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The famous author Robert Ludlum repeated the phrase “Rest is a Weapon” throughout his Bourne series novel. Sleep is vital; vital for survival.

On a cool, cozy night, you find yourself wide awake, tossing and turning in bed. Try whatever you can, but not be able to sleep.

If this is happening regularly, you are sleep-deprived. It’s a red alert!

Whether by choice to complete a task or simply unable to get that charming dizziness, we all have experienced this sleeplessness in our lives, and it surely is torture. Loss of sleep is a common physiological problem in a modern society that affects many individuals.

For a person to remain active and alert throughout the day, a relaxing sleep of 6 to 8 hours is essential. It is considered being sleep deprived when an individual gets less sleep than they need to feel awake and alert. However, the loss may vary in how little we need to sleep to be considered sleep-deprived. Some people, such as older adults, seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation than children and young adults, who are more susceptible.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, 40% of American people in the age range of 40–59 reported getting less than the recommended amount of sleep.

As per the statistics available with Scientific American, 20% of teenagers get less than 5 hours of sleep, while the average duration is 6.5 hours.

Sleep deprivation can seriously lead to anxiety, emotional difficulties, and poor job performance, which consequently result in a lowered perception of the quality of life.

Let’s explore further and find a healthy approach to address this problem.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

One of the early symptoms of ongoing sleep loss is excessive daytime sleepiness, but other indications include:

  • yawning
  • moodiness
  • lack of energy
  • irritability
  • depressed state of mind
  • difficulty grasping new information
  • temporary loss of memory
  • inability to concentrate
  • lack of motivation
  • daytime fatigue
  • increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • reduced sex drive

What are the Causes of Sleep Deprivation?

When you are deprived of your daily quota of sleep, you are inviting trouble for your body and mind. You may overburden yourself with work or other activities that are reducing the duration of your relaxation.

In a series of experiments using functional MRI and polysomnography, Matthew Walker, a UC Berkeley professor of neuroscience and psychology, with fellow researchers scanned the brains of 18 young adults. They reviewed the video clips of participants who had a full night of sleep, and again on those of a sleepless night.

The brain scans of participants who had sleepless nights showed a shutdown of the medial prefrontal cortex, which normally helps keep the anxiety level in check; while the brain’s deeper emotional centers were overactive. In the case after a full night of sleep, during which participants’ brain waves were measured via electrodes placed on their heads, the results showed their anxiety levels declined significantly.

People may have their own justification for sleep deprivation. Some groups of people think of sleep as a wasteful activity and deliberately deprive themselves of sleep to pursue other goals such as entertainment, education, or career pursuits.

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We generally see this sleep deprivation in teenagers and young adults, which is a hyperactive age group, more than in the elderly. Others may unintentionally not get sufficient sleep because of shift duty, family responsibilities, or demanding jobs. Those are occupational hazards of the modern age.

Consistent sleep-wake patterns of late-night sleep, frequent nighttime arousals, or waking up early can lead to sleep deprivation and the accumulation of sleep debt. It may also cause sleep deprivation because of medical problems such as depression, hormone imbalances, obstructive sleep apnea, and other chronic illnesses. Such a condition requires immediate medical attention.

The recommended sleep duration for specific age groups is:

Source: National Sleep Foundation

How Does Lack of Sleep Affect Your Body?

Just as your body needs air and food to function at its best, you need sleep too. While you are asleep, your body naturally heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain devises new connections and helps memory retention.

A new study shows that a full night of deep slumber stabilizes emotions, whereas a sleepless night can trigger up to a 30 percent rise in anxiety levels. Loss of sleep damages your biological clock and adversely affects various systems in your body.

Just like a slow-moving vehicle on a highway can disrupt the traffic flow, lack of sleep disintegrates the system in our body and slows down all our vital activities.

Sleep deprivation can lead to heart ailments, blood pressure, and diabetes

In many empirical studies on sleep deprivation, medical journals have described its effects. Some major effects are:

Reduced Immunity: Not getting sufficient sleep can prevent the body from strengthening the immune system. The body would produce fewer cytokines to fight infections. You may take longer to recover from illnesses and could have an increased risk of chronic illness.

Increased Appetite: Two hormones in our body—leptin and ghrelin—control feelings of hunger and fullness. Sleep or lack of it affects the levels of these hormones. Sleep deprivation also causes the release of insulin, leading to increased fat storage and a higher risk of type-2 diabetes. This can also affect body weight. If you see an obese person with a sleepy appearance, it could be a case of sleep deprivation.

Cardiovascular Disorders: Sleep is a powerful activity that naturally helps the heart vessels heal and rebuild. It helps the physiological processes that maintain your blood pressure, sugar levels, and inflammation under control. Depriving your daily quota of sleep increases the risk of cardiovascular disorders, especially advanced respiratory diseases.

Other Negativities: Insufficient sleep can affect hormone production, including growth hormones and testosterone in men.

How to Treat Sleep Deprivation?

After several sleepless nights, you realize the need for help to get back to what was always with you. Until then, you keep tossing and turning, reading, watching TV, playing video games, chatting, and whatnot. Finally, you give up (wide-eyed) and seek medical help.

If your problem is severe, you may have to consult a neurologist. Otherwise, a therapist or a sleep specialist can work their magic on you. Proper guidance and coping techniques for reaching a mind-relaxing state are the aims. The most basic form of sleep deprivation treatment is getting more sleep and improving its quality.

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There are two main methodologies for treating sleep deprivation:

  • Behavioural and Cognitive Measures
  • Medications

Behavioral and Cognitive Measures

This is the most effective and natural approach to treating sleep deprivation. If this does not restore normalcy, they will start medication. These are considered very effective with no side effects, unlike medications.

Meditation can help reduce stress, control anxiety, and improve emotional health

Relaxation Techniques: These techniques involve muscular and breathing exercises in rhythmic progress. The relaxation technique involves straining and unstraining different muscles in the body to help calm the body. Meditation techniques, mindfulness training, and breathing exercises can also help in this area. Soothing audio recordings are available that can help a person fall asleep at night.

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT): This therapy helps you understand and change thought patterns behind certain behaviors or actions. It can challenge your unhealthy beliefs and promote rational, positive thinking. CBT techniques can help a person develop a healthier sleeping pattern and minimize their anxiety level.


NBC News claims 9 million Americans take prescription drugs to help them fall asleep. As per the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, sleep medication use was higher among women (5%) compared to men (3.1%). Loughborough University says China is the most “sleep medicated” country in the world.

When behavioral and cognitive treatment is not effective, drugs are available that can help induce sleep. Some are available over-the-counter, and some are only available strictly with a valid prescription.

However, some people form a dependency on such medications to induce sleep. It is important to limit its usage and apply non-medicinal measures where possible.

What is the Best Way to Prevent Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can substantially lower your overall quality of life. Lack of sleep interrupts the brain’s ability to balance emotions and thinking abilities, lowers the body’s natural immunity, and increases the probability of developing chronic ailments.

The negative effects of sleep deprivation can be reversed when you get sufficient sleep. The treatment for sleep deprivation is to fulfill the biological sleep need, prevent sleep deprivation, and pay back the accumulated sleep debt.

Some suggestions for good sleep habits include:

  • Going to bed when tired.
  • Following a routine for sleep and wake-up times.
  • Avoid eating 2 to 3 hours before bedtime.
  • If you cannot fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, go to another room and try to read until you feel sleepy, then return to bed.
  • Engaging in regular physical activities during the day.
  • Keeping the bedroom quiet, dark, and at a comfortably cool temperature;
  • Turn off electronic devices when you go to bed.

According to recent market research, North America makes up 54% of the sleep tracking device market share of the total market. 50% more women use sleep trackers regularly compared to men. 15% of the regular sleep app users are less than 30 years old, and 9% are over 45 years old.


There is no substitute for restorative sleep. Good sleeping habits and care can help to prevent ongoing sleep deprivation in individuals of all ages. If you continue to have problems sleeping at night and are fighting daytime fatigue, consult your doctor immediately. They can test for underlying health conditions that might impair your sleep schedule.

A relaxing deep sleep at night prepares your body and mind to rise in the morning with renewed energy. All it needs is the right environment for relaxation. Do yourself a favor and follow good sleep habits.

Have a relaxing sleep tonight!

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