Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is lack of adequate sleep. An adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep per night. However, in today’s world, only a few people can achieve this and therefore most of the sleep-deprived individuals are unaware of it. Sleeping gives the body an opportunity to refresh and repair itself.

Therefore, lack of enough sleep deprives the body of sufficient time to rejuvenate itself. Sleep deprivation can be either chronic or acute. However, it is impossible for humans to go completely without sleep and therefore the most common form of sleep deprivation is chronic sleep-restriction. Chronic sleep deprivation mainly affects performance, health and safety with most effects being on the human cognitive function.

Sleep Deprivation Causes

The causes of sleep deprivation can be broadly categorized into two:

Behavioral Causes:

The patient chooses not to sleep. This condition may sound quite simple to remedy. However, the most challenging part is convincing the patient that they actually need more sleep. This is mainly attributable to societal norms where a high value is placed on constant activity.

This can be caused by use of stimulants such as caffeine, cocaine and amphetamines which induce alertness and hence sleep deprivation. Another cause is taking many short naps instead of an extended period of sleep.

Medical Causes:

Most medical causes are side effects of other conditions or disorders whose main effect is disrupting normal slumber. For instance, sleep apnea, which is a breathing problem, causes patients to wake up several times to prevent asphyxiation. Mental illnesses that cause hyper activity such as maniac states keep the patients awake for long spans of time.

Some medications cause sleep disorders and therefore the physician should prompt alternative prescriptions. Insomnia, which is inability to take advantage of sleeping time, is another leading cause and it includes trouble staying or falling asleep and failure of sleep to refresh the body and is related to sleep deprivation because it deprives the body off a full night sleep.

Common Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Pets in Bed:

Even though letting your pet snuggle in bed may provide comfort, it actually makes it harder for you to sleep. This is because our sleep and wake cycles differ from those of animals and hence whatever time seems appropriate for your pet to wake up may disrupt your sleep. The tags on your pet’s collar may clank as it shuffles which may wake you up. If you feel exhausted, try finding a new spot for your pet to sleep and see if it makes a difference.

Nightcaps and Alcohol:

Most people believe that drinking makes you drowsy, however, the body’s response mechanism especially to alcohol is quite complicated. Alcohol acts as a sedative for the first few hours but ends up waking you up once the level of alcohol in your blood drops, which ends up affecting your sleep rhythm. To avoid this effect, stop drinking at least two hours before sleeping.


Among the various negative impacts of smoking, sleep disruption and reducing the sleeping time are very important. Compared to nonsmokers, smokers are also likely to daydream more.

If you are facing sleep problems and are a smoker, you should quit smoking immediately. While the sleep disorders from smoking could not be reduced overnight, you should be able to experience the improvements gradually. It is wise to discuss with your physician about any prescription medicine to make the process easier.

Undiagnosed Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder:

GERD patients often find it hard to sleep at night mainly because once they lie down they experience pain and heartburns as acid flows back to the esophagus. Incase you are diagnosed with GERD, its vital to seek treatment which will not only help you sleep but it also reduces the risk of developing of other complications besides sleep deprivation.

Medicine, supplements and vitamins: common drugs such as beta-blockers for heart problems and high blood pressure can cause trouble sleeping. Drugs for relieving pain such as opioid can either cause drowsiness or sleep apnea. Supplements such as guarana and ginseng are stimulants and are known causes of sleep deprivation. Vitamins B12 and B6 on the other hand cause vivid dreams and its better to take them in the morning.

When you experience sleep problems, give your physician a complete list of all medicines, supplements and vitamins that you are using. Ask whether any of them may be the cause of the sleep deprivation.


Any form of pain including mild pain can disrupt your sleep. Common causes include menstrual pains, back pain, arthritis and headaches. The pain does not have to wake you up nor does it have to be severe. The pain signals sent to your brain reduces the time you spend in deep slumber. Most people with chronic pain wake up feeling more tired because their sleep is less restful. If you experience any form of pain (Mild or chronic) you should have a doctor check it out.

Being Exhausted Other Than Sleepy:

Contrary to common belief, being exhausted does not make you sleep better. There is a great difference between being sleepy and feeling exhausted. In most cases, when you are exhausted, your body is usually too revved up and therefore you cannot sleep. Don’t go straight to bed once you get home from a stressful day, instead sit quietly for a short time and relax to avoid tossing and turning in bed.

Undiagnosed Sleep Disorder:

Sleep disorders greatly reduce the quality of sleep. Conditions such as sleep apnea cause snoring and hence interrupt your deep sleep. Because most of these conditions manifest when you are asleep, you may not note the symptoms. On the other hand, if your partner has a sleeping disorder such as snoring and kicking you may not sleep well.

Other causes of sleep deprivation include; too much light, noises, extreme temperatures or the hot flushes experienced during menopause. Whenever you experience trouble with your sleep and you can’t sort out the cause, set up an appointment with your physician to avoid any serious consequences.

In order to tell whether you are experiencing sleep deprivation, you need to ask yourself the following questions:

Do you fall asleep as soon as you get in bed?
Do you need several cups of coffee in order to get through the day?
Do you have to sleep in on weekends?

Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation Short-term Consequences :

Cognitive impairment and poor memory: The ability to think and process information is greatly impaired.

Stress and problems in relationships: If a sleeping disorder that disrupts the sleep of your partner then conflicts may arise. On the other hand, the partner may become moody or prefer sleeping in a separate bedroom. Sleep deprivation is among the leading causes of occupational injury. Sleepiness double the chances of sustaining injury while at work.

Automobile injury: The motor skills diminish due to fumbling and reduced concentration, which may lead to accidents. Sleep deprivation reduces your stress handling ability making simple routines appear difficult.

Increased appetite: The mental demands make the cravings seem impossible to control mainly because the hormones signal that it is time to eat.

Vision problem: 
When you are sleepy, the world appears fuzzy and you experience difficulties focusing and visual distortions. This increases the chances of mishaps such as crashes and falls.

Medical problems: Sleep deprivation leads to high body temperatures and high blood pressure. Diabetic people become less sensitive to insulin.

Mood swings: Manageable situations appear more irritating and you can be easily set off. The immune system becomes suppressed and vulnerable to infections such as flu and colds.

Long-term consequences

The consequences of not sleeping longer is associated with numerous medical illnesses including:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Obesity
  • Stroke
  • Psychiatric problems such as mood disorders and depression
  • Mental impairment
  • Growth retardation in children and fetus

Besides impairing your health, sleep deprivation also reduces your productivity significantly. Accidents caused by employees who are sleep deprived have led to loss of millions of dollars. On the other hand, drivers who are sleep deprived are a hazard to themselves and others too mainly due to slow reaction.

Therefore, even as you struggle to fulfill your duties and obligations, it is vital that you always get enough deep sleep to avoid Sleep deprivation and its consequences.

Leave a Comment