Sleep Deprivation



Inadequate or unsatisfactory sleep is becoming a serious health issue of the modern living.  The rush to meet the targets in the work, nuclear family, urban life style, frequent travel to different time zone, shift work, long distance of journey between home and work place are all contributing havoc to the health and becoming a slow killer. Sleep is one of the basic necessities for a healthy living. Good and adequate sleep improves the quality of life. Sleep helps the brain to work properly, improve memory and provide longevity. The ability to function and feel well while you're awake depends on whether you're getting an adequate amount of sleep. It also depends on whether you're sleeping at a time when the body demands to sleep.  While sleeping, the brain is preparing for the next day by forming new pathways to help learning and remembering information.

Like good eating, drinking and breathing habits; good sleeping habit and adequate duration of sleep are key factors of a healthy lifestyle. According to the National Sleep Foundation, US, everyone, with few exceptions, needs seven to nine hours of sleep a night for the body and mind to function optimally.

Inadequate sleep can lead to physical and mental health problems such as injuries, loss of productivity and even a risk of death due to diseases like high blood pressure. Premature ageing, diabetes, anxiety disorders are also some other problems associated with less sleep. Studies shows that people who get less than six hours a night sleep develop higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more sleep.

Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep; it can be either chronic or acute. A chronic sleep-restricted state can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight loss or weight gain. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive functions. This is commonly found in mothers with a young baby, people working in shifts, people travelling in different time zones, and young executives.


Sleep deficiency may be due to varied causes.  It could be due to location problems such as excessive noise or too much light. Physical factors such as diet or exercise, stressors and emotional events could also cause sleep disturbances and sleep deprivation.  Shortage of  sleep  is a common problem with women given birth to a baby recently. College students are particularly prone to sleep scarcity for a variety of reasons. Adjusting to college life, ongoing academic and social demands may be very stressful to the new entrants. These may have an impact on the student’s ability to sleep properly. For students who share room together, differences in nightly routines of the partner can cause sleep disturbance. Interpersonal frictions and tensions among colleagues, meeting academic deadlines and erratic schedules are other factors that interfere with normal sleep patterns. The use of alcohol and caffeine that are becoming a part of the lifestyle are common causes of sleep disruption in both college students as well executives.  Some college students are at risk for sleep disturbance primarily because they don’t recognize the importance of sleep. Some view the sleeping time as wasted time and consciously disregard the need for sleep. However, the fact is that sleep is essential for optimal functioning of the body and ignoring the need for sleep has many negative consequences, including irritability, exhaustion, lack of concentration, and impaired judgment.

Signs and symptoms

There is a myth that sleep can be conditioned by learning to get little sleep with no negative effects. However, studies show that getting enough quality sleep at the right times is important for mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety.

Feeling of tiredness and remain un refreshed during the day are some of the major symptoms of those who are deprived of adequate sleep. Sleep deficiency also can interfere with work, schooling, driving, and social functioning. Sleep deficiency can cause problems with learning, focusing, reacting, and trouble in making decisions, solving problems, remembering things, controlling emotions, behaviour or coping with change. The person may take longer time to finish tasks, have a slower reaction time, and make more mistakes.

The signs and symptoms of sleep deficiency may differ between children and adults. Children who are sleeping short might be hyperactive and show problems paying attention. They also might misbehave and their school performance could  suffer.

Sleep-deficient children may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation.

Effects of sleep deficiency on physical health

Sleep plays an important role in the physical health of people. Prolonged sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke. Sleep deficiency also increases the menace of obesity. One study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the chances of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.

Sleep helps maintain a balance of the hormones that regulates appetite. Sleep also affects the hormone that controls the blood glucose level and its deficiency may increase the risk for diabetes.

Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissues in children, teens, and adults.

Prolonged sleep deficiency can change the way in which the immune system responds.

Sleep disturbance can also be an indication of other underlying medical conditions or psychological disorder. It may, for instance, be a symptom of an Anxiety or Mood Disorder. Furthermore, sleep disturbance that is chronic or severe can bring on or exacerbate serious psychological disorder.


How to overcome Sleep deprivation

1.  Napping was found to be both physiologically and psychologically beneficial to sleep deficient people. Napping for 20 minutes can help refresh the mind, improve overall alertness, boost mood and increase productivity. Napping may benefit the heart. A nap is a short period of sleep, typically taken during daylight hours as an adjunct to the usual nocturnal sleep period. Naps are most often taken as a response to drowsiness during waking hours.

2. Sometimes even getting in half an hour earlier can help you achieve more. Consider moving closer to the office to reduce travel time. Flexi-timing is another option- going in early and leaving before rush hour can cut time and stress.

3. If you're doing rotating shifts, schedule a clockwise rotation, so that the  new shift will have a start time that is later than the previous shift. Also, stick to a particular shift for at least a week.

4. Reduce exposure to sunlight by making the room dark and noise-free with heavy drapes to sleep soundly during the day.

5. Emails, social networking, web browsing are addictive and also alert the mind. Avoid these just before sleeping hours.

6. Don't sleep with the smart phone in your bed.

7. Travelling across different time zones affect the circadian rhythm. It may take several days to readjust to the new time zone. Adapt to the new schedule on the flight; change your watch to the time zone of the destination; stay hydrated and active. Get sunlight exposure whenever possible—it is a powerful stimulant for regulating the biological clock.

8. Late-night movies and partying, often at the cost of sleep, leaving us exhausted. Don't schedule late nights on weekdays. Plan them for days you have the option of sleeping in the next morning so you get the sleep your body needs.

9. Have a warm shower, listen to soothing music, meditate and visualize a happy memory, so that you go to bed feeling positive and calm good for sleep and for life itself.


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Taheri S, Lin L, Austin D, Young T, Mignot E; Lin; Austin; Young; Mignot (December 2004). "Short Sleep Duration Is Associated with Reduced Leptin, Elevated Ghrelin, and Increased Body Mass Index"

  • PUBLISHED DATE : Mar 11, 2016
  • PUBLISHED BY : Zahid
  • CREATED / VALIDATED BY : Dr. Eswara Das
  • LAST UPDATED ON : Aug 04, 2016


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