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Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment

Do you feel grumpy and foggy most of the days? If so, you must be suffering from sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation is a common sleep problem affecting many people at some point in their lives [1] .

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

When an individual gets less sleep than required to feel awake and alert, it is called sleep deprivation. Children and young adults are more prone to sleep deprivation [2] and healthy older adults are more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation [3] .

What Causes Sleep Deprivation

When you don't get the required amount of sleep, sleep deprivation occurs. Not getting proper sleep can be due to the following reasons:

  • Working in night shifts or having demanding jobs
  • Going to bed late, frequent night-time arousals, or waking up early
  • Underlying medical problems like obstructive sleep apnoea, depression, hormone imbalances, and other chronic illnesses

Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation

  • Sleeping during the day
  • Moody behaviour
  • Yawning
  • Depressed mood
  • Fatigue and irritability
  • Forgetfulness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Difficulty in learning new things
  • Unable to concentrate
  • Increased hunger
  • Clumsiness
  • Reduced sex drive

Negative Effects Of Sleep Deprivation [4]

  • Weakens the immune system, which increases the risk of chronic illnesses
  • Increased risk of respiratory diseases
  • Affects body weight and increases type 2 diabetes risk
  • Has a negative effect on hormone production, including lowering testosterone levels and growth hormones
  • Elevates the risk of cardiovascular disease

People with sleep deprivation also tend to have feelings of worthlessness, failure, low self-esteem, poor job performance and conflicts with co-workers.

Complications Of Sleep Deprivation [5]

  • The brain can't process learning and form new memories
  • The abnormal processing of emotions
  • Weight gain, stress, depression, hypertension, heart attack, and stroke increases
  • Reduced positive thoughts
  • Poor impulse control
  • Intolerance and less empathy toward others
  • Inability to delay gratification

Diagnosis Of Sleep Deprivation

The doctor will ask about your ongoing sleep cycle. The doctor may then use a polysomnogram or sleep study to identify your sleep pattern. The sleep-deprived person will sleep overnight at a sleep clinic with electrodes placed at various points on the body, including the scalp and face to measure breathing, heart rate and rhythm, blood, muscle activity, brain and eye movements during sleep.

Treatment Of Sleep Deprivation

  • Medications - Over-the-counter medications such as benzodiazepines, hypnotics, and non-benzodiazepine can help induce sleep.
  • Behavioural and cognitive treatments like relaxation techniques, stimulation control, and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can also help you to fall asleep.
  • Relaxation techniques - This includes meditation techniques, mindfulness training, guided imagery, and breathing exercises. This helps to relax every muscle in the body.
  • Stimulation control - This method lets a person control his/her pre-bedtime activities and surroundings to moderate the sleeping pattern.
  • Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) - A type of therapy which makes a sleep-deprived person understand and change the thought patterns behind certain behaviours. Cognitive behavioural therapy makes a person develop a healthier sleeping pattern.

Ways To Manage Sleep Deprivation At Home

  • When you are tired, go to bed.
  • Have your dinner 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • Engage in some physical activity during the day.
  • Turn off electronic devices before going to bed.
  • If unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes, go to another room and try to read until you fall asleep.
  • Sleep in a quiet, dark and comfortable room temperature.

    How Much Sleep Do You Need Per Day

    The National Sleep Foundation (NSF) recommend the sleep durations for specific age groups:

    • Newborns (0 to 3 months): 14 to 17 hours each day
    • Infants (4 to 11 months): 12 to 15 hours
    • Toddlers (1 to 2 years): 11 to 14 hours
    • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 10 to 13 hours
    • School-age children (6 to 13 years): 9 to 11 hours
    • Teenagers (14 to 17 years): 8 to 10 hours
    • Adults (18 to 64 years): 7 to 9 hours
    • Older adults (over 65 years): 7 to 8 hours
    View Article References
    1. [1] Shah, N., Bang, A., & Bhagat, A. (2010). Indian research on sleep disorders.Indian journal of psychiatry,52(Suppl 1), S255-S259.
    2. [2] Owens, J., & Adolescent Sleep Working Group. (2014). Insufficient sleep in adolescents and young adults: an update on causes and consequences.Pediatrics,134(3), e921-e932.
    3. [3] Duffy, J. F., Willson, H. J., Wang, W., & Czeisler, C. A. (2009). Healthy older adults better tolerate sleep deprivation than young adults.Journal of the American Geriatrics Society,57(7), 1245-1251.
    4. [4] Altevogt, B. M., & Colten, H. R. (Eds.). (2006).Sleep disorders and sleep deprivation: an unmet public health problem. National Academies Press.
    5. [5] Alhola, P., & Polo-Kantola, P. (2007). Sleep deprivation: Impact on cognitive performance.Neuropsychiatric disease and treatment,3(5), 553-567.
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