- An adequate amount of quality sleep is essential for every human’s well-being.
- Sleep impacts the physical and psychological well-being of the individual.
- Lack of proper sleep makes the individual prone to various physical and mental health-related issues.
- Maintaining sleep hygiene and a well-balanced lifestyle is a key to good sleep.
Sleep is an essential part of human life. Sleep impacts physical and mental well-being; good restful sleep is a blessing and indicator of good physical and psychological health.
Sleep and mental health issues are closely interrelated. Inadequate and insufficient sleep causes many psychological problems, and almost every mental disorder causes disturbances in sleep.
Sleep occurs in many stages, broadly NREM and REM sleep. NREM sleep is divided into four stages, from stage 1 to stage 4. Each sleep stage has different brain activity and specific functions; additional physiological changes also occur during different sleep stages.
Recommendations of sleep duration according to age group
- Newborns (0–3 months): 14–17 hours
- Infants (4–12 months): 12–15 hours (including naps)
- Toddlers (1–2 years): 11–14 hours (including naps)
- Preschoolers (3–5 years): 10–13 hours (including naps)
- School children (6–13 years): 9–11 hours
- Teenagers (14–17 years): 8–10 hours
- Adults (18–64 years): 7–9 hours
- Older adults (65+): 7–8 hours
LACK OF PROPER SLEEP CAUSES MANY PROBLEMS
- Memory disturbances – during sleep brain forms many connections, which helps in processing and remembering new information. Lack of proper sleep negatively impacts both short-term and long-term memory.
- The trouble with attention, thinking, and concentration – When there are significant sleep disturbances, thinking, concentration, and creativity skills don’t function well.
- Changes in mood-sleep deprivation affect the regulation of mood. It can make the person irritable, emotional, short-tempered, and lacking control over themselves. Chronic sleep deprivation may lead to mental health issues like anxiety or depression. In persons suffering from mental health issues, sleep deprivation did deteriorate their condition.
- Accidents – Lack of sleep at night makes you tired during the day and makes your reflexes sluggish. Sleep deprivation state increases the risk of accidents and injuries.
- Weakened immunity – reduced sleep, lack of restful sleep and sleep disturbances weaken immunity and make you prone to infections and other illnesses.
- Risk for diabetes – lack of sleep affects insulin release and leads to high blood sugar levels. Chronic sleep deprivation makes you prone to type 2 diabetes.
- High blood pressure – less sleep increases the risk of high blood pressure, which may lead to hypertensive disorders.
- Weight gain – lack of proper sleep is also linked with weight gain. In a sleep-deprived state, chemicals which signal satiety will not function well, which may lead to overeating, weight gain and obesity.
- Risk of heart diseases – lack of proper sleep and sleep deprivation affect the heart by various linked mechanisms. It makes you prone to diabetes and hypertension, further deteriorating heart conditions. During sleep deprivation, different inflammatory chemical levels also increase the risk of heart disease.
- Poor balance – lack of sleep affects balance and coordination, making you prone to falls and injuries.
- Pain: people in a sleep-deprived state are at a higher risk of developing pain conditions and feel their pain is worsening. Pain may cause difficulty in sleep initiation and interruptions, creating a vicious cycle of worsening pain and sleep.
PREVENTION STRATEGIES TO REDUCE SLEEP DEPRIVATION
Getting adequate sleep every night is the best way to prevent sleep deprivation and its associated problems. For the adult population, 7-9 hours of uninterrupted, restful sleep is the recommended duration.
Specific changes in daily habits and lifestyle help in achieving the goals.
- A stable bedtime routine – maintaining the habit of going to bed and getting up at the same time every day helps get better sleep. Maintaining the routine during weekends and holidays is advisable to reduce sleep problems and lack of sleep.
- Relaxing activities before bedtime – a calm mind sleeps better. Engaging in relaxing activities like medication, music, shower massage etc. helps soothe and calm the brain and improves sleep
- Regular exercise improves sleep, but exercising before bedtime may impair sleep. Avoid heavy exercise late evening before bedtime to improve sleep.
- Daytime naps – brief daytime naps can enhance performance, but overdoing winks and long hours of daytime sleep hampers night sleep. Limiting daytime naps or avoiding them altogether can reduce sleep deprivation and improve the quality of night sleep.
- Caffeinated drinks – caffeine interferes with sleep onset and maintenance of sleep. Avoiding caffeine after noon or a few hours before bedtime improves sleep.
- Avoid heavy meals before bedtime, as bloating and discomfort hamper sleep and lead to sleep deprivation.
- Alcohol and drug intake – alcohol and other substances impair sleep quantity and quality. Refrain from using substances to avoid sleep deprivation.
- Stimulating activities – stimulating activities like playing video/online games and using electronic devices during bedtime- impair sleep initiation and lead to frequent awakening from sleep. Refrain from using electronic devices during rest to improve sleep.
Some Tips For Good Sleep
Since quality is essential, try to ensure you sleep well all night.
- Make and follow a regular sleep schedule every day
- Maintain going to bed and waking up at the same fixed time every day
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
- Use the bed only for sleeping
- Maintain a comfortable environment to sleep
- Sleep in a quiet, dark and cosy room
- Eat light meals before bedtime
- Keep regular exercise and physical activity in your daily routine
- Practice meditation and other relaxation techniques
- Avoid irregular and haphazard sleep schedules
- Avoid sleeping in uncomfortable and noisy environments
- Do not use the bed for other activities like watching TV, playing games, eating in bed etc.
- Avoid using caffeinated drinks before bedtime
- Avoid taking excessive liquid before bedtime
- Avoid alcohol, nicotine and other substances
- Reduce the use of electronic devices before and during bedtime
- Avoid heavy exercise by late evening and close to bedtime
Chronic sleep deprivation is disastrous to the body and mind. If there is an ongoing and worsening problem with lack of sleep, sleep deprivation, daytime sleepiness, dullness and sluggishness, consulting an expert for proper evaluation is a good step. The doctor can assess the situation and can provide the best possible treatment.
Don’t Cope With Sleep Deprivation; Address It
Many people accept sleep deprivation as usual and continue functioning at suboptimal levels.
Many other people facing sleep-deprived states deliberately push their sleep to a minimum by taking caffeine, energy drinks, or short naps to utilise the sleepless hours.
These approaches are not a sustainable solution to sleep deprivation. It may help for a brief period, but the cumulative effects of sleep deprivation on physical and mental health will take a toll having both short terms and long-term consequences.
From a health point of view, it is crucial to accept the lack of sleep and sleep deprivation and take all the measures to ensure good quantity and quality of sleep.