Sleep Deprivation: Causes, Effects And Remedies
Do you feel drowsy when doing a particular task at the workplace? And are you sure you're having enough sleep?
Drowsiness is one of the telltale signs of sleep deprivation, and you are not alone in this. The bulk of adults in the US are suffering from some sleep deprivation.
The other symptoms of sleep deprivation include reduced energy, decreased ability to fight off infections, poor memory, and low concentration. Most people will ignore these symptoms oblivious of the complications that sleep deprivation may have.
It may be understandable if you are staying up late to complete a particular Project. However, if staying up late, and sometimes throughout the night becomes a habit, you could be at risk of specific complications associated with sleep deprivation.
For example, untreated sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and insomnia can cause life-threatening accidents when operating machinery or driving a vehicle. Others include severe mood swings and hallucinations that can affect your concentration and overall well-being. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of stroke, heart disease, and mental illness.
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Insufficient sleep leads to a weakening of the immune system. Your body cannot produce sufficient cytokines to fight off diseases and remain healthy. It means you take extended times to recover, and you are at an increased risk of chronic illnesses.
The levels of ghrelin and leptin in the body regulate the feeling of satiety and hunger. The saturation of these hormones in the body is controlled by sleep. As a result, insufficient sleep affects the normal working of these hormones, and maintaining the ideal weight becomes an uphill task.
Inadequate sleep also causes the body to produce enormous amounts of insulin that activate fat storage. You become overweight, and the risk of developing diabetes becomes higher.
There is also a connection between lack of sleep and the development of severe respiratory problems.
Sleep supports the processes that reduce and prevent inflammation. Sufficient slumber helps minimize damage to the heart vessels and promote healing and affects the processes that regulate your blood pressure and blood glucose.
Similarly, not having enough sleep exposes you to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
The prefrontal cortex is the portion of the brain that handles reasoning. However, insufficient sleep affects the normal functioning of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala that controls emotions. That translates to abnormal processing of emotions that lead to inappropriate reactions.
So which are the remedies for sleep deprivation?
Particular relaxation techniques such as mindfulness, meditation, and progressive muscle relaxation will help you sleep much better and for longer. There's also guided imagery, deep breathing, and recorded audios to relax your mind and drift off to slumberland.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Qualified therapists can help an individual change the thought pattern that underpins certain behaviors. The process can promote positive and rational thought as well as challenge beliefs that hurt your mental well-being and relaxation. Over time, CBT can help you develop a healthy sleeping pattern.
Pre-bedtime activities can enhance sleep patterns or negatively affect them. For example, going to bed when you feel tired and sleepy can create an association of lying in bed when asleep and weary. You will feel drowsy every time you go to bed, and achieving a healthy sleeping pattern may not be a problem.
Your posture can also affect sleep patterns. Do you find it hard to keep awake lying down on the sofa watching your favorite program? Well, this has to do with the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system regulates particular body activities such as pupil dilation and heart rate. It is this system at work when faced by danger, such as an attack by a wild animal. Therefore, the posture that you adopt can stimulate and counteract the effects of sleep deprivation.
The circadian rhythm is responsible for regulating wakefulness or sleep patterns. It tells the body when to sleep and when to wake up depending on the environment. Bright light affects the circadian rhythm, and it can cause sleep deprivation.
Some research shows that bright lights can help with circadian rhythm disorders and seasonal affective disorder. It can also make you more alert if you are suffering from insufficient sleep. And even though the results are mixed, bright lights have a particular effect on the sleep patterns.
Ideally, your bedroom should have dim lights are supposed to the bright lights.
Having a Routine
Going to bed at a particular time helps develop a specific sleep routine. Make sure the sleep and wake up times are consistent, and healthy sleep pattern will not be hard to achieve. Slot in the sleep and wake up times into your schedule just like you do everything else.
Don't eat anything 2 to 3 hours before going to bed. Also, go to bed only when you are tired and feeling sleepy.
Carrying out an Activity to Help you Sleep
If you're having trouble sleeping, experts recommend doing a particular activity such as reading a book until you become sleepy. Reading a few paragraphs will make you mentally tired and drifting off to sleep will not be so difficult.
Regulating the Noise
Some people find that turning up the volume of the television or radio helps them concentrate on something. The brain responds by making you more alert, and this can be problematic if it happens in your sleep environment.
The human body responds better to novel stimuli. For example, the soft humming of the fan or the air conditioner can help you go to sleep. The faint sound of the computer fan or any other sound that fades effectively into the background can be the right stimuli that send you to dreamland.
New sounds, however, will not have the same effect, and it's always best to avoid them.
Regular exercises during the day are essential in enhancing blood flow and increasing the production of growth hormone. Jogging or engaging in any aerobic activities increases circulation, and you feel better, and your sleep patterns will improve.
Worried about your exercise during pandemic! check out: How To Exercise During A COVID-19 Pandemic
Improve the Bedroom Environment
Make sure that the bedroom environment has a comfortable and serene setting to encourage sleep. Remove any form of entertainment such as a CD player or a TV. The bedroom should be quiet and a comfortable place to sleep.
Regulating the bedroom temperature will work only at first. Your body will then adapt to the new temperature, and you will not achieve anything. Temperature is, therefore, not effective in treating sleep deprivation.
Erasing the Sleep Debt
The recommended amount of sleep is 7 hours or even 8 hours. You accumulate a sleep debt every time you sleep fewer hours. For example, if you sleep only 5 hours, that's a deficit of 2 hours. Sleeping only 5 hours for up to a week will accumulate 14 hours of sleep debt.
Ideally, you should always try to pay this debt the soonest time possible. For example, try to sleep an extra 2 hours on weekends, and if possible, one more hour every other day. Over time, your body will adjust to the seven hours.
Switch off the Electronic Devices
Electronic devices such as a smartphone have become almost like an extra limb for most people. Unfortunately, the small screen can cause stimulation, and going to sleep is not a walk in the park. Switch off the mobile phone and any other electronic device before going to sleep.
Over the years, caffeine has been one of the substances getting a bad rap in topics discussing weight management and overall good health. Surprisingly, caffeine may be the single most important substance that will treat sleep deprivation. It is relatively cheap and common in most foods.
Caffeine is a reliable remedy for sleep deprivation and will help you stay alert to complete certain activities that require good concentration. Take it in small amounts throughout the wakeful period, and it will keep you alert when you need to. The accumulated tiredness and sleep will pay off during the sleep period.
Make sure to avoid caffeine a few hours to sleep.
There are other over-the-counter drugs that help manage sleep deprivation. Examples include Provigil, Ritalin, and amphetamine. Prescription stimulant drugs can help with sleep deprivation.
However, they may have adverse effects on your cardiac health. Only take the stimulant drugs as a last resort or when treating certain conditions such as narcolepsy and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Some drugs can help you sleep better if the non-medical methods above are not sufficient. Some of the medications are only available under prescription and over-the-counter.
The available options include benzodiazepines and nonbenzodiazepines, melatonin receptor antagonist, and hypnotics, among others.
Unfortunately, some people develop a dependence on these drugs, and they cannot go to sleep without taking them. It is vital to regulate the use of this medication and try the non-medical methods as much as possible.
Always commit yourself to have at least seven to eight hours of sleep every day. Sufficient sleep is critical to mental and overall health. If you have trouble sleeping and focusing during the wakeful period, it may be necessary to consult a professional. It could be a sign of a more severe condition if not your current behaviors.