Sleep Deprivation

Whenever you do not get adequate sleep you become sleep deprived and experience symptoms similar to insomnia. Sleep deprivation occurs either when you have not had the right amount of sleep or when the quality of sleep was poor. You could stay in bed for for ten straight hours and still feel sleep deprived if you did not get good quality, restorative sleep.

How big if a problem is it? It is estimated that 20-35% of adults in the United States suffer from sleep deprivation. Awareness of the seriousness of this health issue is increasing. Along with obesity it is one of the most serious health issues of our time.

It seems as if our lives today are built to make sure we don’t get enough sleep. Highly caffeinated drinks are available everywhere, with e-mail, blackberries and iPhones there is always something to do. Sleep has been pushed aside.

While governments’ have debated whether or not sleep deprivation of captives constitutes torture, the fact that sleep deprivation is used in this way illustrates how devastating sleep deprivation is on our minds.

Sleep Deprivation Effects

Common effects of too little sleep are:

  • Feeling irritable and in a bad mood is usually the first sign of sleep deprivation
  • Sluggishness, feeling groggy and having difficulty concentrating
  • Slowed physical responses and reflexes, driving in this condition can be as dangerous as driving while drunk
  • Lessened inhibitory response, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to engage in dangerous behaviors

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation may be voluntary (not enough time devoted to sleep) or involuntary. Some of the most common involuntary sleep deprivation causes can include:

  • Inability to fall asleep
  • Inability to stay asleep
  • Waking too early
  • Waking too often during the night
  • Sleep that is too light and frequently disturbed

These problems can be caused by health conditions, stress, physical aches and pains, external factors like your sleep environment or hormonal imbalances.

Sleep Deprivation and Health

When your sleep suffers, your health suffers as well. The less you sleep, the more susceptible you are to illness. Sleep deprivation may also worsen existing health conditions you have. If you are sleep deprived you are more likely to have depression, hypertension or heart disease.

Sleep deprivation can affect your metabolism and the way that your prescription or over-the-counter medications work for you. Another problem caused by sleep deprivation is weight gain; it can also cause overeating and extreme carbohydrate cravings as the body fights to get enough quick energy into the system to stay awake.

Sleep Deprivation Progression

Going one night or even two without enough sleep may make you feel sluggish, irritable and suppress your immune system.

More than two nights of sleep deprivation will accelerate your symptoms. After a week of sleep deprivation you become chronically sleep deprived. You will have accumulated a sleep debt and have significantly impaired memory, cognitive ability and will have difficulty completing even simple tasks.

Sleep Deprivation Treatment

The only effective treatment for sleep deprivation is resuming a normal sleep pattern with enough sleep that you feel rested in the morning. Once you are getting good sleep again the symptoms of sleep deprivation will go away in a brief period of time.

Essential further reading:

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