Sleep deprivation

Why spend so many hours sleeping when you could read more books, catch up on movies, spend more time with loved ones and finish all the household chores? Sounds great doesn’t it? Not quite! Giving yourself more available time to accomplish your dreams and finish endless chores by cheating on your sleep will hardly give you any benefit or accomplishments because the quality of your waking hours will be poor, filled with sluggishness, not to mention long term health problems like stress weight gain.

Mother-nature has already set her rules when it comes to sleep. How much sleep do we need?  The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults need to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night with some individual variations; sadly 37% of the United States’ population don’t get the adequate sleep that their body needs to function properly. But why do we need so many hours of sleep just so we can function for the remainder 16 hours?

Anyone who doesn’t get enough sleep can easily feel pull of sleep deprivation: you feel sluggish, groggy, exhausted and have a hard time focusing on a task, much less become interested in it. Sleep deprivation over days has a cumulative effect. In such situations, sleep deprivation can be dangerous especially when the person is driving or has job responsibilities that require continuous focus and attention or when lives are on the line. Bus drivers, pilots, air traffic controllers and healthcare providers hold those kinds of responsibilities. A study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 2011 tells us that those who slept less than 7 hour had most difficulty in task performance. Sleep deprivation also causes irritability and low mood and can ruin a spousal relationship.

Sleep deprivation can result from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea or restless legs syndrome or medical problem that cause pain (arthritis) or other discomforts to sleep. In these situations, it is important that you seek help from your doctor and ask to be assessed for the possibility of a sleep apnea or any other sleep disorder.

Tips on avoiding sleep deprivation

  • If you believe you are sleep deprived, take action and make a good night sleep a priority in life. Make the necessary changes in your life style to the 8 hours (more or less) you need.
  • If you are a shift worker, see section in this website. Incorporate naps when you return from work.
  • If you suffer from insomnia, see section on insomnia in this website. Take a warm bath before bedtime, avoid caffeine after 12 noon, avoid alcohol, don’t eat within 3 hours of bedtime, listen to gentle music to relax, turn electronics 1-2 hours within bedtime, get exercise or yoga during the day, address your stress level (you might need counseling).
  • Follow regular bed and wake times. If you have to go to work early, go to bed earlier. Remember, if you are short one hour of sleep every night, you are 7 hours behind week, nearly 30 hours a month ! They add up. Next thing you know, you are gaining weight, depressed and unmotivated.
  • Follow the section on optimal sleep hygiene in this website
  • If you believe you have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders such as restless legs, discuss it with your doctor. Signs of sleep apnea are snoring, stop breathing sounds, waking up frequently and morning headaches.