Never Ever Let Yourself Become Sleep Deprived

Sleep deprivation can be deadly when the going gets tough.

Some people lead a staid, predictable life. 

Lucky them. They can count on being at home almost all the time.  

They’ve got a consistent routine. They’re the furthest they can be from sleep deprivation.

Nothing bad ever seems to happen to them. They live in a place with quiet neighbors or space between the houses. Their dwelling is well constructed. Because they don’t travel, their trips aren’t delayed.

They can get lured into a life of complacency.

Some people call this a type of privilege, but they’ll have their turn.

Bet on it.

It’s called life

It happens to everyone sooner or later. When it does, it can lead to sleep deprivation. Being sleep-deprived leads to accidents, poor judgment, and mistakes.

Things happen. Flights get delayed. Water heaters explode. Fire sweeps down from the mountain. Neighbors shoot each other, and the whole neighborhood becomes a crime scene keeping people away from their beds. Freak storms get stirred up, and a tree suddenly falls on their house.

Weird stuff happens. People need to cope, even people who aren’t used to coping.

When it does happen to someone who expects life to be peaceful all the time, it can be awfully rough. 

Be smart.

Because anything can happen, and often does, you’ve got to be ready.

While you can’t be ready for everything, you can be ready for the most common things.

You can bank on it: your right, and your need to sleep will be challenged.

Sleep deprivation isn’t so bad, really. You get tired—big deal. 

The worst of it are the effects of your decisions. 

When the going gets tough, you want to make your best decisions.

When you’re sleep-deprived, you can’t.

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is getting less than the required amount of sleep. 

Of course, there are degrees of sleep deprivation. 

There’s also chronic sleep deprivation and acute sleep deprivation.

Both of them are terrible from a body performance standpoint.

Sleep deprivation is common. Because it’s so common, when an incident happens that leads to a greater degree of sleep deprivation, tragedy can occur. It’s a common cause of many kinds of accidents.

It can affect your mood, your ability to make decisions, your coordination. This raises the risk for accidents.

And the negative effects don’t stop there.

Long term, it can lead to weight gain as hormones go out of whack.

That can increase your risk of heart disease and give you mental health problems.

Be prepared to sleep in adverse circumstances

Survival experts recommend you keep a bug-out bag stocked and ready to go at a moment’s notice. There are lots of prep lists on the Internet. You can even find a variety of premade bags. Sometimes these lists can be imposing because you might not own all of the stuff on them. Stocking according to such a comprehensive list can be expensive and time-consuming. 

This prepacked bug-out bag from Everlit on Amazon contains a shelter. Be sure to take account of the need to sleep during a disaster.

Prioritize the list according to what you need to maintain your health. Realize you’ll be unable to prepare for every eventuality. Even a well-stocked survivalist isn’t going to be able to do anything to guarantee their air supply beyond carrying a gas mask or respirator.

Water presents another challenge. It’s heavy and bulky. Survival experts often address that need with water purification tablets and filtration systems in addition to short-term stockpiles of water in tanks of various sizes. 

Sleep is number three on this list. For this need, it’s easy to plan for.

To call yourself at least somewhat prepared, you’ll need to make a list of what you’re likely to need. If you’re not going to set it all up in an organized fashion, you need to have at least a list to free you from the burden of thinking while under stress and know where everything is. 

You may need to wait to acquire things when they go on sale. It’s better if your money goes further.

For a sleeping-oriented bug-out list, you’ll want to have at least a warm-weather sleeping bag and a travel pillow if such a pillow would be puffy enough to sleep on. Take the time to try it out by lying on the floor with the pillow under your head.

A warm-weather sleeping bag can be enhanced with a blanket, newspaper, or just about any kind of covering. If you have to sleep outside sometimes when it’s hot, it’s not as comfortable to sleep in a cold-weather sleeping bag. It will have to be unzipped, exposing you to insects, rocks, and dust.

You’ll also want a tarp to put down on the ground.

Remember, if a bug-out pillow doesn’t fit you perfectly, it’s okay. Folding up a shirt and placing a pillow on top of it can enhance the elevation of a pillow.

Finally, it’s a good idea to practice sleeping on the ground. If you want to practice, try sleeping at least a night or two in your house on the ground, and then go camping.

If you’re out of shape and have difficulty getting up from the ground, it’s smart to increase your physical fitness. Practice. Being able to rise up from the ground indicates good health.

Planning how you will sleep if you experience a disaster can save your life.

If there’s ever a time when you want to be able to make good decisions, that’s it.

Sleeping while facing travel challenges

Travel challenges don’t only happen in the winter when airplanes are grounded because of heavy snow. Planes can be grounded in many areas during hurricane season. Railroad tracks can be washed out. The car you’re crossing the country with can be in an accident. Buses can have a mechanical failure.

It’s smart to be prepared for them.

There are predictable challenges like jet lag.

There are also still common challenges, like delayed transit.

What’s likely to happen to you? 

Sleeping on an airport floor due to a freak winter storm would be more comfortable if you have a blow-up travel pillow and a blanket. 

Budget airlines encourage you to pack economically. A thin, tightly folded blanket and blow-up pillow don’t have to take up much room.

Yet a neck pillow can also be used at such a time.

The key is acknowledging something can happen and then taking a moment to meet the challenge.

A bandana and earplugs can also be helpful.

Some form of bad weather has got to be the most common reason for travel delays.

It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to rise up and meet a challenge. Being able to relax, get some rest, and wait the challenge out helps you make the most of your time and preserve your health.

When a real challenge to sleep and your good health happens, it seems to happen in slow motion.

One thing follows another. What else can go wrong, you ask? Amazingly, something else does.

Taking care of yourself means you’ll be more resilient. Having some of this planned out in advance can at least make you feel more comfortable in rough situations.

Further reading:

Sleep less and stay healthy

What does the bear in your dream mean?

A timeline of sleep deprivation effects

The quickest and easiest sleep mask

What should you do if you’ve woken up in the middle of the night and can’t get back to sleep?


James Cobb, RN, MSN, is an emergency department nurse and the founder of the Dream Recovery System. His goal is to provide his readers with simple, actionable ways to improve their health and maximize their quality of life. 


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