Understanding Sleep Deprivation

Understanding Sleep Deprivation

Learn more about sleep deprivation, including some common symptoms of sleep, impact to health, and how to cope with it

We’ve all experienced sleep deprivation. A good night’s sleep is essential for our overall well-being, but what happens when we consistently fail to get enough quality, restorative sleep?

Learn more about sleep deprivation, including some common symptoms, the effects it has on mental and physical health, and a few tips and tricks to help you get a night of quality, restorative sleep.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation occurs when someone fails to get enough quality, restorative sleep. To perform at their best, most individuals need 7-8 hours of sleep per night. However, as many of us know, several factors can contribute to sleep quality, from lifestyle choices to work stress, medical conditions, and sleep disorders—the list goes on!

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Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

It can impact people in different ways, so it’s important to be able to recognize the symptoms of sleep deprivation and understand how they can affect your well-being. By prioritizing sleep and taking steps to address sleep insufficiency, you promote your health and wellness.

Here are some common signs of sleep deprivation:

  • Fatigue and excessive daytime sleepiness
  • Difficulty concentrating and poor memory
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • Decreased motivation or productivity
  • Increased appetite or cravings
  • Weakened immune system
  • Impaired judgment and decision-making
  • Reduced libido and sexual dysfunction
  • Headaches and migraines
  • Hallucinations and cognitive disturbances (in extreme cases)

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Health

Sleep deprivation can have far-reaching effects on both physical and mental health. Disrupting the body’s natural hormone balance, it can affect energy levels, mood, cognitive abilities, immune system, and overall well-being. Some of the most common effects include:

Physical Health

Increased risk of chronic conditions: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and hypertension.

Weakened immune system: Inadequate quality sleep can compromise the immune system, increasing your susceptibility to infections and illnesses.

Impaired motor function: Sleep insufficiency impairs coordination, reaction time, and motor skills, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries.

Hormonal imbalances: Sleep deprivation disrupts the balance of hormones in the body, which can lead to increased appetite, weight gain, and hormonal disorders.

Mental Health

Mood disorders: Sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of mood disorders, including depression and anxiety.

Cognitive impairment: Lack of sleep impedes cognitive function, causing issues with memory, attention, problem-solving, and decision-making.

Reduced emotional well-being: Sleep deprivation can intensify negative emotions, lessen emotional fortitude, and impede social connections.

Increased risk of mental health disorders: Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, among other mental health conditions. 

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Promoting Restful Sleep

Incorporating healthy sleep practices into your nighttime routine can help prepare both your mind and body for quality, restorative sleep.

Implementing a few of these healthy sleep habits into your routine can help you set the stage for a restorative sleep experience and reap the benefits it brings to your health and well-being.

Maintain a consistent sleep schedule: Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends! This helps regulate your body’s internal clock and promote better sleep.

Create a sleep-friendly environment: Turn your bedroom into a sleep oasis. Make sure it’s calm, dark, quiet, and at a cool yet comfortable temperature to set the mood for sleep and signal to your body that it’s time for rest. 

Practice relaxation techniques: Wind down before bed with calming activities like reading, taking a warm bath, or meditating to promote relaxation. 

Limit electronic device use: Blue light from screens can interfere with your sleep-wake cycle, making it harder for your body to wind down and relax. Avoid using blue-light emitting devices for at least an hour before bed. If you must use screens, use amber glasses and turn your devices onto “night mode.”

Avoid stimulants and heavy meals before bed: Caffeine, nicotine, and even large meals before bed can interfere with your sleep quality. Instead, try a cup of calming chamomile tea!

Regular physical activity: Getting regular physical activity is beneficial for sleep, but it’s also a stimulant, so try and avoid strenuous exercise a few hours before bedtime.


A lack of restful sleep can significantly affect your health and well-being. Understanding the symptoms and effects of sleep deprivation can help you prioritize your sleep quality and general well-being.

Explore more sleep-related resources, tips, and research at bettersleep.org.

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