Written by Nectarsleep editorial team
Last Updated on Mar 23, 2023
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Have you ever had those nights when you tossed and turned throughout but couldn't get a wink of sleep? You must remember waking up groggy and lethargic, with no will to carry out different tasks, and every little thing triggering your mood is due to lack of sleep.
This phenomenon named 'sleep deprivation,' and its consequences, like sleep disorders, can be far more harmful than you think. It can easily alter your mental and physical health.
By familiarizing yourself with the causes, signs, and symptoms of sleep deprivation, you can prevent the disease from creating havoc in your life.
Sleep deprivation is typically used to refer to when a person does not receive the recommended amount of sleep. This would imply less than 6 to 8 hours for adults and children, below 9 to 10 hours of sleep.
As stated by sleep medicine, sleep deprivation is defined as the sleep duration, i.e., the number of hours a person sleeps. But in real life, being well-rested is dictated by something more than just achieving the recommended hours of sleep.
So, now the term has more to do with 'feeling refreshed and energized after waking up' than the typical definition. Thus, sleep insufficiency is often used to describe the factors that lead to the state when a person cannot feel rested.
For instance, if a person keeps getting up, leading to sleep fragmentation, they technically get the required 8 hours of sleep, but it is insufficient to keep them full of energy.
However, the term has become generalized and, in everyday conversation, is used to describe poor sleep while disregarding the total sleep duration. Medical sciences, too, have started using the terms' deprivation' and 'insufficiency' interchangeably. They use it to denote sleep of less than the requisite 6 to 7 hours.
Depending on the circumstances of a person, sleep deprivation and sleep insufficiency are categorized into three distinct types:
Acute sleep deprivation - This occurs when a person experiences a significant reduction in their sleep time over a short period.
Chronic sleep deprivation - The American Academy of Sleep Science defines this as a shortage of sleeping hours over three months or more.
Chronic sleep deficiency or insufficient sleep - This refers to sleep deprivation and poor sleep that is persistent and is caused by sleep fragmentation or other similar problems.
While people may often confuse sleep deprivation with Insomnia, experts deem them different because both involve the lack of complete sleep.
Insomnia occurs when a person cannot sleep despite having enough hours to do. On the other hand, sleep deprivation happens to a person who doesn't get enough time to sleep because of their obligations and commitments.
So, a person with sleep deprivation makes the conscious decision to not go to sleep and instead fulfill their work schedule. They also choose to make up for these lost hours by sleeping on weekends. People with insomnia usually do not have this luxury, as they have no control over their lack of sleep.
Several reasons can contribute to why you're suffering from sleep deprivation. It usually stems from inadequate sleep hygiene, lifestyle, work commitments, sleep disorders, or other medical reasons.
Sleep deprivation is a voluntary condition that arises based on the decision made by an individual. A person who chooses to go out late for a few nights may suffer from acute sleep deprivation. But like an insomniac, they can recover later.
A worker who constantly pulls all-nighters with no time to compensate later will also find themselves suffering from chronic sleep deprivation. Night shift workers will also find the long daytime sleep hard to get used to.
Sleep disorders and medical conditions are the other two significant reasons for sleep deprivation. Sleep apnea is one such disorder that leads to erratic sleep patterns, and low sleep quality. Health problems like pain and mental health problems like anxiety also contribute to this issue.
As per CDC, the needed amount of sleep amongst different people varies according to their age group.
|Age||Sleep Requirements (in hours)|
|4–12 months||12–16, including naps|
|1–2 years||11–14, including naps|
|3–5 years||10–13, including naps|
|18–60 years||7 or more|
The initial signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation that you can spot right away are excessive daytime sleepiness and a reduction in your efficiency. You'll feel drowsy and notice a drop in your concentration, slowness in thinking, and irritable behavior. It is typical to have a hard time staying awake or even microsleep, i.e., nodding off while doing anything.
Other signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation are
The signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation might not be the same for everyone as other factors greatly influence them. Whether it is acute or chronic, decides the extent of each sign. These symptoms will emerge as determined by a person's genetics, as studies show, or their intake of inhibitors like caffeine.
The effects of sleep deprivation can be very severe and book consequences that will last forever.
Acute sleep deprivation might lead to accidents and errors. Driving while sleep-deprived entails slower reaction time and high chances of microsleep. And the repercussions of such risky driving can even be life-threatening. In schools, they will find themselves unable to pay attention and, consequently, fall behind on studies. In relationships, sleep deprivation can cause misunderstandings and issues.
On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation causes harm to the very body that keeps you alive. Lack of sleep will culminate over time and produce life-altering diseases that might never be cured. The effects of not getting enough sleep include
1. Immunodeficiency: Bad sleep hygiene has led to a weaker immune function that makes you vulnerable to diseases and poor reactions to vaccines.
2. Obesity: Research has demonstrated how people consume more food due to sleep insufficiency. It also means that a person remains lazy enough not to burn the excess fat received through overconsumption.
3. Diabetes: Sleep deficiency is also known to lower the body's ability to regulate and keep a check on blood sugar, which ultimately causes diseases like diabetes.
4. Hormonal abnormalities: The regulation of hormones is also affected by lack of sleep. These make people susceptible to various hormonal issues.
5. Pain: Sleep-deprived individuals stand a greater chance of suffering from pain or feeling it worse over time. It is a spiral where a person gets pain because of not sleeping and cannot sleep due to pain.
6. Mental health disorders: Insufficient sleep directly influences mental health and causes dire problems like anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorder.
7. Cardiovascular disease: This disease has also been diagnosed as a consequence of Sleep deprivation. It can cause heart attacks, coronary heart disease, high blood pressure, and strokes.
8. Impaired brain activity: Sleep inefficiency can also permanently affect the brain's ability to learn, memorize, concentrate, and make rational judgments. Your ability to comprehend time, space and coordination will deteriorate, making it hard to carry out everyday tasks.
Given the severity of these issues, it is no surprise that studies show that lack of sleep can also cause death. It might not be an immediate occurrence, but it would build over time. It will also bring the quality of life down, as one will no longer have the capability to act normally.
CDC suggests that over 600 deaths are caused by drowsy drivers. The healthcare industry also sees an influx of millions of dollars from sleep deprivation and its consequences. The country also loses about $400 billion due to the productivity losses caused by the inefficiency of workers because of sleepiness.
Sleep deprivation diagnosis is often made by looking through the patient's symptoms and sleeping patterns. Doctors read through their sleep diaries and ask questionnaires to grasp all the signs.
Sometimes actigraphy, a sleep tracking technology, is taken in to help for additional testing. Other times, they conduct an overnight sleep study if it is suspected that the patient might have some lingering sleep disorder.
If you already find yourself in the clutches of sleep deprivation, then you can take specific steps to deal with it. The treatment for sleep deprivation includes medical care and lifestyle changes, counseling, environmental changes, and alternative therapies.
If any of these repercussions have made you afraid of sleep deprivation, then it is time to take action and prevent it!
Sleep deprivation is a severe issue affecting almost 1 American out of 3. If it is not dealt with care at the right time, it can have dire consequences for mental and physical health. So, if you do have any symptoms or are leaning towards the possibility, then take immediate action and stay healthy!
Losing the struggle to stay awake: divergent thalamic and cortical activity during microsleeps
Heritability of performance deficit accumulation during acute sleep deprivation in twins.