What is Sleep Deprivation?

It’d be difficult, even for a person with no interest in politics and current affairs to not know what is happening in Greece concerning their economy, their default on bailout payments and even a possible exit from the Euro currency.

Over the last month or so there has been a succession of meetings of Euro-zone heads of state and finance ministers. The culmination of these meetings was an epic 17-hour meeting on Sunday 12th July 2015, which actually ran until about 4am on Monday 13th.

The Guardian Newspaper ran an article on sleep deprivation and decision making, questioning how much we should trust the decisions of Euro zone leaders when they come at the end of such long-running negotiations where leaders have been sleep deprived.
In this blog we look at sleep deprivation and the effects it has upon us.


What is sleep deprivation?

Scientists agree that we need around 7 to 8 hours of sleep in any one day to remain healthy. It can be argued that sleep deprivation occurs when we achieve less than this recommended amount of sleep. As we’ll see further on in this article, the effects of even one night of reduced or no sleep can be measured, supporting the argument that sleep deprivation is anything less than the recommended 7 – 8 hours sleep.


How does sleep deprivation effect us?

After just one night of little or no sleep, the following effects can be measured.

  • Lack of concentration
  • Poor memory recall
  • Slower response times
  • Impaired judgement
  • More prone to accidents

Each of these effects is compounded by prolonged periods of sleep deprivation.


What are the causes of lack of sleep?

There are many reasons why we struggle to sleep, probably too many to list in this blog in any meaningful way. In general, many reasons why we don’t sleep are the unwanted effects of other medical conditions, such as physical pain or psychological effects others can be stressful life events such as exams or financial worries that cause us to lay awake. Anyone with a new born baby in the house will certainly be able to identify the reason why their sleep is somewhat disturbed.

For some people though it can be simple things that are causing their lack of sleep. For those finding it difficult to sleep, the following checklist might help.
Worn out pillows – check the Sleepy Peoples pillows page for a low-cost replacement.


Too hot or too cold. You might be using the wrong duvet for the current season or just need to crank up the heating a little. See the Sleepy People duvets page for a great choice of duvets.

Partner Snoring. You have our sympathies! Maybe it’s time to escape to the spare bedroom.


Too light in the bedroom – usually a problem in summer on light nights and early light mornings. Invest in a black-out blind. For light coming from gadgets, see if your alarm clock screen has a dimmer setting and turn off all un-needed technology.


Famous people who didn’t sleep much?

Throughout history, there have been a number of highly successful people who, reputedly didn’t sleep much. Depending on your viewpoint these people either thrived on little sleep or could have done with a  lie in once in a while!

  • Margaret Thatcher, the UK’s first lady Prime Minister reportedly only slept 4 hours per night.
  • Barrack Obama, President of the United States, goes to bed at 1am and is up at 7am every day.
  • Winston Churchill, Wartime Prime Minister – only slept 5 hours per night, but did insist upon a nap every afternoon.
  • Leonardo da Vinci is reported not to have gone to bed for a deep sleep. It is claimed that he would nap for 15 mins every four hours. This would mean that the great artist would have been awake for 22.5 hours a day, so this does seem a little improbable.
  • Silvio Berlusconi, Ex-Italian Prime Minister, famous for his ‘bunga bunga’ parties involving young ladies like ‘Ruby the heart stealer’, was said to have slept for just 2 to 4 hours per night. It’s probably better not to think about what he was up to!


And one that slept quite a lot

  • Albert Einstein insisted on 10 hours of sleep per night. This would increase to 11 hours if he was busy working on a scientific problem.


What should I do if I’m not sleeping?

The occasional night where you can’t sleep is probably nothing to worry about. If you can identify a cause for your lack of sleep, then do something about it (if it is practical to do so in the middle of the night) and try and get back to sleep. The following day try and claim back some of your lost sleep time by going to bed earlier, after a long soak in the tub. Hopefully, you’ll be back to your usual self the following day.
If you do find that your lack of sleep is more frequent than just one night, take a look around the Sleepy People blog – we’ve tonnes of useful sleep tip articles that should help you. If after giving those tips a try for a few nights, you are still not sleeping, perhaps you should consider visiting your GP. Don’t worry that lack of sleep isn’t a good reason for a doctor’s appointment. You need to sleep well to function properly and lack of sleep could be a sign of other health problems. Don’t sit there worrying about it, book an appointment and get some professional advice.