The Impact of Sleep Deprivation on Health
As you open your eyes at the sound of the alarm ringing in your ear, you won’t be alone if you wish you hadn’t spent that last hour on the computer the previous evening. Around the world, the sleep patterns of millions of people are being compromised by lifestyle choices. Whether by personal choice or by necessity, we are spending more evenings working on our computers later into the night and fewer hours providing our bodies with much-needed sleep.
The Whole Body Effect of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep is essential for good health. Without adequate sleep, our weight increases, our productivity decreases, and our body’s ability to repair and protect itself is greatly compromised. The concerning thing about most people’s sleep habits is that they believe they only require the minimum number of hours to function each day. Yet, unless they are sleeping an average of 7 to 9 hours each night, they are potentially harming their bodies.
Sleep deprivation is considered anything less than 6 hours of sleep per night for an average healthy adult. Children require 9 to 10 hours of sleep but teenagers require even more, with the recommended hours of sleep ranging from 10 to 12 hours per night. Sleep-deprived children will show immediate improvements in their behaviour and concentration when their sleeping habits improve. As adults, increasing the hours we sleep to 7 hours per night, at a minimum, will greatly improve our general health and well being.
Our Body Never Sleeps
Many of our body processes are working and repairing themselves during sleep. Research has shown that anything less than the average number of hours of sleep will lead to health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and immune response suppression. We are more likely to suffer from coughs and colds and other seasonal viruses if we sleep less than 6 hours a night.
The cycles that are part of our normal sleep pattern must be completed each night. But when we reduce the total number of hours that we sleep, these cycles are interrupted and result in myriad symptoms, such as drowsiness and inability to focus throughout the day. Another problem that results from not having a regular time to sleep and wake is that, even when we do feel tired, we may not be able to go to sleep quickly.
Encouraging Good Sleeping Habits
Losing out on sleep and becoming overtired can contribute to sleep deprivation even if we are in bed trying to sleep. We can help reverse this effect by setting a regular bedtime and waking at the same time each day. Reducing stimulants, such as television, computers, and coffee, before going to bed will also help prepare us for sleep. Some people find that a hot bath, shower, or milk-based drink will make them feel sleepy.
Sleep deprivation in both adults and children is quickly becoming a major contributor to poor health and obesity levels in our society, and only by acknowledging this and taking personal steps to restore our own bodies’ natural sleep rhythms can we reverse the damage that is being done to our mental, physical, and emotional health.