What is the meaning of sleep deprivation? What are the symptoms or how does it feel like? Basing on studies, what are the causes and side effects of sleep deprivation? How do prevent, cure or treat this condition? Does it have any benefits? Read on to find out.
What is Sleep Deprivation? Definition & Meaning
In the simplest terms possible, sleep deprivation is the condition of having inadequate sleep. According to Dr. Michael Breus, PhD , Psychology, it is an individual concept, varying from one person to the next. Usually, sleep deprivation is when someone is not getting the right amount or quality of sleep they require to feel refreshed the next day. Sleep deprivation can be further be categorized into two: chronic or acute.
Further reading: World’s Weirdest Sleep Disorders
For a long time it has appeared almost fashionable to be sleep deprived. Ambitious career tigers would wear the bags under their eyes as a matter of pride while citing maniacal over-workers such as Bill Clinton and Margaret Thatcher, who reportedly saw through their respective terms in office with four hours sleep per night.
Apart from feeling groggy and looking rough around the edges, there are a host of more serious effects that come from prolonged sleep deprivation, including obesity, heart disease, and diabetes. These are becoming more widely known, and led by a host of CEOs from Silicon Valley, sleep is no longer regarded as a hindrance to a successful career. Indeed, from high-flyers to hipsters, tiredness is slowly becoming as unfashionable as smoking and fatty fast food.
It is estimated that one in three people in the Western world suffer from poor sleep, that figure rising yet higher when looking at just the United States.
Though it varies depending on the metabolism of the person and their lifestyle, as a rule of thumb, the medical community recommend that we should each be getting around eight hours of sleep per night. However, disregarding figures for the moment, if you are waking up tired and longing for a nap most of the day, this is a clear sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
Sleep Deprivation Symptoms/Signs
Beyond irritableness and a struggle to focus, a prolonged lack of sleep (anything above three or four nights) can lead to a more deep-set malaise.
- Brain ‘fogging’ can occur, rendering it hard to make decisions and a person’s reaction time will start to lag significantly, leading to the increased chance of accidents on the road if driving.
- Additionally, beyond merely feeling grumpy, a more pervading drop in spirits is likely to occur.
- When a few days of poor sleep turns into weeks and months, the risk of more serious health conditions will rise.
If a person has gone without their eight hours of sleep for a long time, they would have accrued a significant amount of ‘sleep debt’. A sleep-filled weekend will not be enough; instead what is required is a more substantial change in lifestyle.
The benefits however are numerous. Getting more sleep will boost immunity from common colds and flus.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Following are some of the known causes of sleep deprivation in, women, children and men
- Psychological Issues and emotional distress, that is depression and anxiety and depression. Other psychological causes include include chronic or significant life stress, bipolar disorder, trauma, anger, worry, and grief.
Underlying medical problems or illness for example cancer, allergies, severe pain, hyperthyroidism, acid reflux, Parkinson’s disease, kidney disease, and asthma.
Prescription drugs or Medication including antidepressants, thyroid hormone, stimulants for ADHD, corticosteroids, high blood pressure medications, and some contraceptive scan interfere with sleep pattern. According to helpguide.org, common OTC (over-the-counter) culprits include cold and flu medications that contain alcohol, pain relievers that contain caffeine (Midol, Excedrin), diuretics, and slimming pills.
Sleep disorders such as restless legs syndrome, sleep apnea, and circadian rhythm disturbances tied to jet lag or late-night shift work.
Other Common yet simple causes that you can control include;
- Uncomfortable sleep environment -noisy, too bright
- Caffeinated beverages (coffee, tea, soda) within eight hours of bed
- Exercising or eating late in the evening
- Watching TV, playing video games, or using a computer, tablet or smartphone in bed
- Irregular sleep schedule
- Using other substances such as alcohol to fall asleep
Sleep Deprivation Side Effects
- Sleep deprived people are believed to have a deficient amount of leptin, which is the chemical that makes a person feel full, and an above-average amount of ghrelin, the hunger-stimulating hormone.
- Those who have less sleep not only have lower libidos but may also encounter difficulties in conceiving a baby, due to the reduction in the secretion of reproductive hormones.
- A lack of deep sleep is also thought to alter the way that the body processes glucose, leading to the higher chance of developing Type 2 diabetes.
- Prolonged lack of sleep can also lead to an increased heart rate and blood pressure, as well as a higher level of chemicals linked to inflammation.
Cure & Treatment for Sleep Deprivation
Many people suffer from varying levels of insomnia. For these people, simply allowing more time for sleep is not going to solve the problem. Besides using pharmaceuticals, there’s an array of simple holistic solutions one can take up.
Things such as going to bed and waking up at regular hours can help program your body to fall asleep at ‘bed time’. For children and teenagers struggling to get to sleep, an increased amount of exercise can have an incredibly positive effect.
It is recommended to create a restful environment to sleep in, with as few screens as possible. Try not to work, read or even be on your phone in bed.
A comfortable mattress is important, and one should see it as an investment. The renewed appreciation of the importance of sleep has led to the increased trade of memory foam mattresses from those such as Eve, the founders of which claim to have created “the most comfortable mattress ever made.” The mattress company even allows for 100 nights to try out the product – a rare act these days. Whichever mattress you choose, it is important to read testimonials and research the benefits and particular components of each one.
Additionally, instead of worrying about what to do the next day, make a list and plan the day beforehand. Keep that kind of thing out from under the duvet. If you’re lying in bed constantly counting sheep, stop worrying about not falling asleep and instead get up and do something relaxing until you feel sleepy. And then finally: don’t over indulge in food directly before bed, drink less caffeine throughout the day, and if you are a smoker, quit – smokers take longer to fall asleep and will wake up more frequently in the night.
Although some of these tips may seem trivial, to see a marked improvement in the quality and quantity of sleep, they need to be implemented firmly, and this can require resolve and significant lifestyle changes. However, as laid out above, sleep deprivation over a long period of time has serious health effects. If you can successfully change your sleeping habits, they should last you a lifetime, and a more tranquil, healthier lifetime at that.