When was the last time you got up feeling refreshed? If it was recently then a big thumbs up to you, for resting well! But if waking up refreshed is not in your dictionary, maybe it is about time you start investing in your health. Sleep deprivation in the long term has severe health consequences. If one works and eats well, it is crucially important to rest as well.
The body’s natural internal clock, the circadian rhythm impacts your overall health and well-being. Sleep deprivation is one of the major reasons that damage cellular health. It's only obvious when cells are pushed beyond their limits, they are more prone to damage and diseases. This article covers everything you need to know about sleep deprivation and how you can optimise your sleep, leading to better sleep hygiene
Understanding Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation as the name suggests, is getting little to no sleep. The healthy amount of sleep an adult should get is around 8 hours per night. Anything below 7-6 hours of sleep is considered sleep deprivation. In today’s competitive world, getting 8 hours of sleep is considered a luxury however, it is more than essential one can think. On the other hand, growing children and teens require more than 7 hours of sleep.
Nevertheless, achieving optimal rest goes beyond mere hours spent sleeping. As a result, "sleep deficiency" or "sleep insufficiency" are used more frequently. It is the quality that matters in most of the cases. To illustrate this, Imagine two people: one who consistently sleeps for more than eight hours but has erratic, fragmented sleep patterns; the other sleep for only five hours but has uninterrupted, deep sleep all night. It is clear from this comparison that the person who slept for only five hours but had a restful night's sleep benefited their health more than the person who slept for eight hours but had a restless night.
Thus sleep deprivation is also further classified into acute sleep deprivation and chronic sleep deprivation. Acute sleep deprivation is characterized by a brief period, usually lasting a few days or less, during which a person experiences a substantial reduction in their sleep duration. On the other hand, chronic sleep deprivation is defined as a persistent lack of sleep that continues for three months or longer. Chronic sleep deficiency or insufficient sleep can encompass both long-term sleep deprivation and inadequate sleep resulting from sleep fragmentation or other disturbances.
Difference between sleep deprivation and Insomnia
While both conditions are associated with sleep, they are not the same. Insomnia occurs when a person has difficulty falling asleep while sleep deprivation causes a person to fall asleep but that sleep is of poor quality. The cure for Insomnia is much more different than it is for sleep deprivation.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation can have various symptoms, which can differ in severity depending on the extent of sleep loss and a person’s health condition. The sleep deprivation symptoms are as follows:
- Fatigue and excessive sleepiness: Fatigue and excessive sleepiness: Lack of sleep is frequently accompanied by the feeling of constant fatigue, sluggishness, and lack of energy. It may be challenging to focus and maintain attention.
- Mood swings: Lack of sleep can cause irritability, erratic moods, more stress, and a generally unfavourable emotional state. Additionally, it might aggravate anxiety and depression symptoms.
- Poor cognitive function: Sleep is essential for cognitive functions like memory, attention, and concentration. These abilities can be hampered by sleep deprivation, which makes it more difficult to make decisions, solve problems, and absorb new information.
- Reduced productivity: Lack of sleep can harm how well you perform at work, in school, and in your daily activities. It could result in decreased productivity, impaired motor function, and a decreased capacity for handling difficult tasks
- Memory issues: Not getting enough sleep can affect both short- and long-term memory, making it more difficult to retain and organize information.
- Increased susceptibility to illness: Lack of sleep compromises immune function, leaving people more vulnerable to infections and illnesses. Additionally, it may impede the healing process.
- Weight gain: Sleep loss has been associated with an increased risk of weight gain and obesity, as well as changes in appetite. It may interfere with the hormones that control appetite, increasing the desire for high-calorie foods.
- Hallucinations and sensory disturbances: Sensory disturbances and hallucinations: Severe sleep deprivation can result in hallucinations, in which people may perceive sounds or sights that aren't there. Additionally, it can cause sensory disturbances like vision blurriness or light flashes.
Physical Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation can have various physical side effects, even in the short term. Here are some of the common physical side effects of sleep deprivation:
- Fatigue and diminished energy: Sleep deprivation can make you feel groggy, tired, and depleted of energy throughout the day.
- Increased appetite and weight gain: Lack of sleep can upset the hormonal balance that controls appetite, causing an increase in hunger and cravings, especially for foods high in calories and sugar. This may result in weight gain over time.
- Affected motor skills: Lack of sleep can impair your balance, coordination, and motor skills, making tasks that call for precise movements more difficult and raising your risk of accidents and injuries.
- Skin problems: Lack of sleep can cause a dull complexion, dark circles under the eyes, and faster ageing of the skin. Additionally, it may exacerbate pre-existing skin problems like psoriasis, eczema, and acne.
- Cardiovascular health: Cardiovascular problems are more likely to develop as a result of chronic sleep deprivation, including an increased risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke.
Mental and Emotional Consequences of Sleep Deprivation
It’s not just your physical health that gets affected due to sleep deprivation. Your mental and emotional well-being is also at the stage. It has been even found that in a majority of psychological disorders, it is the sleeping pattern which is irregular. Chronic sleep loss can have detrimental long-term effects, and it's frequently linked to negative mental health outcomes like depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Chronic sleep deprivation
Can cause depressive symptoms or make them worse. Persistent feelings of helplessness, unhappiness, and tearfulness are hallmarks of depression. Insomnia and sleep deprivation affect about 75% of those who have depression.
According to studies, sleep deprivation makes the amygdala, the part of the brain that controls our emotional responses, more active. Our amygdala goes into overdrive when we don't get enough sleep, making us feel more emotionally receptive.
Anxiety and stress
Anxiety and lack of sleep are also closely related. It's been hypothesized that elevated stress and anxiety may be caused by a lack of REM sleep, one of the crucial stages of sleep during which we dream.
Irritability and anger
Lack of sleep causes the brain to revert to more primitive thinking patterns, which frequently causes feelings of irritability, frustration, and anger to be amplified.
Sleep, and REM sleep, in particular, helps the brain clear out at night. Dreaming during REM sleep is a type of emotional first aid. It serves as a nocturnal calming balm and provides overnight mental health therapy. The processing that occurs during REM sleep softens the edges of challenging emotional issues. When you don't get enough of it, your brain struggles to function as well.
According to recent research, people who don't get enough sleep tend to be more irritable, distressed, and exasperated, as well as less able to cope with trying circumstances.
Sleep Deprivation and Quality of Life
When you combine the above-mentioned factors, the way sleep deprivation affects an individual both mentally and physically, goes without saying how the quality of life will be.
Every one of us must have had one sleepless night in our lives. Can you recall how you felt the other day? Quite irritable, cranky and angry right? Now imagine experiencing the same regularly. Well, that’s the life of a sleep-deprived person. A sleep-deprived person tends to be more prone to mood swings, feeling more easily frustrated, and even experiencing heightened stress levels. It's like a grumpy cloud hanging over their heads.
And more than just our emotions are off-balance. Our mental abilities suffer as well. Lack of sleep has an impact on our capacity for clear thought, focus, and memory. You might discover that it's difficult for you to concentrate at work or school, that you make mistakes that you ordinarily wouldn't, or that you feel mentally clouded all day.
The consequences of sleep deprivation can also be felt physically. Have you ever felt like a zombie when you woke up from a bad night of sleep? This is due to the fact that when we are sleep deprived, our energy levels drop down. We experience fatigue, sluggishness, and a lack of motivation. Even the simplest tasks can become more challenging as a result. Consequently, the adage "maybe sleep on it" exists.
So, as you can see, the effects of sleep deprivation go beyond just feeling groggy. It impacts our mood, cognitive abilities, physical health, and overall well-being. It's essential to prioritize good sleep habits and aim for the recommended 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night. After all, a good night's sleep is the key to restoring and healing our bodies.
How to treat sleep deprivation?
We know now what are the ill effects of sleep deprivation but what is the solution? Here are certain measures you can take:
To treat sleep deprivation, address underlying causes and adopt healthy sleep practices. Here are the steps:
- Prioritize sleep: Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep each night.
- Establish a sleep routine: Set a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Create a sleep-friendly environment: A dark, quiet, and comfortable bedroom.
- Limit electronic devices: Avoid screens before bed; opt for relaxing activities.
- Avoid stimulants: Minimize caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol, especially before bedtime.
- Exercise regularly: Engage in physical activity, avoiding intense exercise close to bedtime.
- Manage stress: Practice relaxation techniques like deep breathing or meditation.
- Avoid daytime napping: If sleep is difficult at night, skip napping during the day.
- Intake of supplements: certain supplements like melatonin and NMN have been known to promote deep sleep
- Consider sleep aids as a last resort: Consult a healthcare professional if needed.
You would not run your machines the whole day, right? You will shut it down and let it charge. The same applies to our bodies. A healthy sleep does more than anything else can. You might be eating well, exercising well, but if you aren’t sleeping well, your health will suffer. Thus, take appropriate measures as mentioned above and take active steps to attain a peaceful sleep!
What are the common side effects of sleep deprivation?
Common side effects of sleep deprivation include daytime drowsiness, difficulty concentrating, impaired memory, decreased alertness, mood swings, and increased risk of accidents.
How does sleep deprivation affect cognitive function and mental clarity?
Sleep deprivation negatively affects cognitive function, leading to reduced mental clarity, poor decision-making, and slower reaction times.
Can sleep deprivation contribute to mood disorders such as depression and anxiety?
It can contribute to mood disorders like depression and anxiety due to disruptions in brain chemistry.
Does sleep deprivation affect weight and metabolism?
Sleep deprivation can disrupt weight regulation and metabolism, potentially leading to weight gain.
Are there any recommended strategies or treatments for addressing the side effects of sleep deprivation?
Strategies for addressing its side effects include establishing a regular sleep schedule, creating a conducive sleep environment, and seeking medical advice if necessary.