All Collections
Physical health and wellbeing
Sleep and Fatigue
What you need to know about sleep deprivation
What you need to know about sleep deprivation
What is sleep deprivation and how can you avoid it?
Sonder Health avatar
Written by Sonder Health
Updated over a week ago

If you’ve ever spent a night tossing and turning, you already know how you’ll feel the next day — tired, cranky and out of sorts. But missing out on the recommended seven to nine hours of shut-eye does more than just make you feel groggy and grumpy. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk. Scientific reports have linked poor slumber with a number of health problems, from weight gain to a weakened immune system.

Causes of sleep deprivation

In a nutshell, sleep deprivation is caused by consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis can eventually lead to health consequences that affect your entire body. This may also be caused by an underlying sleep disorder.

Your body needs sleep, just as it needs air and food to function at its best. During sleep, your body heals itself and restores its chemical balance. Your brain forges new thought connections and helps memory retention. Without enough sleep, your brain and body systems won’t function normally. It can also dramatically lower your quality of life.

Noticeable signs of sleep deprivation include:

  • excessive sleepiness

  • frequent yawning

  • irritability

  • daytime fatigue

Stimulants, such as caffeine, aren’t enough to override your body’s profound need for sleep. In fact, these can make sleep deprivation worse by making it harder to fall asleep at night. This, in turn, may lead to a cycle of nighttime insomnia followed by daytime caffeine consumption to combat the tiredness caused by the lost hours of shut-eye.

Treatment for sleep deprivation

The most basic form of sleep deprivation treatment is getting an adequate amount of sleep, typically seven to nine hours each night.

This is often easier said than done, especially if you’ve been deprived of precious shut-eye for several weeks or longer. After this point, you may need help from your doctor or a sleep specialist who, if needed, can diagnose and treat a possible sleep disorder.

The following are some of the most common types of sleep disorders:

  • obstructive sleep apnea

  • narcolepsy

  • restless leg syndrome

  • insomnia

  • circadian rhythm disorders

To diagnose these conditions, your doctor may order a sleep study. This is traditionally conducted at a formal sleep centre, but now there are options to measure your sleep quality at home, too.

If you’re diagnosed with a sleep disorder, you may be given medication or a device to keep your airway open at night (in the case of obstructive sleep apnoea) to help combat the disorder so you can get a better night’s sleep on a regular basis.


The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to make sure you get adequate sleep. Follow the recommended guidelines for your age group, which is seven to nine hours for most adults ages 18 to 64.

Other ways you can get back on track with a healthy sleep schedule include:

  • limiting daytime naps (or avoiding them altogether)

  • refraining from caffeine past noon or at least a few hours prior to bedtime

  • going to bed at the same time each night

  • waking up at the same time every morning

  • sticking to your bedtime schedule during weekends and holidays

  • spending an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, or taking a bath

  • avoiding heavy meals within a few hours before bedtime

  • refraining from using electronic devices right before bed

  • exercising regularly, but not in the evening hours close to bedtime

  • reducing alcohol intake

If you continue to have problems sleeping at night and are fighting daytime fatigue, talk to your doctor. They can test for underlying health conditions that might be getting in the way of your sleep schedule.

If you have any questions or need extra support, we're here to help you anytime in any language. Simply start a chat with us via the home screen of the Sonder app.

Article originally published by Healthline

Image credit: Kinga Cichewicz on Unsplash

All content is created and published for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health professional.

Did this answer your question?