Sleep Deprivation As A Scammer’s Control Technique And Its Effect On Scam Victims

Scammers use Sleep Debt as a way to Better Control Their Scam Victims

Psychology of Scams

•  Vianey Gonzalez B.Sc(Psych) – Psychologist, Certified Deception Professional, Psychology Advisory Panel & Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.
•  Tim McGuinness, Ph.D. – Anthropologist, Scientist, Director of the Society of Citizens Against Relationship Scams Inc.

About This Article

Sleep deprivation, a tool wielded by scammers to manipulate and control victims, can exacerbate post-scam anxiety, stress, and trauma. Sleep deprivation, also known as sleep debt, disrupts cognitive function and mental well-being, amplifying vulnerability and emotional susceptibility to manipulation.

Scammers exploit this vulnerability by inducing exhaustion, confusion, and dependence, making victims reliant on the scammer for support and validation. Sleep deprivation impairs judgment, increases compliance, and heightens emotional vulnerability, allowing scammers to maintain control over victims.

Combatting sleep deprivation during recovery involves establishing a consistent sleep schedule, creating a relaxing bedtime routine, and prioritizing a comfortable sleep environment. Engaging in stress reduction techniques, limiting screen exposure before bed, and seeking professional help if needed are crucial steps toward overcoming sleep deprivation and promoting healing for scam victims.

Prioritizing sleep hygiene is essential for physical, emotional, and mental well-being, especially for those navigating recovery from trauma.

Sleep Deprivation As A Scammer's Control Technique And Its Effect On Scam Victims - 2024

Sleep Deprivation Caused by the Scammer’s Tactics and the Post Scam Anxiety, Stress, and Trauma – How to Overcome It

What is Sleep Deprivation (a.k.a Sleep Debt)

Sleep deprivation refers to a condition in which an individual does not get enough sleep to meet their body’s physiological and cognitive needs. It can occur due to various factors, including voluntarily staying awake for extended periods, experiencing disruptions in sleep patterns (e.g., due to work schedules, travel, or medical conditions), or experiencing sleep disorders that interfere with the ability to obtain restorative sleep. It is also a technique used by the criminals to better control their victims.

Sleep debt, also known as sleep deficit or sleep deficiency, refers to the cumulative amount of sleep that an individual has lost or failed to obtain over time. It accumulates when a person consistently gets less sleep than their body requires to function optimally. For example, if someone needs 8 hours of sleep per night for optimal functioning but consistently gets only 6 hours, they would accumulate a sleep debt of 2 hours each night.

Both sleep deprivation and sleep debt can have significant negative effects on physical health, mental well-being, cognitive function, and overall quality of life. Chronic sleep deprivation and the accumulation of sleep debt have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, mood disorders, and decreased immune function.

A Scammer’s Control Mechanism

Most scam victims, especially those involved in a romantic relationship will be contacted by the criminals at all hours, but especially during the victim’s night. The scammers want to keep the victims up late most nights and keep them in a continuous sleep dept.

Sleep deprivation is a very effective control technique that these criminals utilize to make victims more controllable and to maintain that vulnerability throughout the duration of the deception.

Scammers use sleep deprivation as a control mechanism with their victims for several reasons:

  • Manipulating Vulnerability: Sleep deprivation impairs cognitive function, decision-making abilities, and emotional regulation, making victims more vulnerable to manipulation and coercion. Scammers often exploit this vulnerability to exert control over their victims and coerce them into complying with their requirements.
  • Creating Dependence: By depriving victims of sleep, scammers induce feelings of exhaustion, confusion, and disorientation, making victims more reliant on the scammer for guidance, support, and validation. Victims may become increasingly dependent on the scammer for relief from their sleep deprivation and may be more likely to comply with the scammer’s requests in exchange for promised rewards or relief from discomfort. This plays a role in the use of gaslighting to manipulate scam victims.
  • Increasing Compliance: Sleep deprivation impairs judgment and decision-making abilities, making victims more susceptible to influence and manipulation. Scammers use sleep deprivation as a tactic to weaken their victims’ resistance and increase their compliance with their ultimate goal.
  • Heightening Emotional Vulnerability: Lack of sleep increases feelings of stress, anxiety, and emotional distress, making victims more emotionally vulnerable and reactive to the scammer’s tactics. Scammers exploit this heightened emotional vulnerability to elicit sympathy, empathy, or financial support from their victims.
  • Maintaining Control: By controlling their victims’ sleep patterns and depriving them of rest, scammers can maintain a sense of power and control over their victims’ lives. Sleep deprivation can reinforce the perception of the scammer as an authority figure or caretaker, further entrenching the victim’s dependence on the scammer for guidance and support.

Ironically, some of this happens simply because the criminals are on the opposite side of the world. But having observed its effects over years, scammers have learned to use and exploit this tool.

Sleep deprivation can be a potent tool for scammers seeking to exert control, manipulate, and exploit their victims. By inducing feelings of vulnerability, dependence, and emotional distress, scammers can effectively coerce their victims into complying with their demands and perpetuating their deception.

Health Risks of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation or sleep debt can have numerous harmful effects on both physical and mental health, as well as cognitive function and overall well-being. Here are some of the most common negative consequences:

  • Impaired Cognitive Functioning: Sleep deprivation can impair cognitive abilities such as memory, attention, concentration, and decision-making. This can lead to decreased productivity, difficulty learning new information, and impaired judgment.
  • Mood Disturbances: Lack of sleep can lead to irritability, mood swings, and increased feelings of stress, anxiety, and depression. Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with a higher risk of developing mood disorders and exacerbating existing mental health conditions.
  • Increased Risk of Accidents: Sleep deprivation can impair reaction times, coordination, and judgment, increasing the risk of accidents and injuries. Fatigue-related accidents are particularly common in settings such as driving, operating machinery, and performing hazardous tasks.
  • Weakened Immune Function: Sleep plays a crucial role in immune function, and chronic sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system, making individuals more susceptible to infections, illnesses, and chronic health conditions.
  • Cardiovascular Health Risks: Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, stroke, and other cardiovascular problems. Poor sleep can disrupt cardiovascular function, increase inflammation, and contribute to the development of cardiovascular disease over time.
  • Metabolic Effects: Sleep deprivation can disrupt hormone regulation, leading to imbalances in hormones that regulate appetite, metabolism, and blood sugar levels. This can contribute to weight gain, obesity, insulin resistance, and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
  • Impaired Physical Performance: Lack of sleep can negatively impact physical performance, coordination, and athletic abilities. It can lead to decreased stamina, muscle weakness, slower reaction times, and reduced exercise tolerance.
  • Decreased Libido: Sleep deprivation can lower libido and sexual desire, leading to decreased intimacy and relationship problems.
  • Mental Health Issues: Chronic sleep deprivation is associated with an increased risk of developing mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Sleep disturbances can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and make symptoms more difficult to manage.
  • Shortened Lifespan: Long-term sleep deprivation has been linked to a higher risk of mortality and a shortened lifespan. Chronic sleep deficiency is associated with an increased risk of developing chronic health conditions that can contribute to premature death.

How Much Time Does It Take to Overcome Sleep Deprivation?

The amount of time it takes to make up for sleep deprivation can vary depending on factors such as the duration and severity of sleep deprivation, individual differences in sleep needs, and overall health. However, research suggests that while you can partially recover from short-term sleep deprivation relatively quickly, fully recovering from chronic sleep deprivation may take longer.

For short-term sleep deprivation (e.g., a few days to a week), you may be able to catch up on missed sleep within a few nights of extended sleep duration.

This process is often referred to as “sleep debt repayment.” For example, if you’ve been getting only 4 hours of sleep per night for several nights, you may need to sleep longer (e.g., 9-10 hours) for a few consecutive nights to fully repay the sleep debt and feel fully rested.

However, for chronic sleep deprivation that has persisted for weeks or months, fully recovering may take longer and may require more sustained efforts to prioritize sleep and establish healthier sleep habits. Chronic sleep deprivation can lead to cumulative sleep debt and disrupt the body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, making it more challenging to recover fully. In these cases, it’s important to focus on consistently getting adequate sleep each night, practicing good sleep hygiene, and addressing any underlying factors contributing to sleep disturbances.

It’s worth noting that while you can partially repay sleep debt, chronic sleep deprivation may still have long-term health consequences, such as increased risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cognitive impairment. Therefore, prioritizing regular, sufficient sleep is essential for overall health and well-being. If you’re experiencing persistent sleep problems or difficulty recovering from sleep deprivation, consider consulting a healthcare professional or sleep specialist for guidance and support.

Combating Further Sleep Deprivation or Sleep Debt with Scam Victims During Recovery

Combatting sleep deprivation or sleep debt is crucial for scam victims in recovery to promote their overall well-being and facilitate the healing process. Here are some strategies to help combat sleep deprivation and promote restorative sleep:

  • Establish a Consistent Sleep Schedule: Set a regular sleep schedule by going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Consistency helps regulate the body’s internal clock and promotes better sleep quality.
  • Create a Relaxing Bedtime Routine: Develop a relaxing bedtime routine to signal to your body that it’s time to wind down and prepare for sleep. This could include activities such as reading, taking a warm bath, practicing relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation, or listening to calming music.
  • Create a Comfortable Sleep Environment: Make sure your bedroom is conducive to sleep by keeping it cool, dark, and quiet. Invest in a comfortable mattress and pillows, and consider using white noise machines or earplugs to block out any disruptive sounds.
  • Limit Exposure to Screens Before Bed: Reduce exposure to electronic devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, and televisions before bedtime, as the blue light emitted by screens can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt sleep patterns. Aim to turn off screens at least an hour before bedtime.
  • Avoid Stimulants Before Bed: Limit consumption of caffeine and other stimulants in the afternoon and evening, as they can interfere with your ability to fall asleep. Similarly, avoid heavy meals, nicotine, and alcohol close to bedtime, as they can disrupt sleep quality.
  • Engage in Regular Physical Activity: Regular exercise can promote better sleep by helping to regulate sleep-wake cycles and reduce stress and anxiety. Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days of the week, but avoid vigorous exercise close to bedtime, as it may be too stimulating.
  • Practice Stress Reduction Techniques: Manage stress and anxiety through relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, progressive muscle relaxation, mindfulness meditation, or yoga. These practices can help calm the mind and body and promote relaxation before bedtime.
  • Seek Professional Help if Needed: If you’re struggling with persistent sleep problems despite trying self-help strategies, consider seeking help from a healthcare professional or sleep specialist. They can evaluate your sleep patterns, identify any underlying sleep disorders or medical conditions contributing to sleep problems, and recommend appropriate treatment options.

By prioritizing healthy sleep habits and making sleep a priority, scam victims in recovery can improve their overall well-being, enhance their cognitive function, and facilitate the healing process. Remember that quality sleep is essential for physical, emotional, and mental health, and investing in good sleep hygiene is an important aspect of self-care and recovery.


Prioritizing adequate sleep is essential for maintaining physical health, mental well-being, cognitive function, and overall quality of life.

This is especially critical for traumatized scam victims trying to recover.

Establishing healthy sleep habits and addressing any underlying sleep disorders or disturbances is important for preventing the negative consequences of sleep deprivation and promoting optimal health and well-being.

Sleep Deprivation As A Scammer's Control Technique And Its Effect On Scam Victims

Important Information for New Scam Victims

Statement About Victim Blaming

Some of our articles discuss various aspects of victims. This is both about better understanding victims (the science of victimology) and their behaviors and psychology. This helps us to educate victims/survivors about why these crimes happened and to not blame themselves, better develop recovery programs, and to help victims avoid scams in the future. At times this may sound like blaming the victim, but it does not blame scam victims, we are simply explaining the hows and whys of the experience victims have.

These articles, about the Psychology of Scams or Victim Psychology – meaning that all humans have psychological or cognitive characteristics in common that can either be exploited or work against us – help us all to understand the unique challenges victims face before, during, and after scams, fraud, or cybercrimes. These sometimes talk about some of the vulnerabilities the scammers exploit. Victims rarely have control of them or are even aware of them, until something like a scam happens and then they can learn how their mind works and how to overcome these mechanisms.

Articles like these help victims and others understand these processes and how to help prevent them from being exploited again or to help them recover more easily by understanding their post-scam behaviors. Learn more about the Psychology of Scams at

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Psychology Disclaimer:

All articles about psychology and the human brain on this website are for information & education only

The information provided in this and other SCARS articles are intended for educational and self-help purposes only and should not be construed as a substitute for professional therapy or counseling.

Note about Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices have the potential to create psychological distress for some individuals. Please consult a mental health professional or experienced meditation instructor for guidance should you encounter difficulties.

While any self-help techniques outlined herein may be beneficial for scam victims seeking to recover from their experience and move towards recovery, it is important to consult with a qualified mental health professional before initiating any course of action. Each individual’s experience and needs are unique, and what works for one person may not be suitable for another.

Additionally, any approach may not be appropriate for individuals with certain pre-existing mental health conditions or trauma histories. It is advisable to seek guidance from a licensed therapist or counselor who can provide personalized support, guidance, and treatment tailored to your specific needs.

If you are experiencing significant distress or emotional difficulties related to a scam or other traumatic event, please consult your doctor or mental health provider for appropriate care and support.

If you are in crisis, feeling desperate, or in despair please call 988 or your local crisis hotline.

PLEASE NOTE: Psychology Clarification

The following specific modalities within the practice of psychology are restricted to psychologists appropriately trained in the use of such modalities:

  • Diagnosis: The diagnosis of mental, emotional, or brain disorders and related behaviors.
  • Psychoanalysis: Psychoanalysis is a type of therapy that focuses on helping individuals to understand and resolve unconscious conflicts.
  • Hypnosis: Hypnosis is a state of trance in which individuals are more susceptible to suggestion. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including anxiety, depression, and pain.
  • Biofeedback: Biofeedback is a type of therapy that teaches individuals to control their bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. It can be used to treat a variety of conditions, including stress, anxiety, and pain.
  • Behavioral analysis: Behavioral analysis is a type of therapy that focuses on changing individuals’ behaviors. It is often used to treat conditions such as autism and ADHD.
    Neuropsychology: Neuropsychology is a type of psychology that focuses on the relationship between the brain and behavior. It is often used to assess and treat cognitive impairments caused by brain injuries or diseases.

SCARS and the members of the SCARS Team do not engage in any of the above modalities in relationship to scam victims. SCARS is not a mental healthcare provider and recognizes the importance of professionalism and separation between its work and that of the licensed practice of psychology.

SCARS is an educational provider of generalized self-help information that individuals can use for their own benefit to achieve their own goals related to emotional trauma. SCARS recommends that all scam victims see professional counselors or therapists to help them determine the suitability of any specific information or practices that may help them.

SCARS cannot diagnose or treat any individuals, nor can it state the effectiveness of any educational information that it may provide, regardless of its experience in interacting with traumatized scam victims over time. All information that SCARS provides is purely for general educational purposes to help scam victims become aware of and better understand the topics and to be able to dialog with their counselors or therapists.

It is important that all readers understand these distinctions and that they apply the information that SCARS may publish at their own risk, and should do so only after consulting a licensed psychologist or mental healthcare provider.


The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of the Society of Citizens Against Rleationship Scams Inc. The author is solely responsible for the content of their work. SCARS is protected under the Communications Decency Act (CDA) section 230 from liability.







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