Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
There are a number of different symptoms that are associated with sleep deprivation, although the main (and ongoing) one is excessive sleepiness during the day. Here are some of the other main symptoms that you could be suffering from sleep loss:
- Yawning frequently
- Moodiness and irritability
- Lapse in concentration
- Difficulty with cognitive function
- Impaired motor skills
- Changes in appetite
- Blurred vision
- Paranoia and hallucinations
- Lack of motivation
- Reduced sex drive
- Pain in the body
- Falling asleep unintentionally
- Sleeping through alarms
Conditions sleep deprivation can increase the risk of:
- High blood pressure
- Heart attack
Causes of sleep deprivation
While there are many reasons a person may be missing out on sleep, there are a few very common reasons:
Work, school, and other obligations. There are a lot of societal demands for our time these days that often conflict with the number of hours in a day. Many people are forced to work, study, or perform other tasks to meet deadlines or fulfill other commitments. Approximately 20% of the U.S. population engages in "shift work" which can lead to shift work sleep disorder, a condition in which a person's built-in circadian rhythm doesn't match that of their external obligations causing them to lose sleep.
Voluntary reasons. Many people, especially younger adults, willingly sacrifice sleep to pursue other interests and activities. Staying up late to watch television shows and play video games, going out on weekends to clubs, concerts, and bars, or simply staying up late to socialize or pursue other interests. Most have the mindset that they can catch up on sleep during the weekend, but often find themselves in the same pattern of sleep deprivation during the regular week.
- Medical reasons. A number of people lose sleep regularly due to medical conditions or sleep disorders. Some of the most common sleep disorders that lead to sleep deprivation are obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, restless leg syndrome (RLS), circadian rhythm sleep disorders, periodic limb movement disorder (PLMD).
Bed partner problems. One of the lesser discussed causes of sleep deprivation is those caused by a bed partner who suffers from a sleep disorder. Many times it's not just the sufferer themselves who lose sleep due to their disorder but their partners suffer from sleep loss as well. Symptoms of sleep apnea such as loud, chronic snoring or the noise of one grinding their teeth from bruxism can keep a partner awake, as well as constant movement from the partner suffering from RLS or PLMD. Even the worry over a partner suffering from a form of parasomnia can keep them from getting ample sleep themselves.
What are the effects of sleep deprivation?
The effects of sleep deprivation are many and vary in degrees of severity. Side effects of sleep deprivation can include symptoms that manifest themselves in just a short time of losing quality sleep (as little as one day) or can accumulate over a long period of chronic sleep loss in the form of serious medical conditions.
Mood. Most people recognize that even one day of not getting enough sleep can impact their mood. Sleep deprivation often leads to:
Lack of motivation
Symptoms of depression
- Chronic stress
- Lack of overall energy
Poor decision making abilities
Decreased sex drive
Lowered alertness and reaction timing
More likely to make errors and mistakes
Short-term and long-term memory problems
One of the most consequential problems associated with the effects of sleep deprivation on performance is the increased likelihood of having accidents at work or while driving. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, an estimated 2.5% of fatal crashes and 2% of injury crashes involve drowsy driving. Although it is believed the estimates may be a bit conservative and that up to 5-6 thousand fatal crashes each year may be caused by drowsy driving.
- Health problems. Long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of health issues including:
High blood pressure
Increased risk of stroke
How to treat sleep deprivation
Oftentimes sleep deprivation can be treated with good sleep hygiene practices. These practices include personal habits such as: sticking to a bedtime routine, getting regular exercise, making healthy eating choices, avoiding alcohol and stimulants such as caffeine and nicotine close to bedtime, getting ample exposure to sunlight during the day, and practicing relaxation techniques before bedtime.
Sleep hygiene also includes modifying one's sleep environment to optimize quality sleep such as ditching electronics before bedtime, keeping the room dark and quiet, keeping the room cool, and making sure the bed is as comfortable as possible.
If sleep deprivation may be caused by a sleep disorder it may be time to schedule a consultation with a sleep clinic for a sleep study. Sleep studies can help get to the root of sleep problems and offer a variety of therapy treatments to help sufferers get the sleep they need.
If you live in Alaska and are experiencing chronic sleep deprivation that you believe is due to a sleep disorder, contact The Alaska Sleep Clinic by clicking the link below to schedule a free consultation.
If you think you have some or all of the symptoms of sleep deprivation, it is time to get your schedule back on track so that you can start leading a healthier and more rested life. Of course, if you are really struggling or just want some advice, speaking to your physician is always an excellent idea.