Sleep Deprivation: Effects And Symptoms + Natural Treatments

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Written by , MSc Shaheen Naser MSc Experience: 3 years
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Sleep deprivation affects your body in more ways than you can imagine. Consistently missing out on your sleep fogs your mind and interferes with your ability to think or act clearly. This is one main cause of accidents – be it at home or on the road.

Sleep deprivation also increases your chances of developing other medical conditions and health issues. These are reasons enough for you to not miss out on those precious hours of sleep.

Keep reading for more information.

What Is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation, simply put, is a result of not getting adequate sleep. While the occasional sleepless night might be a nuisance and cause lack of energy, slow comprehension, and emotional instability the next day, it is not too much of a concern in the long term. But lack of adequate sleep for prolonged periods may lead to more sinister symptoms. The amount of sleep required varies from person to person. For example, children and teenagers are much more affected by sleep deprivation than grown adults.

Before we move further, check out some key points on sleep deprivation.

Sleep Deprivation Facts

  • Loss of sleep affects your attentiveness and disrupts your ability to focus on the sensory inputs of the surrounding environment.
  • Sleep deprivation fogs your senses, potentially resulting in fatal accidents (be it a plane crash, train derailment, etc.).
  • Lack of sleep can also be a result of an underlying sleep disorder or medical condition.
  • You will accumulate sleep debt if you fail to get sufficient sleep.

Sleep deprivation may be triggered by common factors that are discussed below.

What Causes Sleep Deprivation?

Various factors could be contributing to this condition:

  • Intentionally depriving oneself of sleep to pursue certain goals (be it study, business, or even entertainment)
  • Shift work
  • Environmental factors
  • Family obligations
  • Demanding jobs
  • Stress
  • Underlying conditions such as sleep apnea, depression and hormone imbalances, etc.

Sleep deprived individuals exhibit the following signs and symptoms.

Signs And Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation

Symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Moodiness
  • Yawning
  • Irritation and/or depression
  • Learning difficulties
  • Forgetfulness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Clumsiness and lack of motivation
  • Decreased libido
  • An increased appetite (craving more carbohydrates)

Sleep deprivation can also disturb certain bodily processes.

Effects Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can impact your body in the following ways:

  • It may disrupt your immune response (1).
  • It may increase the risk of developing respiratory diseases (2).
  • It may lead to weight gain (3).
  • It may increase the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease (4), (5).
  • It may lead to hormonal imbalances (6).

Knowing the symptoms and ill effects of sleep deprivation, it is important we take the condition seriously and find ways to reverse it. Listed below are some of them.

Natural Ways Prevent Sleep Deprivation

1. Take A Warm Shower

The next time you are unable to fall asleep, take a warm shower and see if it helps. A quick warm bath, right before bedtime, can enhance sleep quality (7).

2. Diffuse Essential Oils

Use Essential Oils - Sleep Deprivation
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Try using a diffuser at night time to fill your bedroom with the calming scent of lavender or chamomile essential oil. Aromatherapy has been shown to promote sleep and help to calm the mind (8).

3. Exercise

Exercise - Sleep Deprivation
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Exercising regularly has more benefits than just weight management. Regular exercise helps to reduce stress, which enhances sleep quality (9).

4. Avoid Blue Light

Electronic devices (television, mobile phone, or laptop) emit blue light, which suppresses melatonin -the sleep hormone. Make sure to stop using electronic devices at least an hour before bedtime to enhance sleep quality (10).

5. Follow The Right Diet

Follow The Right Diet - Sleep Deprivation
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Make sure to follow a whole foods diet, featuring a variety of vegetables. Also, reduce sugar and caffeine consumption. Avoid eating large meals before bedtime – as it also can reduce sleep quality (11).

6. Maintain A Bedtime Routine

 Maintain A Bedtime Routine - Sleep Deprivation
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A bedtime routine aids better sleep. This can include a soothing massage, a warm bath, and a quiet and dark environment to promote sleep (12). Going to bed at the same time every night also reduces sleep disturbances. With time, you will see yourself falling asleep easier.

7. Increase Exposure To Natural Light During The Day

 Increase Exposure To Natural Light During The Day - Sleep Deprivation
Image: Shutterstock

Exposing yourself to natural light during the day affects your sleep patterns. According to the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, sufficient exposure to daylight is necessary for an individual’s overall well-being – including improved sleep quality (13).

These tips should help restore your normal sleep patterns. But if they don’t, please consult a doctor and discuss your treatment options. Keep medications as your last resort, though.

Was this post informative? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section below.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you recover from sleep deprivation?

You can try to make up for the lost sleep by getting an extra hour of sleep daily. You can also add three to four hours of sleep to your cycle during the weekends. Do this until you have cleared your sleep debt.

How many hours of sleep do you need to not be sleep deprived?

Sleep requirements vary among individuals. While newborns may need 14-17 hours of sleep daily, school-aged children require 9-11 hours. Teens require 8-10 hours of sleep, and adults need 7-9 hours of sleep to function normally. If an individual sleeps less than their requirement (say just 5-6 hours in adults), they will be sleep deprived.

Can sleep deprivation cause seizures?

Yes. In fact, lack of sleep is the second most common cause of seizures after epilepsy.

Can sleep deprivation make you sick?

Yes, sleep deprivation can increase your chances of falling sick. Your immunity takes a hit, increasing the risk of disease.

How to test for sleep deprivation?

The best way is identifying an ongoing cycle of poor sleep patterns. Make a note of the hours of sleep you get on a daily basis and then present this information to your doctor. Sleep specialists can also observe your pattern using a polysomnogram or sleep study, which is carried out inside a sleep laboratory.

Why does lack of sleep affect your body’s performance?

Lack of sleep affects the functioning of your brain neurons, impairing their ability to encode information. Sleep deprivation also affects multiple body systems – including your immunity.


    1. Sleep and immune function” Pflugers Archiv, US National Library Of Medicine.
    2. Sleep effects on breathing and respiratory diseases” Lung India, US National Library Of Medicine.
    3. Sleep and obesity” Current Opinion in Clinical Nutrition and Metabolic Care, US National Library Of Medicine.
    4. Impact of sleep and sleep loss on glucose homeostasis and appetite regulation” Sleep Medicine Clinics, US National Library Of Medicine.
    5. Sleep Duration as a Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease- a Review of the Recent Literature” Current Cardiology Reviews, US National Library Of Medicine.
    6. The Impact of Sleep and Circadian Disturbance on Hormones and Metabolism” International Journal Of Endocrinology, US National Library Of Medicine.
    7. Night-time sleep EEG changes following body heating in a warm bath.” Electroencephalography and Clinical Neurophysiology, US National Library Of Medicine.
    8. The Effects of Aromatherapy Massage on Sleep Quality of Nurses on Monthly Rotating Night Shifts” Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.
    9. The effect of physical activity on sleep quality, well-being, and affect in academic stress periods” Nature and Science of Sleep, US National Library Of Medicine.
    10. Blocking nocturnal blue light for insomnia: A randomized controlled trial.” Journal of Psychiatric Research. US National Library Of Medicine.
    11. Effects of Diet on Sleep Quality” Advances In Nutrition, US National Library Of Medicine.
    12. Implementation of a nightly bedtime routine: How quickly do things improve?” Infant Behavior & Development, US National Library Of Medicine.
    13. Impact of Windows and Daylight Exposure on Overall Health and Sleep Quality of Office Workers: A Case-Control Pilot Study” Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, US National Library Of Medicine.

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Emalyse is a qualified naturopath from Australia who uses a tailored blend of holistic nutrition, herbal medicine and powerful lifestyle shifts to support millennial women in creating a life of abundance, health and happiness.

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