Wake up to the Problems of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep is the single activity humans do more of than anything else.  It is critical to our very survival and one of my Six Keys to Optimal Health.  Yet millions of Americans suffer from sleep deprivation, disorders, and serious health issues that result.  In my last article, What Happens When You Sleep, we learned about the sleep cycle.  This article is a follow up and focuses on quality and quantity of sleep needed.  We also explore the negative impacts and health issues from the lack of snooze time.  When we are children, all we want to do is stay up.  By the time we are in our 40s, all we want to do is sleep longer!   

How Much is Enough?

Most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep but according to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than seven hours per night. The Wall Street Journal reports 35.2% of adults don’t get 7 hours of sleep per night.  I know you’re busy and if you get a night of six or seven hours of sleep every once in while, I understand.  But if you are continually getting less than 7 hours of sleep a night, over time, your physical and mental well being will suffer. Children, teens, and babies need even more slumber.  Even though our sleep usually decreases with age, most older people still need about 7 hours of sleep to stay healthy and avoid sleep deprivation. 

A chart of how much sleep is need at different age spans in life.

Problems Caused by Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation causes several minor issues and serious health problems.  Feeling tired, being irritable, and not being able to focus are minor issues and are often the precursors to more serious problems if you don’t  get more sleep.  Over the long run health issues get more serious.  They include memory loss, weight gain, and heart disease.

Memory Loss

While you’re asleep, your brain is processing all the things that its learned throughout the day.  Lack of sleep has a negative impact on short term memory, and you may struggle to concentrate the next day.

Weight Gain

A young lady eating ice cream watching television late at night.
A sad movie, a recent breakup or sleep deprivation?

Too little sleep promotes hormone-induced changes that stimulate your appetite.  The ebb and flow of these hormones create cravings that occur and often result in snacking in the evening.  Let’s face it, when you want a nighttime snack, are you reaching for ice cream or celery sticks?  If your like most people I know, you’re reaching for the bowl and scoop.  Also, if you are tired, you may not want to exercise which also contributes to weight gain.

Heart Disease

The stress of being awake for extended periods of time will cause your body to produce more chemicals keeping muscle and brain activity on high alert.  The body requires rest, especially those always on the go.  Too much stress and not enough rest can lead to heart disease for those who sleep less than 6 hours a night. According to tusk.com, Short sleepers (people who slept fewer than 6 hours) had nearly a 50% higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease.

Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders are pretty common and is defined as anything that affects the ability to sleep well on a regular basis.  Most people occasionally experience sleeping problems due to stress, crazy schedules, and other issues.  But when they begin to occur on a regular basis and interfere with daily life, it may be a sign that a sleeping disorder exists.  Here are a few of the major sleeping disorders:

  • Insomnia is the inability to fall or stay asleep.  Stress, anxiety, hormones, and digestive issues can be the cause.  This is the most common sleep disorder in America.
  • Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition that interrupts breathing during sleep.  It can cause the body to take in less oxygen and can cause you to wake up during the night.
  • Narcolepsy is a sleep attack that occurs during the day.  You suddenly feel extremely tired and fall asleep without warning.
  • Parasomnias cause abnormal movements and behaviors during sleep and include sleepwalking, sleep talking, nightmares, teeth grinding or jaw clenching.

Sleep disorders are diagnosed by physical exam and testing via sleep studies, assessing electrical activity in the brain and genetic blood testing.  Treatments vary and it’s always best to discuss medical treatments with your physician.

More to come

If you had trouble sleeping last night, you are not alone.  You were just one of the 164 million Americans that have trouble falling and staying asleep every night.  The health impacts on those with chronic sleep deprivation can be serious and lead to long term health problems.  In my next article, I will explore the role of circadian rhythms has on triggering sleep and tips to snooze the night away.  Until then, if you have any questions about this or any health and wellness topic, visit my site and hit me up with a live chat.  You can also call me at 813.505.9815 anytime.  I look forward to talking with you soon.

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