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Sleep and Our Sanity

Updated on March 6, 2012

Sleep Deprivation Can Cause Psychological Symptoms

People who are severely sleep deprived will develop many mental symptoms including hallucinations, paranoia and disorientation, in addition to unclear thinking. Sleep deprivation has been used as a form of torture. “Anyone who has experienced this desire (for sleep) knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable to it.” - Menachem Begin who experienced this form of torture by the Russian KGB. The Japanese also used this form of torture in the Prisoner of War Camps during WW II. This type of torture has been used by many countries, including the U.S. at Guantanamo Bay.

Without sleep, people lose their coherency, their ability to think and act clearly. After just 2 days of no sleep, people begin to hallucinate. After 3 days, they will dream while they are awake, which is similar to a psychosis. After a week, a sleepless person will lose their sense of place and time and become disoriented. They will think the person they are talking to is someone from their past. Things we see in reality may be an image of what the person saw when they were younger. People really do lose their sanity, if they go without sleep. The desire to get sleep becomes their major need.

Poor Sleep Can Increase Negative Thinking

Problematic sleep may in fact contribute to people who suffer from attention deficit disorder (ADHD), anxiety, bipolar, depression. Studies have shown that sleep disorders may not be a symptom of psychological issues, they may actually contribute to them. The population of people who are dealing with psychological issues have more sleep problems compared to the general population.

Through neuroimaging and biological studies, poor sleeping may increase negative thoughts, and make a person emotionally vulnerable. A good nights sleep increases emotional resilience and better mental and physical health.

The positive effects of sleeping well has many benefits. Normally people cycle every 90 minutes between two types of sleep - quiet sleep and REM sleep (rapid eye movement). Quiet sleep has 4 stages that progress toward deep sleep. Our body temperatures lowers, our muscles relax, and our breathing and heart rate slows. It is at the deepest level of quiet sleep that our immune system gets a boost from these physiological changes.

What Happens When We Don't Get Enough Sleep?

During REM sleep, we dream. All the changes that happened during quiet sleep return to measurements that are similar when we are awake. Studies have shown that REM sleep helps our ability to learn and remember and enhances our emotional health in ways that are not fully understood.

When we do not get enough sleep, our stress hormones, neurotransmitters and other body regulation chemicals are negatively affected. The result is a kind of dishevelment or disorganization in our brain which causes impaired thinking and other psychiatric like disorders.

People who have sleep issues are at increased risk of acquiring depression. Some studies have even shown that sleep problems occurred before the development of major depression. Additionally, sleep disturbances can impair people’s ability to respond to treatment for depression compared to people who do not have sleep problems.

On a typical night do you have trouble falling asleep?

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Insomnia and Anxiety

People who have bipolar disorder tend to sleep less during their manic episodes. While they are in the depressed cycle, some may sleep excessively and some may suffer from restless sleep or insomnia. It is thought that insomnia may be a trigger to the mania. Mood is also adversly affected with less sleep.

More than ½ of the people who are diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have sleep problems. Sleep problems may also be an issue in panic disorder, OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and phobias. Insomnia may make the symptoms of anxiety disorders worse by enabling the person to retain more negative emotions.

In studying children with ADHD 25-50% of children have trouble falling asleep, restless sleep, and shorter sleep hours. Less sleep may be a contributing factor to their ability to pay attention, remain emotionally stable, and in their hyperactivity.

Tips for Better Sleep

If you are one of the many people who suffer with sleep problems, here are some helpful tips:

  • caffeine, alchohol, and nicotine are a major contributors to insomnia. Think about avoiding these products altogether and certainly prior to going to sleep.

  • Exercise has many beneficial effects including helping you fall asleep faster. It also helps you spend more time in deep sleep, and you may wake up less often during your nighttime rest.

  • Develop good sleeping habits by going to bed at regular times each night and waking up the same time every day. Keep your bedroom dark. Stop using the tv, computer and other electronic devices at least one hour before you go to bed.

  • Before you go to sleep use some relaxaton techniques to alleviate your racing thoughts and anxious feelings. Meditation, deep breathing, guided imagery, and other quiet activities can make a great difference before going to sleep.

  • Think positive thoughts. First of all, it can’t hurt. Secondly you will retrain your brain to think of other things instead of being preoccupied with not being able to fall asleep.

  • As a last resort, you can use sleep medications. It is advisable to talk to your doctor and make yourself knowledgeable about the long and short term side effects.

The Many Benefits of a Good Night's Sleep

Sleep is such a natural and necessary part of our existence. Scientists, philosophers, and psychologists continue to learn and research the hows and whys of slumber.

We know sleep is needed for our physical well being, but it is also integral for our emotional and mental top performance. Researchers have learned that sleep is also vital to our optimal learning and memory function. Through studies, findings are showing that sleep helps us see patterns and connections, we don’t see when we are awake. It is a controversial theory that has many unclear answers as to what our brains are really doing while we are sleeping compared to our awake hours.

What we do know is sleep is a complicated activity. We know it’s important to get the right amount of sleep. Sleep needs vary as we age, and are very individual. People need different amount of sleep for optimal performance. Some people need 7 hours of sleep a night. Some people need 9 hours of sleep to feel rested, productive, and happy.

Sleeping well has everything to do with better mental and physical health. It is important that we make sleep a priority, to keep our sanity. It is for our benefit that we create an environment that allows us to sleep in optimal conditions. A good night’s sleep is one of the best things for us even if we think we have better things to do. Wishing you restful nights and optimal performance in all you do.


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    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Jasper, I am glad you found this hub helpful. Sleep deprivation makes everything more difficult. In time, I hope you can sleep without your meds altogether, but I am glad they are helping you now. Good luck and sleep well!

    • profile image


      6 years ago

      I have to use sleep meds to sleep Im just getting my sleep back to normal and I know first hand how important sleep is to your mental state as I have been deprived many times great hub I will use your tips before bed because even though my meds help I still have nights when I have trouble falling or staying asleep.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi The Girls, Napping is a great way to refresh ourselves. But getting enough sleep during the night is so essential.

    • the girls profile image

      Theresa Ventu 

      6 years ago from Los Angeles, California

      Useful topic for everyone who has been working so hard and are sleep deprived. Taking naps in between also helps rejuvenate our mind and body.

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      @ thoughforce, Our sleep needs change as we age. It really is important to listen to our bodies and not push ourselves to the boundaries of tiredness. We function better with the right amount of sleep for ourselves.

      @bmalin, sleep is such a delicate balance for our bodies and our circadian rhythms. It is difficult to go back to sleep after we wake up in the middle of the night. When we turn on electronics and tvs and lights, it messes with our circadian rhythm. There is nothing like feeling refreshed from a good nights sleep.

      @pmccray, Sleep seems even more necessary when we don't feel well. And we are more prone to catching something when we don't get enough sleep. I hope my tips help you fall asleep easier so that you get more rest. Thanks for your up ratings and kind comments.

    • pmccray profile image


      6 years ago from Utah

      Sleep is very important to ones overall well being. My first home remedy when a body becomes ill with flu or colds. Plenty of fluids and sleep / rest. As I age it seems I have a very hard time falling asleep. Some great tips have been provided that I'll give a try. Voted up, marked useful and interesting.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      6 years ago

      Another Educational as well as Interesting Hub read Toknowinfo. I find the older I get, the less sleep I need. When I can't sleep, I'll get up and work on a Hub or look at other Hubbers Hubs. I've learned Not to let it upset me...Now that I've retired, I know that I can make it up the next night and feel refreshed once again. I also liked your useful Tips.

    • thougtforce profile image

      Christina Lornemark 

      6 years ago from Sweden

      Very interesting hub and I think many people will benefit from reading this! Our need for sleep is one of the things that we are not able to make more effective as we tend to do with everything else in order to save time! I feel that I could handle lack of sleep better when I was younger than now, it is so important to get enough sleep to manage the days. Voted up, interesting, useful!


    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      Hi Winbo, I am glad you enjoyed this hub.

      @creativelycc, so many things seem more interesting to us than sleep, yet without sleep nothing can interest us.

      @beccas, I really appreciate your kind comments. Thanks for taking the time to read my hub.

      @Pamela, There are many problems with sleep, from getting to sleep to getting enough sleep to staying asleep. It interests me what time you awaken from your sleep. There probably is some association with a part of your body and why you are waking up. According to Chinese medicine our bodies are biological clocks and different hours affect different parts of our body. If you remind me, I can write a hub on this very interesting topic and explain more about it.

      @Melis, Sleep is such an interesting subject and you are correct, it affects so many aspects of ourselves, physically and emotionally.

      @Kashmir, As always, I am happy when you drop by. I hope my tips help you sleep better. All the best!

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      6 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi my friend,a great well written hub with great information. Thanks for all those great tips to help everyone get a good night sleep.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Melis Ann profile image

      Melis Ann 

      6 years ago from Mom On A Health Hunt

      Great info on sleep deprivation. I think we can all agree that less sleep affects our lives in a negative way, but it's interesting to see it outlined into different effects. Thanks!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 years ago from United States

      This is a very good hub and I have been hearing more about the bad effects of sleep deprivation lately. You explained it very well. I have that problem, although I can fall asleep easily be I can't sleep for very many hours due to pain and sometimes stress. I am already using some of your suggestions but I will try some relaxation techniques before bed. Thank you for some great information.

    • beccas90 profile image


      6 years ago from New York

      Excellent and informative hub in our challenging fast-paced world.

    • creativelycc profile image

      Carrie L Cronkite 

      6 years ago from Maine

      Very well researched on a very importance subject. The importance of getting enough sleep is taken for granted to often. When I'm working on a sewing project or writing, I can easily stay up half the night trying to get it done. Believe me I pay for the next day by feeling like a zombie. Thank you!

    • winbo profile image


      6 years ago

      well written..

    • toknowinfo profile imageAUTHOR


      6 years ago

      You are so right about the video games and tv. In addition to the stimulation from the fast pace, the exposure from the light from electronic devices can interrupt our biorhythms, our hormones, and our melatonin levels. The images supposedly stay in our brains long after we have shut them off. That is why we are supposed to stop using them at least an hour before bedtime, as I said in the hub. Thanks for your comments and your up votes.

    • WretchedRapture profile image


      6 years ago from California, USA

      I'd also add that avoiding fast-paced television or video games right before you head off to bed can help significantly. While I know there are many people who have made a habit of such activities and have become accustomed to it, in general, activities such as these get your brain worked up quite a bit and in turn will make it harder to empty your thoughts and fall asleep. A restless brain equals restless sleep. Great hub, voted up, useful, and interesting! :]


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