“Did you wake up on the wrong side of the bed today?” is a common enough criticism that people receive when things just refuse to work out right. Instead, individuals may feel cranky, be unable to perform at par or simply feel sluggish as the day unfolds. While many people may attribute this demeanor to not getting enough shuteye, the real cause behind it may be chronic sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is a serious condition with equally serious consequences. Research shows that an average of seven to nine hours of quality sleep is required at night for optimal cognitive and physical functioning during the day. The absence of a good night’s sleep can easily impair an individual’s capacity to cope with daily aggravations and demands. Many times the symptoms may go unnoticed as they appear to be generic concerns and may be attributed to other conditions.
What is sleep debt?
Sleep deprivation causes sleep debt. This is the variance between the hours of sleep that are recommended for a good night’s rest and the actual amount of shut-eye that a person gets; the larger the difference between the two, the starker the after effects. For those who suffer from short-term sleep deprivation, the damage is felt as a foggy brain, deteriorating vision, trouble driving and difficulty remembering things. Long-term toll may include health hazards like obesity, development of diabetes and even cardiovascular complications.
Common Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
- Inability to handle stress
- Poor memory
- Inability to concentrate
- Increase in food cravings
- Vision problems
- Impaired decision making
- Slower reaction time
- Mood swings
If undiagnosed, these very symptoms can quickly turn into causes of the condition as well.
Health conditions like acid reflux where elevated acidity levels often cause heartburn and pain lead to a disturbed slumber; more often keeping individuals awake than getting a restful sleep.
Any kind of pain, even the mildest form can keep you from sleeping peacefully at night. While mild pain may not actually wake you up, it can certainly cause heavily disrupted sleep.
Effects of sleep deprivation
Some effects that can result from sleep deprivation are:
- Memory loss
- Weight fluctuations
- Sleep paralysis
- Compromised immune system
- High blood pressure
Other than the physical toll that sleep deprivation can take on people, many psychological factors can also come into play leading to domestic unhappiness, career troubles, and even life-threatening situations.
Recovering from sleep debt
To make up for the deficit in sleep hours, recovery can be a slow process. Individuals can start the rejuvenation process by adding an extra hour of sleep every night. But in doing so it is not only the quantity of sleep but also the quality of sleep that matters. A deep, restful sleep will lead to waking up refreshed the next day. This is the kind of intensity experienced which will straighten out disturbed sleep patterns. Revival time for individuals may vary based on how far they are in their sleep debt. For the very chronically sleep deprived, it could even span into a period of a few months. The trick is to not fall back into a new debt cycle.