Chronic Sleep Deprivation: More Harmful Than You Might Think
Not only can sleep deprivation can cause serious damage to your body over the long-term, but it can cause you to lose your mind too.
You probably have noticed that, when you don’t get enough sleep, your thoughts are not as clear as normal and you feel grumpy. Although you might think that not getting enough sleep is no big deal, in the long run, you actually pay quite a price when you are sleep deprived. Chronic sleep deprivation significantly affects your mental functioning, performance and health.
Why Do We Need to Sleep?
Although sleep is as important to your physical and emotional health as is eating and drinking, researchers still do not quite understand why people need to sleep. In fact, the question of why humans sleep is one of the biggest mysteries in biology. Researchers theorize that the brain may need sleep to store the day’s memories or that sleep regulates the body’s hormones.
How Harmful Is Sleep Deprivation, Really?
Even though the question of why humans sleep is not completely understood, there is no question that sleep deprivation is extremely harmful both physically and mentally. Research shows that losing sleep can cause psychosis, long-term memory problems and can impair cognitive functioning. Other studies have found that sleep deprivation can lead to physical ailments, such as high blood pressure, weight gain and impaired immune system functioning.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation?
There is not one specific cause of sleep deprivation. Actually, many things can cause you to not get enough sleep. You might have too many daily stresses. Health issues, such as sleep apnea, diabetes and heartburn can all cause you to not be able to sleep well. Mental health problems, such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety can all interfere with sleep. Taking care of an infant, working in shifts or the need to finish work or school projects may also lead to a lack of shut-eye.
What Can I Do If I Cannot Sleep Well?
The cure for sleep difficulties can often be found in your lifestyle choices and daily routines. Try the following tips to help improve your sleep and leave you feeling emotionally and physically balanced.
Regular Sleep Schedule
One of the most important strategies for improving your sleep is to get on a regular sleep schedule. The reason this is important is because your body has a natural 24-hour clock, called a circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm tells your body when to sleep, wake and eat. This clock is linked to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. Typically, your circadian rhythm will cause you to wake in the morning after 8 hours of sleep and feel tired after about 16 hours of being awake. Sometimes, your circadian rhythm can become disrupted, causing your sleep patterns to become abnormal. Therefore, getting back on track with your body’s natural clock is vital for overcoming insomnia. Going to bed at the same time each night and waking up at the same time every morning can help your body’s natural clock become more regular.
Regular exercisers tend to spend more time in the deeper, more restorative stages of sleep, according to the latest research. Exercise also helps you feel less sleepy during the day and feel better overall. Just make sure that you exercise at least several hours before bedtime as vigorous exercise can interfere with sleep hormones. It can take months of regular exercise before you notice the full effects on your sleep, so be patient and stick with it.