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What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is when an individual gets less sleep than needed to feel awake and alert.

How common is sleep deprivation?

Some people such as older adults seem to be more resistant to the effects of sleep deprivation, while others, especially children and young adults, are more vulnerable. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of sleep deprivation?

The common symptoms of sleep deprivation are:

  • Yawning
  • Moodiness
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Depressed mood
  • Difficulty learning new concepts
  • Forgetfulness
  • Inability to concentrate or a “fuzzy” head
  • Lack of motivation
  • Clumsiness
  • Increased appetite and carbohydrate cravings
  • Diminished sex drive (libido).

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes sleep deprivation?

  • Intentional sleep deprivation

Some groups of people may consider sleep as wasted time and purposely deprive themselves of sleep in order to pursue other things such as entertainment, educational goals or money-making pursuits. This is most likely to be seen in teenagers and young adults.

  • Unintentionally sleep deprivation

People do not get enough sleep because of shift work, family obligations or demanding jobs.

  • Consistent sleep-wake patterns

Going to bed late, frequent nighttime arousals or waking up early can lead to sleep deprivation and the accumulation of sleep debt.

  • Medical problems

Additional causes of sleep deprivation include medical problems such as depression, obstructive sleep apnea, hormone imbalances and other chronic illnesses.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for sleep deprivation?

Consult with your doctor for more information about risk factors for sleep deprivation.

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is sleep deprivation diagnosed?

Please discuss with your doctor for further information.

How is sleep deprivation treated?

The treatment for sleep deprivation is to satisfy the biological sleep need, prevent deprivation and “pay back” accumulated sleep debt. The only way to erase a sleep debt is to get more sleep. Depending on how great the sleep debt is, it will take some time to fully recover.

To pay back a sleep debt, it is necessary to start getting the sleep you need, plus an additional hour or so per night until the debt is paid. Afterwards, the required amount of sleep can be resumed without the additional hour.

If the sleep debt is hundreds or even thousands of hours, it still can be successfully reconciled with a conscious effort to restructure obligations, and allowing sufficient time off to recover. You will know you have paid back your sleep debt when you wake up feeling refreshed and do not feel excessively drowsy during the day.

If sleep deprivation is ongoing and negative symptoms persist despite practicing good sleep hygiene measures, consultation with a health care provider is recommended.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage sleep deprivation?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with sleep deprivation:

  • Going to bed when tired
  • Following a routine for bed and wake-up times, keeping it consistent every day of the week
  • Avoiding eating 2-3 hours before bedtime
  • If unable to fall asleep after 20 minutes of trying, going to another room and trying to read until feeling sleepy, then returning to bed
  • Engaging in regular exercise during the day
  • Keeping the bedroom quiet, dark and a comfortably cool temperature
  • Turning off electronic devices when you go to bed.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


Review Date: October 18, 2017 | Last Modified: October 18, 2017

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