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How To Know If You're Sleep Deprived?

How to know if you’re sleep deprived or just plain old tired? Let’s find out!

How to know if you’re sleep-deprived? It’s definitely not as easy as it might seem. Or is it?

Just because your eyes are heavy and you’re yawning doesn’t mean you have a problem. It could just mean you didn’t get enough sleep last night and are now suffering the consequences. But, why does this even matter? Just go to sleep, right?

Well, no. There’s a big difference between being tired and sleepy and being sleep-deprived. One of these can be solved with about eight hours of good night’s sleep, and the other requires a bit more work.

So, without further ado – let’s learn how you can tell if you’re sleep deprived or just plain old tired.

Table of Contents
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    What is sleep deprivation?

    To put it as simply as possible, sleep deprivation refers to sleeping less than you should. As simple as that. In other words, if you’re sleeping five hours instead of eight – you should be, by definition, sleep deprived (as most adults are).

    But then again, how is that any different than being sleepy because you’ve watched Netflix till 3 am even though you knew you had to get up at 7 am to go to work. Well, in a way it’s not that different, but it kind of is. We know, it’s confusing. Let us try and make it a bit clearer.

    First things first – understanding sleep deprivation is key. We have to comprehend that there are different definitions of sleep deprivation. Some refer to lack of sleep duration, while others focus on the lack of quality sleep.

    An image of a man fallen asleep in his office.

    Additionally, there are different types of sleep deprivation. Three of them to be precise.

    • Acute sleep deprivation
    • Chronic sleep deprivation
    • Chronic sleep deficiency or insufficient sleep

    Acute deprivation is a short-term problem, usually confined to a few days, and it’s almost always referring to a significant deficiency of sleep duration.

    Chronic deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep syndrome, is a medically recognized condition pertaining to both low quality sleep and lack of sleep.

    Finally, chronic sleep deprivation may be defined as continuous sleeplessness, or it can represent a lack of adequate sleep caused by fragmented slumber or other disruptions.

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    What is the cause of sleep deprivation?

    There are many causes of sleep deprivation. Some people may not be getting enough sleep because they have a lot on their mind, or they may have a sleep disorder. It is important to find out the cause of your sleep deprivation so you can treat it effectively.

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    Sleep disorders

    A sleep disorder like sleep apnea could be one of the triggers and causes of sleep deprivation, so it is important to get this treated first and foremost. If you have sleep apnea, your breathing is interrupted while you sleep, which can lead to a number of problems including daytime fatigue, hypertension and more. In this case, sleep deprivation could be the least of your problems.

    an image of a woman suffering from insomnia problems


    We all know that we need less sleep as we age, but did you know that sleep deprivation in the elderly is a real problem? According to some numbers, almost a third of seniors suffer from some form of sleep deprivation. This can be caused by a number of things including poor sleep habits, medications and underlying health conditions.

    Other disorders & conditions

    There are many other disorders and conditions that can lead to sleep deprivation. These include anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and more. If you have any of these conditions, it is important to seek treatment for them as they could cause many other problems in addition to sleep deprivation.

    an image of a depressed woman that cant sleep

    Lifestyle choices

    Certain lifestyle choices can also lead to sleep deprivation. These include working long hours, stressful days, drinking and smoking, binge-watching TV, and more. If you are not getting enough shuteye, it is important to look at your lifestyle and see if there are any changes you can make to improve your sleep.

    Poor sleep hygiene

    In reality, the biggest culprit when it comes to sleep deprivation is often our own poor sleep habits. This includes things like drinking caffeine before bed, watching television in bed or working on the computer in bed. All of these activities can lead to a restless night and make it difficult to fall asleep.

    An image of a young woman closed her eyes.

    Start by making some simple changes to your sleep schedule and habits and see if that makes a difference. If not, you may need to seek help from a sleep specialist to find out what is causing your sleep deprivation and how to treat it effectively.

    Signs of sleep deprivation

    Sleep deprivation can lead to a number of mental and physical health problems, both short- and long-term. If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms or signs, you may have a problem.


    If you find yourself snapping at people for no reason, or getting irritated more easily than usual, you’re probably missing a few hours in bed. Irritability is one of the first signs of sleep deprivation, and it can make it difficult to concentrate or get along with others.

    An image of A man suffering from less creativity and bad mood due to lack of sleep.


    If you are feeling tired all the time and find it hard to stay awake, even if you think you’ve had a good night’s sleep, you may be sleep deprived. Other signs of tiredness include yawning frequently, having difficulty concentrating, and feeling clumsy or uncoordinated.

    An image of a woman practicing breathing techniques.

    Less interest in sex

    Not being interested in your partner is a common symptom of sleep deprivation. To put it simply, when you’re beaten down – nothing’s getting up. The same holds true for women. When you’re tired, sleepy and grumpy – nothing gets you going. So, if you’re experiencing some trouble in paradise, it may just be due to lously sleep.

    An image of a couple making love.

    Taking naps during the day

    While we’re definitely not against daytime naps, if you find yourself needing them more often than usual, it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough shuteye at night. Napping can help improve your mood and energy levels, but if you just have to do it every day, it might be a good idea to talk to your doctor about how to get better sleep at night.

    An image of a man napping on a sofa.

    Drinking a lot of coffee

    If there’s anyone that likes a good cup of coffee – it’s us. However, if you’re drinking more coffee than usual, or relying on it to get through the day, it could be a sign that you need to make some changes. Coffee can help you stay awake and focused, but it’s not a long-term solution to fatigue and can actually make your “condition” worse. Caffeine jitters can cause anxiety, restless legs syndrome, worsen insomnia symptoms, and more.

    An image of a young woman drinking her coffee.

    Late wake up

    If you find that you’re struggling to get out of bed in the morning, or hitting the snooze button more times than you’d like to admit, it could be a sign of sleep deprivation. Our bodies are designed to wake up when it’s light outside, so if you’re having trouble getting up with the sun, it might be time to re-evaluate your sleeping habits.

    an image of morning sunshine wakes up a man

    Late bedtime

    On the other hand, if you find yourself staying up later than usual, that could be a sign that you’re not getting enough rest. Our bodies need time to wind down at the end of the day, and if you’re not giving yourself enough time to do that, it can lead to difficulty falling and staying asleep.

    But also, it’s just about “finding yourself staying up late”. More often than not, we make a decision not to go to sleep so we can watch a movie, work a little bit more, go out for a beer, or do something else that’s more fun than sleeping – none of which are good for us.

    If not treated, sleep deprivation can…

    Sleep deprivation might not seem like a major issue, but if left untreated, it can cause a slew of issues like:

    Weaken immune system

    Poor sleep quality can affect your body’s ability to repair itself. The same thing applies if you don’t get enough sleep. This can lead to a weakened immune system, making you more susceptible to colds and illnesses, amongst many other things.

    Affect cardiovascular system

    We’ve already mentioned high blood pressure and irregular heartbeat, but not getting enough sleep could lead to a more serious cardiovascular disease or even a heart attack. And, it’s not just us saying it. The actual results from the National Health Interview Survey are linking reduced sleep duration with heart disease.

    An image of a young woman having cardiovascular problems.

    Affect hormones

    Lack of sleep can disrupt your body’s natural hormone balance, which can lead to weight gain, daytime drowsiness, mood swings, and an increased risk to a number of other issues.

    Affect brain function

    One of the most important things to realize is how does sleep deprivation affect the brain. When we’re fatigued and tired from the lack of sleep, our brains have a hard time concentrating, making decisions, and processing information. This can lead to all sorts of problems and a general decline in brain functionality.

    Make you feel drained

    This one is pretty self-explanatory. Too little sleep will have you feeling exhausted, both mentally and physically. You might find yourself feeling sluggish, unmotivated, and just generally not up for anything, which will negatively affect every aspect of your life. It’s okay to feel drowsy sometimes – but not always.

    An image of a woman being tired due to sleep debt.

    Cause mental problems

    Sleep deprivation has been linked to a number of mental health problems, as well as emotional health problems, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia. It’s important to mention that if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional – not just chuck them away because they’re “sleep-related”.

    Lead to more serious health problems

    As you can see, sleep deprivation can cause a number of serious health problems. If left untreated, it can lead to things like heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It’s important to get help if you think you might be suffering from sleep deprivation, as it’s not something that should be taken lightly. Diagnose sleep deprivation with your doctor, and then proceed to treat it.

    How to get rid of sleep deprivation?

    One thing most people do when they’re deprived of sleep is try to get enough quality sleep over the weekend, to pay off their sleep debt. However, getting a few extra hours of sleep once or twice a week just won’t cut it.

    So, here’s what you’ll do to prevent sleep deprivation or get rid of it completely.

    Admit you have a problem

    The best way to know for sure is to track your sleep habits for a week. Keep a sleep diary and make note of how much sleep you get each night as well as how tired you feel during the day. If you’re consistently sleeping for less than seven hours a night and feel tired during the day, you probably have a problem.

    Everyday exercising

    One of the things sleep-deprived people should do is exercise regularly. Exercise helps improve your physical and mental health as well as your quality of sleep. It also helps reduce stress, which can be a major contributor to sleep problems. Just make sure you don’t workout too hard too late. If you do, there’s a good chance you won’t be able to rest properly.

    An image of a couple stretching and exercising in the morning.

    Avoiding alcohol, stimulants & drugs

    Coffee, beer, wine, alcohol, and even some sleep medicine, can all make sleep deprivation worse. These substances can make it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep. If you’re struggling to get sufficient sleep, avoid all of these.

    A male's hand over the glass of alcohol.

    Eating a healthy diet

    What you eat can have a big impact on your quality of sleep. Eating a healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains can help you sleep better. Avoiding sugary and fatty foods can also help combat the effects of sleep deprivation.

    an image of food that is rich in magnesium

    Practice healthy sleep hygiene

    If you’re having trouble sleeping, one of the best things you can do is practice healthy sleep hygiene. That means going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, having a relaxing bedtime routine, avoiding stress and blue light before bed, etc. This will help regulate your body’s natural sleep patterns and make it easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

    Sticking to a program like this one can be difficult, but it’s worth it if you’re struggling with sleep deprivation.

    An image of a happy young man due to healthy sleep hygiene.

    Reducing screen time

    This might be one of the hardest things to do, but you just have to do it if you want to get back to sleeping healthily.

    Screen time refers to the amount of time you spend looking at screens, such as computers, phones, and TVs. This exposure can stimulate your brain and make it harder to fall asleep.

    There are a few things you can do to reduce your screen time, like…

    an image of electronic gadgets that disrupt your sleep

    No electronics before bed

    Not playing with your phone or binge-watching Netflix in bed is a must! You should create a rule for yourself that you’ll only use your bed for sleep and those extracurricular bed activities if you catch our drift. If you manage to avoid electronic devices and screens before bedtime, you will certainly sleep better. Try it for just one night – we promise you you’ll notice the results right away.

    an image of a hand leaving a smartphone on a nightdesk

    Optimizing sleep environment

    Finally, do all you can do to optimize your sleeping environment. This means making sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, and cool. You might also want to invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, as well as blackout curtains, white noise machines, earplugs or even noise-cancelling earphones.

    An an ideal sleeping environment.
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