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All You Need To Know About Sleep Deprivation And How It Affects Your Health



All you need to know about sleep deprivation and how it affects your health

Earlier this week, American singer Kanye West cancelled the rest of world tour because of poor health condition. According to Billboard Magazine, West was suffering from “temporary psychosis due to sleep deprivation and dehydration.” This underscores the serious impact of lack of sleep to one’s health and performance.

What is sleep deprivation?

The National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep for adults aged 18 to 64 years. Older adults, aged 65 years and above, should be getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night. These recommendations are supported by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. If you’re not meeting these endorsements, you are suffering from sleep deprivation.

What are the effects of sleep deprivation on your mental health?

Have you ever had a groggy morning, heart palpitations, and an overall foul mood throughout the day? Chances are, you were suffering from lack of sleep. Dr. Steven Feinsilver, director at the Center for Sleep Medicine at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, said that sleep deprivation causes “tremendous emotional problems” to the point that is has been used as “a form of torture,”

One of the first effects of sleep deprivation is the lack of positive emotions. “When people get sleep-deprived, they don’t show positive emotion in their faces,” said Dr. David Dinges, professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania. The more serious mental impacts of missing adequate zzz’s are delirium and hallucinations. Dr. Feinsilver recalls his own experiences with chronic sleep deprivation. During one of his night duties in the ICU, he saw a pumpkin by the nurses’ station. “I had a very vivid feeling of the pumpkin talking to me.”

People who fail to get sufficient sleep also tend to be emotional. Dr. Kelly Baron, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago, said: “You become over-reactive to emotional stimuli” when you’re sleep deprived.

Effects on your physical health

Fatigue due to sleep deprivation can increase the production of the hunger hormone ghrelin. Thus, people who don’t get enough rest crave for fatty and sugary foods. This can lead to obesity and type-2 diabetes. Sleep deprivation also slows down metabolism and reduces the fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin by 30%. The hormone insulin helps the body use glucose for energy.

Generally, when you’re not getting at least seven hours of sleep per night, the first manifestation on your body is evident tiredness. Dr. Chris Winter, owner of the Sleep Medicine in Virginia, said: “When you’re tired, there’s a lapse in how you neurologically function in general.” The brain of sleep-deprived people exerts greater effort to process, thus they have lowered reaction time and concentration. A driver who lacks sleep is as dangerous as a one driving under the influence of alcohol.

According to a study, healthy adults who only got a four-hour shut-eye had a higher blood pressure in the morning than when they slept for eight hours. In the long-term, sleep deprivation is said to result to serious heart disease. Another study involving adult men suggested that those suffering from sleep disorder are 2 and 2.6 times more likely to have a heart attack.

Death by sleep deprivation?

American singer Prince, who passed away earlier this year, reportedly “worked 154 hours straight” in the days leading up to his death. A couple of years back, a number of 20-something employees and interns died after missing sleep for three nights. Sleep deprivation is also partly blamed for the deaths of overworked Japanese workers.

Can lack of needed shut-eye lead to premature death? Unlikely, said sleep experts. “Can you die of sleep deprivation? It’s not easy because you’ll fall asleep,” according to Dr. Feinsilver. Dr. Dinges adds that most effects of sleep deprivation dissipate after sleeping.

How can you prevent sleep deprivation?

We are living in a multitasking and highly-stressful society. We are busy to finish as many tasks as we can with the little time we have. Unfortunately, we are neglecting our basic biological needs, including adequate sleep, in exchange for career success and material wants. How can we prevent sleep deprivation and improve our quality of life?

If you’re having a hard time falling and staying asleep, it’s important to visit  a doctor to know whether your sleep difficulties is linked to any underlying medical condition. Our lifestyle choices have a lot to with our ability to sleep well at night. Drinking too much caffeine, smoking cigarettes, lack of exercise, and not eating a balanced diet can lead to sleep disorders.

The sleeping environment is also a factor you should consider. Keep your bedroom temperature between 18 degrees and 24 degrees Celsius. It’s ideal to sleep in a dark room as artificial light keeps the brain awake. You can mount thick curtains or blinds to block outdoor lights. Check whether there’s a need to buy a new bed. The quality of your foam mattress and memory foam can affect your sleep quality. If you’re getting cramps, developing stiff muscles, and suffering from back pain, it’s time to visit the home depot for a new bed.

Some tips to get a good night’s sleep

The UK National Health Service suggests winding down hacks to help prepare for a good night’s sleep. Take a warm bath to help your body reach a temperature ideal for rest. To shut down too much thinking, write a “to do” list for your activities the next day. Relaxation exercises such as yoga and tai chi relax the muscles and prepare the body for bedtime. Vigorous exercise in the early evening can keep you awake all night. You can also listen to relaxing music before bedtime. Finally, turn off your mobile phone and other electronic gadgets at least an hour before sleeping. The blue light in these gadgets tricks the brain into thinking that it’s daytime.

No one should be too busy for sleep. Remember that adequate sleep is as important as balanced diet and regular exercise. What good is a job promotion or a new car if you’re too sickly to enjoy the fruits of your labor?

Image Credits: Flickr