Are you Sleep Deprived? Lack of Sleep symptoms & Causes
Did you know that lack of sleep can lead to more cravings for unhealthy food? Or that it can age your brain by 3-5 years? You have probably heard of sleep deprivation or even experienced it at some point in your life. After spending the night restless and uneasy, tossing and turning, you know that you will feel like a zombie the next day. Tired and grumpy, the rest of your day will probably go unproductive and useless.
But what we need to talk about is that sleep deprivation has much more severe consequences in the long run. Besides making you feel grumpy, it can affect your mood, memory, and health in far-reaching ways. This article will talk about the surprising effects of sleep deprivation that you should know. Along with that, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and preventive measures for the same.
How Much Sleep Do You Need?
Just like food, water, and air, sleep is one of the body’s essential needs. Not sleeping long enough, sleeping at odd times of the day, and exposure to bright light at night can disrupt your internal clock and the many processes it regulates. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to answer how many hours a person should sleep. It varies by age. An average adult needs 7-9 hours of sleep. While newborn babies need 14-17 hours, teenagers need 8-10 hours of sleep. Older adults need at least 7 hours and a maximum of 8 hours of sleep for a healthy lifestyle.
Daytime naps are widely criticized for being unhealthy. But this is a myth. A 20-minute nap gives the body ample time to recharge. However, naps more extended than this period descend your deep sleep. Once awake, you may feel lazy and tired. That is why it is advised that you keep your naps short. Sleeping too much or too little disrupts your sleep cycle.
Lack of Sleep is a condition that happens when you get less than the needed amount of sleep. It is classified into two types.
Acute sleep deprivation occurs when a person faces a lack of sleep for a short period, usually a few days or less.
Chronic sleep deprivation occurs when a person faces a lack of sleep for three months or longer.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
The voluntary choices of a person often drive sleep deprivation. For example, if you decide to stay up late and binge-watch a series at night instead of sleeping for a few days, your sleep cycle will get disrupted. These voluntary causes are mostly controllable by the person. Another set of causes includes work obligations and deadlines, where people tend to stay up because they have no choice but to do their shift job or work. Specific physical or mental illnesses such as asthma, depression, anxiety, or even the common cold can cause difficulty sleeping at night.
Certain medicines used to treat diseases like epilepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder can interfere with the regular sleeping pattern. Stress is one of the leading factors for sleeplessness in adults. Pressure from work, family, and friends doesn’t give your mind time to relax which keeps you up at night. Environmental causes for sleep deficiency can be extreme temperatures, loud noises, and bright lighting. Factors related to lifestyle such as smoking cigarettes or drinking coffee before bed delays the onset of sleep by stimulating the nervous system. Lying in bed awake and overthinking rather than relaxing your mind often prevents you from having a quality sleep.
Symptoms of Lack of Sleep
- Morning grogginess
- Excessive daytime napping
- Frequent mood changes
- Reduced attention span and difficulty concentrating
- Memory problems
- Puffy eyes
- Increased appetite
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation has both short-term and long-term effects on your health. The short-term effects include lack of alertness and inability to function during the day entirely. Your quality of life is lowered as you lose motivation to be productive or even perform basic tasks. Your memory is affected as your ability to think and process information weakens. Also, your concentration levels go down, and your attention span decreases. Because of this, you become more prone to accidents and roads, which can be dangerous.
If you continue to operate without sleep, you may face more long-term and serious problems associated with chronic sleep deprivation. These include a higher risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. Other potential problems include obesity, depression, impairment in immunity, and lower sex drive. Chronic sleep deprivation may even harm your appearance, premature wrinkling, and dark circles under the eyes, to name a few. You have a 50% higher risk of obesity if your nightly sleep is less than 5 hours. This is because of lower levels of the appetite-controlling hormone leptin.
Now you know why sleep is so important.
How to treat and prevent lack of sleep
The first and the best treatment for lack of sleep is pretty apparent: sleep more. Sleep in the right amount at the right time will help you recover from sleep deprivation and prevent it too. The next option is to increase your physical activity, like a workout. After a tiring day, it becomes hard not to fall asleep. And of course, exercising has its list of endless benefits. Before going to bed, make sure you are not exposed to bright lights or loud noises, and your bedroom is at a reasonable temperature. A comfortable environment for sleeping is essential. Avoid eating 2-3 hours before sleeping. Limit the consumption of caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Taking a hot bath before bed may help.
Try relaxation techniques like meditation, guided imagery, and breathing exercises. Relax your mind from unnecessary thoughts and focus on getting a night of quality sleep. Finally, remember to try medications only after a prescription from a healthcare provider. However, see a doctor if your problems with sleep deprivation continue. Do not let sleep problems linger because you might have to pay for them later.
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