Sleep deprivation, which is becoming more common, is a condition that occurs when there is a consistent lack of sleep or lack of quality sleep. The recommended amount of sleep for an average adult is about 8 hours (this can vary) and not getting a good amount of sleep can lead to a variety of health conditions. Some of the conditions are forgetfulness, yawning, mood swings, depression, and even the ability to fight off infections. As adults, we are so busy, and we are always trying to squeeze more into the day that we are willing to sacrifice sleep to accomplish our goals. Sleep deprivation can also be a symptom of an undiagnosed sleep disorder or other medical problem.
Regular occurrences of sleepless nights or troubles sleeping may be a sleep disorder. A sleep disorder is a doctor-diagnosed condition that impacts the quality of sleep you get. There are a few types of sleep disorders Insomnia, Sleep Apnea, and Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) to name a few. It is important to remember that sleep disorders and sleep deprivation are related but one does not necessarily cause the other.
Getting the right amount of sleep is imperative to living a healthy and happy life. Getting good sleep improves awareness, helps maintain a healthy weight, eat fewer calories, improves concentration, maximize performance, and improves immune functions. Lack of sleep is linked to heart disease, stroke, irregular heartbeats, type 2 diabetes, and depression. These are all excellent reasons to make it a part of your normal routine to get a full 8 hours of sleep each night.
The effects of sleep deprivation are usually easy to see. Some of them are as simple as repeatedly yawning, moodiness, irritability, depression, fatigue, and difficulty learning new concepts. Constant deprivation of sleep can lead to far worse than just yawning, sleepiness can cause accidents, serious health condition, depression, prematurely aged skin, and can increase your risk of death.
It’s obvious to see why a car accident, depression, and the possibility of an early death are very negative outcomes of sleep deprivation. But constant irritability, fatigue, and moodiness can affect your relationships and deter you from advancing in both your career and your personal life.
Sleep deprivation can usually be self-treated by creating better sleeping habits, reducing stress, avoiding screen time before bedtime (this is usually called “sleep hygiene”) and many other self-help options. There are not many over-the-counter options for sleep deprivation, but melatonin may be able to help.
Typically, you should examine your nighttime routine to identify any possible reasons you may not get a good night sleep. For example, too much blue light (the light coming from electronics) can make it different for your eyes to enter their sleep cycles. Environmental factors like, noise and temperature, can also make it difficult for you to dose off so it’s important that you stop electronics use, turn down noises, and make sure your sleep area it’s at a cool temperature.
It is important to note that not all noises are bad when it comes to sleep. A lot of people like white noise machines or fans because it’s soothing. You may also try a sleep app where someone reads you a bedtime story (one of my favorites, fool-proof ways to fall asleep).
A sleepless night here and there isn’t uncommon but when sleepless night after sleepless start to add up and you find yourself lagging during the day, you may want to re-evaluate your bedtime routine. We all need sleep to function and when we don’t get enough, we can almost instantly feel its effects.
For more information, please visit our Understanding Sleep Deprivation module.