An average adult needs around 7 to 9 hours of good quality sleep to function properly. Most of us already know about this fact, yet we still underestimate the effects that can be caused by a lack of sleep or poor quality sleep.
Sleep deprivation can have long-term effects. It can drain your mental abilities, as well as puts your physical health at risk. But what is causing the sleep deprivation, really? And how can we prevent it from happening? We will find out all of the answers here. Check it out.
Commonly, we know that the cause of sleep deprivation is a consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Sleep deprivation can also be caused by some kind of sleep disorder.
Sleep deprivation can occur mainly because one of these reasons:
○ Sleep disorder. Sleep deprivation can be caused by sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and restless legs syndrome.
○ Age. Usually, people older than 65 have trouble sleeping because of the natural aging, medicines they’re taking, or certain health problems.
○ Illness. Sleep deprivation is surprisingly common for people who are suffering from depression, schizophrenia, chronic pain syndrome, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.
○ Internal or external factors. A lot of people occasionally experience sleep deprivation for various factors, such as stress, a change in schedule or sleeping pattern, or something that disrupts their sleep schedule.
When we sleep, our body heals itself and restores its chemical balance that we need to function properly. It also helps with memory retention. Therefore, if we don’t get enough sleep, our brain and body won’t be able to function at their maximum capacity. It can also lower our life quality.
Here are some of the most common signs of sleep deprivation:
○ daytime fatigue
○ frequent yawning
○ excessive sleepiness
○ feeling lethargic
Most of us would usually turn to caffeine when these things happen. But caffeine alone is never enough to override our body’s need for sleep. Instead of helping, sometimes daytime caffeine consumption can make sleep deprivation worse as it may lead to the cycle of nighttime insomnia.
Sleep deprivation can cause a lot of negative effects on our bodies. It can affect us mentally and physically. Even though we might think that the lack of sleep is not a big deal, but it actually is a huge deal.
As mentioned before, daytime caffeine consumption can lead to nighttime insomnia. If this continues, it can later turn into chronic insomnia and affect our health greatly. Here are some of the effects of sleep deprivation that you should know about.
1. Brain Exhaustion
Sleep deprivation exhausts the brain for sure. When the brain is exhausted, the system that sends and processes information in our body can be disrupted. It can also negatively affect our memories, whether it’s short term or long term memories.
We will also find that it’s more difficult to focus or learn something new. As the system in our body is disrupted, our response to anything around us will be delayed, therefore increasing the risk for physical accidents.
Not only that, our mental abilities and emotional state can also be negatively affected because of this. People with sleep deprivation usually become more lethargic, impatient, and have frequent mood swings. The decision-making process, creativity, and productivity can also be disrupted. If this continues long enough, some may start having hallucinations.
In the case of people who are having a bipolar mood disorder, sleep deprivation may trigger mania. Even for people in general, this can also lead to some psychological risks, such as anxiety, depression, impulsive behavior, and the worst of all: suicidal thoughts.
2. Decreasing Immune System
When we sleep, our immune system produces substances on its own that can help to combat illnesses. But when we don’t have enough sleep, our immune systems are prevented from producing these substances.
Hence, it will make us get sick more easily and it usually takes us longer to recover.
The long-term effect of sleep deprivation on our immune system is no joke. This can lead to chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease.
And in some cases for people with breathing disorders like obstructive sleep apnea, sleep deprivation can also lead to a chronic lung illness.
3. Disrupted Digestive System
Have you ever heard that the lack of sleep can make you gain weight but couldn’t understand how? Sleep deprivation has known as another risk factor for becoming overweight and obese other than eating too much and not exercising enough.
Sleep affects the levels of two important hormones in our digestive system, which are leptin (a hormone that tells your brain to stop eating) and ghrelin (a hormone that tells your brain to keep eating). The lack of sleep can make our brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which cause nighttime snacking or overeating.
Sleep deprivation oftentimes also makes us feel too tired to exercise and makes us reduce physical activity. This may lead to weight gain because we don’t burn enough calories and don’t build the muscle mass we need.
Little that we know, sleep deprivation also lowers our body’s glucose tolerance level and makes our body release less insulin. If this continues in the long-term, your body is at risk of diabetes mellitus and obesity.
4. Cardiovascular Diseases
Getting enough sleep can help us to keep our heart and blood vessels healthy. It also affects our blood sugar, blood pressure, and inflammation level in a positive way. Adequate good quality sleep also helps to heal and repair the blood vessels and heart.
On the contrary, people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get cardiovascular diseases. This is because chronic insomnia is linked to an increased risk of stroke and heart attack.
How To Prevent Sleep Deprivation?
Okay, okay, we get it. Sleep deprivation is bad for our overall health. But how can we prevent this from happening? Well, one of the best ways to prevent sleep deprivation is to make sure that we get adequate good quality sleep. We also need to get a healthy sleep schedule and sleeping habits, and there are a few ways to get back on track.
Here are some things that you need to focus on in order to prevent sleep deprivation:
○ limit your daytime naps or avoid them altogether
○ refrain from caffeine past noon or at least a few hours before your bedtime
○ go to bed and waking up at around the same time every day
○ stick to the bedtime schedule even during weekends and holidays
○ spend an hour before bed to do relaxing activities, such as taking a shower, meditating, etc.
○ try not to eat heavy meals a few hours before your bedtime
○ if you consume alcohol, try to reduce your alcohol intake
○ avoid exercising in the evening hours close to your bedtime and try to exercise regularly in the daytime
○ avoid using electronic devices before going to bed
○ eat or drink foods that can help to increase your sleep quality, such as chamomile tea, passionflower tea, almonds, turkey, etc. (make sure to avoid processed foods as much as you can)
Have you ever experienced sleep deprivation? What did you do to prevent it? Share with us in the comment section below! We would love to hear your stories!