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The Anatomy Of Chronic Sleep Deprivation

30th November , 2019

An Overview

Let’s begin with a startling truth. A lot of people around us are sleep deprived. In fact, according to an independent study conducted by Wakefield Research, over fifty-one percent of adults worldwide do not get a proper night’s rest. The lack of sleep usually stems from lifestyle choices.

However, it is also true that not everyone has the privilege of having a sound and comfortable sleep. Today, sleeping for at least 8 hours is considered a luxury by many. And there’s nothing feels more relaxing than lying in your comfortable mattress after a long, demanding, and tiring day.

Losing hours of sleep and accumulating sleep debt can have a significant impact on almost every aspect of our lives- especially with regards to our physical health and mental wellbeing.

On Sleep Hygiene

People are sleep deprived because they have poor sleep hygiene. While it is understandable that some factors are beyond our control such as job conditions ( e.g night shifts).There is still a range of habits, practices, and environmental circumstances that contribute to inadequate sleep which many of us can control.

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This can include stressors such as deadlines, work pressure, conflict, examinations. Additionally, vices such as alcohol and smoking can be managed to have proper sleep hygiene. Environmental factors that include your present sleep conditions can help in maintaining good sleep hygiene. For instance, having a proper mattress that’s perfect for your needs is essential to get a full night’s rest. Similarly, setting the right room temperature, and having enough light ultimately defines the quality of sleep.

On that premise, let’s discuss what Chronic Sleep Deprivation is, its symptoms, effects, causes, and possible solutions to combat it.

What is Chronic Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is simply having insufficient or inadequate sleep. What makes this condition chronic is, if it happens over an extended period- meaning, you don’t get enough sleep on a long-term basis.

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Chronic sleep deprivation may vary by severity depending on the lack of quality and quantity ( hours) of sleep or both. Because it has been so common for adults to sleep less than six hours a night, they may not be aware of having it. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation can be classified as primary or secondary.

Primary chronic sleep deprivation means that the lack of sleep is a problem in itself generally caused by insomnia, anxiety or even the use of technology. On the other hand, secondary sleep deprivation is brought about by an unrelated cause, in other words, it could be caused by a diagnosed condition.

What causes chronic sleep deprivation?

Not everyone who has chronic sleep deprivation has the same causes. Since there are plenty of things that can cause it. The following are some potential causes of sleep deprivation:

  • Stress
  • Parasomnias and sleep disorders
  • Existing medical condition
  • Mental illness
  • Excessive use of mobile phones and gadgets at night
  • Excessive intake of caffeine and sugary drinks
  • Working conditions
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Uncomfortable sleeping conditions
  • Hormone imbalance and chronic illnesses


Excessive daytime sleepiness is a common sign of prolonged or chronic sleep deprivation. Along with this are symptoms related to a lack of sleep. These can include:

  • Slurred speech
  • Memory loss
  • Mood swings / irritability
  • Nausea
  • impaired/ blurred vision
  • Weight gain
  • Inability to focus on tasks
  • Lack of concentration
  • Reduced libido

These physical symptoms are only some of the many things that come with extended bouts of sleep deprivation.


Chronic sleep deprivation affects your daily functions. You will not be able to perform your duties well and productivity will decrease. Without the restorative effects of a good night’s rest, your body becomes affected by sleeplessness.

Within 24 hours of sleep deprivation, the body experiences gradual hormone changes- the TSH or Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone and Cortisol levels increase, which may trigger hypertension or high blood pressure.

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Without proper rest, the body is unable to strengthen itself and the immune system since the production of cytokines that fight infection is gravely affected. Chronic sleep deprivation makes the body susceptible to illnesses. In addition, with a weak immune system, the body can take a longer time to recover from sickness which heightens the risk of acquiring a chronic illness.

Apart from the risk of cardiovascular disease and hypertension, chronic sleep deprivation may also increase the chance of acquiring advanced respiratory conditions.

Prolonged sleep deprivation also affects two hormones in the body that are associated with fullness, hunger, and satiety- leptin and ghrelin. Since sleep affects the production of these hormones, the lack of proper sleep can lead to weight gain and obesity.

Similarly, sleeplessness triggers the release of insulin that ultimately leads the body to store fat at a higher percentage, increasing the risk not only of obesity but type 2 diabetes as well.

Fortunately, these effects are irreversible. By maintaining proper sleep hygiene, you can help your body become healthier and stronger.

How many hours of sleep is enough?

Age is a factor in determining the optimal sleep quantity of an individual. There are different recommended hours of sleep for varying age groups. For instance, the older you get the lesser hours you may require.

However, sleep should not be less than 5 hours. For some people, having 6 hours of sleep is enough for them to function. Below is a basic guideline of recommended sleep time for different age groups:

Newborns/ infants14 to 17 hours/day
1 year10 hours of sleep plus 4 hours of daytime nap
2 years11-12 hours plus 1-2 hours of nap
3-5 years10-13 hours
6-13 years9-11 hours
Adolescent8-10 hours
Adults7-9 hours


Aside from age, certain factors such as pregnancy, illness, sleep debt and sleep quality affects the amount of sleep an individual may require.

Although several adults claim that sleeping for at least 5-6 hours is alright for them, plenty of studies suggest that individuals who lack sleep may perform simple physical tasks without problem but may fail in undertaking complex mental tasks such as decision making.


Multiple treatments are available for chronic sleep deprivation. In general, treating it will require identifying the underlying cause. Usually, treatment will vary depending on the cause of sleep deprivation.

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For instance, sleep deprivation due to insomnia can be treated using CBT of cognitive-behavioral therapy. Treatments for chronic sleep deprivation are tailored according to the cause. prescription medicines are often administered to induce sleep once non-medical treatments are insufficient.

Settling Sleep Debt

Fighting sleep deprivation starts with paying off accumulated sleep debt. To simply put it, sleep debt, also known as sleep deficit, is the compounding effect of sleep deprivation. Chronic sleep deprivation and sleep debt go hand in hand- with an extended period of sleeplessness, sleep debt is accumulated exponentially.

Addressing sleep debt can contribute to fighting against chronic sleep deprivation. According to Harvard health publishing, to settle a short-term sleep debt, an individual may add extra hours of sleep on the weekend and an extra hour or two per night the following week. This will depend on how many hours of sleep debt an individual has accumulated.

Similarly, as in the case of chronic sleep deprivation, long-term debt should be addressed immediately. It may take longer to recoup the hours of sleep but working on it every day will help.

Get yourself the best mattress

There is no better way of coping with chronic sleep deprivation than restorative sleep. If you belong to the population of people who are experiencing chronic sleep deprivation, you know how it has affected your life. Addressing it may not be easy especially if there are factors that you cannot control such as working conditions and shifting schedules.

However, you can always start with home management. Create a conducive space for sleeping, so you can improve your quality of sleep. After a tiring day at work, who wouldn’t want to go home to a relaxing bedroom and lie on comfortably on their mattress. Several pieces of research suggest that the quality of the mattress can ultimately affect the way an individual sleeps, yet the ideal mattress varies from person to person.

The Secret of a Good Rest, Magniflex


When choosing the right mattress, others also consider the price. There’s an idea that the more expensive a mattress is, the higher the quality. This is not always the case, a hefty price tag will depend on the quality of the materials and the product’s marketing costs.

Selecting the best mattress is very personal. The ideal is something that properly supports the body during sleep. This will ensure quality sleep especially if you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. A good mattress is part of proper sleep hygiene- which is the secret to battling sleep deprivation.

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