What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when a person gets less sleep than they need to stay alert. Loss of sleep is quite a common issue, affecting most people in one way or another. Children and teens are more vulnerable to this than adults. While occasional disruptions to your sleep will not do any harm, continuing the same way could lead to a host of issues, such as poor job performance, cognitive imbalance, emotional problems, obesity and general tiredness (x).
Chronic sleep deprivation can affect a body’s internal system and the central nervous system. Since the latter is responsible for sending messages across the body, chronic sleep deprivation can affect how it is sent. It also has a negative impact on cognitive performance. It is not clear how long a human being can withhold sleep, but 3-4 nights without sleep can begin to show ill effects. While the human body can adapt to less sleep, it is generally recommended that 7-8 hours of sleep a day is necessary (x).
Sleep deprivation in children can make it harder for them to concentrate and lead them to be restless. Those who do not get sufficient sleep might experience fatigue, aches, diarrhea and digestion troubles. Rest is important to combat these issues. Some people need more sleep than others, depending on their body conditions and DNA. Hypothyroidism can also cause sleep issues as it over-stimulates the nervous system (x, x).
Sleep Deprivation Symptoms
The reason behind this is the fact that when one is sleep deprived, they just look for anything to eat in order to remain awake. The body will crave carbohydrates, which is sure to increase body weight. A lack of proper sleep can affect metabolism as well. It may even impact the way fat cells respond to insulin (x, x).
One’s motor skills could be affected, and this could lead to clumsiness. Lack of sleep could impact neurological functions, and difficulty in concentrating could lead to trouble with movement and coordination (x).
Poor sleep practices could affect the immune system, making it harder for the body to fight off infections. Since cytokines, the proteins that help fight against inflammation and infection, are produced only during sleep, poor sleep could negatively impact the body’s defenses (x, x).
If the brain doesn’t receive energy from sleep, it tries to get the same from food. One may notice a feeling of constant hunger and a craving for fried food and sweets (x).
Going too long without proper sleep could result in microsleep. This basically refers to when one dozes off for a few seconds without knowing it. This can be quite dangerous, especially if one is behind the wheel (x).
This includes moodiness, shortness of breath, fatigue, constant yawning, irritability, forgetfulness, nausea and lightheadedness, trouble in understanding new things, heart palpitations, depression and more (x, x).
Sleep Deprivation Causes
Sleep deprivation can be caused by a variety of reasons. Not getting a sufficient amount of sleep can be caused by underlying health issues or various other reasons.
- Intentional lack of sleep
- Demanding work shifts
- Waking up early
- Health issues
- Influenza or other short-term illnesses
Intentional Lack of Sleep
This is usually seen in teens and young adults as they choose to spend the night entertaining themselves with movies or socializing. Consuming alcohol just before bedtime can also cause insomnia (x).
Work or Study
Work shifts during nights or early morning can disrupt the sleep cycle of the body, causing sleep deprivation. Those who tend to travel by air frequently across time zones can face this due to irregular sleep schedules. Children and young adults could stay awake at nights trying to catch up with their studies, decreasing their sleep time (x, x).
External factors such as the environment outside could lead to sleep deprivation. This includes extreme temperatures, a snoring partner, loud noises and so on. New parents could also face sleep deprivation as they need to get up to care for the child throughout the night (x, x).
This is a condition that close to a third of the adult population suffers from. It leads to difficulty focusing, daytime sleepiness, not being able to perform well at school or at work and having trouble with memory (x, x).
This is a health condition where the upper airway collapses as the person sleeps. This leads to reduced airflow to the lungs, causing the person to wake up in the middle of their sleep due to a sudden lack of oxygen (x).
Sleep Deprivation Treatment
The best way to treat sleep deprivation is to catch up on sleep. However, at times, due to physical or psychological troubles, an individual might not be able to get sufficient amounts of sleep. This is where proper treatment is needed.
This involves relaxing the muscles and calming the body. Meditation is often recommended, as are guided imagery and other breathing exercises. Special audio recordings are also available to help guide an individual to a restful sleep (x).
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Behavioral effects of sleep deprivation can be dealt with using this therapy. This helps patients understand the importance of sleep. The therapy can assist individuals in changing their behavior and sleeping pattern (x).
If the above methods don’t help, there are over the counter medicines available that can induce sleep. It is important to be mindful of these medications, as it is easy to start depending on them entirely (x).
Good Sleep Habits
Creating a bedtime routine and strictly following it can help in getting sleep. Go to bed whenever you are sleepy and avoid eating or consuming caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Exercise during the day so that you don’t feel restless during the night. Keeping the bedroom devoid of light and sound will help in getting a good night’s sleep (x, x).
Chronic Sleep Deprivation Recovery
It is difficult to get started, but by having a properly structured sleep pattern, you can catch up on all your sleep. The best way to recover from chronic sleep deprivation is to schedule sleep and follow the pattern without fail (x).
Health Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
Central Nervous System
Chronic lack of sleep can affect the way the brain deals with new information. This is why one may find it tough to understand or learn new things. It could decrease coordination since the body signals could be delayed. It could also affect one’s emotional balance. If one doesn’t sleep for a long period of time, it is possible to start having hallucinations. Lack of proper sleep could trigger anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, paranoia and microsleep (x, x).
Since the cravings for carbohydrates increases, there is a high chance of becoming overweight. Sleep affects leptin and ghrelin, the two hormones that control hunger and satiation. Lack of sleep can cause a feeling of tiredness that could keep one from exercising the next day. Over time, a lack of exercise could lead to other issues. Chronic sleep deprivation forces the body to release higher amounts of insulin, leading to type 2 diabetes (x, x).
Irregular sleep or lack of sleep could increase chances of heart attacks and stroke. There are also chances of seeing an increase in blood pressure. Proper sleep works to keep the blood vessels and heart healthy (x, x).
Hormone production depends on the individual getting sufficient amounts of sleep. For testosterone production, one will require a minimum of three hours of uninterrupted sleep through the first REM phase. Waking up at nights could impact hormone production and lead to erectile dysfunction (x, x).
Sleep Deprivation Remedies and Supplements
The best way to deal with lack of sleep is to ensure you get a sufficient amount of sleep. According to recommended guidelines, an adult between the age of 18 to 64 requires an average of 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
Some of the supplements that can help deal with sleep deprivation are mentioned below.
- L-Tyrosine Powder (x) – one dose of 400mg, three times a day
- Pure Melatonin Powder – one dose of 3mg, once a day
- L-Theanine Powder (x) – one dose of 100 mg, thrice a day
- Chamomile (x) – one dose of 800mg, twice a day
- Ginkgo Biloba (x) – one dose of 175mg, thrice a day
- Pure Valerian Root Extract Powder – one dose of 600mg, once a day
- L-Tryptophan Powder (x) – one dose of 500mg, thrice a day
Restricting daytime naps or avoiding them completely can help one get to sleep earlier at nights (x). Avoiding caffeine or alcohol right before bedtime is a good idea. In fact, it is better to not consume caffeine after noon (x).
Create a chart of sleep schedule and follow it every day without fail. This includes sleeping at the same time every night. Not only this, but one should also try to wake up at the same time every morning. This will condition the body for sleep at that particular time. It is advisable to follow this schedule even during weekends and holidays (x).
Meditating, reading or indulging in a relaxing activity before turning in will help in sleeping better at night (x).
The Bottom Line
Sleep deprivation, simply put, refers to the lack of sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation could lead to a host of trouble, such as nausea, diarrhea, increase in blood pressure and blood sugar levels and increased risk of heart troubles. The best way to deal with sleep deprivation is to catch up on sleep and take medications if needed. Certain health conditions could require treatments such as sleep apnea. Consuming vitamins and supplements could help in getting better sleep.