconds.
  3. Slowly breathe out through your mouth for eight seconds.
  4. Repeat this process until you fall asleep.

Finally, make sure your bedroom is as sound and light proof as possible, and you have a comfortable mattress to help you fall asleep in five minutes.

While it is more difficult to fall asleep and get into a deep, restful sleep cycle, you can sleep with anxiety. It can be hard to fall asleep quickly if your mind is racing, but it is possible to sleep with anxiety. If you have anxious thoughts or feelings, try to focus on positive images, phrases, or memories to help you calm down before bed. Sip a chamomile, lavender or herbal tea that helps you relax. Do a mindfulness meditation or breathing exercise.

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