Man sleeping with his head resting on his hand

Sleep Deprivation | Risk To Life or Just Plain Annoying?

Sleep Deprivation | Risk To Life or Just Plain Annoying? We all know how important sleep is to be able to function on a daily basis. What happens though when we don’t get enough sleep? Lack of sleep can cause many issues, ranging from bad moods right up to heart attacks. As a lack of sleep sufferer myself, I look into this further.

Are There Different Types of Sleep Deprivation?

We’ve all experienced a bad night’s sleep and this is quite normal but even one night’s bad sleep can affect our mood right. Sleep deprivation, also known as insufficient sleep or sleeplessness, is when you have not had enough sleep. This can be chronic or acute and can vary in severity.

Many of us are so busy in life, sleep can feel like an inconvenience. I know I have felt that a few times. We think having one hour less sleep will help us achieve more the following day. Actually, it will most likely have the opposite effect. Having one night’s lack of sleep isn’t all that terrible but on the same token, it can still affect your mood. It can make you feel more tired, sluggish and unproductive.

Acute Sleep Deprivation: This is when you have no sleep or a reduction in your total sleep time, lasting one or two days.
Chronic Sleep Deprivation: This is when you routinely sleep less than the amount of time required for optimal functioning. (This is what I suffer with).

Amount of Sleep Required For Optimal Functioning:

  • 3 to 5 years -10 to 13 hours per 24 hours, including naps
  • 6 to 12 years – 9 to 12 hours per 24 hours
  • 13 to 18 years – 8 to 10 hours per 24 hours
  • Adults – 7 or more hours a night

In addition to age, other factors can affect how many hours of sleep you need. For example:

  • Sleep quality. If your sleep is frequently interrupted, you’re not getting quality sleep. The quality of your sleep is just as important as the quantity.
  • Previous sleep deprivation. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.
  • Pregnancy. Changes in hormone levels and physical discomfort can result in poor sleep quality.
  • Ageing. Older adults need about the same amount of sleep as younger adults. As you get older, however, your sleeping patterns might change. Older adults tend to sleep more lightly, take longer to start sleeping and sleep for shorter time spans than younger adults. Older adults also tend to wake up multiple times during the night.

Of course, if you have any concerns, please see your own GP for more advice and help.

Source: Mayo Clinic

Chronic Sleep

Chronic sleep can have a serious effect on your mental and physical health.  Having a good night’s sleep is imperative so your body can heal and repair itself.  This can include your heart and blood vessels.  It also gives your immune and cardiovascular systems a rest and allows other organs to be restored. 

Research claims that those of us who frequently get fewer than six hours a night’s sleep (that’s me) are significantly more at risk of having a stroke or heart disease.  There is evidence that not sleeping enough may ramp up the “fight or flight” response to stress, which then releases hormones that speed up our heart rate and raises our blood pressure.

Hmm, not good for someone like myself then who has already had a heart attack and now living with heart failure! Thankfully the amount of sleep I’m getting is starting to improve.

If you are having poor sleep regularly, you are also at risk of serious medical conditions, which can include obesity and diabetes. Lack of sleep can increase insulin resistance, contributing to an increased risk of getting type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Lack of sleep (sleep deprivation) obviously causes tiredness. This will have an impact on some people’s driving ability, reaction times and judgement. So don’t go making any financial or life-changing decisions.

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep Deprivation | Risk To Life or Just Plain Annoying? - Symptoms of sleep deprivation

Out of the 12 named above, I would say that I experience at least 10 of them daily.

What Can Cause Sleep Deprivation

Many things can cause sleep deprivation, including, stress, depression, poor eating habits, illness, disabilities or sleep apnea to name a few. The odd night’s bad sleep is not a health risk but chronic poor sleep can be. The likelihood is that you could develop dementia, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even cancers of the breast, colon, ovaries and prostate.

We all know how sleep loss can affect our ability to function like daily tasks, working and driving. It is extremely important to get enough sleep to not only complete our daily tasks but driving/machinery can cause deaths if we are too tired to operate them properly.

How Can You Improve Your Sleep?

Unfortunately, there is no magic cure but (and I say this lightly as this won’t solve or help everyone’s lack of sleep) a few life changes could be all you need to do to improve your sleep pattern. For example:

  • Keeping all electronic devices out of your bedroom that you would be tempted to use, laptops, TVs, mobile phones (of course, some of us NEED to have ours close to us at night)
  • Keep your bedroom cool, dark and quiet
  • Make sure your bed is as comfortable and up-to-date as possible (I know my mattress is partly the reason for my lack of sleep, thankfully new one coming soon)
  • Avoid foods & drinks that hinder your sleep. – Caffeine etc.
  • Stop using screen time for at least an hour before going to bed.
  • Take a warm bath with soothing scents and why not put on some relaxing music too (as long as it’s quiet though)
  • Reading, this is known to put many people to sleep
  • Go to bed at the same time each night. Get into a good routine
  • Diet, obviously a good varied healthy diet will help your health all round

My Experience of Sleep Deprivation

My experience of sleep deprivation is awful. You do believe you are going insane. Mine started (unknowingly to me) due to my mattress. I had constant pain in my hips and back. I would spend the night (and still do) tossing and turning throughout the night. I’d lie on my side, 5 minutes later, on my back, again 5 minutes later on my other side. This rotation just went on & on & on all through the night. Turning from side to side means I have to sit up to do this, so I was constantly being woken up. I have been like this for a very very long time.

Ironically, I didn’t connect my pain to my mattress, although this is not the only reason for my pain. See, lack of sleep makes your mind do strange things. Anyway, My daughter kindly offered us to try her mattress to see if there was any difference. I was so surprised when it did. Well that was it, a new mattress was definitely on the cards!ves tomorrow, (at the time of writing this) so fingers crossed it makes a world of difference to my sleep.

I suffer from brain fog resulting from my heart attack 6 years ago, this was really improving until my lack of sleep started well over a year ago. My lack of sleep/brain fog can now make me stop mid sentence as I will forget what I was talking about or what I was about to say. Retaining information can be very difficult, I have a real problem remembering people’s names. I mean worse than I used to be haha.

My Mood

My moods would be terrible. Well I say moods but in reality I probably only had two moods…..Anger and frustration! I felt so angry all of the time (thankfully it’s getting better). I think some of my anger still stems from my heart attack and how I was treated by certain medical staff, departments (a story for another time).

As we have been using our daughter’s mattress, my sleep is improving and therefore, so is my mood. Much to my family’s relief. I would get so snappy and constantly moan about the smallest of things and at times felt so much frustration and anger it worried me. I would get so frustrated when I couldn’t function how I wanted. My mind would get so foggy about different details and what I wanted to say. Stupid words would completely evaid my mind. (Probably why my blogging slowed right down).

I would forget appointments, arangements with friends, thankfully my hubby was around to remind me. The downside to this though was it only highlighted how bad my mind was getting which would make me angry with myself and take it out on others!


Oh boy, tired? I felt I could sleep for a month and still not feel like I had any sleep. Fatigue is pretty awful to say the least. My body ached all day/night, painkillers never really help. I felt like everything was very difficult to do. My limbs felt a tonne wieght making the simplest of tasks harder and longer to do. I was so fed up feeling tired all the time, I didn’t want to socialise with anyone, even my family. I bascially lost interest in everything, music, reading, learning, blogging, everything I used to love to do was now my worst nightmare!

My anxiety got worse, which then made my IBS worse which only made me want to stay home all the more. Isolation was setting in.

Then the worst news I could have imagined getting, I got. I was diagnosed with breast cancer!

Breast Cancer

If I thought things were bad before, they just got a whole lot worse. I’m not going to go into it here and now as you can read my breast cancer journey here. What I will say though, is I spent the next 12 months running on empty and auto pilot. Going through something like this gives you no time to think or deal with your emotions. Everything moves at such a fast pace (ovbiously) so you feel like you are constantly on the go mentally & physically.

Thankfully, after a wonderful team of experts, 2 surgeries and Radiotherapy, I have now been given the all clear. I did mention above how chronic lack of sleep can cause some cancers, it does beg the question if this contributed in any way to mine. (I had something I wanted to add here but becasue I quickly edited a section above, I have completely forgotten what I wanted to add. So frustrating)!


Just as our bodies need food and water to keep healthy and in proper working order, it also needs sleep. Sleep enables our bodies to heal itself and restore chemical balance. It helps our brains to forge new thought connections and helps memory retention. Makes sense then why lack of sleep exasperates memory loss. It also does a wonderful thing of lifting our moods and making us happy.

If you don’t get enough sleep, everything previously mentioned can and will only cause poor qulity of life, I know, I’m living it.


The Sleep Charity
Mayo Clinic

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