How to Identify If You Have Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is a serious condition that, if untreated over time, can negatively impact your physical, mental, and cognitive health. The cause of sleep deprivation is your body not getting the rest it needs, causing your overall functioning to diminish. There are two kinds of sleep deprivation.

Acute sleep deprivation occurs when you don’t get enough sleep for a short period of time, such as a few days. Even with a single day of sleep deprivation, your health can be impacted. Chronic sleep deprivation refers to when you don’t get enough sleep for a period of weeks or more. 

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Either form of sleep deprivation could be caused by your schedule or a more serious issue with your sleep. Here are signs you might be suffering from sleep deprivation. 

  • Drowsiness. You find yourself falling asleep or nearly falling asleep while driving, at meetings, while working, or during other basic functions when you should be fully awake. 
  • Inability to concentrate. It becomes difficult for you to focus on a task, work, a conversation, or another daily action or activity.
  • Impaired memory. This may refer to short-term or long-term memory. You struggle to recall facts and details, or perhaps what you intended to do at a specific moment. 
  • Reduced physical strength. You feel weak, tired, or otherwise physically impaired compared to your normal level of functioning. 
  • Headaches. Unusual headache pain not attributed to another cause, such as physical pain or injury.

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Impact of Untreated Sleep Deprivation

If sleep deprivation continues over time, your mental and physical health could worsen. Symptoms might include the following: 

  • Mood changes. Your mental health can decline over time due to sleep deprivation. You may become increasingly depressed, anxious, and irritable. 
  • Weight gain. A lack of sleep actually causes your brain and body’s ability to determine whether it is full to diminish. As a result, you might overeat. 
  • Risk of heart disease. Sleep deprivation may cause increased blood pressure, as well as higher levels of chemicals that cause inflammation. Both of these factors can contribute to poor heart health. 
  • Increased chance of diabetes. Studies have shown that people who sleep for less than 6 hours a night have an increased likelihood of developing diabetes.

What To Do If You Have Sleep Deprivation

If you’re suffering from chronic sleep deprivation, it's important to address the issue as soon as you can. Work on your sleep hygiene by developing a regular bedtime and wake-up time. Be sure your bedroom is comfortable, dark, quiet, cool, and clean. If you take these basic steps and the problem persists, consult with a doctor to determine how best to address the issue. 

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