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  • Updated 07.26.2021
  • Released 07.09.1993
  • Expires For CME 07.26.2024

Insufficient sleep syndrome



Sleep deprivation, or insufficient sleep syndrome, is a serious sleep problem of epidemic proportions. Outlined in this article are the causes, consequences, and management of sleep deprivation and ways of recognizing it. This article describes the clinical manifestations of the condition and the negative consequences of insufficient sleep on various body functions and neurologic disorders.

Key points

• Insufficient sleep syndrome is the most common cause of daytime sleepiness among the general population.

• This condition is due to insufficient duration of sleep nightly, resulting in daytime sleepiness.

• Insufficient sleep affects all systems of the body, including neurologic disorders.

• Consequences of insufficient sleep syndrome are often under-recognized by the patient and include sleepiness, tiredness, fatigue, and irritability.

• Chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to increased risk of automobile and industrial accidents, declining job performance, and disrupted sociability.

• Treatment consists of extending nocturnal sleep time every day by one to several hours nightly.

Historical note and terminology

Insufficient sleep syndrome, also referred to as “chronic insufficient sleep,” “voluntary sleep curtailment,” “sleep reduction,” “sleep restriction,” “inadequate sleep,” or “sleep deprivation” was first recognized as a clinical syndrome in 1979 with its inclusion in the Diagnostic Classification of Sleep and Arousal Disorders (04). Sleep deprivation experiments were conducted more than a century ago to understand the function of sleep. Since then, several studies have shown that neurologic function and cognition deteriorate during sleep loss, with reaction time, mood, and judgment suffering from being awake for too long. However, the first series of patients with insufficient sleep syndrome were reported in 1983. Prior to its identification, patients presenting with excessive daytime sleepiness, but having none of the accessory symptoms and signs of narcolepsy, received diagnoses of idiopathic hypersomnolence, NREM narcolepsy, a mood disorder, or were considered malingerers. In the International Classification of Sleep Disorders (ICSD-3), insufficient sleep syndrome is included in the section “Hypersomnias of central origin” (02). Diagnostic criteria for idiopathic hypersomnia include lack of improvement of sleepiness after an adequate trial of increased nocturnal time in bed.

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