What Is Sleep Deprivation? – Sleep deprivation is considered a global epidemic, affecting [1] 45% of the world’s population.  In 1942, the average amount of sleep that people got was 8 hours, now people are down to 6.8 hours of sleep per night on average, a loss of 1.2 hours.  In fact, there is no country in the world whose people achieve 9 hours on a regular basis. Sleep deprivation is pervasive, considering that the recommended amount of sleep for an adult ranges from 7-9 hours. The more sleep deprivation we experience, the bigger our sleep debt [2]. (Sleep debt measures the discrepancy between the amount of sleep you need and how much you actually get).

Sleep deprivation is more than not being able to get an ample amount of sleep. The condition occurs when:

  • You are not able to fall asleep
  • You are not able to stay asleep
  • You are sleeping at non-typical times of the day (disrupting the regular sleep-wake cycle)
  • You have a sleep disorder that causes either poor sleep quality or not enough sleep

Insomnia and sleep-related issues have been the topic of studies throughout the world.

Sleep loss is a serious problem. It affects every part of our body from our brain to our immune system to our heart.


Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


How Sleep Works
How Sleep Works

To understand what sleep deprivation [3] is, it is crucial that we understand how sleep works. There are three cycles that our brain experiences: wakefulness, REM (rapid eye movement), and NREM stages of sleep [4], (this is called the sleep-wake cycle). Wakefulness, the first stage, is when we are conscious and experiencing the external world. The latter two stages are cycles of sleep. Each of the three cycles uses different parts of the brain and are quite different from each other.

Regarding our sleep cycle, both REM and NREM sleep are quite fluid. REM sleep is controlled by the brainstem. NREM is regulated by the higher brain centers. During REM sleep, we experience various levels of sensory disconnect and an inability to move. Dreaming occurs and our breathing pattern is irregular during REM sleep. Non-REM sleep includes three stages. At stage 3, we are in the deepest sleep depth. Each stage of NREM sleep and REM sleep are linked to specific brain wave activity. For instance, stage 3 of NREM sleep is termed slow-wave sleep as our brain waves are at their lowest level.


Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


Types Of Sleep
Types Of Sleep

During the course of his studies, Dr. Claudio Stampi [5] determined there are three different types of sleep: polyphasic sleep, biphasic sleep, and monophasic sleep.

In monophasic sleep, we sleep in a single block during a single sleep-wake cycle of 24 hours.
During biphasic sleep, we experience two blocks of sleep in 24 hours, (a night sleep and a nap).
Polyphasic sleep is quite widespread in newborn babies. It’s also very common throughout the animal world.

EEG’s indicate that humans are mainly biphasic. Typically, we experience an inherent need to sleep at night and often experience a “slump” midday.


Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation

It’s also important to note the difference [6] between insomnia and sleep deprivation. The former refers to the inability to get an adequate amount of sleep despite being given the opportunity. Sleep deprivation refers to a reduction in the hours of sleep one gets. Although the effects of insomnia seem to cause a poor work performance and higher absenteeism, studies have not been able to conclusively rule out the possibility of underlying disorders that contribute to these effects.


Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


Causes Of Sleep Deprivation
Causes Of Sleep Deprivation

Several factors [7] can lead to a lack of sleep; some are easier to remedy than others:

  • Anxiety
  • Environmental factors
  • Concurrent medical conditions
  • Medications
  • Stimulants (caffeine and energy drinks)
  • Illness
  • Sleep-related breathing disorders also called sleep-disordered breathing (these include obstructive sleep apnea/central sleep apnea/or a combination of both apnea disorders)

Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep Deprivation Symptoms & Sleep Deprivation Effects

Those who suffer from sleep deprivation often experience observable symptoms [8] such as:

  • Excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Lack of coordination (clumsiness)
  • Mood swings
  • An overall feeling of fatigue

However, over time, serious changes are also going on inside the body:

  • Increased heart rate
  • High blood pressure
  • Prefrontal cortex changes: These brain changes cause cognitive performance issues
  • Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) changes: This complex endocrine system occurs between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands.
  • The HPA axis [9] helps to regulate the body’s reaction to stress, as well as the digestive system, immune system, energy storage/expenditure and mood
  • Alzheimer’s disease: A study [10] done by the National Institutes of Health suggests that acute sleep deprivation increases the risk of developing the protein that causes Alzheimer’s disease

Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


Tips For Preventing Sleep Deprivation
9 Tips For Preventing Sleep Deprivation

Practicing good sleep hygiene is crucial. Incorporate and customize these steps to form your own good sleep habits:

Develop A Sleep Schedule
Sleep Deprivation Tip #1 – Develop a Sleep Schedule

Set and maintain a personal sleep schedule, even on weekends. Sleeping in on the weekends can actually alter your sleep pattern furthering sleep deprivation. Keeping a sleep diary can help you determine your natural circadian rhythm and stick to its ebbs and flows.

Create A Relaxing Environment
Sleep Deprivation Tip #2 – Create a Relaxing Environment

Make your bedroom a relaxing stress-free zone. Keep your light sources dim, use a fan or turn down the temperature to between 60-65 degrees and add blackout curtains to your windows if your room is too bright.

Stay Active
Sleep Deprivation Tip #3 – Stay Active

Add exercise [11] to your daily routine. Exercise helps every part of your body, including your brain and promotes more restful sleep. However, do not exercise within 2 hours of your bedtime.

Focus On Your Diet
Sleep Deprivation Tip #4 – Focus on Your Diet

Avoid going to sleep hungry or too full. Avoid foods or drinks contain stimulating ingredients [12] before bedtime. A healthy diet also ensures that your energy levels remain steady during the day so that you can naturally achieve a calm and relaxed state at night.

Limit Daytime Naps
Sleep Deprivation Tip #5 – Limit Daytime Naps

If you plan on taking naps [13] during the day, make sure that they are no longer than 25 minutes. Napping for 30 minutes or more will put you into a deep REM stage of sleep making you feel less alert than before.

Get A Quality Mattress
Sleep Deprivation Tip #6 – Get A Quality Mattress

All of the above efforts are null if you are sleeping on a poor mattress. Whether too hard or saggy, a bad mattress not only leads to poor sleep quality and quantity but it can also cause your body pain and discomfort upon awakening. For a better night’s sleep look for a cool, supportive mattress that contours to your body and fits with your favorite sleeping position.

Repay Your Sleep Debt
Sleep Deprivation Tip #7 – Repay Your Sleep Debt

Studies [14] show that you cannot repay a sleep debt in a weekend’s time. Instead, add an extra hour or two of sleep a night over time. For those who suffer from chronic poor sleep, it can take a few months to reset your circadian rhythm.

Regarding recovery sleep, both the hours slept as well as the intensity of sleep is important. After all, our most refreshing sleep occurs during deep sleep. Over time, you’ll develop your own sleep pattern.

Try Natural Supplements
Sleep Deprivation Tip #8 – Try Natural Supplements

Talk to your doctor before you try any over-the-counter sleep aids. Many drugs can affect sleep quality. You want to ensure that any medication you take does not adversely interfere with other medications that you are currently taking.

Seek Outside Help
Sleep Deprivation Tip #9 – Seek Outside Help

If the above methods don’t alleviate your sleep deprivation, consider scheduling a visit with your health care professional [15]. Often, your doctor will perform tests and upon review, will refer you to a sleep specialist. A sleep specialist will assess every aspect of your sleep time and identify the cause.

For instance, many times people do not know that they suffer from sleep apnea until they undergo testing. CPAP machines have made an incredible difference in the lives of many.

It is the same with restless leg syndrome [16]. Restless leg syndrome can affect [17] both the sleep health of the sufferer and their partner. Sleep specialists will offer step-by-step solutions on how to get the best sleep possible.


Table Of Contents
What Is Sleep Deprivation   •   How Sleep Works
Types Of Sleep   •    Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation
Causes   •   Symptoms   •   Prevention


Sleep Deprivation
The Last Word On Sleep Deprivation

There is much to be gained in learning what sleep deprivation is all about, its side effects, and how to prevent it. Keep in mind that poor sleep can lead to tremendous health complications both in the short and long term. Getting proper sleep promotes good health and well-being and perhaps most importantly, a happier you.

 

Sleep Deprivation Resources;

[1]   National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep, July 06, 2018.
[2]   Scientific American; Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep?, Molly Webster, May 06, 2008.
[3]   National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute; What Are Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency?.
[4]   National Sleep Foundation; Stages of Human Sleep.
[5]   Scribd; Claudio Stampi – Why We Nap, Evolution, Chronobiology, And Functions Of Polyphasic And Ultra Short Sleep, Claudio Stampi, 1992.
[6]   Medscape; Insomnia vs Sleep Deprivation, Karl Doghramji, MD, 2005.
[7]   Victoria State Government; Sleep deprivation, June 2014.
[8]   Victoria State Government; Sleep deprivation, June 2014.
[9] National Center for Biotechnology Information; HPA Axis and Sleep, George Chrousos, MD, MACE, MACP, FRCP, Alexandros N Vgontzas, MD, Ilia Kritikou, M.D., January 18, 2016.
[10]   U.S. Department of Health & Human Services; Sleep deprivation increases Alzheimer’s protein, April 24, 2018.
[11]   National Sleep Foundation; How Does Exercise Help Those With Chronic Insomnia?.
[12]   National Sleep Foundation; Caffeine and Sleep.
[13]   Sleep, Powered By National Sleep Foundation; How Long Is an Ideal Nap?.
[14]   Scientific American; Can You Catch Up on Lost Sleep?, Molly Webster, May 06, 2008.
[15]   Health; When to Consult a Sleep Doctor: Guidelines for Insomnia, Apnea, and Other Disorders, The American Academy Of Sleep Medicine, February 29, 2016.
[16]   National Sleep Foundation; Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) And Sleep.
[17]   Sleep Education; Restless Legs Syndrome – Overview and Facts.

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Sleep Deprivation - What Causes Sleep Deprivation & How To Prevent It
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Sleep Deprivation – What Causes Sleep Deprivation & How To Prevent It
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[QUESTION] What is sleep deprivation? What causes sleep deprivation? [ANSWER] Sleep deprivation is considered a global epidemic, affecting 45% of the world’s population.  In 1942, the average amount of sleep that people got was 8 hours, now people are down to 6.8 hours of sleep per night on average, a loss of 1.2 hours.
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Tomorrow Sleep
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