Sleep apnea is a serious and common sleep disorder where you have brief, repeated interruptions in your breathing while you're sleeping. You may not even be aware of these brief breathing pauses that could be occurring hundreds of times during the night, arousing you out of your natural sleep rhythm. You just know you aren't as energetic, productive and mentally sharp during the day as you should be.
Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation
Sleep apnea can cause chronic sleep deprivation which can lead to:
Slow reflexes: Your brain cells are sluggish the next day impairing your reflexes.
Daytime sleepiness: You find it hard to stay awake during the day.
Increased risk of accidents: Sleep deprivation impairs your ability to drive safely.
Poor concentration: It's hard for your brain to handle tasks requiring memory and attention.
Sleep deprivation can also cause irritability, moodiness and possibly even depression. It can lead to physical health problems like heart disease, diabetes, weight gain and liver problems.
Individuals vary in how little sleep they require for them to be considered sleep-deprived. Older adults appear to be more resistant to sleep deprivation effects, while young adults and children are more susceptible.
While occasional sleep interruptions are typically no more than an annoyance, ongoing lack of sleep can seriously impact your quality of life.
Numerous studies make the dangers of sleep deprivation clear. Sleep-deprived individuals who are tested by performing a hand-eye coordination activity or using a driving simulator perform as poorly as or worse than individuals who are intoxicated.
Sleep deprivation can intensify the effects alcohol has on the body, therefore an individual experiencing fatigue who drinks alcohol can become far more impaired than one who is well rested.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), each year, drowsy driving causes thousands of vehicle accidents — some of them fatal.
Restorative sleep is without question important. Preventing sleep deprivation is critical for health.
Signs of Sleep Deprivation
Inability to concentrate
Reduced sex drive
Lack of motivation
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
One of the main effects and signs of sleep deprivation is excessive daytime sleepiness. When sleep-deprived, you're more likely to fall asleep when sitting still in a monotonous or quiet situation, like class or during a meeting. Severe sleepiness can be dangerous since it can cause workplace injuries and drowsy driving.
Other symptoms of sleep deprivation may include:
Memory and Thinking Problems
Sleep plays an important role in our ability to process memories and think. So, when you're not getting enough sleep, it can impair these cognitive abilities. Sleep deprivation can result in further issues with higher-level functions like organization, planning and judgment.
The most common sleep deprivation symptom relates to paying attention and problems with concentration. However, short-term memory impairment follows close in step.
Sleep deprivation can cause you to be short-tempered. When you don't sleep enough, you’re more likely to be irritable. In contrast, a good night's sleep can put you in a great mood as you're starting your day.
These mood changes might extend past a short-term negative or positive attitude into more serious issues like depression and anxiety.
Impaired Performance and Difficulty Concentrating
You need a well-rested brain to be attentive to your surroundings. When you're sleep-deprived, you can develop a slight impairment in your ability to concentrate. This may be rather subtle, to the point that if you are chronically sleep deprived you may not recognize your impairment. Reduced alertness might lead to accidents, errors and compromised performance.
Sleep deprivation could also cause unexpected psychiatric consequences. Surprisingly, these are common and like other symptoms, dependent on the level of your sleep deprivation. Some common sleep deprivation-induced psychiatric symptoms may include hallucinations, disorientation and paranoia.
Sleep Deprivation Symptom Severity
The level of symptom severity will depend on a couple factors. First, you'll obviously suffer more from sleep deprivation symptoms the more you spend time awake. For instance, staying up an hour extra to watch your favorite TV show is far different than only getting four hours of sleep. This might be particularly true if your sleep deprivation becomes extreme (you pull an all-nighter) or if it occurs night after night.
Your symptoms intensity will vary based on your circadian clock. So, the sleep deprivation symptoms will appear more pronounced if they occur during the times you should be sleeping (like during the night). It could be more noticeable during the mid-afternoon, when many people have a bit of a lull in alertness.
Sleep Deprivation Risks
Sleep deprivation risks can affect individuals of all races and ages. Certain groups of individuals might be more likely to become sleep-deprived. These include people who:
Have a schedule that conflicts with their internal body clocks, like teenagers, first responders, shift workers, and people who travel across time zones.
Have limited time for sleeping like individuals working more than one job, caregivers, or putting in long hours in any activity.
Make lifestyle choices preventing them from being able to sleep well, such as abusing drugs or alcohol, taking medication to stay awake or not leaving enough sleep time.
Have untreated or undiagnosed medical issues like anxiety, stress or sleep disorders, like sleep apnea.
Have certain health conditions associated with sleep disorders, such as heart disease, heart failure, high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity.
Have consistent sleep habits of going to bed late and getting up early.
Have frequent arousals during the night.
Consult with your doctor if you think sleep apnea or another sleep disorder has something to do with your sleep deprivation. Your doctor will likely order a sleep study to provide you with an official diagnosis of sleep apnea. If it turns out you do have sleep apnea, they may begin you on CPAP therapy or oral appliance therapy to reduce or eliminate your apneas at night, thereby improving your sleep deprivation.
Sleep Deprivation and Sleep Apnea Solutions
If you are feeling sleep deprived, we invite you to have a consultation with one of our dental sleep medicine experts, Steve Carstensen, DDS or Carrie Magnuson, DDS in the greater Seattle area. You can also contact us here at Premier Sleep Associates today by calling (425) 698-1732 or completing our brief form to schedule an appointment.
We offer patients FDA-approved snoring and sleep apnea oral appliances here at Premier Sleep Associates, and both Dr. Steve and Dr. Carrie are passionate and highly qualified sleep dentists who treat patients with sleep-breathing disorders, such as sleep apnea.