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What is Sleep Deprivation and How It Affects Performance

What is Sleep Deprivation and How It Affects Performance

8 min reading time

Like food and water, humans also need sleep. Unlike food and water, you can’t go to a store and buy sleep, or turn on a tap and have a glass of rest.

What is sleep deprivation?

So what is sleep deprivation? Sleep deprivation is a broad term used to describe a consistent loss in sleep or sleep quality. There are many signs of sleep deprivation, some quite evident like decreased energy levels, constant yawning, and poor concentration. And there are more severe underlying symptoms and related issues like high blood pressure, diabetes, weight gain, low sex drive, depression, poor balance, and heart disease. Sleep deprivation can have a negative impact on your cardiovascular, digestive, respiratory, immune, endocrine (hormone production) and central nervous system; just to name a few vital functions that humans require to survive.

Sleep is life. This article will discuss how to fix sleep deprivation and go into detail on the symptoms, causes, some sleep tips and how sleep deprivation affects work performance.


As mentioned previously, some signs of sleep deprivation may be obvious; others are underlying and could have a longterm effect on your mental and physical health. The symptoms and signs of sleep deprivation are contrasting in adults and children.

Symptoms in Adults

Lack of sleep for adults usually leads to a lack of concentration during work hours, lethargic behaviour, constant yawning and an inability to stay awake during stationary moments like watching television or sitting at a desk. Dramatic mood swings are another common sign of sleep deprivation in adults.

Symptom in Children

The effects of sleep deprivation in children rest on the opposite end of the spectrum. Kids who suffer from the condition tend to show hyperactive qualities; becoming moody, throwing tantrums, and showing silly unexplainable behaviour. Sudden naps at random times of the day and reluctance to get out of bed are common signs that a child is suffering from sleep deprivation.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Work Performance

In an eight-hour sleep, the average adult gets 1 hour and 40 minutes of deep sleep. Deep sleep is when the brain switches off and begins to recuperate. Humans need this recuperation for cell regeneration, strengthening the immune system, energy restoration and retaining memory.

During deep sleep, the neurons in the brain strengthen by forming pathways, retaining information and memories. When you enter REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, you often dream about what’s happened in the last 24 hours because your brain is ‘pressing save’ on the recently received information, converting them into memories.

With the previous information in mind, now picture eliminating that sleep and ‘depriving’ your brain of the opportunity to save information, regenerate cells, and restore energy.

Sleep deprivation affects work performance in many ways. Whether you forgot about a meeting pencilled in, you’re falling asleep at work, or suffering mood swings when you go toe to toe with your boss at the water cooler; sleep is imperative to a healthy work-life and the quality of life as a whole.

Causes and Sleeping Tips

Identifying the cause of your sleep deprivation may be the answer to eliminating the issue. Sometimes it’s as simple as making a slight change to your daily routine that makes a world of difference, in other circumstances it’s not so easy.

Staying Up Past Your Bedtime

Sleep discipline could be the very thing you need in eliminating sleep deprivation. Watching television, socialising, or working late into the night can throw off any chance of maintaining a consistent sleep pattern.

Sleeping Tips

  • Switch off a little earlier, give yourself an hour of wind-down time and bunker down 8.5 hours before you intend on waking up.
  • Regulate your wake up time as well; consistency in your sleeping patterns will help your body clock identify when it’s time to go to sleep.

Shift Work and Travel

Human’s sleep patterns correlate with their circadian rhythm, our internal subconscious body clock that tells us when to sleep, wake up, and eat.

Some occupations require employees to work night shifts; this can ultimately tip the balance of their circadian rhythm. Most individuals regain control of their sleeping patterns seamlessly, but it’s not so easy for others.

Travelling long distances and operating in different time zones can cause jetlag. For some, the transition into a different time zone can cause sleep deprivation; most manage to restore balance to their sleeping patterns within a couple of days.

Sleeping Tips on ‘How to Fix Sleep Deprivation’

  • During your daytime sleep as a shift worker, optimise your environment. Make the room as dark as you can, the pineal gland in the human brain measures light and releases melatonin informing the body to wake up.

  • Your first day back into a ‘normal’ sleep schedule (at night), you may feel the urge to sleep during the day but to restore balance you must hold out until night time. The same goes for jetlag, stay awake until it’s time to go to bed in the current time zone.

Sleep Disorders

For some, fixing sleep deprivation isn’t a one-step solution. Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia, N24, and periodic limb movement can cause severe sleep deprivation. Consulting with your GP is the best way to tackle such issues. Your doctor may recommend melatonin supplementation; it has shown positive results for individuals with sleeping disorders though there are reports on it having zero effect on some.

Sleeping Tips

  • Speak to a GP.
  • Consider melatonin supplements.


Poor sleeping environments are a major contributing factor to sleep deprivation. Without the correct mattress type, blanket and pillow that supports your body type and sleeping style, you’re bound to experience sleeping problems.

Back to Sleep provide honest and transparent advice on improving your sleep posture. By calculating your body type, sleep style, and body temperature regulation, the team at Back to Sleep will dramatically improve your quality of sleep.

Sleep Tips

  • The average mattress life spans seven years before it will start causing problems like joint pains, back pains and sleep deprivation; consider buying a new mattress.
  • If you’re unsure of what mattress suits you, book a consultation and let an industry professional help, you decide and understand.

Poor Sleep Hygiene

Sleep hygiene is the activity and process around bedtime, for instance; what you consume before bed, what time you go to bed, and what you do to optimise your chances of falling asleep.

Examples of Good Sleep Hygiene

  • Meditation before bedtime
  • In bed by 10 PM (10 AM if you’re a shift worker)
  • Letting go of worries
  • Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule
  • Updating sleeping environment; mattress, pillows, blankets

Examples of Poor Sleep Hygiene

  • Drinking coffee before bed
  • Smoking cigarettes before bed
  • Staying up late
  • Sleeping in (excessively)
  • Worrying and stressing before bedtime

Sleep Tips

  • Getting lots of sunlight during the day helps your pineal gland differentiate between night and day. By the time that night comes, it can start producing more melatonin that tells you its time to drift off.
  • Keep a journal next to your bed to jot down any ideas or concerns you are holding on to. It will make it easy to let go and get the beauty sleep you deserve.









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