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What Is Chronic Sleep Deprivation

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How Does Cognitive Behavioral Therapy Help Treat Insomnia

The difference between chronic insomnia and sleep deprivation (and why it matters)

Research shows that cognitive behavioral therapy works as well as prescription medicine for many people who have chronic or long-term insomnia. CBT helps you change thoughts and actions that may get in the way of sleep.

This type of therapy is also used to treat conditions such as depression, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders. For success with CBT, you may need to see a therapist weekly for two months or more. CBT may involve:

  • Keeping a diary to track your sleep
  • Replacing negative thoughts about sleep with positive thinking. This includes linking being in bed to being asleep and not to the problems you have falling asleep.
  • Talking with a therapist alone or in group sessions. This can help you identify and change any unhelpful thoughts and behaviors about sleep.
  • Learning .

Recommended Reading: How To Deal With Sleep Anxiety

Are You Sleep Deprived

Most of us know what it feels like the day after a night of little or no sleep. Youre not yourselfyou feel drowsy, sluggish, irritable, and low on energy. Your mind seems groggy, you may struggle to focus, make sloppy mistakes, and need coffee after coffee just to make it through the day until youre able to crawl back into bed at night.

While coping with the occasional night of disturbed sleep can be unpleasant, if youre regularly missing out on a restorative nights rest, you could be seriously damaging your health and quality of life. As well as negatively impacting your mood, energy, and performance at work or school, sleep deprivation can also affect your immune system, heart and brain health, sex drive, and ability to handle stress. It can add inches to your waist, increase your risk of accidents, and lead to serious long-term health problems such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, anxiety, and depression.

If youve been sleep deprived for a while, it can even seem normal to spend your days feeling tired and out of sorts. But while you may think that youre able to get by on less sleep without suffering any consequences, the truth is that getting sufficient sleep is essential to your physical and mental health.

Avoid Things That Can Interfere With Sleep

A useful step in addressing sleep deprivation is to avoid things that can, often unbeknownst to you, negatively affect your sleep:

  • Electronic devices: TVs, cell phones, tablets, and computers can keep your mind stimulated, leaving you still wired when you want to go to bed. The light emitted by these devices can also interfere with your circadian rhythm. As a result, its best to avoid using electronic devices for an hour or more before bed.
  • Alcohol: Drinking, especially at night, can disrupt your normal sleep cycle, reducing overall sleep quality and consistency.
  • Caffeine: As a stimulant, caffeine makes you alert, and because it can stick around in your system for several hours, its best to avoid it in the afternoon and evening.
  • Naps: To keep naps from interfering with sleep at night, keep them short and never take them in the late afternoon or later. If you are struggling with insomnia, its best to avoid naps altogether.

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How To Sleep Better

If youre experiencing mild, occasional problems with sleep, try these simple strategies from sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD, DBSM.

1. Treat getting enough sleep as if it is as important as taking medicine.

With all the demands on our time every day, you might put a good nights rest at the bottom of your priority list. But Dr. Drerup says we need to schedule adequate time for sleep.

Its very easy to stay up late and burn the candle at both ends, she says. However, when you do that, you quickly run into a problem of dealing with sleep deprivation.

2. Keep a consistent wake time.

Wake up at the same time every day, including weekends or days off. Waking at the same time every day will actually help you to sleep better at night. A fixed wake time helps to build a strong desire for sleep throughout wakefulness. This sleep drive gradually builds, and shortening it by sleeping in will make it harder to fall asleep the next night. Sleeping in on the weekend makes it much more difficult to wake up earlier on Monday morning.

It also is important, Dr. Drerup says, to do some relaxing activity such as taking a warm bath or reading a book before bedtime. By making these activities part of your bedtime ritual, you can train yourself to associate these activities with sleep. This association will help you to move more easily into slumber.

3. Put away the smart phones and tablets.

4. If you do wake up during the night, avoid looking at the clock.

Fast Facts On Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation Shore 2010
  • Loss of sleep modifies normal body functions and disrupts the ability to focus on environmental sensory input
  • Lack of sleep has been found to be responsible for tragic accidents involving airplanes, ships, trains, automobiles, and nuclear power plants
  • Children and youngsters are most vulnerable to the negative effects of sleep loss
  • When you are sleep deprived, you start to gather a sleep debt
  • Sleep deprivation can be a symptom of a sleep disorder that has not been diagnosed or even any other medical issue

Read Also: Does Zoloft Cause Insomnia

What Is Sleep Debt

Sleep debt, or chronically running a sleep deficit, is the cumulative effect of not getting enough sleep.

People often use the phrase sleep debt to make a comparison to banking. When we dont get enough sleep, our sleep account becomes overdrawn and were required to attempt to make it up. The more sleep debt we accumulate, the more challenging it becomes to repay.

According to one study, it can take four days to fully recover from one hour of lost sleep.

What Does Acute Sleep Deprivation Cause

After a long sleepless night or on repeated sleepless nights some consequences are experienced. When one does not get the required amount of sleep for a night or a few nights the following are observed:

  • Fatigue and increased sleepiness

After a few nights of lack of the required sleep the following may be observed:

  • Hallucinations
  • Memory lapses
  • Delusional thinking

The symptoms are as a result of lack of progress in the sleep stages to the deep sleep compounded with the lack of enough sleep. The deep sleep stage is the most rejuvenating stage of sleep and helps the individual to wake up feeling alert and focused.

This explains why after spending a night without sleeping in preparation for an exam is counter-productive. Deep sleep solidifies memories that were picked during the day thus helping people remember.

With enough sleep the acute sleep deprivation symptoms are relieved. The symptoms however will progress to the chronic sleep deprivation if not treated or controlled.

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What Causes Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is often driven by voluntary choices that reduce available sleep time. For example, a person who decides to stay up late to binge-watch a TV series may experience acute sleep deprivation. An inconsistent sleep schedule may facilitate these decisions and make them feel less intentional in the moment.

Work obligations are another common contributor to sleep deprivation. People who work multiple jobs or extended hours may not have enough time for sufficient sleep. Shift workers who have to work through the night may also find it hard to get the amount of sleep that they really need.

Sleep deficiency may be caused by other sleep disorders or medical conditions. For example, sleep apnea, a breathing disorder that induces dozens of nightly awakenings, may hinder both sleep duration and quality. Other medical or mental health problems, such as pain or general anxiety disorder, can interfere with the quality and quantity of sleep.

Attention And Working Memory

The Effects of Chronic Sleep Deprivation: Why We Shouldnt Run a Sleep Debt

Among the possible physical consequences of sleep deprivation, deficits in attention and working memory are perhaps the most important such lapses in mundane routines can lead to unfortunate results, from forgetting ingredients while cooking to missing a sentence while taking notes. Performing tasks that require attention appears to be correlated with number of hours of sleep received each night, declining as a function of hours of sleep deprivation. Working memory is tested by methods such as choice-reaction time tasks.

The attentional lapses also extend into more critical domains in which the consequences can be life-or-death car crashes and industrial disasters can result from inattentiveness attributable to sleep deprivation. To empirically measure the magnitude of attention deficits, researchers typically employ the psychomotor vigilance task which requires the subject to press a button in response to a light at random intervals. Failure to press the button in response to the stimulus is recorded as an error, attributable to the microsleeps that occur as a product of sleep deprivation.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation

The primary signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation include excessive daytime sleepiness and daytime impairment such as reduced concentration, slower thinking, and mood changes.

Feeling extremely tired during the day is one of the hallmark signs of sleep deprivation. People with excessive daytime sleepiness may feel drowsy and have a hard time staying awake even when they need to. In some cases, this results in microsleeps in which a person dozes off for a matter of seconds.

Insufficient sleep can directly affect how a person feels during their waking hours. Examples of these symptoms include:

  • Slowed thinking
  • Lack of energy
  • Mood changes including feelings of stress, anxiety, or irritability

A persons symptoms can depend on the extent of their sleep deprivation and whether it is acute or chronic. Research also suggests that some individuals are more likely to experience symptoms after a lack of sleep and that this may be tied to a persons genetics. Stimulants like caffeine can also mask the symptoms of sleep deprivation, so its important to note how you feel on and off these substances.

What Are The Effects


While you will undoubtedly wake up feeling grumpy, sleepy, and not well-rested at all, there are more effects than these that will plague a person who is suffering from chronic sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation can affect everything from your weight and digestive system and memory and concentration. Sleep is when our bodies repair, and if you are not getting enough sleep, it will take a serious toll on your body.

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Working Memory And Attention

Besides the many physical consequences of insufficient sleep, perhaps the most important consequences of sleep deprivation are deficits in working memory and attention. Lapses in ordinary mundane routines can cause worrying results from missing words or sentences while taking notes to omitting important ingredients while cooking. It appears that carrying out tasks that require attention is in direct correlation to the number of hours the person sleeps each night with these functions declining with the number hours of sleep deprivation. Methods such as choice-reaction time tasks are used to test working memory. Sadly, these attentional lapses can move into critical domains whereby the consequences could well result in life or death: industrial accidents and car crashes can be the result of inattentiveness, directly attributable to sleep deprivation.

Researchers typically use the psychomotor vigilance task in order to measure the magnitude of attention deficits: this simply requires the patient to press a button at pseudo-random intervals in response to a light. An error is recorded when the patient fails to press the button in response to the light , and this is noted as being attributable to the micro-sleeps occurring due to sleep deprivation.

Chronic Sleep Deprivation Leads To Various Complaints

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What is chronic sleep deprivation characterized by? Well, not being able to sleep puts your emotions out of balance. Also, your sense of balance may no longer be completely optimal and stable.

As a result of sleep deprivation that is chronic, you are more likely to overeat and thus gain weight. This also contributes to a negative spiral consisting of gloomy emotions and a negative self-image.

This can make you more anxious in life and find it increasingly difficult to connect with other people.

People who suffer a lot from sleep deprivation and can confirm this are, for example, parents with a newborn child. They often indicate that they cannot function optimally during the day because of a lack of sleep.

Read on to find out what action you can take to combat chronic sleep deprivation.

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Sleep Boosts Mental Wellbeing

Given that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody the following day, it’s not surprising that chronic sleep debt may lead to long-term mood disorders like clinical depression and generalised anxiety disorder in adults.

When people with anxiety or depression were surveyed to calculate their sleeping habits, it turned out that most of them slept for less than 6 hours a night.

What You Need To Know About Lowering Your Sleep Debt

Saving money for a rainy day might help you avoid credit card debt, but it doesnât work the same way with sleep. You canât âbankâ sleep in anticipation of a short night of sleep later in the week. But there are ways to lower your sleep debt.

Going to bed a little earlier each night until you pay off your sleep debt is one option. Naps during your afternoon dip can help, too. When you donât have another option, sleep in, but not for more than an hour past your usual wake time.

Being strategic about the timing of your sleep â wake time, naps, and bedtime â can help you optimize your overall sleep outcomes and prevent you from falling deeper into sleep debt. That optimization should be guided by your circadian rhythm, your bodyâs internal clock that tells you when to be awake and when to be asleep. The RISE appâs energy screen shows you the predictable peaks and dips in energy youâll experience during each roughly 24-hour cycle of your circadian rhythm.

Based on this framework, you can figure out the best times to squeeze in a little extra sleep. For instance, youâll see that the ideal time for napping is in the afternoon during your midday dip. The app also tells you the best time to go to bed, based on the time of night your body is producing the highest levels of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

Read Also: Does Zoloft Cause Insomnia

Make The Most Of The Day

Getting frequent sunlight exposure during the day supports a healthy circadian rhythm that helps you be alert during the day and sleepy at night. Regular physical activity can also contribute to a normal sleep schedule, so try to engage in at least moderate exercise every day.

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Can Insomnia Be Cured

Chronic sleep deprivation could set you up for long term health problems

The good news is that most cases of insomnia can be cured with changes you can make on your ownwithout relying on sleep specialists or turning to prescription or over-the-counter sleeping pills. By addressing the underlying causes and making simple changes to your daily habits and sleep environment, and combining this with natural sleep supplements you can put a stop to the frustration of insomnia and finally get a good nights sleep.

Research clearly demonstrates that if we do not get adequate sleep our physical and mental health can be adversely affected. Those who frequently get fewer than six hours a night are at significantly increased risk of stroke and heart disease, with evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the fight or flight response to stress, releasing hormones that speed up heart rate and raise blood pressure. There is an overwhelming amount of research and evidence to highlights the critical importance of sleep, yet there is little support available to improve sleep patterns.

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Treatment For Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

Unfortunately, there is no cure for ME/CFS. People with the disorder shouldnt give up hope, however. A variety of treatments may be used to lessen or eliminate symptoms.

  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy . CBT teaches patients how to recognize fears of potential fatigue. With the aid of CBT, patients can also learn how to redirect thoughts that may provide a more positive outlook about recovery.
  • Exercise. Through graded exercise therapy, patients with ME/CFS exercise to increase overall physical and mental function.
  • Sleep Management. Poor sleep is a common symptom of ME/CFS. Treatment of sleep disorders that accompany ME/CFS can lessen its overall effects. Patients can begin by improving their sleep hygiene. However, additional steps, such as prescription medications or therapies for specific sleep disorders may be necessary.
  • Pharmacologic Therapy. Currently, there are no drugs that specifically target ME/CFS. Instead, patients may take drugs to treat symptoms of ME/CFS, such as pain, depression, and sleep deprivation.
  • Stress Reduction and Relaxation. Certain practices can help with managing chronic pain and fatigue. These include meditation, massage, and acupuncture.

Stage : After 24 Hours

Its common to miss 24 hours of sleep. It also wont cause major health problems, but you can expect to feel tired and off.

According to the , 24-hour sleep deprivation is the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 percent. Thats higher than the limit to legally drive.

Staying awake for 24 hours may cause symptoms like:

  • depersonalization

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Have A Pleasant Sleep Environment

Youre more likely to get quality sleep if your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing.

To create an ideal sleep environment:

  • Turn off electronics, including TVs and smartphones.
  • Keep the bedroom cool .
  • Use a comfortable mattress and pillow.
  • Cover up loud sounds with a fan, humidifier, or white noise machine.

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