The 5 Stages Of Sleep Deprivation (And How To Avoid Them)
We all need sleep to look and feel refreshed. Sleep not only helps us reset our cognitive functions but also helps our body relax and recharge. Depriving oneself of sleep can have adverse effects on your overall health.
On average, an adult needs at least 7 to 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night but in these busy times, getting enough sleep can be difficult to hold. Many of us work late-night shifts, travel overnight, or struggle with mental health disorders that may affect our sleeping patterns.
When you get no sleep or less than normal amounts of sleep, it can be called sleep deprivation.
For many, short-term sleep deprivation isn’t a big deal but chronic sleep deprivation can lead you to develop some serious health problems such as poor cognitive performance, reduced immunity, increased risk of chronic illnesses, etc.
Did you know that there are five phases of sleep deprivation and the symptoms during each stage of sleep deprivation only worsen the more they progress?
Let’s take a closer look at the 5 stages of sleep deprivation and the symptoms of each stage.
The Stages Of Sleep Deprivation
Stage 1: After 24 Hours
Many people (myself included) have and do miss 24 hours of sleep and while missing the first 24 hours may not cause serious health issues, it can make you feel fatigued.
Being awake for 24 hours is the first stage of sleep deprivation and you can expect symptoms like:
- Increased stress
- Decreased awareness or alertness
- Cognitive impairment
- Brain fog
- Increased risk of accidents
- Reduced body-mind coordination
- Increased food cravings
- Puffy eyes and dark circles under the eyes
Stage 2: After 36 Hours
After the 24-hour stage, the second stage of sleep deprivation begins and that is when you miss 36 hours of sleep. During this phase of sleep deprivation, your symptoms will become more intense and you’ll be faced with an overwhelming urge to nap.
You may even catch 30 seconds of microsleeps without even realizing it. This level of sleep deprivation can seriously impair your cognitive ability and cause other symptoms like:
- Memory impairment
- Difficulty retaining new information
- Changes in behavior
- Difficulty making decisions
- Difficulty processing information
- Reduced reaction time
- Increase in mistakes
- Increased appetite
- Low immunity
- Extreme tiredness or fatigue
Stage 3: After 48 Hours
Here comes the third stage of sleep deprivation; when you miss the 48 hours mark. This level of sleep deprivation can also be referred to as extreme sleep deprivation. In this phase of sleep deprivation, it becomes harder to stay awake and you may find yourself taking more microsleeps.
During this stage, you may even struggle with hallucinations along with other symptoms such as:
- Depersonalization or derealization
- Extreme anxiety
- Extreme stress
- Extreme tiredness or fatigue
- Feeling more irritable
Stage 4: After 72 Hours
By now you’ve been awake for 72 hours and the urge to get sleep will worsen. During this stage of sleep deprivation, you may experience more frequent microsleeps. When you reach this stage, your sleep deprivation may cause severe impairment in your perceptions and your hallucinations may worsen too.
Other symptoms of this level of sleep deprivation can be:
- Depersonalization or derealization
- Increased hallucinations
- Disorganized thinking or speech
Stage 5: After 96 Hours
At this stage of sleep deprivation, you’ve been awake for 96 hours or 4 days. During this phase of sleep deprivation, your attention to reality will become seriously distorted and the urge to sleep will be unendurable.
If you miss the 96 hours mark, it’ll become harder for you to interpret reality. This level of sleep deprivation can also be called sleep deprivation psychosis. You can recover from sleep deprivation psychosis after you get enough sleep and rest.
Can You Recover From Sleep Deprivation?
It is possible to recover and escape the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation by getting more sleep. You can begin by going to sleep earlier than normal and get at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. This can help your body get back on a proper sleep schedule.
Just keep in mind that recovering from sleep deprivation may take quite some time, probably days or weeks. The longer you’ve been struggling with sleep deprivation, the longer it’s going to take to get back on the right track.
Treatments You Can Seek
If you’re caught in the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation, don’t fret! There are professional treatments available to help you recover from sleep deprivation and its symptoms.
Treatment for sleep deprivation may include:
A. Taking A Nap: If you’ve lost a few hours of sleep, then taking a nap can help you escape the symptoms of sleep deprivation. Here you should avoid taking a nap beyond 30 minutes.
B. Sleep Aids: There are over-the-counter sleep aids that can help you decrease your symptoms, however, if your symptoms of sleep deprivation are extreme then you can seek professional help. A doctor can prescribe sleeping aids to help you get back to a regular sleep schedule.
Note: Always consult with a physician before taking any sleeping medications as many medications may have certain side effects.
C. Light Therapy: If you’re struggling with chronic insomnia then light therapy can help. This therapy helps reset your body’s natural biological clock that may help you sleep better.
Ways To Prevent Sleep Deprivation
There are some self-help ways you can prevent and even recover (albeit slowly) from sleep deprivation. Following these lifestyle habits can not only help you prevent symptoms of sleep deprivation but can also help slow down the levels of sleep deprivation from worsening.
Here’s what you can do:
1. Get Natural Lighting
Natural lighting exposes your body to produce more melatonin, the sleep hormone. Melatonin helps regulate your body’s natural clock and helps enhance natural sleep.
2. Exercise Regularly
Exercising regularly helps your body tire and can help you sleep better (and naturally) at night. Exercising every day for 20-30 minutes can help. However, avoid exercising right before bed as it may hinder your natural sleep cycle.
3. Avoid Caffeinated Beverages Before Bed
Consuming caffeinated or alcoholic beverages before bed can also disrupt sleep. Avoid drinking such beverages before bed. Foods such as fried foods, spicy meals, and heavy meals should also be avoided before bed.
4. Avoid Digital Screens Before Bed
These days it can be hard to part from digital screens before bed but it is best to avoid using your phones, tablets, or laptop before bed as the blue light from these screens can lessen melatonin and increase brain alertness.
5. Create A Relaxing Bedtime Routine
Having a relaxing bedtime routine can help your mind and body get ready for sleep. Your relaxing bedtime routine can include taking a warm bath before bed, meditating, reading, or listening to nature sounds.
6. Have A Calming Sleep Environment
Your sleep environment also determines the quality of your sleep. To create a calm sleep environment you can set the temperature at 16-19℃, use comfortable pillows, use white noise to block out other distracting noises, and keep all digital devices out of the bedroom.
If you’re still facing difficulties in getting enough sleep, you can consult a professional for help.
The stages of sleep deprivation are various and during each stage, the symptoms of sleep deprivation vary. While many people can tolerate the first stage of sleep deprivation without having any serious health effects, the following stages of sleep loss can severely affect one’s health and mind.
Luckily, there are ways you can escape the vicious cycle of sleep deprivation and recover from the loss of sleep. If the above-mentioned ways fail to help you, you can always consult with a sleep specialist for professional treatment.
I hope with this article you were able to understand the 5 stages of sleep deprivation, their symptoms, and how to recover from sleep deprivation. For more, you can write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or DM us on social media.
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Sleep well & take care!