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Sleep Deprivation: Causes And Solutions

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Sleep is very important for humans as sleep has important homeostatic functions. Sleep provides rest to a person after a tiring day (McEwen, 2006). However, there are some people who are facing the problem of not getting enough sleep, which is also known as sleep deprivation. Next, sleep deprivation will negatively affect the human’s brain and bodily systems. Sleep deprivation can occur due to depression, hectic lifestyle, or anxiety (McEwen, 2006). Other than that, a person who faces chronic sleep deprivation will impair their brain functions and bring allostatic load to their body (McEwen, 2006). Allostatic load is referring to the cumulative wear and tear on body systems caused by too much stress or inefficient management of the systems (McEwen, 2006). Moreover, sleep deprivation also known as short sleep, which is represented by the sleeping time that is fewer than the average human sleep time which is almost 7 to 8 hours of sleeping in one night for an adult (Altevogt & Colten, 2006) and almost 9 hours for teenagers in one night (Acebo & Jenni, 2004). This paper will be discussing the causes of sleep deprivation, the effects of sleep deprivation and the solutions to prevent sleep deprivation in one’s lives.

One of the causes of sleep deprivation is the misuse of electronic devices in daily life. Most of us use electronic media to pacify us at night and to aid in sleeping. But the truth is that luminous display of electronic devices such as smartphones, television and laptops may affect our body’s internal clock which might result in delayed sleep (Abbey, Walter & Frank, 2011). Besides, when interacting with novelty content on social media, for example, Facebook, Twitter or Instagram before we sleep, it could lead us to stay alert and it takes time to unwind. According to Massimini et al (as cited in Abbey, Walter & Frank, 2011), the majority of college students who used smartphones in bed in the past 7 days had lost at least one day’s worth of sleep. A smartphone is not only a preferred communication tool with friends but also a good entertainment tool. The addiction to watching videos on Youtube, playing video games and surfing the internet by using smartphone may reduce their sleeping time, add up to greater next-day tiredness and feel more stressful.

Another cause of sleep deprivation is stress within our daily life. For example, concerns about family, finances and studies will keep us awake and have difficulty falling asleep (Singh, 2016). Besides, it also may affect our emotion, health and behavior which makes us less mentally sharp during our work or study, which results in reducing our work or study performance. According to Steve, (as cited in Singh, 2016) the correct amount of stress can be a positive force to make us do our best but too much of it will make us anxious and cause sleep deprivation. Not only daily life brings stress for us but also the unexpected news, for example, death or illness of a loved one, divorce or a job loss may also lead to insomnia (Singh, 2016). In conclusion, we may have difficulty to fall asleep if our stress level are raised, as our body is in fight or flight mode on a physiological level, ready to solve whatever problem is coming in our way.

Sleep deprivation trigger some effects or consequences to the patient. One of the effects were death due to automobile accident on the road. According to the research of Bartel (as cited in Aldrich, 1989), 13% of automobile accidents in United States were due to falling asleep on the wheel each year. Aldrich (1989) stated that “In susceptible persons, falling asleep and excessive sleepiness are most likely to occur during long-distance driving in low traffic-a monotonous task with little motor activity” (Aldrich, 1989, p.487). Sleep deprivation is the syndrome of sleep-related disorder such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and others (Aldrich, 1989). Based on the finding of Aldrich (1989), both male and female narcolepsy patients are affected by sleep deprivation heavily where both of their mean duration of sleepiness are 16.1 years. This situation then placed narcolepsy patients on the highest population in motor vehicle accidents due to sleepiness (Aldrich, 1989). Also, 72% of male and 74% female narcolepsy patients experienced sleepiness before accidents occurred (Aldrich, 1989). The research noted that people with lower sleep latency had higher involvement in automobile accidents than those with higher sleep latency (Aldrich, 1989). This mean that victims who fall asleep in shorter durations have higher probability in experiencing an automobile accident. From the finding above, it is concluded that narcolepsy was the most affected sleep disease among the sleep-deprivation syndrome patients and contribute as one of the fatal factors to motor vehicle accidents.

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Besides that, sleep deprivation has been found to reduce the quality of academic performances. Chervin and Hershner (2014)’s study found that seventy point eight percent of college students have less than eight hours of sleeping time. “Sleepiness and irregular sleep schedules have many unintended consequences, one of which is to negatively impact learning, memory, and performance” (Chervin & Hershner, 2014, p.75). This study show that the sleep deprivation problem influenced the development of learning process among college students. One of the reasons is the irregular development of circadian system in body which functions as a sleep or wake cycle regulator (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). The circadian preference of adolescent and adult tend to be shorter compared to teen and children (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). However, the teen and children who usually become ‘night owls’ and sleep late in the long run influence the original growth of the circadian system (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). Thus, the circadian system among the young tend to be delayed and the effect becomes obvious during their growth (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). “Among first-year university students, sleep patterns also influenced GPA; each hour delay in weekday or weekend rise time decreased the GPA by 0.132/4.0 and 0.115/4.0, respectively” (Chervin & Hershner, 2014, p.78). This result illustrates that the sleep pattern of college students impact their CGPA result (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). The disorder of circadian rhythm causes the students to miss morning classes due to delayed wake-up (Chervin & Hershner, 2014). The late students felt difficult to catch up with the lessons in class and their academic performance became worse. Friedman et al ‘s study supports that the performance of sleep-deprived students reduced by showing that the sleep deprived students chose to solve less complicated problems when given a set of math problems with varying difficulty, compared with non-sleep deprived category. (Friedman, Riela, Golan, Ventuneac, Davis, Jefferson & Major, 2003).

One of the solutions to improve sleep deprivation is stimulus control therapy (SCT). Stimulus control therapy in general functions to improve the association between bed and sleep among patients with sleep problems, as well as dissociate the bed from other non-sleep related behaviors (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). Some non-sleep related behaviors include binge eating, television watching and accumulating anxiety from the inability to fall asleep (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). Bootzin (as cited in Bootzin & Epstein, 2011) have developed a set of rules governing SCT, which in essence, goes as follows:

  1. The patient should only sleep when sleepy.
  2. The patient may only use the bed for sleep or sex.
  3. If the patient is unable to fall asleep in the early stages of attempting sleep, the patient should leave the bedroom. The patient may only return when sleepiness is significant.
  4. The patient should repeat Step 3 throughout the night as needed.
  5. The patient should wake up at a certain time consistently, regardless of how much sleep the patient was able to get in the prior night.
  6. The patient should avoid daytime naps.

Patients who are sleep-problematic that undergo SCT will be able to experience improved sleep on a long term basis. This can be constituted to the fact that the patients will be able to form better sleep routines from repeated use of SCT (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). Morin et al. (as cited in Bootzin & Epstein, 2011) notes that SCT has been found to be arguably the most competent singular treatment strategy for patients dealing with insomnia. People who regularly use electronic gadgets may incorporate SCT into their daily sleep routine to help detach themselves from using it in bed. SCT will allow them to set healthy sleeping habits.

Another solution to curb sleep deprivation is sleep restriction therapy. According to Spielman et al. (as cited in Siebern, Suh & Nowakowski, 2012), sleep restriction therapy (SRT) involves restricting the amount of time spent attempting to sleep to the amount of actual sleep time, which is dependent on typically 7 to 14 days worth of sleep journal information. Information extracted from the sleep journal will be used to determine the patient’s average sleep time (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). A wake time and bedtime will be set by the therapist, where the duration between wake time and bedtime will be the average sleep time initially determined (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). This aids in consolidating sleep by making use of the homeostatic sleep drive as the patient initially receives less bedtime than usual (Siebern et al., 2012). As therapy progresses, the bedtime will be set 15 or 30 minutes earlier every week (Bootzin & Epstein, 2011). The sleep period will eventually be increased to a healthy value that allows the patient to not be sleep deprived throughout the day. According to Spielman & Glovinsky (as cited in Bootzin & Epstein, 2011), the suitable length of treatment should be 8 weeks. It is also precautionary to mention that the therapist should not prescribe less than five hours of attempted sleep time to avoid health risks, regardless of the actual time spent asleep as determined in the sleep journal (Siebern et al., 2012). This form of therapy will be suitable for stressed individuals such as students, single parents and working professionals. As they tend to bring their stressful thoughts to the bedroom, they may spend most of their time focusing on their negative thoughts rather than relaxing and calming themselves to sleep. SRT ensures individuals do not attempt to sleep in a stressful state. Instead, they are encouraged to sleep only when extending their wake hours to exhaustion.

Sleep deprivation affects many working individuals and students. Sleep deprivation occurs due to many factors such as stress, a hectic schedule and sleep disorders. People with sleep deprivation are encouraged to change their lifestyle to aid in better sleep. For the minority that suffer from chronic sleep disorders, they are encouraged to seek medical or professional advice. The act of seeking medical help or normal help from friends would dramatically increase their chances of coping or potentially curing their sleep problems. People with chronic conditions can be rest assured that doctors that specialise in sleep have special treatment plans for patients, whether it be pharmacological treatment or physiological treatment. It is vital that people with sleep disorders understand the need to seek treatment, otherwise they would have to deal with negative consequences in life such as poor academic performance and higher chance of being involved in accidents. By reducing the occurrence of sleep deprivation in one’s life, they will be able to lead a more productive, less stressful and happier life.

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Sleep Deprivation: Causes And Solutions. (2021, August 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved December 8, 2023, from
“Sleep Deprivation: Causes And Solutions.” Edubirdie, 17 Aug. 2021,
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Sleep Deprivation: Causes And Solutions [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2021 Aug 17 [cited 2023 Dec 8]. Available from:
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