sleep deprivation


sleep deprivation refers to the arbitrarily induced or forced renunciation of sleep over a certain period of time, the from hours to days can last.
Sleep deprivation can be used from a therapeutic point of view (as Sleep deprivation or waking therapy in psychiatry), as well as in the context of torture. A prolonged lack of sleep can have a variety of effects, but in most cases they can be remedied by catching up on healthy sleep.


Sleep deprivation can lead to difficulty concentrating.

One differentiates between one share, in which only the second half of the night was watched, and one complete sleep deprivation.
After sleep deprivation, in many cases, it happens the following day Improvement in mood. This effect is achieved with the use of sleep deprivation as a form of therapy depressions exploited.
Does sleep deprivation last for a longer period of time or does it occur permanently lack of sleep on, it comes to physical and mental discomfortthat negatively affect clear thinking.


The official world record for the period in which a person deliberately refrains from sleep (without taking stimulant aids or medication) is 11 days and 24 minutes. The experiment from 1964 was documented in detail and showed no serious long-term physical or psychological consequences for the test participant, except for those with sleep deprivation related effects, like Concentration and memory disorders, such as Mood swings and perceptual disorders. However, these subsided again after the end of the experiment and because of the rested sleep.

In the following decades, sleep deprivation and its effects continued to be researched.
A famous experiment (by Allan Rechtschaffen and Bernard Bergmann) from Chicago researched the Long-term effects of sleep deprivation in rats. Despite adequate food intake, the test animals lost weight, developed purulent bumps on their bodies and eventually died.
The high value is critical when carrying out the experiment Stress level and a conscious suppression of the normal Day and night rhythm (through a continuous exposure), which could also have influenced the consequences described above.

It is therefore questionable whether sleep deprivation alone fatal can end. Also special cases like the fatal familial insomnia (fatal familial insomnia) do not provide any conclusive or transferable statements to healthy people.
It is interesting to observe from experiments that physical effects occur less frequently than the psychological effects from sleep deprivation. Basically, the readiness to sleep during the day is determined by a Shortening the working time elevated.


The so-called sleep deprivation or waking therapy describes the controlled reduction of night sleep in a therapeutic setting under medical supervision, e.g. during an inpatient stay in the hospital.
It can be used for depression, but is not an independent form of therapy, but should be used in conjunction with psychotherapy and drug therapy.
A particular weak point is the high workload for the nursing staff.
It is also used as an additional therapy option if there is depression, for the treatment of which all other means have been exhausted, or if the time of action of the antidepressants has decreased.
In addition, they can be used to determine the difference between depressive pseudodementia and actual dementia diseases.

Depressed people often don't even get tired in circumstances in which other, healthy people fall asleep. Your brain is running at full speed and you may feel dull and tired, but you are not.

A study that compared the brain waves of depressed, healthy and manic people came to the result that people with a greatly increased drive fall asleep faster in a boring or non-stimulating environment, whereas depressed people have difficulty finding sleep.
The disturbed sleep rhythms are interrupted by waking therapy and, in the best case, the regulation of sleep is positively influenced.

There is also evidence that morning sleep cycles, in particular, can exacerbate depression. Patients are kept awake in groups and distracted by activities. Either all night or, if it is a partial (i.e. partial) sleep deprivation, sleep is shortened in the early hours of the morning.
The positive effect achieved by sleep deprivation, however, usually only lasts for a day, which is a disadvantage as you cannot go without sleep for a long period of time without negative consequences, which are possibly worse than the depression.
By shifting the sleep phases you can counteract this and maintain the positive effect. In terms of time, the sleep phases are shifted forwards because, as discussed above, the sleep phases in particular in the morning can exacerbate the symptoms of depression. As a result, the patient goes to bed earlier the day after sleep deprivation and gets up earlier after getting enough sleep. This process is repeated and shifted further and further back in time (so one always goes to sleep later) until the patient has returned to his normal sleeping times.

Side effects of sleep deprivation therapy can be manic states, an increase in symptoms or an increase in drive. In the latter case, in particular, caution should be exercised as this can increase the risk of suicide.


Due to the negative psychological effects is methodical sleep deprivation as Torture method applied. In particular, clear thinking should be prevented and the will of the victim broken in order to force incriminating statements or confessions more easily.
Sleep deprivation belongs to the so-called "White Torture", because he does not leave any physical traces and neither psychological consequences are difficult to detect. Sleep deprivation is recognized as a method of torture under international law and can accordingly be punished by the UN and the sub-authorities responsible for it.
The methods that use sleep deprivation as torture include:

  • Change in waking and sleeping times
  • Shortening sleep time to 4 to 6 hours per day over a period of several weeks
  • Shifting sleep from night to day
  • frequent flyer program: was used in Guantanamo and means a cell transfer that takes place at regular intervals (both at night and during the day) over a period of one to two weeks.

The victims are in painful or bondage uncomfortable positions, constant exposure to sound with noise, permanent exposure with light and especially by physical Punitive measures (Kicks, blows with heavy objects, etc.) prevented from sleeping.


Sleep deprivation can have many physical and psychological effects.

Physical effects:

  • increased occurrence of "microsleep"
  • general limitation of performance
  • decreased ability to regulate body temperature
  • Susceptibility to infection due to a weakening of the immune system
  • a headache
  • Risk of type 2 diabetes (adult-onset diabetes) and obesity due to changes in glucose metabolism, impaired appetite control and reduced energy consumption is discussed
  • Heart disease
  • Changes in metabolism, for example an increase in the stress hormone cortisol
  • Increase in reaction time and decrease in reaction accuracy in the muscle. This means that the muscles respond more slowly to signals from the nervous system and the movement following a signal is carried out imprecisely.
  • Muscle tremors and muscle pain
  • Effects on physical appearance such as stunted growth, water retention and apparent tiredness (frequent yawning)

Psychological effects:

  • Hallucinations
  • irritability
  • Impairment of the ability to think and clear thinking, in particular impaired decision-making ability and reduced motivation. Gaps in memory and even loss of memory
  • psychosis-like symptoms:
  • i.a. Restriction of Perceptual ability;
  • Inability to adequately classify and process stimuli from the environment;
  • humiliated Attentiveness;
  • changed Sensory perceptions
  • Symptoms similar to ADHD: i.a. Limitation of the ability to concentrate
  • abnormal behavior (as can also be observed under the influence of alcohol): impairment of mental performance and higher brain functions (such as the inability to solve arithmetic problems), language abnormalities such as “mumbling”, loss or impairment of the sense of balance

It is believed that the mental disorders, the at sleep deprivation occur due to impairment of the prefrontal cortex in the brain (brain area in the front part of the head behind the forehead), which is responsible for the rational thinking is responsible to be caused.

sleep deprivation


A sleep deprivation EEG can be performed to clarify epilepsy if epilepsy is considered possible but cannot be proven by the normal EEG.

Sleep deprivation can increase the likelihood of the occurrence of the electrical potentials typical of epilepsy, which are derived from an EEG.
In addition, the typical epilepsy patterns occur in many cases during sleep and particularly frequently during the light sleep phase. It is therefore the usual procedure to perform an EEG after a night in which the patient in question has not slept and is therefore in a state of particular fatigue.
There is still a discussion in science about whether the actual sleep deprivation or the increased portion of sleep due to the sleep deprivation is decisive for the development of the potentials typical of epilepsy. The EEG usually takes place in a darkened, quiet room to ensure that the patient really does fall asleep.
One should not forget that this method can also trigger the activation of seizures.