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Sleep Deprivation is a condition that occurs if you do not get enough sleep.

Sleep deficiency is a broader concept which is said to occur if you have one or more of the following:

  1. You don’t get enough sleep (Sleep Deprivation)
  2. You sleep at the wrong time during the day (Out of sync with the body’s natural clock)
  3. You don’t get all of the different types of sleep your body needs
  4. You have a sleep disorder that prevents you from getting enough sleep or causes poor quality sleep.

Science has linked poor sleep to all kinds of related health problems. It drains your mental abilities and puts your physical health at real risk.

Below are few commonly observed effects of poor sleep:

  1. Memory issues- Negative impact on short-term and long-term memory;
  2. Mood changes,
  3. The trouble with thinking and concentration and problem-solving skills;
  4. Accidents;
  5. Weakened immunity;
  6. High blood pressure;
  7. Risk of heart disease;
  8. The risk for Diabetes;
  9. Weight gain, etc.

Sleep deficiency, which includes sleep deprivation, affects people of all ages, races, and ethnicities.

Certain groups of people are more likely to be sleep deficient.

Examples include people who:

  • Have limited time available for sleep, such as caregivers or people working long hours.
  • Have schedules that conflict with their internal body clocks, such as shift workers, first responders, or people who must travel for work
  • Make lifestyle choices that prevent them from getting enough sleep, such as taking medicine to stay awake, abusing alcohol or drugs, or not leaving enough time for sleep
  • Have undiagnosed or untreated medical problems, such as stress, anxiety, or sleep disorders
  • Have medical conditions or take medicines that interfere with sleep.

How You Can Prevent Sleep Deprivation:

The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to make sure you get adequate sleep.

Follow the recommended guidelines for your age group, which is 7 to 9 hours for most adults ages 18 to 64.

Ways to get back healthy sleep schedule include:

  • Limiting or avoiding daytime naps
  • Avoiding caffeine, especially in the evenings.
  • Going to bed at the same time each night
  • Waking up at the same time every morning
  • Sticking to your bedtime schedule even during weekends and holidays
  • Spending an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, e.g. reading, meditating, or taking a bath
  • Avoiding heavy meals two hours before bedtime
  • Avoiding the use of electronic devices just before bedtime
  • Regular exercising during the day (but not in the hours close to bedtime)

If you continue to have problems sleeping at night and are fighting daytime fatigue, consider talking to your doctor.

They can test for any underlying health conditions that might be getting in the way of your sleep schedule.

How you can discuss your sleep problems with your health care professionals:

Doctors might not detect sleep problems during routine office visits because patients are awake.

Thus, you should let your doctor know if you think you might have a sleep problem.

For example, talk with your doctor if you often feel sleepy during the day, don't wake up feeling refreshed and alert, or are having trouble adapting to shift work.

To get a better sense of your sleep problem, your doctor will ask you about your sleep habits, which may be related to the following:

  • How often you have trouble sleeping and how long you've had the problem
  • How long it takes you to fall asleep, how often you wake up at night, and how long it takes you to fall back asleep
  • Whether you snore loudly and often or wake up gasping or feeling out of breath
  • How refreshed you feel when you wake up, and how tired you feel during the day

Your doctor also may ask questions about your personal routine and habits.

To help your doctor, consider keeping a sleep diary for a couple of weeks.

  1. Write down when you go to sleep, wake up, and take naps.
  2. Write down how much you sleep each night, how alert and rested you feel in the morning, as well as how sleepy you feel at various times during the day.

Doctors can diagnose some sleep disorders by asking questions about sleep schedules and habits.

To diagnose other sleep disorders, doctors also use the results from sleep studies and other medical tests.

Sleep studies allow your doctor to measure how much and how well you sleep, and also help show whether you have sleep problems, and how severe they are.

Your doctor may do a physical exam to rule out other medical problems that might interfere with your sleep. You may need blood tests to check for thyroid problems or other conditions that can cause sleep problems.

With the right approach and guidance, sleep deprivation can be addressed, and resolved, so that it does not lead to a life-long health issue.

By Dr. Shamim Javed