Insufficient Sleep Syndrome

What Is Insufficient Sleep Syndrome?

Insufficient sleep syndrome is a voluntary sleep disorder, meaning that it results from the choices that individuals make about sleeping rather than any underlying medical, emotional, or environmental cause. Put another way, it is the lack of sleep that occurs when people become too busy to spend enough time at rest. Sufferers from this form of sleep deprivation are not always aware of what’s happening; it’s a condition that comes on gradually as one takes on new commitments to family, work, or friends. Because insufficient sleep syndrome shares many of the same symptoms as other types of sleep disorders, it can be difficult to diagnose. 

Insufficient sleep is a growing problem in the U.S. Studies show that roughly three in ten American adults sleep fewer than six hours a night, when eight hours is the goal. The percentage of those with inadequate sleep runs even higher among adolescents. If your busy schedule is preventing you from getting adequate rest, contact a primary care physician or sleep specialist at Baptist Health.

What Are the Symptoms of Insufficient Sleep Syndrome?

Symptoms of insufficient sleep syndrome include:

  • Regular shortfalls of nighttime rest
  • Daytime sleepiness
  • Muscle pain and weakness
  • Poor concentration
  • Short-term memory lapses
  • Lack of alertness
  • Irritability and mood swings
  • No discernible medical reason for sleeping difficulties

Those most at risk are individuals employed in second or third shifts, or who work more than 40 hours a week on a regular basis. Women and young adults ages 25 to 35 seem most prone to developing insufficient sleep syndrome. 

What Causes Insufficient Sleep Syndrome? 

The cause of insufficient sleep syndrome is any voluntary behaviors that curtail a person’s ability to achieve adequate nighttime rest. Working long hours is frequently at the root of sleep deprivation, but a fast-paced social life can also be at fault. 

How Is Insufficient Sleep Syndrome Diagnosed?

There are several steps for diagnosing insufficient sleep syndrome:

  • Documentation of symptoms: Your physician will make a record of your symptoms, including any problems you have with sleeping. He or she will want to know the nature of your work schedule and any other factors that might be affecting your ability to sleep. A physical exam is also likely, to identify the possible health consequences of your condition.
  • Sleep diary: You may be asked to keep a sleep diary, which is a self-reported record of when you sleep, for how long, and how rested you feel on waking up. The time period covered might be a week or two. Your doctor will be interested to see what kind of sleep pattern you’ve developed, in response to a hectic schedule. 
  • Sleep study: Depending on the severity of your symptoms, you may be asked to undergo a sleep study. Your physiological behaviors will be monitored and recorded by a medical team during a period of rest. Sleep studies are conducted at home or in specialized medical facilities.

The symptoms of insufficient sleep syndrome are similar to those of other sleep disorders, so one facet of the diagnostic process will be the elimination of other potential explanations, including sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and shift work sleep disorder.

How Is Insufficient Sleep Syndrome Treated?

Because insufficient sleep syndrome is rooted in sleep-avoidance behaviors, behavioral change is the preferred means of addressing it. Persons suffering from a lack of adequate rest must commit to spending more time in bed and sleeping. Taking sleep aids, such as melatonin supplements, can make this transition easier. 

Sleep deprivation has many possible consequences, including accidents, health problems, antisocial behavior, relationship issues, and alcohol or drug dependency. Fortunately, the power to change resides in each of us who is dealing with this condition. 

Learn More About Insufficient Sleep Syndrome from Baptist Health

Sleep is essential to living a healthy life. If you’re not getting enough sleep, regardless of cause, see your Baptist Health primary care physician or sleep specialist. 

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