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Published On: Sat, Mar 2nd, 2019

Sleep Deprivation: What Can You Do About It?

Sleep deprivation has become such a common issue in the United States it’s estimated around a third of all Americans aren’t getting enough sleep, even though it is vital to staying fit and healthy. Sleep effectively cleans out the brain, eliminating the waste that builds up while you’re awake. Given that sleep is connected to just about everything that happens in the body, it’s obvious there would be some pretty bad side effects of not sleeping enough.

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is when your body doesn’t get enough sleep. How much sleep you need can vary between people, but it’s recommended that adults get at least seven to nine hours of sleep.

There are two main stages of sleep; Rapid-Eye-Movement (REM) sleep and non-REM sleep. Non-REM sleep is further broken down into three phases where the body builds bone and muscle, repairs tissue, and strengthens the immune system. Brain activity increases in REM sleep, which is when you start to dream. You can cycle through these stages several times in a night, and both are important to your health.

What Causes Sleep Deprivation?

There are several possible causes for sleep deprivation. If you suffer from sleep deprivation, it may be caused by one – or more – of the following;

  • Pain

Being in pain can impact how much sleep you get at night. People who have chronic pain sleep an average of 42 minutes less, and people with acute, short-term pain sleep for an average of 14 minutes less.

  • Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea and narcolepsy can stop you from getting enough sleep. It adds up to chronic sleep deprivation. Getting these conditions treated can be the first step to a great nights’ sleep.

  • Insomnia

Insomnia, contrary to popular belief, is the inability to get to sleep as well as the inability to stay asleep. It can cause sleep deprivation if it persists. Having an overactive mind that is constantly thinking prevents sleep, and insomnia can get worse with age.

  • Mood Disorders

Not getting enough sleep affects your mood. At least one-third of people with insomnia have another mental problem such as depression or anxiety. These also contribute to a lack of sleep, creating something of a vicious cycle.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Health

One of the reasons sleep is so important is because of how it affects the brain and body. Not getting enough sleep impacts health in a range of ways, including:

  • Compromised Immune System

Not getting enough sleep affects how well the body can defend against illnesses and infections. People who don’t sleep enough are more likely to catch a cold, for example.

  • Weight Gain

Sleeplessness can disrupt the endocrine system, which is responsible for appetite and other things. Sleep deprivation causes an increase in the hormone ghrelin – which makes you hungrier – and decreases levels of leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. This results in eating more food and putting weight on.

  • Diabetes

A lack of sleep leads to an overactive central nervous system, which prevents the pancreas from properly producing insulin. This leads to an increase in blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of developing diabetes.

  • Heart Disease

A major study into sleep deprivation showed that women who slept for five hours or less a night had a 30% higher risk of developing coronary heart disease. Sleep deprivation can also increase blood pressure, which is a major risk factor for heart disease.

  • Brain Health

Given that sleep clears away the neurotoxic waste that builds up in the central nervous system, not getting enough sleep decreases mental performance. It reduces reaction times and impairs memory, critical thinking, and reasoning skills. It also impairs creativity and leads to mental health disorders such as anxiety, depression, and stress.

Natural Remedies for Sleep Deprivation

Getting enough sleep is vital for improved health and energy. With that in mind, here are some things you can do at home to sleep better at night;

  • Valerian Tea

The research on valerian tea has produced some mixed results, but it has been shown t be effective for women who are having trouble sleeping due to the menopause.

  • Melatonin

Melatonin is the hormone your body releases when there is no light around. It essentially makes you sleepy at the end of the day. It can be purchased in supplement form to help regulate the natural sleep-cycle of your body.

  • Exercise

Getting regular exercise helps you to sleep better. One study on adults with insomnia showed that getting an average of 150 minutes of exercise a week reduced insomnia symptoms within 6 months.

  • Meditation

There are many mind-body techniques that can help you sleep at night. For example, a study of mindfulness-based stress reduction – which includes meditation and relaxation techniques – showed that following these practices can help one get an average of 43 minutes more sleep.

  • White Noise Machine

A white noise machine is great for sleeping better at night. Lots of people swear by them. They essentially play a noise that clears your mind and helps you sleep at night. An overactive mind is one of the main reasons people can’t sleep, and a white noise machine clears all that away.

Summary

Sleep deprivation has become a major problem in the United States, and it can have serious consequences for your overall health and wellbeing. Experts recommend that adults get around 8 hours of sleep a night and children get around 9. The longer you go without sleep, the worse the effects get, so be sure to do something about your sleep deprivation today!

Author: Hannah Edmonds

About the Author

- Outside contributors to the Dispatch are always welcome to offer their unique voices, contradictory opinions or presentation of information not included on the site.

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