The Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

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Update Date 26/09/2020 . 5 mins read
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For many working adults, sleep is a luxury that they can only enjoy on the weekends. And for those who suffer from insomnia on most days, it makes it impossible to enjoy well-deserved rest. But what really is insomnia? What makes sleep deprivation a serious problem, and what are the sleep deprivation effects on your overall health? 

What Is Insomnia?

Insomnia is a disorder that makes it hard for you to fall asleep. If you manage to do so, it is also hard for you to stay asleep, causing you to wake up too early. Oftentimes, you will not feel rested when you wake up, so you will have low energy throughout the day. Insomnia may be a simple sleeping disorder, but sleep deprivation effects can alter the quality of life of the sufferer. It can hinder you from performing at work or from enjoying life in general.

Types of Insomnia

You may seem okay now, but too much stress or experiencing a traumatic event can trigger short-term insomnia. You may be sleep-deprived for a few days or even weeks because of this.

However, there are those who suffer from sleep deprivation on a daily basis. Long-term insomnia can linger for a month or more, and it can lead to bigger problems in the future.

In order to address the problem of sleep deprivation, we need to learn more about insomnia. We can dig deeper and learn about its symptoms, causes, and complications, among others.

The Science of Sleep: Why Sleeping Matters

Symptoms of Insomnia

Aside from having difficulty falling asleep at night and waking up too early, there are other signs you need to watch out for. Have you experienced the following lately:

  • The lingering feeling of tiredness in the morning
  • Irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Difficulty focusing on tasks and paying attention to other people
  • Experience more errors or minor accidents on routine tasks at home or work
  • Worries about sleeping in general

If you checked most of the items above, and you feel that these have already kept you from functioning properly, it is recommended that you consult a doctor to identify the cause of your sleeping problem.

Causes of Insomnia

Stress, trauma, and accidents

As mentioned earlier, insomnia can be caused by stress, be it at work, school, or at home. Concerns about your finances or relationships and other aspects that can keep you up at night can cause insomnia. Accidents and stressful or traumatic events like death or illness of a loved one, or getting fired from work, can also lead to sleep deprivation.

Drastic schedule change

Even when you do not feel stressed at work, a change in schedule or shift, or work-related travel can also lead to insomnia. It is because your circadian rhythms or your sleep-wake cycle is your body clock. Once this gets disrupted, your body may need to adjust and this may take a bit of time. Thus a brief period of sleep deprivation.


There are also several lifestyle-related causes that may be attributed to insomnia. For example, you have poor sleeping habits because of activities like online gaming, social media addiction, and more. If you tend to have more screen time when you are already in bed, you may be overstimulating your mind still, which prevents you from sleeping. 

Late-night food binge

Couple the lifestyle-related causes with eating too much late in the night, and you will really find it hard to sleep or get a good night’s rest. Eating while you are lying down on your couch as you waste your weekend will not help you rest. The uncomfortable position, plus the heartburn caused by the backflow of acid and food from your stomach can keep you awake for hours even when you badly want to sleep.

Medical conditions and medication

It also will not help if you have existing medical conditions or are taking medications that can interfere with proper sleeping. These include heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, and chronic pain. Antidepressants, pain meds, and medication for blood pressure or asthma can make it hard to sleep. 

sleep deprivation effects

Complications of Insomnia

Sleep plays a big role in our health and well-being. We often take it for granted, as we do not really see the effects of having too much or too little sleep. However, having insomnia for extended periods can really affect the quality of life of a person.

Physical performance

When you are sleep-deprived, you have low energy, low motivation, are sluggish, and are prone to making errors. Common tasks and simple routines could become hard to do and follow. Thus, your performance at work, school, or home could be compromised.

Mental health disorders

Your mental health can be greatly affected by lack of sleep. Some psychological effects of sleep deprivation include triggering your anxiety disorders, PTSD, or depression. Waking up late at night and not being able to go back to sleep will leave you with a lot of time to overthink, be depressed, and be anxious over things you would normally ignore or not notice.

Sleep deprivation effects on the brain will not be apparent, but as you continue to suffer from insomnia, anxiety, and depression could get worse until it affects other aspects of your life.

Sleep Deprivation Treatment

Treating sleep deprivation depends on the degree of insomnia you are suffering from. Short-term or intermittent insomnia may not need any. This condition lasts only for a few days until your body adjusts to your situation. Again, this could be caused by a change in schedule, travel, or stress that you are able to manage. If intermittent insomnia does not get better, it may need treatment. Doctors may prescribe some lifestyle changes or medication to be taken for a short period.

Long-term insomnia, on the other hand, may need more than just lifestyle changes and medication. There is a need to identify underlying medical problems or psychological issues and start treatment from there. The goal is to at least normalize your activities, both mental and physical, so that you will have a normal sleep pattern.

Behavioral therapy by a psychologist or psychiatrist can help you learn and implement techniques that can make sleeping a bit easier. Approaches like stimulus control trains you to use the bed for sleep only, and help you do away with increased screen time on your devices. Cognitive therapy, on the other hand, helps you understand your attitudes and beliefs that can lead to poor sleep.

Key Takeaways

Insomnia or sleep deprivation may not seem like a serious problem compared to other debilitating and life-threatening illnesses. You can survive being sleep-deprived for a few days as you can peacefully sleep the following nights.

However, prolonged periods of insomnia can be dangerous for your physical and mental health. It is important to identify the underlying causes and address them immediately.

Learn more about Healthy Sleep here

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

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