Sleep Deprivation

Excessive daytime sleepiness is a serious consequence of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation results from an insufficient amount of sleep or poor sleep due to difficulty sleeping, disruptions and/or a sleep disorder. When you do not get enough quality sleep, you are unable to be as alert during waking hours and your quality of life suffers.

A sizable portion—37%—of American adults report daytime sleepiness that interferes with their daily activities a few times per month; nearly 16% state that this happens at least a few days a week.

Among those who are 18-29 years of age, 44% report daytime sleepiness a few days a month.

Cognitive abilities and mood are affected by sleep deprivation.

Recent studies indicate that memory is impaired unless at least 6, preferably 8 hours of consolidated sleep, is experienced close to the time of learning.

Do not delay sleep: it appears that sleep "nails down" what is learned. Paying attention to tasks and the ability to perform well, particularly after a period of time, becomes more difficult and safety may also be compromised when you are sleep deprived.

It becomes increasingly hard to stay focused, complete a task, make decisions or think clearly. Children, in particular, become irritable, restless, moody and may lose control.

In a recent poll, those who slept less than 6 hours each night were more likely to report negative moods such as feeling tired, sad, stressed or angry whereas those who obtained more sleep were more optimistic and satisfied with life. Over ½ of adults report that sleepiness makes it more difficult to concentrate, solve problems and make decisions at work.

Some types of sleep disorders also put us at risk for anxiety and depression.

Safety is compromised.

One of the most serious consequences of sleep deprivation is driving drowsy – leading to injury, and possibly, death.

Approximately 100,000 sleep-related crashes are reported each year, resulting in 1,500 fatalities. In a recent NSF poll, 51% of American adults reported driving drowsy in the last year and 17% stated that they had actually dozed off at the wheel.

It is interesting to note that after 17-19 hours without sleep, performance at the wheel is equal to being legally drunk. Important fatigue signs to watch for while driving are difficulty remaining alert or keeping your eyes on the road, shifting to another lane, yawning repeatedly and daydreaming.

Productivity, performance, difficulty completing a task and making errors are all signs of sleep deprivation on the job. Over ¼ of American adults report feeling sleepy at work at least 2 days a week and 19% state that they have made errors due to sleepiness. Fatigue on the job has been considered as a contributing factor to major disasters such as Three Mile Island, the Exxon Valdez spill and the Challenger Space Shuttle disaster.

-National Sleep Foundation