Sleep deprivation can occur when we don't get enough sleep, or enough good quality sleep. This can leave us tired, irritable and unable to concentrate. On this page, Marianna Kilburn our Sleep advisor, explains the symptoms and causes of sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation arises when one can’t sleep well, leading to a person not being able to function at his or her best. There are basically two ways you can be deprived of sleep:
Lack of sleep. Everyone needs a different amount of sleep but research suggests that the correct amount for an average adult lies somewhere between seven and a half and nine hours. While this may seem a lot, you could find yourself feeling a lot more alert and energetic if you clock enough hours of sleep
Not getting enough good quality of sleep. Even if you spend enough hours in bed, the sleep you are getting may not be restful enough. This means you will wake up feeling as if you have only had three hours sleep even if you have had far more.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation
The most obvious symptom is feeling sleepy and tired when you are meant to be awake. You may not realise how groggy and tired you have become if lack of sleep has become acceptable in your eyes.
Other symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
constantly yawning as you try to supply your brain with enough oxygen to stay awake
a tendency to doze off when you are in a warm room, relaxed or bored
finding it difficult to get out of bed in the morning
finding it difficult to remember things or to concentrate
starting to have problems with your vision, particularly the ability to focus
finding it more difficult to make decisions, or you take a riskier option than you would normally
having difficulty performing simple tasks such speaking or walking in a straight line. This is because sleep deprivation can have a similar effect in your body as alcohol consumption.
Causes of sleep deprivation
If you have ever spent a night waiting for your delayed plane to depart, or lain awake in an unfamiliar bed and environment, you will probably have experienced a degree of sleep deprivation. Under these circumstances, your body will quickly make up for the sleep you have lost.
However, there are more serious causes which can lead to long-term sleep deprivation:
Sleep problems – these are not medical conditions, but arise because something in your life or environment is affecting your sleep. Examples are a new baby, worry about work or a personal problem. Minor medical conditions such as a blocked nose or night sweats in menopausal woman can also cause you to have difficulty sleeping
Sleep disorders – these are medical conditions which need to be managed by a doctor. Examples include insomnia and sleep apnoea.
When should I see a doctor?
Most people who sleep badly will be addressing the underlying problem. Making simple changes to your lifestyle by addressing sleep hygiene can be extremely beneficial if your sleep problem is mild or moderate, saving you from having to seek medical attention.
We all know the impact of a bad night’s sleep which is why I’ve devised a personalised 6 day sleep plan to help you conquer your sleep problems, equipping you with the knowledge and tools to get a better night’s sleep.
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