Sleep Deprivation Definition
What is sleep deprivation? Sleep deprivation occurs when you’re not getting a sufficient amount of sleep. You can also become sleep deprived when the sleep that you are getting is of poor quality and you’re interrupted repeatedly with night waking. Just as we need food and water, sleep is one of the basic requirements of life– without sleep the human body is unable to function, with many consequences and symptoms occurring as a result.1
How much sleep should you be getting? Although the right amount of sleep will vary slightly from one person to another, the general rule is that adults should be getting seven or more hours of sleep each night to get enough rest and be alert during the day. For teens and children sleep requirements are higher – nine to 10 hours for teens, and over 10 hours of sleep for children. 2
What causes sleep deprivation? There are a number of different causes of sleep deprivation. This can include a disruption in the body’s natural circadian, which often happens to those people working shift work as well as those with sleep disorders such as restless leg syndrome and sleep apnea. Other causes of sleep deprivation include illness and certain medications, poor sleep habits before bed, a sleep environment that isn’t conducive to good sleep, and a personal choice to go to bed late.
Are you unsure if you’re suffering from sleep deprivation? Here are the top symptoms of sleep deprivation, the dangers of not getting enough sleep, and what you can do to improve your sleep either naturally or with medication.
Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
If night after night you’re not getting enough sleep, you’ll quickly start to see signs of sleep deprivation.
Here are the top 8 sleep deprivation effects and symptoms to be aware of:
- Depression. Sleep deprivation has been linked to low mood and depression. 3Irritability and mood swings. Not getting enough sleep may cause you to feel irritable and angry for no reason. 4
- Daytime fatigue. Excessive daytime sleepiness is one of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation.
- Microsleep. Microsleep is a definition for those brief moments of involuntary sleep – the body and mind are so sleep deprived that people fall asleep for a few seconds to minutes.
- Morning grogginess. Not getting enough sleep can make it difficult to get out of bed in the morning without feeling groggy and tired.
- Inability to focus and concentrate. When the brain doesn’t get enough sleep it’s harder to concentrate and focus on the things you have to do. 5
- Forgetfulness. You may find yourself making mistakes that you don’t normally make when you’re feeling sleep deprived.
- Lack of motivation. Linked closely with depression is the lack of motivation to do those things you usually enjoy doing.
Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
When you’re in a state of chronic sleep deprivation, research shows that you’re at risk for a wide variety of health conditions both, physical and mental. The results of one sleep deprivation study indicate that continual shortened hours of sleep can significantly impair memory and cognitive abilities.
As well as the draining symptoms of sleep deprivation, there are some dangers associated with not getting adequate sleep:
• Safety hazard – Severe sleep deprivation can lead to daytime drowsiness that becomes a safety hazard at work or when driving.
• Increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes – Research shows that people who sleep less than five hours a night may be at a higher risk for diabetes as the body doesn’t correctly process glucose. 6
• High blood pressure – Insufficient sleep may lead to high blood pressure in those with hypertension. 7
• Increased risk of heart attack and heart disease. 8
• Obesity – Lack of sleep can raise levels of leptin in the body, a hormone that controls hunger. Higher levels of leptin can lead to food cravings which can result in overeating and obesity.
• Reduced ability for the body to fight inflammation and infections.
If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, the only way to eliminate the symptoms and reduce the risks is by getting more sleep. If you’ve been dealing with sleep deprivation for months, it may take a few weeks of good sleep for your body and mind to be restored.
Can You Die From Sleep Deprivation?
There is no scientific research proving that sleep deprivation itself may be fatal. However, there is a lot of evidence that indicates severe sleep deprivation is may be a contributing factor in increased risk of death from heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health conditions. 8
Sleep Deprivation Treatment
If you’re experiencing sleep deprivation, it’s important that you come up with a strategy to improve your sleep. This can include both natural methods or the use of medication. There are some sleep aid medications that can be purchased over the counter – still other medications can be prescribed by your doctor and may be necessary for anyone not able to improve their sleep cycle.
Here are some tips that may be effective in treating and preventing sleep deprivation:
• Maintain a healthy sleep environment – sleep in a room that is cool, dark, and quiet.
• Avoid watching television or being on your computer or phone for at least one hour before bedtime. Turn your phone off while sleeping.
• Maintain a healthy sleep schedule, going to sleep and waking at the same time each day, with only a slight variation of no more than an hour.
• Avoid drinking coffee, other caffeinated beverages, or alcohol at least one hour before bedtime.
• Avoid eating at least three hours before bedtime.
• Meditate before bed, using relaxed breathing techniques to calm down the nervous system.
• When waking during the night, avoid looking at the clock. Knowing that you’re not getting enough sleep can increase your anxiety about sleep deprivation and prevent you from falling back to sleep.
• Listen to relaxing music before bed to promote a deeper sleep.
• When at all possible, avoid taking long naps during the day. If you need to nap, limit sleep time to 30 minutes or less. More than 30 minutes may make it harder for you to fall asleep at night.
As well as the tips listed here, there’s evidence that some natural supplements may promote sleep:
• Magnesium. Taking 200-400 mg of magnesium each day may help to activate neurotransmitters in the body that are responsible for sleep. 9
• Melatonin. A hormone that is naturally produced by the body, melatonin may help to regulate the sleep cycle. 10
• 5 HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan). Taking 300-500 mg of 5 HTP each day may help elevate serotonin levels and help regulate sleep. 11
• Lavender essential oil. Use a diffuser or dab lavender essential oil on your temples and wrists. Some studies show that lavender may help promote a soothing and calming effect. 12
• Herbal teas. Drinking herbal teas may help to induce calmness and relaxation. Recommended teas include chamomile, passion flower, valerian, and St. John’s wort. 13, 14
It’s also important to maintain a healthy diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables), supplement (like multivitamins, HexoFire Delta Prime, etc.) and fitness routine.If you’re still experiencing sleep deprivation after trying natural remedies, it may be time to see your doctor. There may be underlying health problems that are making it difficult for you to sleep. Your doctor may recommend over the counter sleep aids or provide you with a prescription for medication.
Medication should be considered a short-term solution and always be used in combination with healthy sleep habits. As well, fully educate yourself about the side effects and risks of taking prescription sleep medication.
- 1Krause, AJ. & Simon, EB. (2017). The sleep-deprived human brain. Nat Rev Neurosci. 18(7): 404-418. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6143346/
- 2Badr, MS. & Belenky, G. (2015). Recommended Amount of Sleep for a Healthy Adult: A Joint Consensus Statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Sleep Research Society. Sleep. 38(6): 843-844. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4434546/
- 3Al-Abri, MA. (2015). Sleep Deprivation and Depression A bi-directional association. Sultan Qaboos Univ Med J. 15(1): e4-e6. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318605
- 4Saghir, Z. & Syeda, JN. (2018). The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection? Cureus. 10(7): e2912. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6122651
- 5Medic, G. & Wille, M. (2017). Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. Nat Sci Sleep. 9: 151-161. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130
- 6Gangwisch, JE. & Heymsfield, SB. (2007). Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Diabetes Incidence in a Large US Sample. Sleep. 30(12): 1667-1673. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2276127
- 7Lusardi, P. & Zoppi, A. (1999). Effects of insufficient sleep on blood pressure in hypertensive patients: a 24-h study. Am J Hypertens. 12(1 Pt 1): 63-8. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10075386
- 8Nagai, M. & Hoshide, S. (2010). Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease- a Review of the Recent Literature. Curr Cardioil Rev. 6(1): 54-61. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2845795
- 9Cao, Y. & Zhen, S. (2018). Magnesium Intake and Sleep Disorder Symptoms: Findings from the Jiangsu Nutrition Study of Chinese Adults at Five-Year Follow-Up. Nutrients. 10(10): 1354. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212970
- 10Costello, RB. & Lentino, CV. (2014). The effectiveness of melatonin for promoting healthy sleep: a rapid evidence assessment of the literature. Nutr J. 13: 106. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4273450
- 11Hinz, M.& Stein, A. (2012). 5-HTP efficacy and contraindications. Neuropsychaiatr Dis Treat. 8: 323-328. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3415362
- 12Koulivand, PH. & Ghadiri, MK. (2013). Lavender and the Nervous System. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013: 681304. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3612440
- 13Koulivand, PH. & Ghadiri, MK. (2010). Chamomile: A herbal medicine of the past with bright future. Mol Med Report. 3(6): 895-901. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995283
- 14Bent, S. & Padula, A. (2006). Valerian for Sleep: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Am J Med. 119(12): 1005-1012. Retrieved on May 23, 2019 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4394901