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What Are The Physical And Mental Tolls Of Sleep Deprivation?

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Introduction

To compete with the pace of life getting faster every year, it seems like we have forgotten to give adequate rest to our mind and body. With work and other responsibilities demanding a lot of our attention and energy, regular and healthy sleep is almost seen as an inconvenience rather than a necessity. 

A recent study showed that about 53% of Indians sleep late, preferring to scroll through social media instead of getting an early night and a few others had disturbed sleep through the night. Sleep is involved in physical and mental health and sleep loss can lead to severe negative impacts on both of them.  

What are the common causes of Lack of Sleep?

The causes of lack of sleep are varied across individuals but a few common themes can be seen. Social media and the internet itself has become a battleground for grabbing and keeping the attention of user’s, whether it’s through algorithms or addictive apps and games. People fall into a routine of winding their day down with social media or YouTube, assuming this helps them relax before bed. 

The fact is, these apps and the internet as a whole, stimulates the brain keeping it engaged and not allowing for any mental relaxation to take place. This leads to a delay of sleep, sometimes for hours on end, which of course leads to several physiological issues. Of course, there are many other causes of lack of sleep and social media/apps/the internet when used appropriately can have many benefits. It isn’t just something negative that you have to avoid all the time. 

Having a newborn may also be a sweet cause of sleep loss, while other causes of lack of sleep include insomnia and anxiety, stress, depression or a change of schedule. Some diseases, medicines, sleep disorders and illnesses may also lead to improper sleep such as sleep apnea, narcolepsy and restless legs syndrome. Ageing may also lead to chronic sleep loss. 

How does Sleep Loss impact your health?

Sleep Loss on a few occasions typically does not lead to any drastic effects on your mind or body, except that you might feel tired. However, the effects of sleep deprivation, especially chronically lacking sleep, can be grave and may require treatment.

  • Memory loss and trouble focusing – Continued sleep deprivation over a few days may lead to memory loss and an inability to maintain focus. This is due to the brain being active and functioning all the time and not being able to rest and recover. 
  • Stress and mood changes – While stress itself can become a cause of sleep loss, the reverse is also true. Sleep deprivation can increase your stress levels, resulting in a feedback loop. Additionally, you may notice several mood changes in yourself when you go through chronic lack of sleep, from being easily irritated to depression. 
  • Increased risk of high BP, diabetes, heart disease – Less than 5 hours of sleep each night significantly increases your risk of developing high blood pressure. Lack of sleep can also cause higher levels of chemicals linked to inflammation. Together with increased blood pressure, this can increase your risk of heart disease. Since sleep loss interferes with the release of Insulin, it may also lead to a high risk of developing diabetes. 
  • Weight gain or weight loss – Sleep and weight loss or gain are closely intertwined. In some cases, lack of sleep may lead to a loss of appetite or on the opposite end, overeating. 
  • Weakened immunity – Chronic lack of sleep results in your immune system becoming weaker against common infections (colds, coughs). Without time to rest, the body is unable to recharge and repair, which affects its immune response. 
  • Poor balance – The physiological process of maintaining balance and coordination, requires concentration and mental effort which usually isn’t something we need to consciously think about. But sleep deprivation can affect our coordination and balance, making it hard to perform basic executive functions. This increases your risk of accidents and falls and may lead to severe injury. 
  • Although it is dependent on the causes of lack of sleep, some other effects include low sex drive and inability to perform social tasks (such as missing out on social gatherings). 

How can Sleep Loss be fixed

Despite the issues associated with it, sleep loss can be fixed. Fixing your sleep cycle depends upon the causes of disruption of sleep. The hopeful fact is that, once your body is trained, a lot of your symptoms and issues will disappear or reduce in intensity. Getting to the point where your body is following a natural rhythm of sleep and being awake requires effort and planning.

Some home remedies include a warm bath before bed to relax you physically and loosen your muscles and joints. Additionally, you should keep your phone away whenever you get into bed, creating a separation between being on your phone and being in bed. This can train your body to accept that when you’re in bed, sleep is the goal. You can use your phone to play soft, calming music in case it helps, but set the music and leave the phone! Avoid watching any video or movie that has violent or disturbing content especially before your sleep-time.

Keep your bedroom clean, ventilated and organised, for a peaceful and relaxing environment that promotes quality sleep. Relaxation techniques and meditation can be of great help too. The temperature in your room also plays an important role in allowing you to fall asleep quickly, when your body is uncomfortable it will be really hard to fall asleep. Figure out what the best temperature for you is and do your best to keep your room within that range. 

Lastly, you may want to visit a psychologist or psychiatrist, since you may have issues that require expert treatment. You may be prescribed sleeping medication, apart from any treatment for the underlying causes of your sleep loss. 

Conclusion

From the effects sleep loss has on our body and mind, it’s clear to see that sleep is an essential and vital body function. When you lay in bed social media may be engaging or your brain may be busy reliving the busy day you’ve just been through- remember that you won’t be able to function fully the next day without a good night’s rest. If your problems persist for over a week, you should definitely seek professional help, whether a counsellor, a psychiatrist or a sleep specialist. 

Disclaimer: The information included at this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.

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