What do you need to know about sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation usually makes you feel drowsy and less concentrated than usual. But lack of sleep can also cause you to have impaired memory, hypersensitivity to physical pain, hallucinations and many other negative effects.
The solution to sleep deprivation is usually pretty obvious – have enough sleep! When you find it difficult to fall asleep regularly, you may need to see a doctor to determine the cause of your sleep deprivation and even seek medical treatment if necessary.
The effects of sleep deprivation vary throughout the day. For example, your symptoms will be worse at times when you generally have to be asleep (such as at night). And the longer you stand when you are deprived of sleep, the more you will experience the effects of sleep deprivation.
The most common symptom of lack of sleep is what you probably expect - feeling drowsy and tired. Some people describe it as a strong desire to sleep or a feeling of exhaustion.
Some of the effects of sleep deprivation do not seem to be due to your lack of sleep, and you can drive for weeks without realizing that your problems are actually due to deprivation.
The most common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:
• Changes in mood and behavior that may include anxiety, short temper, and depression;
• Difficult concentration, which can lead to reduced response time, impaired office and schoolwork, and increased risk of accidents;
• Problems with higher-level functions such as planning, organization, and judgment;
• Mental symptoms of sleep deprivation include disorientation, hallucinations and paranoia;
• Physical effects, such as general discomfort, pain, and gastrointestinal symptoms such as upset stomach or diarrhea;
• Interruption of the natural flow of the sleep cycle, which can affect various hormones, and can lead to infertility.
• Changes in blood pressure and heart rate can affect your long-term health;
• A slight general decrease in your body temperature (cold sensation);
Sleep deprivation, which is actually less sleep than you need, is based on your individual needs. If you need 9 hours of sleep to rest, you may feel sleep deprived when you have only slept for 8 hours.
You may have a lack of sleep overnight or for weeks, months or even years. And the less sleep you get, the more sleep deprivation you will have. For example, staying up late for an hour to watch TV has less of an effect than just sleeping for four hours.
Why are not you sleeping?
You can stay up late and wake up early to catch up with everything you need to do. Parents of infants and young children are often sleep deprived. And people who have to care for others, such as a sick child or a disabled relative, are also prone to sleep deprivation.
You may also have a lack of sleep due to a medical condition. For example, pregnancy and stomach pain, and upper respiratory tract infection can make it very difficult to sleep. Some medicines with or without a prescription may also interfere with sleep.
Anxiety, depression and paranoia make it difficult to fall asleep and exacerbate sleep deprivation.
Why does your lack of sleep affect you?
Sleep plays a key role in learning and helps us consolidate the events of our day, solidifying and recording critical memories. When sleep is disturbed, changes in the brain can disrupt these processes.
Your body functions on the basis of a 24-hour cycle called circadian rhythm. This rhythm coordinates awakening and sleeping times, as well as hunger, digestion, body temperature and hormonal functions throughout the day and night. Sleep deprivation makes it difficult for your circadian rhythm to function optimally, which disrupts your overall body functions.
Most people have similar age-based sleep needs. Although there are some variations between people (at the same age), you can use the average sleep requirements as a guide to find out if you are sleep deprived.
Average sleep needs based on age:
• Ages 3 to 11 months require 12-16 hours of sleep per day
• Ages 12 to 35 months need 11-14 hours of sleep a day
• Ages 3-6 years need 10-13 hours of sleep a day
• Ages 6-10 years need 9-12 hours of sleep a day
• Ages 11-18 years need 8-10 hours of sleep a day
• Adults over 18 need 7-9 hours of sleep a day
• Elderly people need 7-8 hours of sleep a day
Beyond hours, quality of sleep is also important. Sleep apnea, anxiety, and chronic pain can compromise the quality of your sleep, even if you lie in bed for the "right" number of hours each night.
If you are not sure whether you suffer from the effects of sleep deprivation, it is a good idea to seek professional help. Your doctor may identify some of the effects of sleep deprivation based on physical examination and diagnostic testing.
Common signs of sleep deprivation include:
• ptosis (hanging eyelids)
• Slow corneal reflexes (blink reflex)
• Hyperactive tendon reflexes (sharp reflexes when the doctor checks the knee, ankle or elbow reflexes)
Your doctor will also ask you how fast you fall asleep after you go to bed. If you are sleep deprived, you will fall asleep almost immediately after you put your head on the pillow. This is described as short sleep latency. Your sleep latency can be measured by a specific study.
Most physical side effects of lack of sleep are relatively minor and, thankfully, easily reversible.
After getting a good night's sleep or take a nap, you can only feel better after a day or two if you've been deprived of sleep for a few days. Most people need a little more time to recover from sleep deprivation for weeks or more.
Although you can make up for a long need for sleep, it is not a good idea to have this habit, as it can affect your health.
If you have a medical condition, such as pain or cough, your doctor may give you a prescription to help you ease your medical problem so you can sleep better.