Iowa Sleep Blog

What It Means to Be Sleep Deprived

Monday, September 07, 2015

Many of us wake up in the morning feeling, well, not well rested. In fact, more than 48 percent of people in the U.S. say they are not getting enough sleep at night. But, there is a difference between not sleeping well during a stressful week at work and consistently not sleeping well night after night. When you continually skimp on sleep is when your body becomes sleep deprived.

It’s easy to say you’re “feeling sleep deprived,” but what does that actually mean? Sleep deprivation is the condition of not having enough sleep to function at your highest capacity. The National Sleep Foundation says that adults should be getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night, and teenagers should hit the pillow for 8-10 hours. When you are getting less sleep than the recommended amount over a consistent period of time, you are considered sleep deprived.

When we start depriving our bodies of sleep, they compensate in other ways, such as:

  • Increased appetite – Production levels of ghrelin increase, as our body tries get the energy it is lacking from sleep from our food intake. This is why we crave sweets and fatty foods when we’re tired.
  • Raised emotions – When you’re not sleeping well, sometimes it doesn’t take much to set off the wave of emotions whether it is tears or a laughing fit.
  • Memory loss – Your brain doesn’t have time to process and store your memories, making you forget easily.
  • Sluggish motor skills & slower decision making skills – When you’re tired, there is a lapse in your brain that can make you feel clumsier and delay your reaction time. You also may feel more impulsive in making decisions.
  • Weakened immune system – Your body needs the time during sleep to repair tissue and perform essential body functions that keep us up and moving. When you’re not sleeping, your body doesn’t have time to complete these function, making you more susceptible to disease and make it harder to fight off infections.

When your body becomes sleep deprived, you are also putting yourself at risk to becoming sleep deficient. Sleep deficiency is a broader concept than just being sleep deprived. When you’re also experiencing sleep deficiency, you tend to sleep at wrong times during the day and become out of sync with your body’s natural clock. You also don’t sleep well or may have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor sleep.

If you or someone you know has been struggling to sleep – and sleep well – each night, we encourage you to read though some of our resource pages or utilize our Send a Question page to ask one of our doctors about any sleep issues you may be experiencing. Our doctors strive to provide the best possible experience to learn why you aren’t sleep well and help make adjustments to help you sleep better.