The 5 Stages Of Sleep Deprivation (And Tips To Improve Sleep Quality)

 / 

,
Stages Of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can significantly impact your health. Learn what is sleep deprivation, the stages of sleep deprivation, the health risks associated with each stage, and how to improve your sleep health.

What is Sleep Deprivation

As per sleep and health experts, adults need at least 7-8 hours of sleep every night. Sleeping less than 7 hours or not sleeping at all is called sleep deprivation. According to research, sleep deprivation is associated with a wide range of physical, cognitive, and mental health issues. 

Sleep deprivation is one of the most common issues faced by Gen Z and millennials, the most stressed-out generation right now. Not just hectic work schedules but excessive use of social media, workplace woes, sedentary lifestyle, unrealistic expectations, and mental health issues are the most common causes of stress and sleep deprivation in millennials and Gen Z individuals. 

What causes sleeplessness at night?

Different causes of sleep deprivation are as follows:

  • Work stress
  • Noisy sleeping environment 
  • Screen time before bed 
  • Stress, anxiety, and depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Health issues like sleep apnea, chronic pain, chronic fatigue, and bipolar disorder.

This article covers different stages of sleep deprivation and the health risks associated with it. Health issues tend to worsen, the longer you stay awake. The sleep deprivation timeline is generally divided into 12-hour or 24-hour increments.

Read The Creative Power Of Your Sleep: 10 Easy Practices

5 Stages of Sleep Deprivation

Stage 1: After 24 hours

Most people with hectic work schedules like surgeons and nurses or parents taking care of a sick child or students preparing for exams may often miss sleep for around or even more than 24 hours. It’s common to feel tired, but it is not associated with any serious health issues. 

But not sleeping for 24 hours is the same as having a blood alcohol concentration of 0.10 % which is higher than the limit to legally drive (0.08%) in all states in the US. In short, drowsy driving is similar to drunk driving. 

Common health symptoms of sleep deprivation for 24 hours:

  • Irritability
  • Anger
  • Drowsiness
  • High risk of stress
  • Decreased alertness
  • Brain fog
  • Low concentration
  • Fatigue
  • Tremors
  • Puffy eyes or dark undereye circles
  • Risk of accidents while driving
  • Food cravings 
Kids who sleep with their pet enjoy better sleep quality

Read The 3 Most Popular Sleeping Positions And Their Health Impacts

Stage 2: After 36 hours

Staying awake for 36 hours leads to an overwhelming urge to sleep and brief periods of sleep that occur involuntarily. 36 hours of sleep deprivation affects communication between different parts of the brain, which in turn impairs cognitive performance. Not sleeping for so long also causes hormonal imbalance, which disturbs several bodily functions. 

Common health symptoms of sleep deprivation for 36 hours:

  • Behavioral changes
  • Risky decision-making
  • Impaired memory
  • Difficulty processing social cues
  • Slow reaction time
  • Increased errors
  • Difficulty learning new information
  • increased inflammation
  • Impaired immune function
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Increases appetite
  • Speech impairment such as poor word choice 

Stage 3: After 48 hours

After staying awake for 48 hours it is harder to stay awake and you are highly likely to experience microsleep (the brain is in a sleep-like state) that can last up to 30 seconds. After microsleep, you feel more confused and disoriented. You may tend to see or hear things that aren’t actually there. 

Do you know 48 hours of sleep deprivation may also disrupt the immune system? Inflammatory markers that protect our body from target illnesses start to circulate at increased levels. According to research, the natural killer (NK) cells in our body – that protect us from bacteria or viruses – have decreased activity after sleep deprivation. 

Common health symptoms of sleep deprivation for 48 hours:

  • Anxiety
  • High stress levels
  • Increased irritability
  • Depersonalization
  • Extreme fatigue

Stage 4: Awake for 72 hours

After staying awake for 72 hours, you have the urge to sleep like dead meat. You tend to experience more frequent and longer periods of microsleep, impaired perception of reality, hallucinations, and limited ability to perform executive functions like paying attention or multitasking, or completing even simple tasks. 

Emotions are affected and you may be easily irritated. According to research sleep deprivation decreases your ability to understand others’ emotions. In one study, participants who didn’t sleep for 30 hours were unable to recognize angry and happy facial expressions.

Common health symptoms of sleep deprivation for 72 hours

  • Depressed mood
  • Anxiety or paranoia
  • Disordered thinking
  • Illusions
  • Delusions
  • Depersonalization

Stage 5: Awake for 96 hours or more

This is an excessive sleep deprivation stage that occurs mainly due to chronic insomnia or events of trauma. After 4 days of sleep loss, you will have an overwhelming urge to sleep and may become easily irritated. Staying awake for 96 hours significantly alters perception. Many find it difficult to stay awake on their own. 

Common health symptoms of sleep deprivation for 96 hours:

  • Unbearable urge for sleep.
  • Distorted perception of reality also refers to sleep deprivation psychosis
  • Risk of sleep deprivation psychosis

Treatment for sleep deprivation

  • Over-the-counter (OTC) sleep aids for occasional sleepless night
  • Sleeping pills prescribed by the doctor
  • Practice a healthy sleep hygiene
  • Short naps helps recover from loss of few hours of sleep
  • Your doctor may recommend light therapy that helps reset your internal body clock
  • Use of breathing device for sleep deprivation caused by breathing problems, especially for people with sleep apnea

Read 8 Surprising Health Benefits Of Sleeping On Your Left Side

Tips to improve your quality of sleep

You can recover from sleep deprivation by sleeping more or maintaining 7-8 hours of sleep daily. 1 hour of sleep deprivation requires 4 days to recover. For those with bouts of sleep deprivation may require days and weeks of good quality rest. Below are some tips to improve your sleep hygiene and sleep quality.

1. Reduce screen time

Smartphones emit a blue light that suppresses melatonin, the hormone that controls the sleep-wake cycle. Therefore, high screen time before bed can delay sleep, cause insomnia, tiredness, and irritation. 

Read How Screen Time Affects Quality Of Sleep And Overall Health of Young Adults

2. Exercise regularly

Daily exercise of 20-30 minutes can improve your ability to sleep at night. It is healthy to exercise 5-6 hours before bedtime.

Self-compassionate People Have Better Sleep

3. Avoid caffeinated drinks before bed

Excess consumption of caffeinated drinks can cause jitters, increase brain alertness, confusion, headaches, and irritability. This can affect your quality of sleep or cause sleep deprivation over time. It takes 6 hours for caffeine to wear off, so try to take the last cup before noon. 

4. Avoid alcohol before bed

Drinking too much alcohol before bed may help you sleep, but the quality of sleep will be very poor according to research.

5. Create a calming bedtime routine

Practice a relaxing activity that you would like to do every day before bed. It can be anything like meditation, a hot or cold shower, reading a book, or eating a fruit that will calm your mind and prepare you for sleep.

6. Modify your sleep environment 

Create a relaxing atmosphere in your room. Maintain the temperature of your bedroom at 16 to 19°C. Choose a mattress and pillow that help you sleep in your preferred sleeping position. 

Read Segmented Sleep: Psychological and Behavioral Implications

Takeaway 

There are five stages of sleep deprivation and the first stage occurs within 24 hours followed by 36 hours, 48 hours, 72 hours, and 96 hours. Not sleeping for 24 hours is bearable and is not associated with significant health issues. Staying awake for more than 24 hours leads to confusion, poor perception of reality, illusions, and impairment of cognitive functions. Not sleeping for 3-4 days impairs behavioral, physical, cognitive, and mental health. Maintaining a recommended sleep time will help you prevent sleep deprivation and its health consequences. 

If your sleep deprivation is causing severe mood changes or health issues so much that it affects your daily life functioning, please consult your doctor immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long does it take sleep deprivation to cause blindness? 

If you are having less than 7-8 hours of sleep every day you may experience several eye complications. Blindness may occur when the blood flow to the optic nerve is interrupted, just as stroke disturbs blood flow to the brain. When the optic nerve is irreversibly damaged, it causes blindness.

Does sleep deprivation cause hallucinations?

If you are awake for 48 hours or more you may start hallucinating. When you are awake for 72 hours or more, it will significantly impair your perception and you may have illusions and delusions. Your hallucinations may become more complex if you are awake for more than 96 hours.

Does sleep deprivation cause depression?

Sleeplessness or insomnia is one of the characteristics of depression.  A lack of sleep due to personal or professional reasons or medical problems can worsen existing depression.

How does sleep loss affect us and what are the major sleep disorders? 

Sleep loss affects both physical health and mental health. Some of the major sleep disorders are – insomnia, narcolepsy,  restless legs syndrome, and sleep apnea. 

Stages Of Sleep Deprivation pinex
Stages Of Sleep Deprivation pin

— Share —

— About the Author —

Leave a Reply



Up Next

9 Fun and Effective Exercises For Brain Health To Keep Your Mind Sharp

Fun Exercises For Brain Health To Keep Your Mind Sharp

Ever wonder how to keep your brain in top shape? Welcome to the gym for your mind! Let’s flex those mental muscles and discover the key to a sharper, healthier mind with the best exercises for brain health.

In a world where physical fitness often takes the spotlight, it’s time to shine a light on exercises that pump up your brain. There are certain brain exercises that can increase brain health, and boost cognitive function & mental agility.

Practicing brain exercises regularly can do wonders for your mind’s health, helping you stay sharp, focused, and mentally agile. So grab your mental sweatband, because we’ve got all the brain-boosting moves you need to unleash your inner genius. 

Best Ex



Up Next

30+ Truths About Diet Culture, Eating Disorders, And The Process of Healing

Honest Truths About Diet Culture And Eating Disorders

Diet culture impacts so many people all over the world, and unfortunately, much of it’s impact is negative and harmful. If you are struggling with an eating disorder, then you’ve come to the right place. These truths about diet culture will help you understand it’s repercussions, and motivate you to live your life in a much healthier way.

If you are struggling with food or an eating disorder, these helpful points may offer you the nudge you need to change your relationship with food.

Related: Diving into Diet Culture Definition: 5 Startli



Up Next

The Science Of Sleep: 7 Tips For Fixing Your Sleep Schedule Like A Pro

The Science Of Sleep: Tips To Fix Your Sleep Schedule

Do you ever wake up feeling groggy, tired, and lacking the energy to tackle the day ahead? Many people struggle with sleep-related issues that can significantly impact their overall well-being. However, understanding the science of sleep can help you unlock the secret to better health and enhanced productivity. 

Let’s explore the fascinating world of sleep, discuss the importance of sleep for productivity, and learn some practical tips on how to fix your sleep schedule. So, grab a cozy blanket, settle in, and let’s explore the science of sleep together.

The Science of Sleep: Unveiling the Mysteries of Slumber

Sleep is a complex biological process that involves intricate interactions



Up Next

Is It Contamination OCD? 10 Concerning Signs You Shouldn’t Ignore

Clear Contamination OCD Symptoms You Shouldn't Ignore

Ever feel like you just can’t shake off those nagging thoughts or feeling that something is dirty? Maybe you find yourself washing your hands until they’re raw and bleeding, or avoiding certain places because they don’t feel clean enough. All these signs point to contamination OCD that you didn’t realize you might have.

But fear not, you’re not alone, and there are ways to manage it.

Before we get into the signs and treatment, below are some of the reasons behind what causes Contamination OCD symptoms.



Up Next

Why The Best Time To Have Coffee Isn’t Right When You Wake Up!

Best Time To Have Coffee: Reasons It's Not Early Morning

Are you part of the club that can’t even think about starting their day without the warm embrace of a good ole cuppa? You might want to rethink your morning ritual because it turns out the best time to have coffee in the morning is not when you’re up on an empty stomach.

Although chugging down a steaming cup of coffee sounds like the perfect way to kickstart the day, there is growing evidence that suggests why you shouldn’t drink coffee first thing in the morning and wait a little longer before taking your first sip. 

So, let’s examine what’s the best time to drink coffee in the morning and why you should refrain from an early morning brew.

So, what is the best time to have coffee in the morni



Up Next

The Healing Power: How Empathy Boosts Your Immune System

How Empathy Can Improve Your Immune Response: Best Way

Empathy isn’t just about understanding others—it could boost your health too. Learn how empathy can improve your immune response and be a unique pathway to well-being.

How does empathy work on a biological level to boost your immune system? 

Research indicates that you can heal faster when your body receives messages such empathy, kindness, and tolerance. These trigger an initial immune response—then your body’s natural healing forces can kick in too.



Up Next

Why Cameron Diaz Supports Separate Bedrooms For Couples: Is It Key To A Happier Marriage?

Separate Bedrooms For Couples: Strong Reasons Why

In a world where we are always sharing everything, Cameron Diaz has a fresh take on love: separate bedrooms for couples. Yes, you heard that right!

The actor has recently been in a conversation about how couples who sleep in separate beds are happier — and it’s got us questioning everything too.

Why Do We Need Separate Bedrooms For Couples?

You’re lying in bed, ready to drift off to sleep when you hear it… A chainsaw-like noise ringing through your ears. It’s your partner’s snoring — and it’s not the cute gentl