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Symptoms of sleep deprivation

Updated: 25/08/2022
9 Min
Simon Igild
Simon Igild

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

Updated: 25/08/2022
9 Min
Simon Igild
Simon Igild

Table of Contents


Almost everyone has experienced a zombie-like feeling after a night of minimal or no sleep. Even after just one night without adequate sleep, we can feel lethargic during the day with a lack of energy and an irritable mood.

You probably know some of your symptoms of sleep deprivation, but do you know the consequences of sleep deprivation?

Sleep disorders are a problem for many people.

Different factors can cause different types of sleep disorders.

Some of the consequences of sleep deprivation can be related to mental health, physical health, stress, and anxiety.

Sleep deprivation is a type of sleep disorder caused by not getting enough sleep regularly. People who have this type of disorder may have trouble concentrating.

In addition, they may feel irritable or have difficulty performing tasks during the day because they are tired.

People with sleep deprivation may experience a disturbed sleep pattern. They may therefore wake up in the middle of the night or early in the morning and not be able to go back to sleep.

But what are the symptoms of sleep deprivation?


Am I sleeping too little?

How little sleep can you get by with?

Studies have shown that the average person needs 8 hours of sleep per night to feel rested and energetic, but many adults only get 6-7 hours per night.

A good night's sleep is important for our health. Research has shown that people need at least 8 hours of sleep to feel rested and energized.

Some people need more or less than that to function well. National Sleep Foundation​1​ recommends that adults aged 18-64 get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

How normal is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is a disorder characterized by difficulty falling asleep, frequent awakening, or non-restorative sleep.

It is estimated that sleep deprivation affects 10-40 % of the general population and up to 60 % of people with psychiatric disorders.

Sleep disorder statistics show that many people suffer from sleep problems.

A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that about 40% of adults in the United States have a sleep problem.

The same is true in Denmark, where the percentage is just slightly higher, at 49%.

The most common sleep problem is sleep deprivation, which affects around 40 million people in the US and is twice as common in women than men.

Sleep is as important as diet and exercise

Sleep is one of the most important things in your life. It's a time when you can recover from the day and be ready for the next. We sleep so our brain can repair itself and our body can recharge.

It is the only time we are completely separated from the outside world.

The quality of the sleep we get affects how well we perform during the day. A good night's sleep is essential for a healthy life.

How sleep deprivation affects the body

Lack of sleep has also been linked to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer.​2​

These lifestyle diseases are caused by several factors such as lack of exercise, unhealthy diets, stress, and smoking. One of the biggest contributors to these diseases is a sedentary lifestyle.

How sleep deprivation affects the psyche

Sleep deprivation is a common sleep disorder characterized by the inability or desire to sleep enough. It can result in various problems, including depression, anxiety, and fatigue.

The consequences of sleep deprivation can be depression, a serious condition that affects how people feel, think, and act.

Sleep deprivation can result in various problems, including anxiety and fatigue.

Depression is common among university students. University students are already at high risk of depression due to academic pressure, social isolation, and lack of support.

Causes of sleep deprivation

1. Too many responsibilities or not enough time

We all have busy schedules and too much work to do. Sometimes we feel there is too much responsibility or not enough time. It's time to take a break and focus on what's important.

We should take care of ourselves before we take care of others. We need to ensure we don't overwork ourselves so we can strive to be productive and creative in the long run.

2. Exercise or physical activity that keeps you up late at night

Exercising hard less than 1 hour before bedtime can lead to trouble falling asleep.

Exercising before or after work is a great way to unwind after a long day at work. It keeps you busy until it's time to go to bed, so you don't have trouble sleeping.

3. Poor diet leads to sugar crashes and anxiety

Some people are unaware that they are eating too much sugar, which affects their health. Sugar is one of the culprits in the development of anxiety and sleep deprivation.

The body breaks down sugar into glucose and fructose. Eating sugary foods increases your blood sugar levels, which can lead to anxiety and insomnia.

Symptoms of sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a serious condition that can lead to many health problems. It can cause a wide range of consequences. Symptoms of insufficient sleep may include.

Symptoms of too little sleep:

- Insomnia

- Chronic fatigue

- Excessive daytime sleepiness

- Headache

- Difficulty concentrating

- Irritability and depression

- Memory lapses and hallucinations

FAQ on sleep deprivation

Why do we sleep?

A sleep cycle is a sequence of sleep stages, with one stage flowing into the next. Sleep cycles usually last about 90 minutes but vary from person to person.

The two main types of sleep are REM and non-REM, or NREM.

The most well-known type of sleep is REM sleep, which is when most dreams occur.

In addition, there is NREM sleep, which consists of four stages: slow-wave or delta sleep, light sleep, deep sleep, and paradoxical or rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.

NREM sleep is good sleep where the body restores itself. It helps repair damage during the day while your body heals itself. During NREM sleep, your brain releases growth hormones that help cellular recovery and repair.

In addition, NREM sleep gives your immune system time to heal wounds from illness or injury from the day before, so you're ready for more physical activity.

  • Awake/Alert - The first phase is the wakefulness phase or W(Wake), which also depends on whether the eyes are open or closed.
  • N1 (Stage 1) - Light sleep (5% of total sleep) - This is the lightest stage of sleep. This short, drowsy phase is the transition to sleep when your breathing and heart rate slow down. The light sleep stage lasts about 1-5 minutes and represents 5 % of total sleep time.
  • N2 (Stage 2) - Deeper sleep (45% of total sleep) - This stage represents a deeper sleep when your heart rate and body temperature drop. Stage 2 lasts about 25 minutes in the first cycle and lengthens with each subsequent cycle, eventually consisting of about 45 % of total sleep. During this sleep stage, bruxism (teeth grinding) occurs.
  • N3 (Stage 3) - Deepest non-REM sleep (25% of total sleep) - N3 is also known as slow-wave sleep (SWS). Deep sleep is considered to be the deepest stage of sleep. This phase is the hardest to wake up from; for some people, even loud noises (over 100 decibels) will not wake them. During this phase, the body repairs and regrows tissues, bones and muscles and strengthens the immune system. During this phase, sleepwalking, night terrors, and bedwetting occur.
  • REM sleep - (Stage 4) (25% of total sleep) - REM (rapid eye movement) sleep is associated with dreaming and is not considered a resting sleep stage. This stage usually starts 90 minutes after you fall asleep, and each of your REM cycles gets longer during the night. The first period typically lasts 10 minutes, while the last period lasts up to 1 hour.

What happens when you are sleep deprived?

Sleep is an essential part of our lives, a time for our brains to rest, recharge and recover. Not getting enough sleep can seriously affect our physical and mental health. What can sleep deprivation side effects and sleep deprivation symptoms be?

Sleep deprivation symptoms

  • We may feel chronic fatigue, be exhausted all day, or have trouble concentrating or remembering things.
  • We may feel sleepy during the day
  • We may have trouble sleeping at night
  • We may experience mood swings, irritability, anxiety, or depression
  • Heart disease, high blood pressure, and risk of stroke

Can you get sick from consistently sleeping too little?

People often think they'll be healthier if they sleep less, but that's not true. Sleeping too little can make people more prone to illness and chronic diseases. One study found that people who sleep less than six hours a night are twice as likely to catch a cold.​3​

The study was conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

They found that people with symptoms of sleep deprivation who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to catch a cold as those who slept seven to nine hours.

What does sleep deprivation feel like?

People who get less than the minimum recommended 7 hours of sleep per night are likely to experience various symptoms.

Sleep deprivation symptoms:

- Poor memory

- Difficulty concentrating

- Irritability

- Lack of motivation

- Increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke

- Chronic fatigue

- Too little sleep nausea or sleep deprivation nausea that you can suffer from in all waking hours.

Can you manage a night without sleep?

Sleep is an important part of our lives. It helps us stay healthy and improves our cognitive function. But what if we don't get enough sleep?

One of the biggest problems caused by sleep deprivation is the inability to focus on tasks. Sleep deprivation can lead to reduced productivity at work and even an increased risk of accidents due to inattention.

However, it is not recommended that you try to take a nap, as lack of sleep symptoms can lead to serious health problems such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.


Five tips for falling asleep

1. Take the right supplements

The first advice is to identify the cause of your sleep deprivation.

Talk to a doctor about any medicine you are taking.

If you're not taking any medication, a few supplements can help you fall asleep.

Some people find that magnesium helps them sleep better. Watch out for melatonin; most people don't need it.

2. Change your sleep pattern

The other good advice against sleep deprivation is to change your sleep pattern, which means changing your bedtimes and wake-up times.

Changing your sleep patterns will also help improve your circadian rhythm, which is the body's natural 24-hour cycle of biological processes. It will give you more energy during the day and help you get better sleep.

3. Get some exercise during the day

There are many ways to get a good night's sleep, and exercise is one of them. There is evidence that regular exercise during the day can help you sleep better at night.

Just 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity like walking, cycling, or gardening can help improve your sleep quality.

4. Create a bedtime ritual/routine/schedule

You must have a good night routine or ritual to fall asleep faster. A bedtime routine can be anything from reading a book or listening to music to taking a bath or using essential oils. But most importantly, it should be something that relaxes you and helps you get ready for sleep.

A bedtime ritual can also include meditation or yoga before going to bed. Mediation and yoga will help you fall asleep faster because both activities release serotonin in the brain, which helps with relaxation and sleep.

Doing yoga before bed can help you fall asleep faster. Yoga will make it easier for your body to relax and fall asleep.

You should avoid using your phone or computer 1 hour before bedtime as it can disrupt the natural sleep cycle.

5. Cut down on coffee, tea and alcohol before bed.

Caffeine can help with many things, such as increasing alertness and speeding up reaction times. It can also increase endurance levels and reduce pain sensitivity. But too much caffeine can cause anxiety or insomnia, so it's important to know your limits.

Drinking caffeine or alcohol close to bedtime is not a good idea. Caffeine and alcohol can hamper the quality of your sleep by making you anxious and less relaxed.

In addition, it can cause dehydration, which in turn disrupts the quality of your sleep.

One of the good tips for insomnia is to try herbal tea.

Herbal teas like chamomile or lavender can help calm your nerves and make it easier to fall asleep, but only if they don't contain caffeine or other stimulants.

Chamomile, lemon balm, and lavender are three of the most common herbs.


Studies have shown that the average person needs 8 hours of sleep per night to feel rested and energetic, but many adults only get 6-7 hours per night.

The first thing to do is to observe the sleep environment. Is the room dark and cool? Is it quiet? If not, try using earplugs, a sleep mask, or a white-noise machine.

There are some ways to block sound. You can use earplugs, which go into your ears to limit the amount of sound.

White noise machines are another option that masks sound with a constant sound that is soothing to some people.

A sleeping mask helps to keep the light out even when the curtains are drawn.

Try to go to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning. Even at weekends, try not to sleep too late or go to bed too early.

If you still have trouble sleeping, you may consider seeing your doctor for general advice or finding out about treatment options to help with sleep deprivation. Feel free to tell your doctor about your symptoms of sleep deprivation.

  1. 1.
    How Much Sleep Do We Really Need? Sleep Foundation. Published April 2022. https://www.sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need
  2. 2.
    Nagai M, Hoshide S, Kario K. Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease- a Review of the Recent Literature. CCR. Published online February 1, 2010:54-61. doi:10.2174/157340310790231635
  3. 3.
    Prather A, Janicki-Deverts D, Hall M, Cohen S. Behaviorally Assessed Sleep and Susceptibility to the Common Cold. Sleep. 2015;38(9):1353-1359. doi:10.5665/sleep.4968

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