Sleep deprivation

Sleep deprivation, also known as sleep insufficiency or sleeplessness, is the condition of not having adequate duration and/or quality of sleep to support decent alertness, performance, and health. It can be either chronic or acute and may vary widely in severity.

Sleep deprivation
SpecialtySleep medicine
SymptomsNot enough sleep, low-quality sleep, poor memory, fatigue
ComplicationsCar and work accidents, weight gain, cardiovascular disease
CausesInsomnia, sleep apnea, voluntary imposition (school, work), mood disorders
TreatmentSleep hygiene, talk therapy, caffeine (to induce alertness), sleeping pills

Acute sleep deprivation is when an individual sleeps less than usual or does not sleep at all for a short period of time – usually lasting one to two days. Chronic sleep deprivation means when an individual routinely sleeps less than an optimal amount for ideal functioning. Chronic sleep deficiency is often confused with the term insomnia. Although both chronic sleep deficiency and insomnia share decreased quantity and/or quality of sleep as well as impaired function, their difference lies on the ability to fall asleep. Sleep deprived individuals are able to fall asleep rapidly when allowed but those suffering from insomnia have difficulty falling asleep.[1]

A chronic sleep-restricted state adversely affects the brain and cognitive function.[2] However, in a subset of cases, sleep deprivation can paradoxically lead to increased energy and alertness and enhanced mood; although its long-term consequences have never been evaluated, sleep deprivation has even been used as a treatment for depression.[3][4]

Few studies have compared the effects of acute total sleep deprivation and chronic partial sleep restriction.[2] A complete absence of sleep over a long period is not frequent in humans (unless they suffer from fatal insomnia or specific issues caused by surgery); it appears that brief microsleeps cannot be avoided.[5] Long-term total sleep deprivation has caused death in lab animals.[6]