Many older people obtain less than the optimal amount of sleep that they should be having, and some have a very sizable sleep debt. Just like gamblers who are playing with money that is borrowed, many people who are sleep deprived live in the red of lost sleep, which makes them often compromise their job's responsibilities, sometimes using drugs or other types of energy enhancers for temporary energy boosts.

Most employees, even in jobs that are considered crucial, are forced to keep going all day no matter how fatigued that they feel. What if some of the sleep deprived people are dealing with very important safety situations such as those on an airplane? What if these people are driving an eighteen wheeled semi-truck down a crowded highway? What if these people are key to making a military decision that is pivotal to end war?

Sleep losses which are small, that buildup day after day, can be cumulative. Soon, loss of sleep which is chronic can cause attention lapses, inabilities to respond, thinking that is slow, memory which is impaired, behavior which is a eratic, and major irritability. Judgement will fade and there will be a decline in the persons mental functions, with results that can be serious enough to put that person in danger not only to themselves but to society, especially when there are decisions that are being made that are critical, vehicles that are being driven, or machinery that is dangerous that is being used. In sleep research centers, researchers often find people who think they have some serious mental or physical disease when they simply do not allow themselves enough time to sleep.

Sometimes it may be out of sheer necessity to give up sleep (for instance, to complete a job that has to be done). But this should not be done on regular basis without allowing yourself to catch up on your sleep.

You don't need to catch up on all the sleep that you've lost. If you have been completely deprived of sleep for total of 10 days, you will probably sleep for around 15 to 18 hours per day for about 3 to 4 days and then your schedule will go back to normal.

Over the last 15 years, sleep researchers have come to gradually understand it and realize that insomnia that is chronic is very different from voluntary sleep deprivation for several nights. Patience that have chronic insomnia have a chronically increased metabolism, but when the sleep of a normal person is disturbed by frequent awakenings, the metabolism that they have slows down.

Similarly, insomniacs who are chronic often experience an increase in agitation and anxiety, but when normal sleepers sleep is disturbed for several nights, they become more non responsive and more lethargic. Normal sleepers will also have a much easier time following the sleep after they've been sleep deprived. Chronic insomniacs often find it difficult to fall asleep during daytime naps, even after nights when they have slept very poorly. Some people often think that insomniacs feel like good sleepers do after night are two of sleep deprivation. This is not the case. Insomnia is actually much more than just losing a few nights of sleep.