What is Sleep Deprivation
If you slept a couple of hours less last night, then no, you are not 'sleep deprived'. A few nights of adequate rest can get you back to being your usual bright and chirpy self. Sleep deprivation is a more long-term condition and does not present itself overnight. It can lead to many health issues like high-stress levels, decreased metabolism, heart and kidney issues and a lack of general well-being. Not getting enough hours of sleep and getting poor-quality of sleep can both contribute to this.
Sleep deprivation is not the same as Insomnia. While both are sleep-related disorders, the underlying reasons for both are vastly different. A person suffering from insomnia is unable to go to sleep even when there is an opportunity to sleep. On the other hand, sleep deprivation occurs when some external factors (like professional stress and late nights, personal loss or tragedy) contribute to a curtailed sleep pattern.
Why is Sleep Important
Ever wondered why infants sleep way more than adults? Sleep is critical not just for the mind to recover, it is crucial for the development of our body too. So naturally, the growing and still-developing little ones need more sleep than older people.
It's during the night time that our body recovers from the wear and tear of the day. Good sleep is intricately connected to healthy brain and heart function. Luckily, this isn't a silent disease. There are many tell-tale signs that indicate that you or your friends may be getting less than normal sleep and could be heading towards a chronic problem. Here is a list of signs that you shouldn't ignore:
1. Higher Stress Levels
This has to be the first one to stand out. If just a few late nights at work can make you irritable, can you imagine what weeks and months of sleep deprivation can do to a body? Several studies have proven that lack of sleep contributes to high levels of Cortisol, also called the stress hormone. Stress and sleep are closely linked. While some people may suffer disturbed sleep patterns due to stress, others may become more stressed because of lack of sleep. Look for this sign closely. If you are more stressed at work than usual, start by working on your sleep.
2. Daytime Sleepiness or Lethargy
People who are sleep deprived suffer from a chronic sense of lethargy all the time. They are low on energy even when their daily nutrition needs are met adequately. You could fall asleep in the middle of the day even when you fight it. This can be dangerous, especially if feel the urge for 'microsleep' while on the road. Another noticeable sign is an inability to make quick decisions.
3. Over Emotional State
Just like a good night's sleep keeps you happy and sprightly the next day, not getting enough sleep can play havoc with your days including messing up your emotional state. You are more anxious than normal and get irritable at small, unimportant issues. Some people also experience extreme emotions oscillating between feeling ecstatic to being miserable.
4. Lower Immunity
Yes, not sleeping enough can actually make you fall ill more often.
Your body's response to infections gets impaired when the body does not get enough quality sleep. Your body produces infection-fighting antibodies during periods of sleep. This gets affected when you don't get enough sleep, hence a lowering of our body's immunity and defense mechanism.
5. Skin Breakouts
They don't just call it beauty sleep for nothing. Skin, being the largest organ of the body, is impacted greatly due to sleep deprivation. It is at night time that the body produces Collagen - which helps make the skin firmer. Not sleeping well could also make you prone to acne. So lookout for those skin breakouts as a possible sign of sleep deprivation.
6. Effects of Alcohol
Your regular margaritas hitting you harder than usual? Sleep deprivation is known to magnify the effects of alcohol on your body. So a person affected by sleep-deprivation will show greater levels of intoxication than someone who is well rested.
Even while we sleep at night, our brain is at work doing many tasks important for our well-being. One of them is to consolidate memory. So, you may have had a fun experience today but the only way you will remember every detail about it even a few years down the line is when your brain locks in the entire episode, seals it in for you to remember it for years to come. In addition to this, an exhausted body is unable to pay attention to an ongoing event like a rested body would. Look for signs of forgetfulness and a lack of ability to remember minute details of recent events that ordinarily you would have no problem recounting.
8. Perpetual Hunger
Not getting enough sleep can mess with an appetite controlling hormone in the body called Leptin. You can thank this hormone for the feeling of satisfaction you get after a good meal. Leptin is also known as the satiety hormone and is released by the fat cells in the body. Lack of sleep affects the production of this hormone making the brain feel the need for more calories than normal. The result will be a perpetual feeling of hunger.
9. Weight Gain
An increased appetite will always lead to weight gain. But that's not all. A body which is not getting adequate rest will see a slow-down in its metabolism. So inadequate sleep will not only make you eat more, your ability to burn the food for energy would also be impacted.
A lot of factors contribute to sleep deprivation. Finding out the reasons and working towards a solution is crucial to get back a healthy sleeping pattern