Sleep plays a vital role in good health and well-being throughout your life.
The way you feel while you are awake depends in part on what happens while you are sleeping. During sleep, your body is working to support healthy brain function and maintain your physical health.
Regularly sleeping less than seven hours at night can put your health and safety at risk. This is why you must prioritise and protect your sleep daily. Adults aged 18 to 60 years are encouraged to sleep between 7 and 9 hours each night. Otherwise, they run the risk of being deprived of enough sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep is incredibly important for your health. It is as important as eating a balanced, nutritious diet and exercising.
In children and teens, sleep also helps to support growth and development. Prolonged inadequate sleep can raise your risk for chronic (long-term) health problems. It can also affect how well you think, react, work, learn, and get along with others. Learn how sleep affects your heart and circulatory system, metabolism, respiratory system, and immune system, and how much sleep is enough.
Importance of Sleep
- When you sleep, you allow your body to repair and rebuild. During this time, the body can clear debris from the lymphatic system, which boosts the immune system.
- Sleep is a powerful stress reliever. It improves concentration, regulates mood, and sharpens judgement and decision-making.
- Sleep serves as an opportunity for the mind to process all the stimuli that were taken in while awake. Ot also triggers changes in the brain that strengthen neural connections helping us to form memories.
- Organs need time to replenish and clear waste, as does your brain, and they do it when the rest of your body is resting.
Common Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
- Daytime sleepiness
- Having trouble thinking, focusing, and remembering
- Slowed reaction times
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
- Agonising over work, school, health, finances, or family.
- Stressful life events or trauma—such as the death or illness of a loved one, divorce, or a job loss—may also increase your chances of experiencing insomnia.
- Medical issues such as depression, irritability, paranoia, and anxiety.
- Sleeping in rooms that are too hot or too cold. Too much light and noise in the room may wake you up from a sound sleep.
- Alcohol: While alcohol might help you to fall asleep faster, it wakes you up once the sedative action of alcohol is over. This affects the sleep cycle or distribution of stages of sleep.
- Exhaustion after a stressful day, as well as the Inability to relax and allow the mind to settle down.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
- It decreases the production of cytokines and makes you more susceptible to bacteria and viruses.
- It makes you moody, emotional, and easy to lose your temper.
- It impairs alertness, focus, attention, concentration, problem-solving skill, and reasoning.
- It leads to various health problems, namely, impairment of heart vessels, increased risk of cardiovascular disorders and respiratory problems, high blood pressure, increase in diabetes level, and increase in inflammation levels.
- It results in less interest in sex, depleted energy, increased tension, and lower libido. Insufficient sleep can impact growth hormones and testosterone in men.
- It has effects on the skin such as aging skin, sallow skin, lackluster skin, puffy eyes, fine lines, and dark circles under the eyes.
- It impacts on body weight. The production of hormones called leptin and ghrelin is deeply impacted by inadequate sleep. Those hormones are responsible for controlling hunger, fullness, and satiety feelings. The release of these hormones increases due to sleep loss and thus there is an increase in weight.
Solution to Sleep Deprivation
- Have a routine: Being consistent with sleep habits can make a big difference in how much and how well you sleep.
- Make the time for sleep: Set a bedtime that allows you to get the recommended amount of sleep for your age.
- Limit the time you spend around bright lights or using electronics: Light from these too close to bedtime can disrupt your body’s natural sleep-wake functions.
- Avoid drinking alcohol or eating a meal too close to bedtime: A light snack is the best option if you feel hungry before bedtime.
- Physical activity can help: Staying active or going for a walk can help with the quality of your sleep.
- Don’t rely on sleeping medications: Long-term use of sleeping pills and other medications—even ones that are available over the counter—can negatively affect your sleep. The only sleep-related medications you should use regularly are the ones your healthcare provider prescribes, and should only be taken as instructed.