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Sleep Deprivation

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Sleep Deprivation

Have you ever stayed up studying hard for your finals week or a big test? If you answered "yes" to that question, you might have experienced some form of sleep deprivation. Most of us have been there, working hard throughout the night when we should be listening to our body's cues to go to bed. On average, an adult usually needs eight hours of sleep per night.

  • We will discuss the causes and effects of sleep deprivation and the different sleep deprivation stages.
  • We will also explore how to manage an effective night's sleep, including the factors that are in and out of our control.

Meaning of Sleep Deprivation

To be sleep-deprived means losing out on the hours of sleep your body needs per night. In some case scenarios where people stay up for days in a row, sleep deprivation can be extreme.

Sleep Deprivation, exhausted man, StudySmarterExhausted man, pixabay.com

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation symptoms can vary greatly depending on how long a person may stay awake.

Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

Sometimes, constant yawning can be a symptom of sleep deprivation, while other times, hallucinations can occur. Below are some symptoms that a person may experience when sleep-deprived:

  • Falling asleep standing up, while at work, or driving
  • Problems retaining or remembering recently learned information
  • Constantly feeling tired during the day
  • Frequent yawning
  • Increased heart rate
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Hallucinations or paranoia

Sleep Deprivation, person is stressed out due to sleep deprivation, StudySmarterStressed out, pixabay.com

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Now that we've covered the symptoms of sleep deprivation, we will explore the contributing factors that can cause sleep deprivation by impacting sleep quality. These causes can be split into two separate categories.

Stressors

Everyday life stressors or sudden life changes can impact someone's sleep schedule, leaving them sleep-deprived. First, we must consider the number of tasks we have on our plate and how we prioritize them.

  • Overloaded schedules are common among students and employees when our demands are high. Taking time to categorize our weekly duties is important for structure and overall less stress.

  • Another stressor can be having financial debt or obligations.

Unfortunately, child care has also become a huge financial burden for many who want to work. Parents or students sometimes end up taking up jobs that require overnight shifts.

  • Overnight shifts are bad for our health, as our bodies naturally produce melatonin to help us sleep. Often, we are not in touch with our bodies and don't pay attention to their cues. Working overnight can create a huge amount of stress, especially if you have other duties to fulfil when getting off of your shift. Another huge stressor is a sudden death that could occur in the family. Mourning is a tough process and could impact our sleep schedules greatly, especially when considering the circumstances of the death.

Lastly, the overuse of cell phones has been a more recently studied topic that can impact sleep and create stress in our lives. Overusing cell phones creates a rise in our dopamine levels, heavily impacting our sleep and ability to relax.

Dopamine: A neurotransmitter that regulates our moods and emotions. Dopamine can be overproduced, leaving us feeling restless or anxious.

Medical Issues

Medical issues are something to consider when evaluating sleep deprivation.

  • Insomnia is one of the biggest inhibitors that completely impacts your sleep, as the mind cannot calm enough to let your body fall into the REM sleep state. Medical professionals can manage the causes of insomnia, but the process involves a lot of treatment.

  • Depression and anxiety can also influence your sleeping habits. Have you ever stayed up because you felt nervous about something? If you answered yes, it was most likely because you felt anxiety. Anxiety can be minor or severe, depending on the individual. Depression, on the other hand, can make you oversleep during the day or at night. Constantly changing our sleep schedule can be bad for our body in general, but people with depression could also have insomnia.

The diseases we've discussed thus far are likely psychological, but now we will cover some of the illnesses that wreak havoc on our physical health that lead to sleep deprivation.

  • Chronic pain can affect people working hard during the day. When they finally lie down to relax, they can't because of the constant pain. In this case, pain management is crucial for people to get a good night's rest and avoid sleep deprivation.

  • Sleep apnea is when the body stops producing breaths while you are sleeping. When someone with sleep apnea falls into REM sleep, they instantly wake up because of their paused breathing. Sleep apnea can negatively influence your body's sleep cycle and create sleep deprivation in the most severe forms.

  • Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that can influence your body's ability to fall asleep or stay awake. This can cause sleep disruptions and overall problems in one's day-to-day life.

Finally, substance abuse can trigger our neurotransmitters, which regulate our body's ability to sleep. Psychoactive drugs such as amphetamines are one of the leading causes of sleep deprivation because of the triggers from neurotransmitters.

REM Sleep: Also known as rapid eye movement sleep, is the deepest state of sleep we can achieve.

Sleep Deprivation Stages

The further into the stages of sleep deprivation a person gets, the more severe the symptoms become. Sleep deprivation stages are consistent with the total hours a person stays awake.

Stage 1: The first 24 hours

The first 24 hours with no sleep are not the absolute worst, but the mind and body can begin to become very tired. It might be difficult to focus, work, drive, or do schoolwork. During the first 24 hours, an initial wave of tiredness could come, then go away with a second wind.

Stage 2: 36 hours

In this stage, you might have some of the same symptoms related to the first stage. Problems with cognition could occur. At this stage, both the mind and the body are affected. Someone who goes without 36 hours of sleep can experience extreme hunger cues, exhaustion, and heart palpitations.

Stage 3: 48 hours

During the third stage, the brain can go in and out of consciousness. The immune system also goes into attack mode, activating an inflammatory response in the body.

Stage 4: 72 hours

Most people at this stage have most of, if not all, the symptoms listed above. Hallucinations and paranoia start to kick in at this stage. Severe communication issues may occur. Let's not forget, randomly nodding off and falling asleep.

Stage 5: 96+ hours

Staying awake for 96 hours or more can cause severe hallucinations and paranoia. Simple tasks such as speaking or writing may become very challenging for someone that hasn't slept in 4 days. Extreme anger and irritability will be prominent in an individual's mood. Muscle aches and body weakness are not the only things to worry about in this stage, though. At 96+ hours of no sleep, the body may begin to shut down based on the severe shock and lack of rest.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

The effects of sleep deprivation can be minor or severe depending on each person. The longer someone goes without sleep, the more they become prone to the short-term and long-term negative effects. The effects of sleep deprivation can be physical or psychological.

Short-Term Effects

Short-term effects are immediate responses that happen within our bodies. They are directly related to the symptoms listed above. Short-term effects can include but are not limited to; muscle spasms, increased heart rate, higher body temperature, concentration issues, stress, anxiety, etc.

Long-Term Effects

Long-term effects are more consequential for one's health. With common sleep deprivation patterns, the body will wear down over time. Physical and psychological effects can include:

  • Cardiovascular issues (heart attacks, strokes)

  • Obesity (directly related to the increased hunger when becoming sleep deprived)

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Overstimulation/brain damage

  • Diabetes

  • Immune system issues

  • Poor gut health

  • Respiratory issues

Coping with Sleep Deprivation

Coping with sleep deprivation can be relatively simple if you do not struggle with medical issues. Creating a sleep routine can minimize the chances of becoming sleep-deprived. Meditation, less screen time, and avoiding caffeine in the evenings can better your overall health and maximize your chances of better sleep.

Sleep Deprivation, woman meditating, StudySmarterMeditation, pixabay.com

Sleep Deprivation - Key takeaways

  • The two main causes of sleep deprivation are stressors and medical issues.
    • Life stressors that contribute to sleep deprivation can be anything from overworking to the sudden death of a family member.
  • Narcolepsy is a sleep disorder that severely impacts our body's ability to regulate our sleep.
  • There are five stages of sleep deprivation, which contribute to the severity of symptoms a person might have.
  • The short-term effects of sleep deprivation are directly related to the symptoms and can be cured as they are usually minor.
  • The long-term effects of sleep deprivation are often irreversible.

Frequently Asked Questions about Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is losing out on the hours of sleep your body needs per night.

Sleep deprivation can cause numerous brain issues; most commonly, there is an inability to concentrate, hallucinations, or paranoia.

Long-term effects of sleep deprivation can include cardiovascular issues, obesity, cognitive impairment, overstimulation/brain damage, diabetes, immune system issues, poor gut health, and respiratory issues.

Signs of sleep deprivation include falling asleep while standing up, problems retaining information, constantly feeling tired, frequent yawning, increased heart rate, inability to concentrate, and hallucinations or paranoia.

After about 48 hours of no sleep, the brain can go in and out of consciousness. This is when the most harmful effects can occur within the body.

Final Sleep Deprivation Quiz

Question

How many hours of sleep does an adult need per night?

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Answer

Eight hours

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Question

In the most severe cases of sleep deprivation, what does someone experience?

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Answer

Hallucinations and/or paranoia 

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Question

What are the two main causes of sleep deprivation?

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Answer

Stressors and medical issues

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Question

What stressor related to sleep deprivation is considered a new phenomenon?

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Answer

Overuse of cell-phones

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Question

Excess stress cause an overproduction of______.

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Answer

dopamine

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Question

What illness makes the body stop breathing in short intervals?

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Answer

Sleep apnea

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Question

Which type of drugs have the most relevance to sleep deprivation?

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Answer

Amphetamines

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Question

What stage of sleep deprivation causes the body to go in and out of consciousness?

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Answer

48 hours

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Question

Which stage of sleep can cause the body to shut down and cause severe shock to the nervous system?

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Answer

96+ hours

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Question

What are the short-term effects of sleep deprivation related to?

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Answer

Symptoms

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Question

What do the long-term sleep deprivation effects all relate to?

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Answer

Physical and mental health

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Question

How many stages of sleep deprivation are there?

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Answer

Five

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Question

What action step could you take to avoid sleep deprivation?

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Answer

Creating a bedtime routine.

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Question

What effects are often irreversible regarding sleep deprivation?

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Answer

Long-term effects

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Question

What sleep disorder impacts our body's ability to regulate sleep?

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Answer

Narcolepsy

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