Sleep Deprivation - Symptoms, Stages, and Side-effects

Topics: sleep deprivation

When you get proper rest and wake up after sleeping for seven to eight hours, you feel refreshed and ready to take on the world. But, when this doesn’t happen, and you are sleep deprived, your day-to-day life gets derailed. If not treated in time, this chronic lack of sleep can lead to health complications and poor quality of life. So, here is more on sleep deprivation causes, symptoms, consequences, and cures. Have a look!

Sleep Deprivation

What is Sleep deprivation?

Each one of us needs a peaceful night’s rest to function. While some people feel well-rested in less sleep, others need more zzz’s to wake up their best the following day. But, this is rare, as most people rest seven to eight hours every night. However, when this doesn't happen and you fail to get enough rest, you become sleep deprived. The condition can be short-term, lasting for two or three days, or chronic continuing for months. Sleep deprivation can occur due to several reasons and may be a symptom of an underlying health problem.

Sleep deprivation can take different forms in different people. In some cases, it may develop because of improper sleep, while in others, it might result from poor-quality rest. While lack of sleep is not dangerous if it improves shortly, seeking a cure becomes crucial when sleepless nights continue for a long time.

Sleep Deprivation symptoms

Symptoms of Sleep deprivation  are:

  1. Daytime sleepiness
  2. Slow reaction time
  3. Headache
  4. Problems with focus
  5. Irritation or mood swings
  6. Fatigue

When the condition of Sleep deprivation lasts for a long time, the following symptoms appear:

  1. Drooping eyelids
  2. Impulsive behaviour
  3. Tremors in the hand
  4. Visual and tactile hallucinations
  5. Poor judgement
  6. Trouble speaking clearly
  7. Uncontrollable eye movements
  8. Microsleep: when someone only sleeps for a few seconds and wakes up

Sleep Deprivation Effects

When you do not get enough sleep, the following conditions may appear or worsen:

  • Obesity
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Vascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Conditions involving psychosis

Stages of Sleep Deprivation

Here are the following Sleep Deprivation stages:

  • Stage 1: This is when you go 24 hours without rest. The consequences are similar to what happens when you are under the influence of alcohol.
  • Stage 2: Symptoms of sleep deprivation intensify in the second stage of Sleep Deprivation. Here, people experience microsleep and have trouble thinking.
  • Stage 3: In this stage, people show severe symptoms like hallucinations. Slowly, they begin experiencing trouble communicating with people around them.
  • Stage 4: In the Fourth Stage of Sleep deprivation, hallucinations become common, and people struggle to differentiate between what is real and what is unreal.

Sleep Deprivation Causes

The following reasons may result in this condition:

  • Working in shifts can keep you from getting enough sleep.
  • People dealing with high-stress levels report sleep deprivation.
  • Resting in a new or unfamiliar space can keep you wide awake at night.
  • Sleep and mental health are bidirectional. People with depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, panic disorder, and anxiety are at a higher risk of developing sleep deprivation.
  • Poor sleep hygiene can ruin rest quality and lead to sleep deprivation.
  • Drinking excessive alcohol also leads to this problem.
  • Using stimulants like caffeine late in the day can keep you tossing and turning at night.
  • Health conditions like pain, insomnia, concussions, parasomnias, obstructive sleep apnea, Alzheimer’s, restless leg syndrome, and short-term infections can also contribute to this sleep problem.

How does sleep deprivation affect the body?

Sleep deprivation can negatively affect multiple organs in your body:

  • Sleep deprivation can damage your heart and circulatory system. Chronic lack of rest can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension) and high cholesterol (hyperlipidemia).
  • Chronic sleep deprivation increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Not resting well for a long time negatively affects how the brain functions. It slows your understanding.
  • Sleep deprivation affects your mental health and makes it difficult to manage emotions. The condition makes it likely to experience depression and anxiety signs.
  • Not catching on to seven to eight hours of rest increases pain sensitivity. Such people experience pain more intensely.
  • Your body’s defences against infection do not function well when you don’t get seven hours of sleep.

Is sleep deprivation different from insomnia?

A sleep disorder, insomnia, is not the same as sleep deprivation. Insomnia is when you cannot sleep despite the availability of time and opportunity, but sleep deprivation means you are not giving your body enough time to rest.

Is sleep deprivation common in people?

Sleep deprivation is a common condition that may affect any person at any point in their lives. Virtually every person deals with this problem at some time. It’s just a matter of whether the condition lasts for a short or long while.


Here is how you can diagnose sleep deprivation:

A healthcare provider can help diagnose this problem just by asking a few questions about your symptoms and health history. However, in certain conditions, when another health issue is suspected to be contributing to this problem, you may be asked to take a sleep apnea test, maintenance of wakefulness test, or multiple sleep latency exam.

Treatments of Sleep Deprivation

Most people manage sleep deprivation on their own. You can fix your sleep habits and routine to improve things. A few solutions you can try are turning in at the same time every day, carrying out some physical activity, making time for sleep, avoiding the use of a laptop or phone inside the bedroom, and reducing alcohol consumption to treat chronic lack of sleep.

However, if despite practising these solutions, you still can't sleep, you should talk to a healthcare provider. This is especially true when the lack of sleep is accompanied by other signs like pauses in breathing. That could mean you have a rest disorder like sleep apnea.

How can you prevent sleep deprivation?

Although you can reduce the chances of developing sleep deprivation, it is impossible to entirely prevent it. This is so because the issue can be triggered because of many reasons. Also, sleep deprivation because of medical conditions is impossible to avoid.

To lessen the risk of sleep deprivation in normal circumstances, you must follow good sleep hygiene, have adequate sleep time, and practise good sleep habits.


Sleep deprivation is a condition when you cannot get enough rest and feel exhausted the following day. Diagnosing its symptoms at an earlier stage and practising good sleep habits can treat the problem. However, if the condition continues, consulting with a health specialist is recommended.


If this article captured your interest, you'll definitely enjoy our follow-up piece - Sleep Deprivation and Alzheimer'swhy sleep is important, Sleep Deprivation and Hormonal Imbalance, and Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Performance.

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