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Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Symptoms. Consequences, Treatments

Sleep is the time when the postural muscles are relaxed and both mind and body rejuvenates. Changes found in human body during sleeping are inactivity of nervous system, closing of eyes and suspension of consciousness that works on practical things. Although there are no specification for sleeping time, according to some researches, people aged above 65 years need 7 to 8 hours, people aged between 18 to 64 years need 7 to 9 hours, people aged between 14 to 17 years require 8 to 10 hours, school going children from 6 to 13 years need 9 to 11 hours, 3 to 5 years should have 10 to 13 hours of sleep; toddlers must sleep for 11 to 14 hours, infants aged 4 to 11 months must have 12 to 15 hours and newborns require, as much as 14 to 17 hours of sleep per day.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Disturbance in sleeping or inadequate amount of sleeping is called sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can have major implications on the mind and body.(7) Before we understand the consequences of sleep deprivation, let us understand the causes of sleep deprivation.

Causes for Sleep Deprivation

There are many causes for deprivation of sleep. The first and foremost reason for sleep deprivation is stress.(8,9,10) People suffer from this problem until they learn how to manage stress.(1,2) Some people intentionally sleep deprive themselves. They either engage in entertainment or working for livelihood. Thus, they spare the sleeping time and are more prone to many health issues. Some other people inevitably have to work in offices and factories since they have night shifts. For others, it is a practice to have the supper late and to go to sleep late thus resulting in sleep deprivation.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Deprivation of sleep, whether it is intentional or unintentional, leads to many health disorders. The following are the symptoms of sleep deprivation:(2)

Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep relaxes the whole body. Except some internal smooth muscles, most of the muscles will be at rest. Some parts of brain also will be relaxed to calm the mind down and that the person feels fresh after having a good sleep. In case if a person does not get enough sleep, he/she may:(2,3)

  • Be at a high risk of meeting accidents.
  • Be unable to do the normal day to day functions efficiently.
  • Have the chance of getting any serious respiratory diseases and disorder related to sleep.
  • Become weak gradually and even the immune system also becomes weak.
  • Not be able to allow the heart to undergo rebuilding and healing processes.
  • Have problems with weight. The person with sleep deprivation may become overweight or obese. This is because of variation in the secretion of hormones like ghrelin and leptin, which are required for creating satiety and hunger.
  • Suffer from inadequate production of testosterone (in case of males).
  • Have stunted growth (in case of growing children) because of insufficient production of growth hormone.
  • Take long time to recover from any other diseases or hurts and wounds.
  • Have over secretion of insulin hormone, which enhances the absorption of glucose leading to deposition of more glycogen.
  • Sleep deprivation can also lead to hallucinations.(4)

How to Diagnose Sleep Deprivation?

Diagnosis of sleep deprivation can be done in different levels and by different ways:

  • The person himself/herself can report to the doctor on the basis of self analysis. One can assess sleep deprivation on the basis of whether they feel fresh after waking up or the satisfaction of sleep they have.
  • In case the individual is unable to remember the details like sleeping time and waking time, then duration of resting can be noted in a diary. This will help diagnose sleep deprivation.
  • Report can be built up by the patient’s partner also about the details of sleep of an individual. They can have a complete observational record about snoring or any kind of jerks in the hands or legs of the person while sleeping.
  • Some techniques also can be followed by the health professionals to record the blood pressure, rate of heartbeat, pulse and activity of muscles and brain, any sort of muscular movement during sleeping. To do this, sleep study is done by placing electrodes at certain points on scalp and also over the face.

Treatment for Sleep Deprivation

Depending upon the severity of sleep deprivation, the treatment can be decided. Following are some of the treatments for sleep deprivation:(5,6)

Extra Sleep: Sleep would be accumulated in people who do not have enough sleep. The first thing a person with this problem can do is to pay off the debt regarding sleep. In order to do this, the individual may have normal sleep and an hour or two extra every night.

Lifestyle Modifications: It is better to change our sleeping habits to get a good night’s sleep and to treat sleep deprivation. This can be planned by the person himself/herself or taking the help of a health professional, such as a doctor or a psychologist. Some of the tips are, not having food at least for 2 to 3 hours before going to bed, regular exercises, having sleep when the person feels tired, having a good environment in the bedroom which supports sleep, etc.

Get Help: If the insufficiency of sleep is more and the person is unable to manage their state of sleep deprivation, then a psychologist can intervene to help the patient. A psychologist follows many techniques like teaching the technique to control the stimulus and going to bed only when they want to sleep; cognitive behavioral therapy and relaxation techniques can help in establishing the sleeping habit.

Medications: Of course as a last resort, the person can opt for medicines. There are a various kinds of medications(6) available (OTC and on prescription) for treatment of sleep deprivation. It is always better to consult a medical professional before choosing this option as a treatment of sleep deprivation. The doctor is the best person to decide the type of medicine and the dosage to help with your sleep deprivation.


Sleep deprivation is found to be common nowadays because of the busy schedule of today’s world. People need to work in night shifts, which would be routine because of globalization. Hence, people should have a mind set to cope up with these challenges that include sleep deprivation. They have to plan for a healthy life. Regular exercise, a well-balanced diet and planned daily activities, which include sufficient relaxation also should be incorporated in the daily schedules. This will increase the efficiency at workplace as well as help with sleep deprivation.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:January 18, 2020

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