Don’t look under your bed- the real killer is closer than you think:
Chronic sleep deprivation can kill you.
We all love a good night’s rest, right? But with our busy schedules and daily chores, we often give priority to other scruff and we sacrifice our sleeping by cutting down the sleeping time. Often, it’s hard to comprehend the benefits of sleeping and the impact it has on our health and wellbeing…. until you haven’t slept enough.
In today’s fast-paced world, six or seven hours of sleep may sound pretty good, but in reality, it’s a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation. So why is sleep so important?
Sleeping is such a regular part of our lives that we often forget its real purpose. In order to remind ourselves, we need to answer one basic question:
Why do we need to sleep?
We tend to think that sleeping is a time when our mind and body shut down and rests, but actually, they stay very active, processing the information and sensations gathered during the day. Sleep helps us repair and restore our organs, including our muscles, the immune system, and various hormones. It also plays a crucial role in memory, helping us retain what we learned, for later use.
One important thing you need to know is that sleep deprivation doesn’t come instantly. The sleep deprivation usually occurs after a long period of time, when the tiredness caused by the chronic lack of sleep accumulates, until it finally catches up with your body.
The scary truth about the silent killer
The alarming fact is that often sleep deprivation passes as unrecognized, and the main reason is the lack of awareness for the benefits and the real consequences. We often feel tired and sleepy, but we assign those symptoms to other factors, such as stress or anxiety.
After a typical night’s sleep, you may not feel restored and refreshed and be sleepy during the day, but be totally unaware that you are sleep-deprived or have a sleep disorder. You might think, “It’s just the stress of work or the kids,” or you might have “always felt this way” and had no idea that you should feel differently. Because of this, many people remain undiagnosed for years and are exposed to severe health problems which, if caught late, can cause serious damage to the body.
How do you know if you have sleep deprivation?
As we explained before, sometimes it can be really hard to determine if you suffer from sleep deprivation because the symptoms are similar with those of other conditions, and it can be easily mistaken with anemia, depression, hormonal changes, anxiety, illness, etc.
The primary effect of sleep deprivation is excessive daytime sleepiness. Because the sleep is connected directly to the brain and its functioning, usually the first symptoms start from decreased psychological awareness and affect our cognitive skills, such as paying attention, learning, focusing, etc. Other symptoms are closely linked with our mood, performance and sometimes, health problems can occur.
The common effects and symptoms of sleep deprivation are:
o Mood changes
o Lack of motivation
o Symptoms of depression
o Lack of concentration
o Attention deficits
o Reduced vigilance
o Longer reaction times
o Lack of energy
o Lack of coordination
o Poor decisions
o Increased errors
o High blood pressure
o Heart attack
o Weight gain
Ok, so how can this kill me?
By now you probably have realized the impact that sleep has on our body and the ways the sleep deprivation can interfere with your everyday routines.
All of the symptoms listed above can lead to serious complications and illnesses, for example, you may end up developing metabolic syndrome. It’s a condition triggered by chronic inflammation in the body, and the results are heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
But there is another side to sleep deprivation symptoms which are scarier than the initial symptom– the aftermath.
It can happen to all of us- we may accidentally fall asleep in the middle of something, but what happens when that “something” can be life threatening? A sleep-deprived person is more likely to fall asleep when forced to sit still in a quiet or monotonous situation, such as during, a meeting or class.
Sleep deprivation is one of the most common causes of car accidents in recent history. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatigue is a cause in 100,000 auto crashes and 1,550 crash-related deaths a year in the U.S. The problem is greatest among people under 25 years old.
Studies show that sleep loss and poor-quality sleep also lead to accidents and injuries on the job. In one study, workers who complained about excessive daytime sleepiness had significantly more work accidents.
What can I do?
As it takes more time to develop sleep deprivation, it takes more time to heal your body and fully recover from this condition. Obviously, the first thing you must do is visit your doctor who can provide you with a proper diagnosis and treatment. In certain situations, treatment with medications may become a necessity. The treatment will depend on the seriousness of the problem and the level of sleep deprivation.
Additionally, you can help your body heal faster if you start taking more care about the style of life and healthy habits. Here are some helpful tips on how to improve your sleep and put your sleep routine under control:
Keep your phone or computer away
The blue light that comes from our mobile devices and screens lowers the production of melatonin or the sleep hormone. Artificial light makes you alert and even the tiniest ray of blue light can affect your sleep. So, try avoiding your mobile phone, TV, and computer at least 45minutes before going to bed.
Get some spa time
Going to bed stressed won’t end up well, for sure. When that happened, instead of trying to fall asleep, take a time to relax your body and free your mind.
You don’t need to spend a fortune on spa treatments; you can make your own spa in the comfort of your home. Take a hot bath with dim light or candles (some aromatic candles can do the trick). Choose a book to read, or maybe try to meditate for at least 5minutes. Do whatever you feel comfortable that can be helpful for making you feel sleepy.
Make your sleep a priority
We all have some kind of an imaginary list of priorities, containing all the stuff and activities that are important to us. When it comes to getting better sleep, it’s important to make sleep one of your top priorities, and always try to get at least seven hours of sleep every day.
That means you have to learn to say “no” to your friends when they force you to stay at the bar, or to your colleague who has an important job task that has to be done by midnight, or even when your favorite TV show has started.
Be careful what you eat/drink
If you are suffering from sleep deprivation, you can’t take a cup of coffee or drink a bottle of fizzy soda filled with sugar and expect to fall asleep right away. It is widely known that the sugar intake increases the body’s energy, as well as the caffeine. This additional amount of energy can keep you awake for the whole night, or it can affect the quality of the sleep. Avoid sweets or refined food and don’t drink coffee at least two hours before going to sleep.
Magnesium has proven to have a positive effect on the sleep and it helps in fighting insomnia, puts you in your rest-and-relax mode and reduces restlessness before sleep. Therefore, you should start eating more green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, peas, broccoli, cabbage, green beans, artichokes, asparagus, etc, because they are rich in magnesium. If you have a sweet tooth, you can eat dark chocolate or fruits such as figs, avocado, banana, and raspberries.