Losing sleep and suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation is far more common than many people think, and has an impact on most people’s lives at some point.
You will know you are suffering from a lack of sleep when you do not feel like you have enough energy to stay alert and awake throughout the day. Even if you are getting eight or more hours of sleep each night, if you experience a poor quality of sleep, you can suffer the symptoms of sleep deprivation.
You may also experience interruptions in your sleep pattern from a new baby, or inconsiderate neighbours, and this can stop you from getting enough sleep at night. Repeated interruptions like this can lead to serious sleep deprivation.
Symptoms of sleep loss
The biggest and most obvious symptom of not getting enough sleep is daytime sleepiness. If you are finding yourself falling asleep in the daytime, then you aren’t getting enough rest at night.
The symptoms of sleep loss don’t end there. A smaller symptom of sleep loss is yawning, and this could be an early warning sign of sleep loss. Fatigue and depression are also common, as your muscles are not getting the extended period of relaxation they need at night, and your mind is not receiving the hormones it gets during restful sleep. Struggling to get to sleep at night, often called insomnia, can cause a range of problems.
This can also lead to mood swings and irritability, which can have an impact on your professional and personal relationships.
Long-term effects of sleep loss
If you don’t get enough sleep over a long period of time, you can suffer a range of psychological and physiological problems. It can even lower your immune system, and make you more susceptible to illness and infection.
Not getting enough sleep can also disrupt some of your body’s other natural rhythms, such as your eating pattern. Important hormones that help your body regulate eating and control hunger are released in the body during rest, so a lack of sleep can have a huge impact on your appetite.
A long-term lack of sleep can also affect a person’s personality, and cause them not just to be irritable but also antisocial and more detached. As the body struggles to get the recuperation it needs, the sufferers of long-term sleep deprivation are often neither fully awake nor asleep, and instead are in a distant or dissociative state.
Living with sleep debt
If you don’t get the right amount of sleep you need regularly, you will start to build up a sleep debt in your body. A quick example of this is that if you need eight hours of sleep a night, but you only get five, then you have a sleep debt of three hours. If this pattern continues for five nights through the week, your body will have a sleep debt of fifteen hours.
The only way to clear this debt is to catch up on sleep, and if you are experiencing repeatedly interrupted sleep, your body will never be given the opportunity to recover your sleep debt. If you can manage to repay these hours of sleep to your body, you will feel the positive effects quickly, and having a ‘few hours in the sleep bank’ is a great position to be in, as one poor night of rest won’t affect you too greatly.
If you are suffering from long-term sleep loss, then you should consider consulting a medical professional for advice. Better quality sleep can give your waking life a massive boost.
Dennis Relojo-Howell is the managing director of Psychreg.
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