Sleep is critical to the maintenance of an individual’s health. Lack of proper rest can lead to a variety of problems impacting a stricken individual’s physical and mental well-being over the long and short-term.
The problems with not getting enough sleep are long and complicated, but they all start with the effects sleep deprivation has on your mind and body.
From worsening health problems and affecting your energy level throughout the day, to increasing feelings of anxiety and stress, it is imperative that you learn how it affects you and how to go about dealing with sleep deprivation.
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How Is Sleep Deprivation Defined?
Sleep deprivation is defined by not only lacking appropriate rest but not receiving the necessary total sleep that occurs when someone reaches a complete state of rest.
Neglected sleep is hard to quantify. The average person needs roughly eight hours of sleep per night. However, sleep requirements can vary with age and be dependent upon several other factors such as the individual in question’s health, life circumstances and general health.
Keep in mind sleep deprivation and insomnia can include having trouble falling asleep, as well as staying asleep. Even if you fall asleep quickly, waking up every hour or so is not normal, and is keeping you from a deep sleep that your body and mind needs for proper rest.
Continue reading if you want to know more about dealing with sleep deprivation, how to recognize the signs, and learn about the potential side effects.
1. Dealing With Sleep Deprivation: Causes
Deprived sleep could be precipitated by numerous physical, medical and environmental factors. Before looking at the effects of sleep deprivation, it is important to have a good understanding of why this could be happening.
Keep in mind there are many potential causes for sleep deprivation, from anxiety and depression, to various health conditions. Other causes could simply be habits or lifestyle choices that are very easy to fix.
Here are some of the most common causes for sleep deprivation.
Underlying Health Problems
Several medical maladies might cause sleep disruptions due to the symptoms they produce. The good news is that if any of these medical conditions sound familiar to you, you know that treating the medical condition might in return help to treat the sleep issues you are having.
Common conditions include:
- Sleep Apnea – With sleep apnea, you experience breathing disturbances at night, which often shock your body awake. This can happen whether you are fully aware of it or not.
- Acid Reflux – You might have discomfort at night as soon as you lay down, which is when acid reflux symptoms worsen. Luckily, treatments are readily available.
- Hormonal Disorders – Many people experience sleep issues when they are dealing with hormonal disorders or hormonal imbalances. A simple blood test from your doctor can help you get diagnosed for these.
Stress can take various forms and be precipitated by a variety of environmental, professional and personal causes. Everyone deals with a certain amount of stress, so while you can’t always avoid it entirely, you should at least be able to reduce it. Try to find the cause of your stress first – whether it is from personal relationships, work, or home life.
Once you have narrowed down the main sources of your stress, you can try to eliminate them, or at least learn how to manage them better. This might mean finding enough time for self-care, avoiding certain toxic people leading to your stress, or working on healthier daily habits to overcome it.
Certain medications contain ingredients that might enhance states of wakefulness because they contain stimulant drugs or produce sleep-disrupting side effects. It is a good idea to consider what medications you are currently taking and determine if they might be affecting your sleep.
Some medications might include:
- Beta blockers
- Cold or flu medications
If you take any of these regularly, talk to your doctor about possible alternatives for dealing with sleep deprivation.
Certain Foods and Beverages
Some foods contain stimulating substances like caffeine such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate. With stimulants, especially if ingested in the evening or prior to said individual’s regular bedtime, sleep deprivation could result.
Remember it is not just caffeinated coffee or soft drinks that might keep you from sleeping at night. It could be something as simple as chocolate for dessert, which is a known stimulant.
A Poor Diet
Poor eating habits or the consumption of non-nutritious foods could elicit fluctuations in an individual’s blood sugar. Blood sugar variations, especially when they occur during the evening or during someone’s regular sleeping hours could cause periods of hunger that interrupt rest cycles.
Signs and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Repeated incidents of deprived sleep could manifest in acute symptoms such as yawning, tiredness, reduced reflexes, concentration difficulties, mood swings and memory problems. That said, the condition could also result in potentially more serious physical and mental medical issues.
2. Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation
A continual lack of adequate rest could have an adverse impact on many bodily systems and ultimately result in a wide range of physical conditions.
Sleep deprivation doesn’t just cause fatigue and low energy during the day, though you should definitely consider these common effects. It can actually be detrimental to your health and require any number of treatments – sometimes even hospitalization.
Here are some of the most common physical effects of being deprived of proper sleep:
Weakened Immune System
To start with, dealing with sleep deprivation could be weakening your immune system. Your body’s entire system needs to work together to battle different illnesses, and this includes getting enough rest. Without it, you are potentially putting your immune system in jeopardy.
Why is this a problem? Because with a weakened immune system, you then run a higher risk of illnesses like a cold and flu, infections, and viruses.
Heart and Blood Pressure Issues
Your cardiovascular system can also be affected by not sleeping properly. Your blood and heart vessels need proper rest to keep functioning normally, so when you deny this basic bodily system enough sleep, you are increasing cardiovascular issues.
While it might not cause high blood pressure and heart problems on its own, it can exacerbate current cardiovascular issues and raise your risk for a number of related complications.
Hormonal imbalances might not seem like a big problem, but they can eventually lead to more serious issues down the line. You might struggle with thyroid diseases, diabetes, or other endocrine diseases all because you are denying your body enough sleep.
3. Mental Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Continued occurrences of sleep deprivation could result in mental issues such as the potential to exhibit poor judgment, long-term memory loss, the development of anxiety disorders, depression and, in severe instances, possible outbreaks of psychoses.
If you suffer from an anxiety disorder like panic disorder or generalized anxiety disorder, you are not doing it any favors by also getting inadequate amounts of sleep. Anxiety is a complicated mental health disorder, but one that can be worsened by sleep deprivation.
Treating anxiety is all about balance, and that begins with resting both your body and your mind.
Similar to anxiety, getting better sleep is not going to cure depression, but lack of sleep can make your symptoms worse. It can even trigger major depressive episodes in some cases. Don’t underestimate how important good sleep can be for this and other mental health conditions.
We spoke previously about how your stress could be exacerbated by lack of sleep, but it is worth repeating. Stress affects nearly every part of your life, from increasing other mental health disorders, to causing extreme fatigue, and affecting your personal and professional relationships.
It is worth noting that sleep deprivation has been the investigated cause of several major adverse events such as automobile accidents, industrial mishaps and plane crashes. Additionally, a chronic lack of sleep might also lead to less tragic but still significant problems like poor job performance.
4. Tips for Getting More Sleep
By now, you understand just how important it is that you get proper sleep. Dealing with sleep deprivation can be really frustrating, but all hope is not lost. Here are some tips to help you improve your sleep now.
Receiving a Medical Checkup
Since lack of sleep can be very closely related to physical conditions, this should be your first step. If nothing else, it will help to rule out conditions like diabetes or thyroid conditions so you can look at other potential causes.
Try to Adhere to A Specific and Constant Sleep Schedule
With so many people having demanding schedules that often change and tend to demand more and more of their time, orchestrating a regular sleep schedule might be difficult. However, when and if it can be done, medical professionals sleep experts suggest attempting to block out a specific time each night (or day) for sleep and not deviating unless it’s absolutely necessary.
Receive A Proper Amount of Exercise
Engaging in regular physical exertion can work a participant’s bones and muscles, prompting fatigue and a greater need for the body to rest. This doesn’t need to be a strenuous workout every day. Try to participate in regular physical activities, such as walking your dog, doing yoga in the morning, or just taking a short walk during your lunch break.
Ebbing incidents of stress, as well as precipitators of the emotional, physical and mental catalyst is not always simple. However, what individuals can control is how they react to stress and find constructive ways to deal with its occurrence. Someone who can trace their sleeping woes to the stress they are feeling, decreased tension might be found by engaging in a hobby or pleasant activity in the hours leading up to bedtime.
**Information on this site is provided for informational purposes and is not meant to substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. You should not use the information contained herein for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease. If you have or suspect that you have a medical problem, contact your health care provider. Information and statements regarding dietary supplements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.