Thursday, February 1, 2018

How Sleep Deprivation Affects You and Your Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can seriously affect all parts of your body - physically and mentally. You weaken your immune system. You can become more vulnerable to respiratory infections.

Sleep deprivation can cause digestive issues that result in weight gain, and possible diabetes issues. Along with weight gain, you are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Sleep deprivation impairs you mentally with memory issues, cognitive function, moodiness, hallucinations, depression, that can make you more accident prone, and yes, it can even result in accidental death.

NOTE: If you drive or do anything else that can cause injury to you or someone else, it can be devastating. 

According to the Sleep Association Organization, Sleep Deprivation is defined as not getting adequate total sleep.

Even though relatively few studies have been done on total lack of sleep over a long period of time in humans, long term sleep deprivation in lab animals has resulted in death.

What is a Typical Night for You?
  • Fall asleep but wake an hour or so later, check the clock, roll over, try to sleep? Toss and turn, check the clock again? A never ending cycle until the morning alarm sounds?
  • Ready for bed, but when the lights are out, you can't sleep? You toss and turn, dozing fitfully until the morning alarm blares?
  • Working late into the night, ignoring your body's cries for sleep?
    Forcing yourself to stay awake with caffeine-laden beverages? Your body's desires for sleep overcome your desire to stay awake, yet you feel like you didn't sleep at all?
  • Your mind won't stop recycling the day's events, tomorrow's possibilities, or random racing thoughts that won't go away and keep you awake?

What are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation?

If you experience long term sleep deprivation you can begin to hallucinate or trigger a mania episode in those with Bipolar Disorder. Other psychological risks include: impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia and/or suicidal thoughts.

Other affects on your body can include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Accidents from Lack of Attention
  • Moodiness
  • Hunger
  • Other Health Dangers such as:
  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Suppressed Growth Hormones
  • Memory Lapses
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain or Loss

Read this article about how Sleep Deprivation affects your body.

For more information, read Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body

Read this article to learn the 11 Signs You're Sleep Deprived.

Have You Tried These to Help Fall Asleep?
  • Prescription sleep medication?
  • Over-the-Counter sleep medication?
  • A Sound Machine or Room Air Filtration System?
  • Something Herbal like Melatonin? Valerian? Chamomile?
  • Meditation?
  • A warm bath?
  • Reading a book?
  • Playing a game (or six) on your Smart Phone?
  • Tea or Warm Milk?
  • Self-Hypnosis?
  • Letting the TV stay on?
  • Listening to music?
  • Something else not listed here?
Did you know that overuse of some OTC Sleep Medications can actually cause you to get less sleep?

What Can Cause Sleep Deprivation?

  • Sleep Disorders that reduce Sleep Time such as Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, others
  • Poor Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Disorders that Interfere with Brain's ability to Stay Awake such as Narcolepsy or Primary Hypersomnia
  • Insufficient Total Sleep Time

Are there Some Positive Ways to Help Eliminate Sleepiness if You Suffer from Sleep Deprivation? From 10 Best Treatments and Cures for Sleep Deprivation

Sleep - Too obvious, right?

ActivityResearch studies have shown that a five-minute walk can improve excessive daytime sleepiness as measured by multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT). Unfortunately, this increased alertness may be a transient benefit that comes and goes rather quickly. 

Bright LightThe exposure to bright light has important effects on your body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a pattern of body functions, including sleep and wakefulness, that is timed to the day-night cycle. There are some conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)and circadian rhythm sleep disorders that are helped by appropriately timed exposure to bright light. In addition, bright light may help you become more alert if you are sleep deprived.

NoiseWhen we hear something, our brain responds by making us slightly more alert. This can be problematic when we have a noisy sleep environment, but it can be helpful if we are trying to stay awake.

TemperatureUnfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that temperature changes do much to improve our alertness and decrease excessive sleepiness. Studies of extreme temperatures (either very hot or very cold) have an effect for only a few minutes. 

PostureSurely it is harder to fall asleep when you are standing up, so posture clearly can have some beneficial effects on sleep deprivation. 

CaffeineAside from simply getting more sleep, the best single treatment for sleep deprivation may be caffeine. This naturally occurring stimulant is found in many common foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and chocolate.

StimulantsAside from caffeine, there are other stimulants available as prescription and over-the-counter drugs that might be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

MotivationYou might consider that you are more likely to stay alert and attentive if you actually care about the activities you are engaged in. A boring lecture or meeting at work may be just the thing to put you right to sleep. However, spending time with your loved ones or pursuing a favored hobby may keep you wide awake, at least in the short term. 

Group Effects - There is some belief among anthropologists that the effects of sleep deprivation may be lessened when they occur in the context of a group. You might imagine that a handful of sleep-deprived people are able to engage one another in ways to maintain alertness.

What are the Treatments for Sleep Deprivation?

Get more sleep!

Easier said than done, right?

The best answer is to treat the cause of the Sleep Deprivation. Is it a sleep disorder? You won't know unless you see a sleep specialist who can diagnose your sleep condition. I suggest if you are experiencing sleep deprivation, you see a sleep specialist immediately. They can rule out other medical issues, find the cause, and treat the real reason for sleep deprivation. Then, you can experience that benefits of adequate sleep and wake refreshed and ready to tackle your day.

Photos Courtesy of Storyblocks

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