What Are The Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation?

Young couple in bed man sleeping woman yawning

Sleep loss can cause daytime sleepiness, clumsiness, and may even increase your appetite, leading to weight gain. This is due to the disruption in our ability to focus. And alteration of normal body functions.

So, what are the symptoms of sleep deprivation? What happens when you don’t sleep? Find out more here…

Tell-tale Signs

The symptoms of sleep deprivation are many. And may include:

  • Accidents and injuries sustained while at work
  • Difficulties in concentration, thinking, and learning
  • Decreased libido and loss of interest in sex
  • Depression and anxiety
  • Forgetfulness and other memory issues
  • Increased hunger and appetite
  • Poor judgment, reasoning, and alertness
  • Lack of motivation
  • Constant yawning

Chronic Sleep Loss

After a few nights of missed sleep, the physical symptoms of sleep deprivation kick in. Your skin starts to suffer from fine lines appearing. And dark circles appear under puffy eyes. Lack of sleep symptoms also cause skin to lose its smoothness and elasticity – due to excess production of the hormone cortisol, which breaks down collagen.

There is a relationship between lack of sleep and an increase in body weight. Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in the hormone leptin – and increases in ghrelin hormone – stimulating cravings for high-fat foods.

Dehydration can cause difficulty in concentrating and give a feeling of grogginess, so it’s essential to drink plenty of water.

Lack of sleep can also affect your coordination and balance – you’ll be more likely to fall or have other accidents when you’re deprived of sleep.

Health Issues

Sleep disorders can potentially increase the risk of:

  • Heart attack and heart failure
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Other health conditions and mental illnesses
Businessman feeling tired in office

Stages of Sleep Deprivation

How long can you go without sleep? Staying awake for 24 hours without sleep due to work, family commitments, or studying for exams isn’t unusual. There are side effects to staying up all night and this may result in:

  • Intensified muscle tension
  • Reduced hand-eye coordination
  • Irritability
  • Drowsiness
  • Memory issues
  • Hearing and vision difficulties
  • Impaired judgement and decision making

36 hours without sleep and sleep deprivation stages intensify. And many body functions such as the releasing of cortisol and insulin can be greatly affected. As a result, changes can take place in your stress levels, mood, appetite, and metabolism.

Other effects of sleep deprivation for this amount of time include:

  • Problems with speech and intonation
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Reduced motivation
  • Risky decision making
  • Stubbornness

After 48 hours without sleep, the majority of people will find it almost impossible to stay awake. Micro-sleeps – a light sleep that lasts about 30 seconds – happen involuntarily. Following these, you become disoriented and confused.

Your immune system is also affected – cells that immediately respond to viruses and bacteria are compromised, leading to illness. You’re more likely to become sick when exposed to germs. Sleep deprivation stops your body from building defences – and it may take you longer to recover from any illness.

After 3 days without sleep, the ability to think is one of the effects of sleep deprivation. Functions such as paying attention and remembering become extremely difficult. And carrying out even the simplest of tasks is problematic.

Research shows that sleep deprivation effects also target emotions. Irritability, depression, anxiety, and even paranoia are common. Hallucinations and illusions occur when perception is significantly altered through lack of sleep effects.

Staying awake for a prolonged period of time causes a decline in concentration, motivation, and perception. And can delay mental processes as well.

Woman sleeping on desk

Sleep Deprivation Medical Conditions

Scientists have discovered that an extension of sleep deprivation can occur due to certain medical conditions. Rare autoimmune disorders such as Marvan’s Syndrome can cause hallucinations and continuous muscle twitching. Alongside urinary problems and palpitations, individuals with this condition barely sleep at all.

An autosomal dominant disease called Fatal Familial Insomnia causes the degeneration of some brain areas which leads to permanent insomnia before death, with organ failure being the main cause.

Insomnia is often an early indicator of rapidly progressing neurodegenerative conditions, that can result in death within two years.

Remember, these cases are extremely rare and lack of sleep is highly unlikely to kill you. But extended bouts of sleeplessness can cause a whole host of physical symptoms, and may eventually be fatal if not addressed properly, resulting in hormonal changes, the creation of carbohydrate cravings and dropping body temperature, which can lead to immune responses becoming suppressed.

But all of these changes are reversible. And practising good sleep hygiene can encourage high-quality sleep. These routines include:

  • Maintaining a constant sleep schedule
  • Keeping the bedroom dark and cool
  • Investing in a comfortable mattress and pillows
  • Winding down by relaxing and switching off electronic devices
  • Avoiding eating late in the evening

Don’t Despair

Drugs are available over the counter or through a prescription that can help induce sleep. Behavioural and cognitive treatments can enhance sleep. Home remedies can be helpful. And home management can also aid in sustaining your biological sleep needs.

State-of-the-art products to help you sleep include sleep monitoring sensors with touch-pads, companion apps, and coaching programmes. Everything you need to help you get a good night’s sleep.

Henry Warren I am a professional writer and health & wellness enthusiast.