What is Insufficient Sleep?

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


How to tell if you’re dealing with insufficient sleep syndrome

Nearly 30 percent of adults get less than six hours of sleep per night, on average (when most should be getting more like seven to nine). Regularly failing to get enough sleep at night is known as insufficient sleep syndrome, and it can be very hazardous to your health.

How And When Insufficient Sleep Happens

Certain conditions like insomnia and obstructive sleep apnea can lead to insufficient sleep syndrome, but, in some cases, behavior is to blame, such as taking on shift work, checking a few extra emails at 11:00pm or staying up late to finish a movie. Two percent of people suffer from behavior-induced insufficient sleep syndrome. Even though symptoms may start to make themselves present in adults in their mid-to-late 30s, oftentimes these same people go undiagnosed until they are in their 40s.

How to Tell If You Have It

A person suffering from it might answer yes to the following questions:

  1. Do symptoms improve when you sleep for longer periods of time?
  2. Do you routinely spend fewer than eight hours in bed?
  3. Do close friends and family frequently tell you that you need more sleep?

Additional symptoms to be on the lookout for during the day include concentration or attention problems, reduced alertness, and irritability or fatigue.

The Effects

The effects of insufficient sleep are more than just emotional and cognitive—plenty of serious health problems are associated with it. Chronic sleep loss puts a person at risk for heart disease, heart attack, and heart failure, as well as irregular heartbeat, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. A lack of sleep can kill your sex drive, cause sallow and puffy skin, and lead to forgetfulness. So it's important to nip it in the bud as soon as possible.


Creating a proper sleep hygiene routine is a good way to start getting sufficient sleep. If that doesn't help, see a sleep specialist.