Yawning, irritability and depression are just a few signs of sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep can be dangerous for the individual as well as the others around them. Unfortunately, sleep deprivation is on the rise and it’s having a significant impact on the overall health and mental wellbeing of the nation. When we say the numbers of sleep deprivation are on the rise, it is shockingly significant. One-third of Americans are sleep deprived. That’s one-third of Americans with a host of symptoms that decreases their enjoyment of daily life. It’s important to realize what sleep deprivation is, why it’s increasing in such large numbers and what the impact is if it is not addressed.
Every age group needs a certain amount of sleep in order to have optimal health. While what each group needs may vary, the importance and consequences of not getting enough sleep are negative at every level. The National Sleep Foundation’s most recent conclusion is that each person needs this range of sleep.
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5): 10-13 hours
- School Age (6-13): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17): 8-10 hours
- Younger Adults (18-25): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64): 7-9 hours
- Older Adults (65+): 7-8 hours
Based on these numbers, anything below the recommended sleep time is called sleep deprivation. Not getting enough sleep every once in a while is not a huge issue, but the fact that it is happening so often and for extended periods of time presents a problem. Sleep schedules aren’t just for children, they are important for people of all ages.
Dr. Mostafavi, a leader in the sleep medicine field states, “Sleep accumulates. If you get 6 hours of ok sleep every night, you’re missing out on at least 7 hours of sleep after a weeks’ time. People try to compensate for this by taking naps or sleeping in on weekends which does not always help and can sometimes throw you off more. To not be sleep deprived, you have to want to do the treatment and follow the instructions to get rid of your daytime sleepiness. This is especially true for younger generations.”
We’re sorry to tell you, but those late start Saturday mornings are not doing you any favors. According to a Harvard sleep study1, there is no true way to compensate for a night’s sleep.
If you find yourself falling into a cycle of sleep deprivation, you must find the cause of the lack of sleep and make a change accordingly. For some, this may be as simple as putting the phone away early at night, but for others, it may be a sleep disorder.
Why It’s on the Rise
Sleep deprivation has been increasing over the years and many sleep specialists believe the cause to be our transition to a technological and very busy lifestyle. As history has shown, with every technological advancement, society hopes that they will have time saved and more freedom to relax. However, with every advancement, we often find ourselves more attached to the machinery and spend less time relaxing. Dr. Mostafavi states, “The #1 reason for sleepiness is actually not sleep apnea, but sleep deprivation. This is caused by a number of things including technology, working long hours, working odd shifts, etc.” Overall, the schedules of the average American are incredibly hectic.
For many, a majority of their lives are handled or spent on an electronic device. While there are attractive features of emerging technology, the main disadvantage is technological abuse. Many do not know when it’s time to put the devices away. The light emitted from them are called blue light. Studies2 are finding that this light negatively impacts the circadian rhythm in the body, impacting the ability to fall and stay asleep.
Work & Social Lives
Work and social lives often take a priority over adequate sleep. For many, our schedules start early in the day, causing us to stay up late in order to catch up on additional work expectations or socializing. It’s important to think about their current lifestyle and how this can impact their health over time. Work schedules cannot always be changed, but the way time is spent outside of work can be.
Impacts of Sleep Deprivation
Not getting an adequate amount of sleep can have a significant impact on your mental health. In fact, many of those who already have a mental disorder also suffer from sleep deprivation. When sleep is consistently disrupted or simply not attained, the brain suffers. It can hinder emotional and cognitive regulation, thereby causing or increasing the symptoms of psychiatric disorders. However, even if you do not have a psychiatric disorder, sleep deprivation can still have a negative impact on your emotional wellbeing. Your body needs sleep to repair itself, so you can wake up feeling happy and ready to tackle the day. With restorative sleep, you will have your body working at its strongest.
Chronic Illnesses: Studies3 have shown that the long term impact of sleep deprivation can have a significant effect on the cardiovascular system. This is because of how it increases blood pressure and inflammation. Additionally, if you are exhausted from getting no rest, you are more likely to avoid working out, thereby avoiding healthy heart habits.
Respiratory Disease: One major cause of sleep deprivation is sleep apnea. When left untreated, sleep deprivation can make it more likely for you to experience respiratory infections or can exacerbate any respiratory diseases you already have.
Digestive System: Many who are sleep deprived are also overweight. This is due to the hormones impacted by the loss of sleep. You may not be able to truly recognize when you are full, because the hormones are not signaling to your brain that you should be finished eating. This may also lead to higher levels of insulin, making you a candidate for diabetes. Studies4 have shown that middle-aged men are particularly susceptible to this. With longtime sleep deprivation, they have a higher chance of getting type 2 diabetes and other health problems.
Accidents: Inadequate sleep not only impacts your health but can impact the health of others. You are at a greater risk of causing vehicle, work or another kind of accident. In fact, you’re 70 percent more likely to be involved in an accident if you are sleep deprived.
What can be done?
Sleep deprivation is not something to be ignored. It impacts all ages and those who consider themselves night owls and morning larks. Thankfully, it’s easily treatable for the patient who wants to fix it. Millions of people suffer from sleep deprivation every day. If you’re looking for help to get rid of your daytime sleepiness, see your family physician and contact us for your sleep consult today.
Uncovering Residual Effects of Chronic Sleep Loss on Human Performance. Daniel A. Cohen, Wei Wang, James K. Wyatt, Richard E. Kronauer, Derk-Jan Dijk, Charles A. Czeisler, Elizabeth B. Klerman. Science Translational Medicine, 13 January 2010; Volume 2 Issue 14 14ra3
Emma J Wams, Tom Woelders, Irene Marring, Laura van Rosmalen, Domien G M Beersma, Marijke C M Gordijn, Roelof A Hut. Sleep. 2017 Dec; 40(12): zsx165. Published online 2017 Oct 11.
Daniel J. Gottlieb, Susan Redline, F. Javier Nieto, Carol M. Baldwin, Anne B. Newman, Helaine E. Resnick, Naresh M. Punjabi, Association of Usual Sleep Duration With Hypertension: The Sleep Heart Health Study, Sleep, Volume 29, Issue 8, August 2006, Pages 1009–1014, https://doi.org/10.1093/sleep/29.8.1009
Habitual Sleep Deprivation is Associated with Type 2 Diabetes: A Case-Control Study
Mohammed A. Al-Abri, Deepali Jaju, Sawsan Al-Sinani, Ali Al-Mamari, Sulayma Albarwani, Khalid Al-Resadi, Riyadh Bayoumi, Mohammed Hassan, Khamis Al-Hashmi Oman Med J. 2016 Nov; 31(6): 399–403. doi: 10.5001/omj.2016.81