Poor sleep leads to poor decisions. So don’t live your life in a daze. Just when science tells us sleep is more important than ever for health and productivity, people nowadays are more sleep deprived than ever.
Technology doesn’t seem to be helping. Screen time has increased and fitness monitors which tell you how little sleep you’re getting are hardly motivating.
But the causes of sleep deprivation are wide and varied. So what exactly is sleep deprivation and how can you overcome it?
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation, as the name suggests, occurs when your body is missing out on much-needed sleep. Not everyone experiences sleep deprivation in the same manner. As we grow, our sleep requirements change; so do our daily obligations.
But when your sleep schedule gets disrupted it can lead to emotional problems, excessive daytime sleepiness, poor perception of life, obesity, and low productivity levels at work. Sleep deprivation can contribute to road accidents and work-related mishaps. If you have been missing out on a good night’s sleep, you may start to accumulate sleep debt. In short, sleep loss can harm your brain function which can prevent you from staying focused.
Symptoms Of Sleep Deprivation
How do you know if you have sleep deprivation? Well, there are several symptoms linked to this disorder:
- Tiredness or irritability
- Lack of energy
- Mood swings
- Weight gain
- High anxiety levels
- Not feeling refreshed in the morning
- Feeling stressed out
- Sleep apnea
- Restless legs syndrome
- Difficulty falling asleep
- Tossing and turning
These symptoms may be triggered by various sleep disorders, such as insomnia or sleep apnea. Regardless, when these symptoms appear, it means that you are not getting the sleep quality that your body needs to recuperate.
It’s essential you think about any accompanying symptoms. This can help your doctor determine the source of the problem. Do you snore? Are you having difficulty falling asleep? Or, is it easy to fall asleep but you keep waking up during the night. What’s going on in your life? Children, as well as young adults, are at higher risk of suffering from the side effects of sleep deprivation.
If can’t fall asleep easily, and it has been going on for days to weeks, it may be that you have an undiagnosed sleep disorder.
The Top 4 Causes Of Sleep Deprivation
Our body has a natural circadian rhythm that tells us when it is time to wake up and when it is time to sleep. When your sleep-wake cycle is disrupted, there is a good chance that you’ll feel quite sleepy, and make it difficult for you to concentrate on your tasks. What are some common causes of sleep deprivation?
Work or school commitments
Some work environments may affect your sleep schedule. These include working the night shift or business-related travelling to different time zones. In the case of children and teens, school commitments and sports may prevent them from having an early bedtime. Also, during the teenage years, the sleep-wake cycle is starting to shift, making them naturally fall asleep at later hours. However, their need to get up early for school prevents them from sleeping for the required number of hours thus leading to sleep deprivation. Some enlightened schools have shifted the school day for teenagers, but most are still stuck out of sync.
This is a type of sleep disorder that affects a lot of people throughout the world regardless of their age and gender. Insomnia usually involves having difficulty sleeping at night on a regular basis. It typically affects more adults than children. Common symptoms include difficulty in concentrating, excessive daytime sleepiness, and poor memory and motor function. Several factors can trigger insomnia, such as psychiatric issues, post-traumatic stress disorders, anxiety, taking stimulants, imbalances in neurotransmitters, as well as environmental factors. Those who are suffering from chronic insomnia will require treatment to help them fall asleep.
There are some lifestyle circumstances we can change and others we cannot change. Sometimes, sleep deprivation is caused by the presence of stimuli in the area where you are sleeping. It may be that you are sleeping with a partner who is experiencing sleep apnea or there may be a lot of environmental noise. New parents are often subjected to lack of sleep because of their newborn needs. Also, your sleep habits can prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep, especially when you tend to take stimulants, like coffee, a few hours prior to bedtime. It’s also important to turn off your electronics 30-60 minutes before bedtime.
Sometimes, sleep disorders are the cause of a lack of sleep. Another possible reason why you suffer from sleep deprivation is because of sleep apnea. This is a health issue where the tongue relaxes and falls across your upper airway while you are sleeping. This leads to less airflow getting to the lungs. When this happens, the individual snores and is jolted awake several times during the night because of the lack of air. Those who are suffering from sleep apnea tend to feel sleepy the following day because their sleep quality is poor.
Effects Of Sleep Deprivation
Now that you know the causes of sleep deprivation let’s see their effects. Here are a few that may surprise you.
If you or your partner snores badly, it may cause a strain in your relationship especially when both of you are not getting enough sleep.
Daytime sleepiness can leave you prone to injuries especially in the workplace.
Reduced alertness and performance
Insomnia or being sleep deprived can also affect your level of alertness and performance which can take a toll on your productivity levels.
Another example of the serious effects of sleep deprivation is getting into road accidents. Since you have been missing out on sleep, there is a tendency that you may doze while behind the wheel which can put you at risk of hitting another car or just present poor driving judgment.
Tips On How To Correct Sleep Deprivation
When you slumber, you undergo five stages of sleep. The first four stages are referred to as non-rem sleep. This is where your brain transitions from waking to going into a deep sleep. After the first four cycles, you enter the REM stage where restorative sleep and cellular repair occurs. Short-changing these sleep cycles can result in sleep deprivation. It’s essential that you take steps to correct your sleep habits as soon as possible
Stick to your sleep patterns
It is important that you stick to your sleep schedule on a daily basis as this will help train your body when it should shut down at night, and when it should wake up in the morning. You should follow through this routine even on the weekends.
Don’t nap later in the day
Another tip that can help you sleep better at night is to avoid naps after 3 in the afternoon as this will affect your sleep-wake cycle.
If you are fond of drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee or soda, make sure that you avoid doing so a few hours before going to bed – caffeine will still be in your system 5 hours after the drink; an evening coffee is highly likely to keep you from falling asleep at night.
Keep your bedroom dark and comfortable
Artificial light disrupts the body’s circadian rhythm, the 24 hour cycle that keeps your body healthy. External light means you don’t sleep so deeply and at a subconscious level your body doesn’t close down as fully. So it’s important to keep artificial light out of your bedroom. That means no devices with indicator lights; cover them up carefully. Go low tech with the alarm clock. And use blackout curtains or blinds on your window. Lots of people also use eye masks which can give you your own personalised blackout space.
Keep your bedroom tidy and comfortable and free from too many distractions. You don’t want to be worrying about that pile of work reports by your bed when you’re trying to get to sleep. A comfortable memory foam mattress, soft pillows and bed clothes can also help.
Another tip that can help you sleep better at night is to have a pre-bedtime routine. This can be something simple as taking a warm bath, playing some soft music, or even reading a few pages from your book. Do this every night and you may be able to train your body and your mind to start winding down at a certain hour. This is called sleep hygiene.
Do something quiet when you can’t sleep
If you find yourself in bed but still wide awake, get up and go into another room. Try reading or getting a glass of warm milk. Go back to bed when you find yourself sleepy.
Do you have a hard time falling asleep? For most of us it’s just down to bad habits that can be easily fixed with a bit of planning and self-discipline. But if you’re still struggling then bear in mind that when you are not getting enough sleep, you are more susceptible to a range of ailments including mood swings and high blood pressure. Good sleep is a basic need. If you can’t get yours sorted call the doctor. Don’t let it become chronic and impact on your broader health and wellbeing.