Sleep Deprivation

Just as important it is for humans to eat, drink and breathe it is as important to have a sufficient amount of sleep every day. Ample amount of sleep brings considerable change in a person’s health and social and professional life. It definitely helps perform better in studies, work and other daily life activities.

On the other hand if a person does not get enough sleep, it can horribly go against them. Since the urge to sleep cannot be neglected, it can disturb a person’s routine throughout the day. It keeps people from performing well in all daily life activities and therefore it can become a seriously dangerous disorder.

Such a condition where people do not get sufficient amount of sleep is called Sleep Deprivation. It has severe impacts on a person’s health and can initiate several serious health issues such as Diabetes, Depression, Insomnia and other Sleep disorders. While carrying out tests, researchers observed death of animals who suffered from long term sleep deprivation. The longest recorded time where person has gone without sleep is 449 hours. There is an astonishingly lengthy episode of sleep deprivation where a Vietnamese had claimed to have not slept for 11,700 nights. However, the fact was never scientifically proven.

General causes of sleep deprivation are related to mental and physical health. Often stress is a major reason for people not getting enough sleep. One of the more common causes is setting sleep low on our priority list. When people focus more on completing their studies and professional work, they often do it at the expense of sleep. It results in muscular fatigue and day time drowsiness as well.

One very serious cause of sleep deprivation is often overlooked by people. People may not be able to sleep because of other sleep disorders which may result in lack of sleep and ultimately a person may fall victim to sleep deprivation. This is a serious concern as these causes generally remain unidentified and patients actually do not know what they may be suffering from.

Stages of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation is generally characterized in to two different stages namely, Acute Sleep deprivation and Chronic Sleep Deprivation. During chronic sleep deprivation, a patient may experience intense muscle fatigue and drowsiness. It is more common of the two stages of sleep deprivation. Acute Sleep deprivation is sudden and for a short period of time.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can have some dangerous consequences and it mostly affects negatively to a person’s health. These symptoms are related to a person’s brain health and physical conditions. Interestingly enough, sleep deprivation is also used as tool for curing mental stress and it was observed to have worked effectively. Having said that, there are mostly unhealthy effects of Sleep deprivation some of which are mentioned below:

  • Sleep deprivation is said to have played a major role in traffic accidents. Since patients may feel drowsy while driving, the rate of car crashes and fatal injuries is dangerously high.
  • Sleep deprivation causes laziness and patients face a hard time concentrating in activities. Social life is greatly affected as people may not actively participate in family gatherings and social events.
  • A person may not remain as aware of the surroundings as before. Alertness decreases as a result of sleep deprivation. It is sometimes also accompanied by memory weakening and forgetfulness.
  • There are a lot of heart problems related to sleep deprivation. Intense sleep deprivation can cause Stroke, High Blood Pressure, failure of Heart as well as Diabetes.
  • Sexual life is also greatly disturbed by Sleep deprivation as lack of sleep can cause reduced periods of sex drives. Since a person feels drowsiness, there is absence of energy that can also result in lack of interest in having sex.
  • Skin aging is also a side effect of sleep deprivation and normally people get dull eyes and dark circles as a result of this sleep disorder. Scientifically, during sleep deprivation, the hormones responsible for human growth are released in a lesser quantity. This directly affects the skin and its ages quickly.
  • Depression is one of the major symptoms of sleep deprivation as people often concern about not having enough sleep.
  • Lack of sleep also adds body weight. One of the research concluded that people who do not sleep more than six hours daily have a 30 percent higher chance of falling to obesity than those who sleep for around eight hours every day.
  • According to a research, sleep deprivation increases the risk of death.

Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

On most occasions, sleep deprivation can cause other physiological problems. Some of them are sleep disorders themselves while others may be related to general health. Some of the major side effects of Sleep Deprivation are given below:

  • Diabetes is a common problem these days and is known to affect people from any age group. During sleep deprivation, the glucose production in the body also slows down. As a result a person may be faced with lack of glucose which in turn can cause Diabetes.
  • Brain growth is also affected and people may face neurological and motor skill problems as well. A study concluded that the brains of the people who face sleep deprivation have to exercise more and work harder to achieve a task as compared to people who take ample amount of nap on daily basis. It also affects the ability to learn different languages. Generally, learning process slows down. Patients may have a better short term memory but in the longer run, they tend to forget things.
  • An experimental study on rats suggested that sleep deprived section of the subjects took more time to recover and heal from wounds.
  • There are a number of physiological disorders that result due to sleep deprivation. They include headaches, irritability, fibromyalgia risks,rise in hormone stress level, involuntary yawning, abrupt mood swings, muscle aches, indecisiveness, hallucinations and many others.

Stages of Sleep and its Connection with Sleep Deprivation

There are two main stages of sleep i.e. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) and NREM (Non Rapid Eye Movement). Rem sleep makes around 25% of the total sleep time while the bigger share of sleep time is taken by NREM sleep.

REM sleep involves rapid eye movement. A person may move their eye in response to the happenings in a dream and these movements can be really fast.

NREM sleep is further divided into four stages. The first stage is pretty short of about five to seven minutes where a person goes through a transition from being awake to sleepiness. The second stage actually longs the most. It makes around 50% of REM cycle. The third and the fourth stage are named as slow wave sleep. Sleep researchers observed waves in the ECG which they named as Delta waves.

Sleep deprivation has to do with the first stage of NREM sleep cycle. A person may not be able to complete this first cycle and his sleep is disturbed causing him to wake up. This results in a person not being able to sleep at all. Sleep deprivation has no direct link to REM sleep cycle as it only initiates when a person is in deep sleep.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Cognitive Response

It mainly refers to the mental health of a person suffering from Sleep Deprivation. People may go through depression. It has direct effects on the auditory as well as divided attention. The auditory attention decreases with the increase in sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation also affects endogenous attention. However, it has no sever impacts on exogenous attention in the human brain.

The ability to correct errors also decreases with increase in sleep deprivation. The brain takes more time to adapt to a condition and therefore its ability to distinguish the right from the wrong also decreases.

Planning and strategizing can also be negatively affected by Sleep Deprivation. According to an experiment Sleep deprived patients take longer time and more energy to solve a problem than a normal person.

Sleep deprivation can also cause a person to face more difficulties with a complex or logical problem as compared to a person who take enough sleep.


Treatments for Sleep Deprivation

Scientists suggest that the key to tackle Sleep deprivation is to enhance and improve the alertness of a patient. For this purpose, Caffeine is considered a helpful ingredient as it improves the brain activity and keep a person awakened so that short spells of sleep are avoided causing a person to sleep better for a longer period of time.

Most effective way of reducing sleep deprivation is to ensure that a person takes a full night’s sleep. It has also to do with the Cyrcadian rhythm of our body which synchronizes with the amount of light that our retina receives. During night time, there is an automatic urge to sleep because there is less signal reception at the retina due to darkness.

There are certain medications and drugs which are recommended by doctors to overcome Sleep Deprivation. These drugs include Prophylactic agents.


Sleep deprivation is a major sleep disorder and affect about 25% of adults in the modern world. However, it is curable and it is advised not to ignore any symptoms that may lead to Sleep Deprivation.