How Sleep Affects Your Health

We’ve all had those sleepless nights where you toss and turn and can't seem to fall asleep. You wake up feeling tired and out of sorts, passing through your day in a caffeine-driven fog. The issue with chronic sleep deprivation is that it can have serious consequences on your health, from weight gain to increased blood pressure.

So what is Sleep Deprivation? 

Simply put, it is when someone is not getting enough sleep. Most adults need an average of 8 hours of sleep per night. In a 24-hour period, teenagers need somewhere between 8-10 hours and children need 10-12 hours of sleep.

Some common signs of Sleep Deprivation

  • Feeling drowsy during the day - You should always be alert, even during boring tasks.

  • Irritability - If you find yourself being short with others and losing your patience easily, then you might need more sleep.

  • Reduced physical strength - Your body uses the time you are sleeping to heal itself. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body can't repair the micro-tears in your muscles that happen throughout the day.

  • Reduced ability to fight off infection - Your body produces antibodies and cytokines during your sleep cycle. This helps fight off infections like bacteria and viruses. If you aren’t getting adequate sleep, these fighters are not produced in great enough numbers to help keep you healthy.

If you go long enough without sleep, then more severe symptoms will start to appear, such as:

 

  • Severe mood swings

  • Hallucinations

  • Increased risk for heart disease, asthma, and strokes.

  • Increased risk for mental health issues

There is also an increased risk of getting into car accidents due to slower cognitive functions and a phenomenon known as ‘microsleeps’, which is when your body shuts down for seconds at a time in an attempt to heal itself. Most people aren’t even aware of when they are microsleeping as they are typically short periods of time, but it can have devastating effects if you are operating a vehicle or other heavy equipment.

What Causes Sleep Deprivation? 

There can be many causes of sleep deprivation and you will need to speak with your doctor to help narrow it down. They may order a sleep study where you go to a treatment center for overnight observation, however, with advancements in technology some sleep studies can be conducted in your home.

These are the most common types of sleep disorders:

 

  • Sleep apnea

  • Anxiety and depression

  • Restless leg syndrome

  • Insomnia Narcolepsy

  • Circadian rhythm disorders

How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation

 

While it might seem obvious, the best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to get enough sleep. Sometimes that is easier said than done. Try implementing these tricks into your routine to get a full night’s rest. 

  • Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends and holidays.

  • Avoid heavy meals a few hours before you sleep. Try to have dinner early and only a light snack before bed.

  • Don’t use any electronics an hour before bed. The blue light that most screens give off can disrupt your circadian rhythm.

  • Do a relaxing activity before bed like reading or taking a bath

  • Reduce your alcohol intake

  • Try to eliminate naps

  • Refrain from drinking any sort of caffeine or stimulant after 12pm.

  • Exercise regularly 

These are some activities that you can do if there is not an underlying medical condition for your lack of sleep. If none of these work for you, then consider scheduling a visit to your doctor to discuss your other options.

Always consult a doctor before starting any new exercise or diet routine and follow all safety protocols for appropriate social distancing.

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