How can I tell if I am sleep deprived?
This comes from insufficient sleep and effects the body, brain, mood and cognitive function. Though, all aspects of health can be impacted by sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is defined as not obtaining adequate total sleep. When someone is in a chronic sleep-restricted state they’ll notice excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, clumsiness, and weight gain or weight loss. In addition, being sleep-deprived affects both the brain and cognitive function. Interestingly, there’s a subset of cases whereby sleep deprivation can actually lead to an enhanced mood, alertness, and increased energy. Note that relatively few studies have compared the different effects between chronic partial-sleep restriction and acute total-sleep deprivation, and the total absence of sleep over long periods of time has not been studied in humans.
There are also many dangers associated with sleep deprivation.
- Diabetes – It’s now believed that people who experience short-term sleep restriction are not able to process glucose as efficiently as those who get eight hours of sleep; which means that they have an increased likelihood of developing Type 2 Diabetes. A study of more than 1400 participants conducted in 2005 showed that people who habitually slept for only a few hours were more prone to experience symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes.
- Recovery – In the year 2005, a study was conducted on a group of rats: for five days the rats were deprived of REM sleep and, compared to a group of rats which were not deprived of ‘dream’ sleep, the results showed no significant changes in their wound-healing ability. These rats were allowed NREM (deep) sleep.
- The Brain – You will experience decreased performance while performing basic verbal learning tasks as well as overall logical and practice reasoning. Not to mention your working memory will be at a loss. Your brain will try to compensate for the adverse effects, but you will not be even close to optimal performance.
- Growth – Lack of sleep reduces cortisol secretion the following day – the result of increased slow-wave sleep. It was also revealed that, whilst suppressing growth hormones, sleep deprivation enhanced activity on the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis: this is the regulator of body functions such as the immune system, digestion, sex, mood, or energy usage; in addition to controlling reactions to stress.
- Memory and Attention – Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. It appears that carrying out tasks that require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night; with these functions declining with the number hours of sleep deprivation. Sadly, these attentional lapses can move into critical domains whereby the consequences could well result in life or death: industrial accidents and car crashes can be the result of inattentiveness, directly attributable to sleep deprivation.
Subjects may experience symptoms such as excessive daytime sleepiness, lack of attention, Moodiness, and Hunger. When a patient has continuous muscular activity, but insufficient rest, we see other issues becoming more prevalent in sleep-deprived patients; such as cramping. Muscle fascia tears, hernias, and other problems usually associated with physical overexertion have been reported in extreme cases of sleep deprivation. At the extreme end of the scale, sleep deprivation can mimic psychosis, where distorted perceptions can lead to inappropriate behavioral and emotional responses.
- Depression – We know that people suffering from depression experience earlier incidences of REM sleep plus increased rapid eye movements; and monitoring a patient’s EEG and waking them during bouts of REM sleep appears to produce a therapeutic effect, thus alleviating symptoms of depression. When sleep deprived, up to 60% of patients show signs of immediate recovery; however, most relapse the next night. It’s also been shown that, in normal people, chronotype is related to the effect that sleep deprivation has on mood: following sleep deprivation, people who prefer mornings become more depressed, while those who prefer evenings show a marked improvement in their mood.
- Weight Gain or Weight Loss – when moderate chronic sleep debt goes hand-in-hand with habitual short sleep, energy expenditure and increased appetite are encouraged. Pair this with a society with available high-calorie food and you will easily increase your food intake. This begs the question if the United States obesity problem could possibly be due to the corresponding decrease in the average number of hours that people sleep. It appears that the association between obesity and sleep deprivation is strongest in young and middle-aged adults. On the other hand, there are scientists who believe that related problems, such as sleep apnea, together with the physical discomfort of obesity, reduce a person’s likelihood of getting a good night’s sleep.
- Inadequate sleep hygiene
- Sleep disorders that interfere with the brain’s ability to stay awake
- Insufficient total sleep time.
- Treatment Options for Sleep Deprivation
It isn’t hard, you just need more sleep, and if a sleep disorder is interrupting sleep, the problem will need to be addressed in order to improve sleep duration and quality. Inadequate sleep hygiene or insufficient sleep is often a cause that needs to be addressed.
If you are struggling with sleep deprivation symptoms, talk to your physician or sleep doctor about treatment options.