Sleep deprivation is a common problem, affecting many people at some point in their lives, but what are the long term effects?
We spend around a third of our lives asleep, and it is just as important as exercise and food. Many people think the body shuts down when sleeping, but this is not the case. During sleep, you are actively restoring, repairing, and strengthening your body. It’s also vital for efficient brain functioning.
The amount of sleep required depends on several factors, but the average adult requires between seven and nine hours a night. Babies, children, and teenagers need between nine and seventeen hours, depending on age. See the recommended amount of sleep for your age group.
Why we lose sleep
People struggle to sleep for many reasons; it may be stress, illness, worry, work, or family obligations. Sleep disorders, such as sleep apnoea, restless leg syndrome, or snoring, are common and cause ongoing concerns.
Signs of sleep deprivation
Sleep deprivation occurs when you get less sleep than you need to feel awake, energetic and alert. You might find you’re forgetful, unmotivated, clumsy, moody and irritable; making everyday tasks and learning a struggle. Other signs can be increased appetite and cravings for carbohydrates.
Daytime sleepiness is a common symptom of “sleep debt”, where, over time, a shortfall of sleep has accumulated. The good news is you can improve your health by paying back your sleep debt. You may have to work hard at increasing the hours you normally need, until the missing time is made up.
How lack of sleep affects your health
You might think that losing out on sleep will just make you tired, but if it is ongoing, it can affect your health significantly.
Not getting enough sleep increases the risk of respiratory and heart diseases, diabetes, and weight gain. Mental wellness is also affected, and depression is more likely.
Your immunity can suffer; making it harder to fight infection, this is why you need more sleep when you’re recovering from illness or injury.
The good news is that you can improve your health by paying back your “sleep debt”
Sleep deprivation also disrupts your focus, emotions, reasoning, alertness and judgement. Many tragic accidents happen when overly tired people are in charge of machinery and vehicles.
What can you do to get more shut-eye?
There are many self-help methods to help you sleep; see 6 tips to help you sleep. Trying just one to start with may make all the difference.
If these methods don’t work, then getting to the root of the problem is crucial. See a medical professional to diagnose the cause. Treatment can include therapy to change behaviour and thought patterns, medication, or mechanical and physical sleep aids.
We need sleep, and it’s crucial to get enough of it in order to function well. The sooner you solve the issue, the sooner you will wake up refreshed, happier, and healthier.