We’ve all heard of the benefits of a good night’s sleep. We all know we should be getting about 8 hours of sleep a night. And we all know that if we don’t get either of these things, we do get cranky the next morning. However, you may not be as aware of the seriousness of sleep deprivation and how it is a growing problem in Ireland and around the world. From what sleep deprivation is and what causes it, to what to do about it and what could happen if you don’t, here’s everything you need to know to overcome it.
What is sleep deprivation?
Just as it needs air, water and food, the human body needs a certain amount of sleep every night to function properly. Whether it’s new-borns (14-17hrs), children (9-11hrs), teenagers (8-10 hrs) or adults (7-9 hrs), anything less is classified as sleep deprivation. While we sleep, our bodies heal, restore chemical balances and allow our brains to sort through the information of the day and form memories for tomorrow. Obviously, if we deprive ourselves of sleep, we don’t get enough of what we need. And like any living organism, that leads to problems.
In the short term, there’s grogginess, sluggishness and finding it hard to get going, to contend with. While these can be easily overcome every once in a while, persistent sleep deprivation over the long term can lead to increased levels of stress, decreased efficiency in our immune systems and even weight gain. What’s more, studies show that consistent sleep deprivation over a prolonged period of time even shortens your expected life span by 12%.
Common causes of sleep deprivation
Most of us are simply unaware of the importance of sleep and prefer to stay out late socializing or get up early to engage in hobbies. Thing like caffeine, alcohol and (increasingly) Netflix and mobile phones are all things we enjoy but also obstacles to getting a good night’s sleep.
Work or Study
Shift work or jobs that require frequent air travel go hand-in-hand with irregular sleep patterns. Similarly, younger people who stay up late studying (or cramming) are commonly affected by sleep deprivation even though adolescents require more sleep than adults but often get less.
From being too hot or cold to sharing a bed with an unsettled sleeper, a lot of sleep deprivation occurs as a result of where and how we sleep. Similarly, living next to a busy road or sleeping next to a new baby, are other factors that can lead to a reduced level of sleep on an ongoing basis.
Some side effects of sleep deprivation
Increased appetite & weight gain
Tiredness makes us turn our backs on regular exercise and healthy cooking but when you don’t get enough sleep, your levels of leptin (which plays a key role in making you feel full) drop. So, when you’re tired, you think you’re hungrier, which makes you start to crave high-fat and high-calorie foods.
Bad memory, trouble making decisions and increased impulsivity
When you’re well-rested, the part of your brain that controls speed, accuracy and decision making is more active than in people who are tired. What’s more, a good sleep after learning something new has also been shown to help retention, form new ideas and even pull knowledge together from different parts of the brain.
The emotional roller coaster
As already mentioned, when we’re tired, we’re irritable. Sleep deprivation decreases your focus and increases your stress levels, which creates a cycle of emotions that have a negative effect on each other. What’s more, if you are tired you’ll most likely look tired. This can lead to comments from others, which can increase stress levels and negative feelings.
Increased frequency of being sick
While we all get sick from time to time, the amount and quality of sleep we get directly impacts how well our immune system functions. Studies have shown that some disease-fighting chemicals are created and released while we’re sleeping. Sleep deprivation decreases the availability of these substances, leaving us more susceptible to colds and viruses.
Remedies for sleep deprivation
Form better habits
The better your habits, the easier it is for you to fall asleep quicker but also stay asleep longer, both of which will leave you feeling refreshed the morning after. Start by setting a time to go to bed that you know will give you the best chance of getting the recommended 7-9 hours of sleep a night and stick to it. Then, make your bedroom a technology-free zone and focus instead of getting enough sleep. By keeping your mobile phone in another room while you sleep you are able to fully relax in bed rather than watching TV etc. Other sleep tips for forming better habits include avoiding caffeine or alcohol before bed and waking up at the same time each day.
Invest in yourself
One of the most important factors in getting a good night’s sleep is having a quality mattress. As we spend a third of our lives sleeping we need to ensure we are getting the proper support. Investing in a mattress that suits your individual sleep needs can help you get the proper rest you deserve. There is a range of natural and therapeutic mattresses that can help you from getting too warm at night, too cold at night, relieve back pain, avoid allergy flare-ups and several other sleep issues that are preventing you from quality sleep.
Seek medical advice
If the problem persists you should think about consulting a doctor to see if you have any medical issues such as back pain, sleep apnea or insomnia that is keeping you from getting a full and quality night’s sleep. Getting medical advice may be the difference between you getting the best from all the advice above.
Better Sleep might be just a call away
As already mentioned, getting a good night’s sleep could make a huge difference to your health and your life. With over 30 years providing expert sleeping solutions for customers across the country, The Natural Sleep Company can help you find whatever you need to know. You’ll find a host of great solutions and advice on our main blog and our team of dedicated experts are standing by to help you in any way they can.