Causes of sleep deprivation

Causes of sleep deprivation can be classified into divided into four areas. These areas include lifestyle, health complications, medication side effects and clinical disorders.


Fatigue and sleeplessness are due to lifestyle choices. One of the common causes of sleep deprivation is drinking caffeine or alcohol before bedtime. Night shifts can change normal circadian patterns though it is unavoidable.

Stress is a major factor that deprives one of sleep. Stress can be related to work, family or any other areas of life. It can interfere with sleep to a great extent and cause sleep interruptions.


According to the Diagnostic Statistical Manual Of Mental Disorders, depression can be defined as a psychological condition wherein an individual feels very sad, lonely, and helpless, has disinterest in life and faces other psychological and emotional problems. When in depression, our body has lesser levels of Melatonin -a component that commands our body to sleep. A person suffering from depression may have enough of melatonin to command our body to sleep, but the melatonin levels do not sustain for long and the individual ends up waking up after 3-5 hours of sleep.
Also, people suffering from depression constantly worry, have panic attacks or fears and these can interfere with sleep.


Anxiety causes stress to build up and when a person is undergoing immense stress and tension, these negative feelings are transmitted in the subconscious and a person becomes so anxious that he/she is constantly on the “Fight or Flight” mode. This causes them to be awake and extra sensitive to the stimuli around. They tend to be worked up constantly and have difficulty in sleeping.

  • Men, whose work demands a lot of traveling, are more prone to suffer from insomnia. Excessive traveling causes jet lag and body aches. Also, shift in timings across countries greatly disturbs an individual’s internal clock.
  • Internal clock is a mechanism the body uses to prepare and time an individual to sleep and wake up at a particular time. The internal clock is based on the night and day timing. Traveling to another country where there is a complete change in day and night timing may put the body through some stress. This is because suddenly the body is exposed to a different time schedule; this tendency is common in people who visit countries with a different time schedule form their own.
  • The individual may appear sick and haggard the first few days and then may adapt himself/herself to the new timing. However, constant traveling and exposure of the body to different time schedules can cause a lot of stress and strain to the body, increasing the risk of chronic insomnia.


Often medication can interfere with natural rhythms in your body. This can lead to restlessness, insomnia and tiredness. If you use sleeping pills over long periods of time, it can lose its effect. Pills interfere with the natural rest patterns of the body.

Health Complications and Clinical Disorders

Some health problems can create fatigue when it interferes with the sleep patterns in the body. Some physical health problems may make sleeping difficult. Asthma can do that to your sleep. Mental health problems like depression and post-traumatic stress disorder lead to insomnia. The three common sleeping disorders include narcolepsy, parasomnia and apnea. More than seventy different types of such cases exist and can pose serious health risks.

Certain health disorders like asthma, Parkinson’s disease, Hyperthyroidism and kidney problems can interfere with sleep and cause sleeplessness. Hormone imbalances can also lead to sleeplessness.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

When a person experiences something traumatic, he/she tends to re-live the experience even after the incident or situation occurred a long time back. Inability to cope up with this trauma leads to sleep disorders like Insomnia.

Learned Insomnia

Insomnia is also caused when people are aware of their poor sleeping habits. Constantly worrying about the lack of sleep they had further adds on to insomnia.


Arthritis patients are the hardest hit by insomnia. They tend to lie awake for most part of the night with sleeplessness and restlessness. They suffer from poor sleep and end up being very cranky and suffer from severe pain during the day.


Here are some causes that help us understand why arthritis patients have so much difficulty in sleeping during the night.

Pain: Arthritis patients suffer from lot of pain during the night. The pain is so intense that they are forced to change their sleeping position many times during the night. It takes them a long time to seek that comfortable position that will help them get a peaceful night’s sleep.
Stress: Arthritis creates a lot of stress, and this stress further leads to insomnia. Stress caused by fear of the future, expenses, worrying about near and dear ones, finance etc add on to a lot of tension and cause the person to suffer from lack of sleep.
Medications: The several medications taken to cure arthritis can also add on to the problem of insomnia. The medications may contain certain components that affect the sleep cycle thus making it difficult for an individual to sleep during the night.

An individual suffering from arthritis and insomnia therefore needs to consult a medical expert and take in the necessary guidelines and help in order to gain some relief. Arthritis can be healed only if the individual has a good night’s sleep.

Other Causes

  • How many of us knew that presence or absence of light trigger insomnia in many of us. Many a times we notice that we stop being asleep when someone comes into the room we are sleeping in and switches on the light. And no matter how much we try, we cannot fall asleep after that.
  • Some on the other hand cannot sleep at all when the light is on. Also, some of us would notice that we tend to fall asleep when the lights are dimmed either in a theatre or while watching some seminar.
  • Strange but true, lighting does play a major role in determining the quality of sleep we have. According to experts, our eyelids have cells that are very sensitive to light and play an important role in triggering the production of melatonin, that further calms the body and induces sleep.
  • Only in the presence of dim light or no lights is melatonin being produced in the body. This further stresses the need for one to switch off or dim the lightening in order to be able to sleep.
Faulty Eating Habits

Another major factor that contributes to Insomnia is faulty eating habits.

  • Eating heavy food and sleeping immediately causes indigestion. The individual tends to suffer from a heartburn sensation through out the night, and is unable to sleep.
  • Chronic heartburn tends to cause a pricking sensation around the sensitive muscles of the throat, and is most likely to occur when the individual gets ready to go to bed.
  • It is therefore very important that individuals take in something light before going to bed, no matter where they are -a party or pub.
  • Eating light will help the acidity to greatly reduce and enable the individual to sleep well.
  • Another important tip is that the individual should eat 2-3 hours prior going to bed. And if they tend to feel hungry again then they could have a glass of milk. Also, these individuals should avoid eating any spicy.
Genetic Factors
  • Although still not conclusive, many studies are now reporting that genetic factors influence insomnia. Studies also report that people with a family history of sleep disorders are at a risk of insomnia.
  • A study conducted at Canada’s Laval University School of Psychology found a link between insomnia and genetics. The researchers surveyed around 1,000 adults: their sleeping habits, their parents and siblings’ sleeping habits. The researchers found many insomniacs with a family history which showed a genetic link of insomnia.
  • However researchers reported that it’s not clear whether insomnia is a genetic problem or a non- genetic problem. But they believe that some evidence is linked in between insomnia and family history of insomnia.
  • Altitude insomnia is caused mainly due to periodic breathing in sleep in high altitude regions. Pilots, plane crew and mountaineers who fly at an altitude of over 4000 meters usually encounter this problem.
  • Altitude insomnia is characterized by repeated occurrences of central apnea and hypo apnea and is generally followed by frequent instances of waking between sleep, poor sleep, suffocation and extreme fatigue.
  • Since those at high altitudes suffer from lack of continuous oxygen supply, they tend to breathe more rapidly at more frequent intervals that normal. Persistent breathing in turn leads to a shortage of carbon dioxide in the blood, a metabolic waste which is eliminated by the lungs.
  • Since the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the blood is the most important signal to the brain that the body needs more oxygen, a shortage of it will cause the involuntary act of breathing to be blunted. When one is fully awake and conscious, it should be possible to make a conscious effort to breathe in more, but this is more difficult when one is a state of sleep, a condition where consciousness is laid to rest.
  • The duration of such apnea is usually 3-10 seconds and may stretch up to 15 seconds. The condition might seem less dangerous as one gets acclimatized to the altitude, but does not get completely resolved till one gets down to a comfortable altitude.

Find out if Digestive Problems Also Cause Insomnia.

Working Too Long on the Computer is also known to cause insomnia.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation in Women

Hormonal Changes

Female Hormones play a major role in influencing sleep. A woman tends to suffer from insomnia or other sleep disorders due to the presence and functioning levels of different hormones in the body. Here are three different phases in which a woman’s sleep is affected in a major way.


Levels of progesterone that promotes sleep fall to a great level during menstruation and this tends to affect sleep. This causes a woman to remain awake for long during menstruation.


Progesterone levels fluctuate greatly during the first and last semester of pregnancy. This tends to affect sleep patterns greatly.


Hormones tend to fluctuate greatly during menopause; this causes incidents of insomnia, hot flashes, sweating etc. Not only this psychological factors also affect the sleep pattern, as menopause is altogether a very traumatizing state for a woman.

Research about the Relation Between Menopause and Insomnia

When a woman enters the menopause phase, estrogen levels in her decrease. This affects the proper functioning of the minerals and leads to mineral deficiency. Mineral deficiency highly influences sleeping disorders.

Generally it is observed that women during their pre-menopause and menopause years tend to suffer from chronic insomnia, migraine headaches, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, fatigue and night sweats. According to the author of Natural Hormone Balance for Women, Uzzi Reiss, M.D, “Some of the above reactions occur nearly simultaneously whenever the level of estrogen falls.”

According to a report by Consumer approximately 70% of the women will suffer from some of the symptoms while entering the menopause phase. Most of the symptoms are easily manageable with nutritional remedies, hormonal drugs and healthy lifestyle. The report doesn’t recommend hormonal drugs for women with increased risk of cancer, heart disease or stroke. Almost for all women of 50 yrs or more the chances of developing these diseases are 35-50%.

The research conducted under the guidance of Mildred Seeling, M.D., shows the link between the decline of estrogen and its symptoms with the onset of menopause and the mineral deficiency. This research study was published in American College of Nutrition Journal. Dr. Mildred Seeling says “Estrogen enhances magnesium utilization and uptake by soft tissues and bone and may explain the resistance of young women to heart disease and osteoporosis — as well as the increased prevalence of these diseases when estrogen production ceases.”

When balanced with calcium, magnesium works best. According to pioneer nutritionist Adelle Davis’s observation with the decrease in estrogen level calcium absorption also decreases and it is lost with the urine. Hence during menopause calcium deficiency symptoms like insomnia, headaches, nervousness and irritability are common.

Magnesium deficiency results in disturbed and restless sleep often accompanied by frequent night-time awakenings. According to research findings of Dr. W. Davis, not all forms of magnesium are effective but, magnesium chloride is highly beneficial in combating insomnia. The research report shows that 90% of 200 patients were benefited from magnesium chloride. Patients reported rapid induction of sleep and uninterrupted sleep. Waking tiredness, tension and anxiety disappeared during the day.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation in Children

Restless Legs Syndrome
  • In children, according to studies, one of the causes of Insomnia is the “Restless leg syndrome”(RLS). Earlier RLS was a problem that adults only suffered from but now according to researchers even children tend to suffer from it.
  • RLS is a condition wherein a child feels uncomfortable sensations like burning, tingling, scratchy, itching, crawling, creeping and painful spasms in the legs.
  • Due to this, the child has this urge to move the legs and this movement gives a kind of relief. They have this urge to run walk, toss jiggle jog, stretch, and jerk or rub their legs.
  • The relief is temporary and so throughout the night the child keeps moving the legs, not being able to sleep.
  • Due to this reason the child tends to sleep throughout the day and is irritated and cranky most of the time.

What to Do?

This also requires good medical treatment. By keeping a daily record of sleeping habits, you can tell the doctor about the disturbance patterns. Your sleeping pattern is your bedtime schedules.

Apart from recording your schedule, you should note how good the quality of your rest periods are. You need to record what you ate that day, especially before bedtime. You also need to note down if you have had caffeine or alcohol. You can list any daytime activities. Your emotional state before bed has to be noted down. By maintaining a diary, you can allow you and your doctor to detect disturbing in your rest period.

Why Lifestyle?

Sleep deprivation is more because of the lifestyle choices you make in life. Today, sleeping is seen as an inconvenience since it takes time from working or playing. People who suffer from sleep deprivation have only seventy percent of their productivity.

These causes of sleep deprivation can be cured with appropriate measures. Some of the common causes of sleep deprivation in the day include work shifts. Since shift work involves long work hours in the night, the bodies’ internal clocks are under assumption that we should be resting. Shift work reverses natural order of sleep. The body does not completely adapt to the change.

You do have a solution for this. You can keep your schedule as regular as often as you can. You can go to bed and wake up in regular timings.

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse can also be other causes of sleep deprivation. The use of stimulants like cocaine can stop you from getting the rest you need. These depressants confuse the body. This also causes sleepiness at odd times of the day.


Many believe that alcohol is the best cure for insomnia. It helps one drift into sleep fast and easily. However, this is a false conception as alcohol can cause one to sleep easily but will not enable one to remain asleep for long.

  • Alcohol tends to dehydrate the body and causes one to wake up several times in the night and drink water. This greatly disturbs the sleep pattern.
  • Also, alcohol will make one more sluggish and lethargic the next day. It does nothing but worsen one’s condition even more. Alcohol tends to disrupt sleep pattern greatly, especially the REM phase, which when disrupted cannot be brought to normalcy.
  • During the second phase of sleep, the body is busy over-correcting itself to the effect of alcohol, trying to bring it back to a normal pattern. The brain is busy signaling and getting things right in the body; this further contributes to a disturbed sleep. The result is that one will wake up tired and disillusioned the next day with a severe hangover.
  • Indulgence in alcohol for a long period of time also lead to chronic insomnia. It is therefore important that one stay away from alcohol before going to bed in order to enjoy a peaceful night’s sleep.
  • If an individual is a habitual drinker, alcohol inhibits sleep instead of making the individual sleepy. It interferes with sleep when consumed close to bedtime and the individual has problems falling off to sleep.

Consumption of products that contain caffeine close to sleep time can interfere with sleep and the individual may have trouble falling asleep. Find out more about Caffeine Induced Insomnia.