Sleep is an essential part of the proper functioning of the body. It keeps the proper functioning of the brain and keeps our minds clear for us to perform key functions. It also helps prevent some diseases and soothes the symptoms related to them. However, with the modern busy lifestyle, more and more people are having a hard time getting enough sleep. Others underestimate its importance and neglect proper sleeping. Whatever the case is, people need to get enough sleep to preserve their health. Sleep deprivation may have negative effects and even to put your health at risk. Nevertheless, everyone is familiar with that sweet feeling of going to bed exhausted and sleeping in for a little longer. Or as Charles Caleb Colton puts it “The bed is a bundle of paradoxes: we go to it with reluctance, yet we quit it with regret; we make up our minds every night to leave it early, but we make up our bodies every morning to keep it late.”
The Importance of Sleep
Getting enough quality sleep helps preserve your health. It keeps you mentally and physically protected from various diseases. While you are sleeping, the body continues to function to maintain the proper functioning of the brain. What are the other benefits of getting enough sleep?
It improves memory. While you sleep, the brain can strengthen and arrange memories. It can even repeat various skills, thus improving them. While you snooze, something triggers in the brain and improves your learning even further. It is amazing how a certain skill is improved after a good sleep.
- Fights and soothes inflammation. People who get enough sleep are less prone to diseases such as diabetes, arthritis, heart diseases, premature aging and stroke. They have lower blood levels of inflammatory proteins than people who sleep less than six hours every night. When a person gets back to a normal sleep routine, those inflammatory proteins decrease.
- Boosts creativity. Whether you are an artist, writer, musician or are involved in other creative activities, you need to be fully rested to display the full potential of your creativity. Creativity is significantly boosted by the main function of the brain during sleep.
- Improves physical performance. Sleep improves the overall physical condition and reduces fatigue. It also boosts stamina. So people who are active athletes should strive to get as much sleep as possible to improve their performance.
- Kids improve their attention by sleeping. If an adult is deprived of sleep, he becomes sleepy and slow. Kids have the opposite reaction. They tend to get hyperactive and energetic. They become impulsive, are easily distracted and have problems with learning new information. This is not surprising because sleep deprivation disrupts the proper functioning of the brain.
Affects your weight. The quality of sleep affects weight loss. Those who have enough sleep lose more fats compared to those who simply stick to a diet. Those who are deprived of sleep tend to lose more muscle mass. Although the weight loss is similar, it is really important to lose fats instead of muscle mass. People who do not get enough sleep tend to feel hungry more often. The reason behind this is that they are controlled by the same sectors of the brain. Your hormone levels tend to rise and sleep decreases them.
- Stress levels are also affected. By getting enough sleep, you can significantly decrease your levels of stress. This leads to lowering of the blood pressure which is also beneficial to your health. Sleep is also connected to cholesterol levels and getting enough sleep can prevent heart diseases by decreasing cholesterol to a healthy level.
- Depression and sleep are connected. The lack of sleep leads to depression. Emotional stability is improved by getting enough slumber. The main reason for this is the decrease of anxiety during that process. Impatience is also linked to sleep deprivation. To improve your mood and eliminate anxiety, try to get enough sleep on a daily basis.
What is Considered Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is the term that describes the lack of sleep. The condition can be chronic or acute. It is a common problem in modern society and affects many individuals. People need different hours to be fully rested so sometimes it is hard to tell whether or not a person gets enough sleep or not. It is vital to sleep enough for your body to recover. Your body instinctively controls when to be awake and when it needs to rest. This instinct is based on a 24-hour span. This influences every cell, tissue, organ and function in your body.
The lack of sleep or low quality of sleep can make you feel really tired while you are awake. It can affect your work, learning abilities, social functioning, driving or other activities related to attention. It affects the speed of your reactions and can make it hard for you to focus. It can impede your understanding and responding to the emotions and reactions to the others. It makes you emotionally unstable and anxiety and frustration also arise.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation
Some consider sleep as wasted time and do not get enough sleep on purpose. This is valid for people who are party animals or those eager to achieve better results in their school work or career. Other causes can include working different shifts, family obligations.
Another reason for not getting enough sleep is the going-to-bed-late routine, constant waking up during the night and waking up early constantly. Such causes can hardly be avoided and the negative effects of such routines will become evident sooner or later. Again, it depends solely on the biological clock of each individual. Medical conditions also play an important role in sleep routine. Such conditions include chronic illnesses like depression, hormonal imbalance and obstructive sleep apnea. People with such conditions should pay more attention to getting sufficient amount of sleep because their sleep deprivation can become chronic and can lead to many health risks.
Symptoms of not Getting Enough Sleep
Different people have different symptoms and it is not necessary to have all of them to be considered having sleep deprivation. However, if you have one or more of the symptoms below, consider whether or not you are getting enough sleep.
Feeling of sleepiness during the whole day: this is the most common symptom. Most people ignore it, but it may play a bad joke on you if it is not taken seriously.
- Yawning: although this is a normal process, constant yawning is a sign that you need to sleep more.
- Moodiness: mood shifts are inseparable from the lack of sleep. Anxiety, irritation, bad moods and anger are symptoms that should not be neglected.
- Fatigue: one of the most common symptoms. People who need more sleep tend to feel really tired. Sometimes, they struggle to accomplish even simple everyday tasks and find them really tiresome.
- Depression: depression is linked to sleep deprivation. People who get enough sleep tend to overcome this mental state, while those who sleep less are more likely to suffer from depressed moods.
Problems with learning: the brain finds it hard to process new information when it is not fully rested. Constant sleep deprivation can make it hard to remember even simple information. It is vital to get enough sleep to improve your memory.
- Forgetfulness: people who don’t sleep enough tend to forget really easily. The brain slows its function which leads to various memory problems. This is due to the fact that the brain is overwhelmed with processing plenty of information without getting enough time to rest and store the information.
- Lack of concentration: this is directly linked to sleep deprivation. In order for cognitive functions to run smoothly, you need sufficient sleep. When you feel sleepy, you will find it tough to concentrate. This can lead to accidents and inability to perform your everyday tasks.
- Lack of motivation: motivation disappears with the lack of sleep. This is due to depressive moods and high levels of anxiety that often accompany the lack of sleep. Moreover, when you feel tired, you cannot find the strength to do anything at all.
- Clumsiness: lack of sleep influences your physical health too. When a person is not fully rested, he loses his coordination.
Increased appetite: sleep and appetite are controlled by the same areas of the brain. When a person is well rested, the hormones that control appetite drop. Thus, the higher the quality of sleep, the smaller the appetite. People with sleep deprivation tend to feel hungry more often which can result in weight gain.
- Low libido: the constant feeling of tiredness reduces the desire to have sex. Another factor for low libido is anxiety and depression. When the body feels tired,get rested as soon as possible.
What do the Experiments Show?
There are many experiments conducted throughout the years. They try to observe and gather data on the possible outcomes on sleep deprivation.
- Peter Tripp was a well-known radio presenter who did a strange experiment for charity. He broadcasted for 201 hours without a break. After 3 days, he started hallucinating and seemed to be in a state of dreaming while being awake. After that experiment, he slept for 13 hours straight and according to him, he was back to his normal self after that.
- The Guinness World Record for the longest period without sleep is owned by Randy Gardner. He stayed awake for 11 days and 24 minutes. During the experiment, he was moody and showed signs of paranoia, suffered from hallucinations. He also had concentration and memory problems.
- Another experiment showed that sleep deprivation may have some benefits in terms of improving the mood for some people. Patients with bipolar disorder and treatment-resistant depression who went through Sleep Deprivation Therapy for 24 hours had seen their moods improve. However, that improvement was only on a short-term basis.
- Sleep deprivation has been used as a mean of torture. It is primarily used in interrogations. In 2005, the CIA admitted that it had authorized sleep deprivation up to 180 hours as a torture method for retrieving information.
How Much Sleep is Needed?
The amount of sleep varies according to the age of the individual. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the recommended average number of hours of sleep for different age groups is as follows:
- Newborns, age 0-3 months: 14-17 hours per day
- Infants, age 4-11 months: 12-15 hours per day
- Toddlers, age 1-2 years: 11-14 hours per day
- Preschoolers, age 3-5: 10-13 hours per day
- Children, age 6-13: 9-11 hours per day
- Teenagers, age 14-17: 8-10 hours per day
- Adults, age 18-64: 7-9 hours per day
- Elders, age 65+: 7-8 hours per day
Sleep and Lifespan are Linked
Research has shown that sleeping hours are linked to an individual’s lifespan. Sleeping too much or not enough can seriously decrease your lifespan. The research was focused on sleep duration, quality of sleep and the use of medications to improve sleep. The results showed that people who sleep less than seven hours or more than eight hours in a 24-hour period are at risk of shortened lifespans. The use of medication also increases that risk. These results vary from individual to individual since many other factors are involved. Such factors include heart diseases, depression, thyroid problems, etc.
Getting enough sleep boosts your health and decreases the chance of suffering from certain diseases and conditions. That is a key factor for living a long life. If you notice that your sleep routine has changed, try to improve as soon as possible to preserve your health.