What is Sleep Deprivation?

July 9, 2024 · John Gallagher
what is sleep deprivation

Sleep Deprivation: What It Is & What to Do about It

We live in a world that never shuts down. Modern demands for work, socialization, and family life can run late into the evening. On occasion, this can mean a great night out with friends or loved ones. However, these demands can also lead to sleep deprivation — a lack of sleep during core nighttime hours.

Humans are supposed to get 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. Unlike sleep deficiency — a broader concept that also includes sleep at incorrect times or poor-quality sleep — sleep deprivation specifically refers to a lack in your total number of sleep hours.

What causes sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation can come from many sources. In some cases, life’s demands can lead to poor sleep patterns that become a lack of sleep. For example, new parents, students, and non-traditional workers can all face challenges in earning sufficient rest each night. In other cases, sleep deprivation is the direct cause of a sleep disorder like insomnia, restless leg syndrome, or sleep apnea.

Lifestyle factors like your diet, exercise, caffeine and alcohol intake, and entertainment habits can also lead to sleep deprivation. Your environment also goes a long way toward helping you achieve a good night of sleep. Bedroom lighting, noise levels, temperature, and sleep accessories like pillows and blankets go a long way in encouraging your body toward rest.

How does sleep deprivation affect the body?

Sleep as a process affects physical health in many different ways. With enough rest, sleep helps improve your digestion, mood, and respiration. However, poor-quality sleep can leave your body feeling fatigued and sleep deprived.

Here are a few ways that sleep deprivation can affect the body:

  • Cognitive impairment: A lack of sleep affects the brain’s ability to function effectively. 
  • Mood changes: Sleep deprivation also impairs your mood, decreasing patience and elevating emotional reactions.
  • Accident and injury: Sleep deprivation reduces your alertness. Whether you’re walking or operating a car, this can make you more prone to injury or an accident.
  • Skin aging: Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can also lead to skin aging.

Your body will experience a variety of side effects when you deny it adequate rest and recovery. Fortunately, there are a number of things you can do to avoid sleep deprivation — even if you also face a sleep disorder.

What can I do about sleep deprivation?

If you can’t consistently get a full night of sleep, it might be time for some professional help. Consult with a certified sleep specialist or doctor for actionable tips on getting more sleep. Doctors might also recommend medication or a sleep study to address your sleep deprivation.

Here are a few things you can do to address sleep deprivation at home:

  • Stick to a bedtime routine: Try to brush your teeth and get ready for bed at a similar time each evening. This helps your body regulate your sleep-wake cycle and prevents any late-night sleep deprivation.
  • Avoid blue light: Send final text messages, set your alarms, and then set your phone down. Blue light from your phone can delay melatonin production and ultimately keep you awake far longer than necessary.
  • Stay active: Exercise is a great way to burn off excess energy on your way toward great nighttime sleep. Even a walk around the block or a short jog can do the trick.
  • Mind your diet: Avoid extra-sugary foods, or food items with artificial ingredients. It’s also important to avoid large meals before bedtime, as the digestion that follows can cause discomfort and keep you awake.

While the above strategies are effective for many people, they’re not a suitable replacement for professional help. If you can’t figure out the source of your sleep deprivation, or you need extra help in addressing it, it’s important to seek out appropriate medical help.

It’s also important to create a bedroom environment that’s fully conducive to sleep. If possible, keep your bedroom free from all other activities except sleep and intimacy. This helps your brain recognize when it’s time for sleep. Entertainment, work, eating meals, and other activities can take place in other rooms.

Make sure that your bedroom is quiet, dark, and cool. Use white noise or close the windows to avoid distracting background noise. Dim lights to allow your eyes to adjust to a darker, sleep-dedicated environment.

Pursue better sleep today

Sleep deprivation is more than just a single night of bad sleep. It’s a serious condition that you can’t always fix without help. It impacts physical and mental health and can decrease your overall well-being. Accountability for the length and quality of your sleep is the first step in taking sleep deprivation seriously.

The quality of your mattress itself is another important ingredient in the recipe for better sleep. Unlike your pillows or blankets, the right mattress will support your entire body while you sleep. It should help to minimize your movements while protecting your neck, head, back, and limbs.

At Mattress Warehouse, we know a thing or two about getting better sleep. That’s why we developed our bedMATCH sleep diagnostic program: a patented system that considers your height, weight, body type, and sleep preferences before identifying the best mattress options for you.

Without price haggling or a traditional sales environment, bedMATCH identifies mattress options at every price point that can actually deliver on the promise of better sleep. Visit your local Mattress Warehouse to try bedMATCH for yourself, or take our five-minute online bedMATCH quiz to browse personalized mattress options right now.