Sleep deprivation is becoming a common problem today.
For a certain group of people, it could be intentional sleep deprivation to catch up with personal goals such as education and extra income. However, for most people, there could be a serious medical or lifestyle condition behind the deprivation.
Patterns of sleep deprivation
A number of people are unable to sleep for the recommended 7-8 hours and always find them awake at a certain time of early morning. Others are unable to initiate sleep in the first place and only get to sleep when it is too deep into the night. Then there is the group that have constant disruptions from their sleep and that they wake up three or four times in a night. Then it becomes difficult to fall back to sleep. Medical sleep disorders, especially among children come in the form of insomnia, obstructive sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome.
Whatever pattern of deprivation that one exhibits, it is possible to find a solution if the cause is identified. Some of the common causes include medical problems such as depression, terminal illnesses or hormonal imbalance that may need a proper diagnosis. It could also be due to genetic factors especially among children. Normal sleep-wake disruptions due to arousals, early mornings and late nights may also lead to a destructive sleep debt.
What are the effects?
The symptoms of sleep deprivation themselves are a negative effect. For instance, most victims are moody, lack concentration, motivation, clumsy and with less energy, forgetfulness, irritability and constant yawning. This means the ability to learn and retain new knowledge is heavily challenged. They also crave carbohydrates with a general increase in appetite, which can lead to unhealthy weight gain. There will also be diminished sex drive among adults as it reduces testosterone and causes lower sperm count among men.
For children, sleep deprivation brings about impulsive behavior, poor performance and productivity due to low concentration or attention spans and micro sleep between class and activities. They are less likely to excel in physical activities such as sports due to fatigue, lack of alertness and low energy levels. In overall, it delays the rate of growth, with sleep deprived children showing slower biological and mental growth.
During sleep, a number of crucial metabolic processes take place including digestion, excretion, and other respiratory functions. If these do not occur as required weight gain and other complications, come up. Lack of sleep is linked to a number of problems such as heart attack, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and stroke. The body is overstressed in a way that it overproduces cortisol – the stress hormone. Excess cortisol also brings about a weaker immune system and skin damage as it breaks down skin collagen. It also inhibits the body’s ability to repair damages, cuts or wounds as the protein (collagen) is destroyed.
When a sleep disorder is left untreated for a long time lack of sleep quality and quantity can have far-reaching effects on human health. It can lead to chronic problems such as diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular ailments or even mortality. What’s more, these effects are not just physical; there are underlying emotional and mental effects.