Home » Sleep Disorders » Insufficient Sleep Syndrome
December 2020 |  Reviewed by:  Virginia Skiba, MD and Andrea Matsumura, MD

What is insufficient sleep syndrome?

Insufficient sleep syndrome occurs when you regularly fail to get enough sleep at night. It is a result of choices you make that push your bedtime later than when your body expects you to fall asleep. You are normally unaware that you need more sleep than you are getting. Some common examples are staying up to finish a movie, using your phone in bed, and reading a book that keeps you from getting sleep.

Sleep debt can also be due to responsibilities at work, school and home. Trying to catch up on your sleep over the weekends is usually not enough to make up for your insufficient sleep the rest of the week.

The result is sleep deprivation. This keeps you from feeling alert and well-rested during the day.

What are symptoms of insufficient sleep syndrome?

Someone with insufficient sleep syndrome may:

  • Routinely spend less than 8 hours in bed at night
  • Have a close friend or family member note that they need much more sleep than they get
  • Have their symptoms improve if they sleep for a longer period of time
  • Be free of any other medical or sleep disorders that might cause their symptoms of excessive sleepiness
  • Have concentration and attention problems, lowered energy level, reduced alertness, distractibility, irritability or fatigue

What are risk factors for insufficient sleep syndrome?

Insufficient sleep syndrome affects about two percent of people who go to a sleep center for help. It tends to begin in adults who are in their mid-to-late 30s. It often goes undetected until they reach their 40s. It affects a slightly greater number of men than women. Insufficient sleep is behavioral. It is when a person pushes their bedtime too late and prevents themselves from getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep.