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Sleep Deprivation


Sleep Deprivation - The practice of routinely interrupting, impeding or restricting another person's sleep cycle.


Depriving a member of the household of sleep is a common tactic used by emotional abusers because it has a profound effect on the emotional state of the victim while leaving almost no evidence that abuse has occurred.

Motivation for sleep deprivation may range from anger and a desire to make the victim feel some of the abusers pain or rage to a more manipulative form where the abuser calculates that they will have more control over the victim in a sleep-deprived state.

Sleep is one of the most basic needs for survival. Basic human survival needs include:

  • Oxygen
  • Water
  • Food
  • Sleep
  • Excretion of waste
  • Protection from extreme temperatures

Sleep Needs:

Different groups of people need different amounts of sleep:

Age Average Hours/Day
Infants 14-16
Children 1-3 12-14
Children 3-6 10-12
Children 7-12 10 - 11
Children 12-18 8 - 9
Adults >18 7-8

Source: http://www.webmd.com

Effects of Lack of Sleep:

Inadequate sleep is linked with:

  • Increased risk of motor vehicle accidents
  • Increase in body mass index – a greater likelihood of obesity due to an increased appetite caused by sleep deprivation
  • Increased risk of diabetes and heart problems
  • Increased risk for psychiatric conditions including depression and substance abuse
  • Decreased ability to pay attention, react to signals or remember new information

Source http://www.sleepfoundation.org

Denying a person sleep or starting arguments at a late hour is a common tactic of emotional abusers and those who suffer from personality disorders.


  • Making excessive noise after bedtime.
  • Turning on lights after you have gone to bed.
  • Starting arguments or emotionally charged discussions at bedtime or just before bedtime.
  • Hitting or bumping you intentionally when you are in bed.
  • Forcing you to sleep in a strange place or to share a bed with an abuser.

What it feels like:

At bedtime, it is normal to feel disorientated or confused as your body winds down and your brain releases hormones which slow down your metabolism and begin the regenerative process of sleep.

When this is interrupted or impeded, you may feel confused or irritable. Your ability to think critically or to understand and read the emotions or intentions of others may be compromised significantly.

You may become irritable and "snap" at the other person in an attempt to get back to a sleep state. Alternatively, you may find yourself bargaining or agreeing to things you wouldn't normally agree to just to get back to sleep.

Learning to Cope:

If someone habitually denies you of the ability to sleep - they are abusing you as much as if they were starving you of oxygen, food or water. You need sleep and need to get yourself into an environment where sleep is possible.

What NOT to Do:

  • Don't ignore lack of sleep or consider sleep as a luxury.
  • Don't participate in any discussions or arguments after bedtime.
  • Don't take the bait when someone says something provocative late at night.
  • Don't remain in an environment where you are habitually kept from sleeping.

What TO Do:

  • Prioritize sleep in your life as high as food, shelter, water and oxygen.
  • Communicate clearly that you refuse to have any kind of discussion after a certain time of night.
  • Set this time to be 30 minutes to an hour BEFORE bedtime and stick with it. You will need this time to wind down before you try to sleep.
  • Turn off phones and other devices that an abuser may use to disturb and provoke you.
  • If you are repeatedly denied access to sleep at home, leave for a hotel, friend's house or shelter.

For More Information & Support...

If you suspect you may have a family member or loved-one who suffers from a personality disorder, we encourage you to learn all you can and surround yourself with support as you learn how to cope.

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