Frequently losing sleep can have a huge effect on your overall health. Individuals who do not get the recommended amount of sleep can suffer from side effects such as memory loss and forgetfulness, but can also be at a higher risk for accidents. Sleep deprivation has been shown in studies to be equally as dangerous on the road as driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Regular lack of sleep puts you at a higher risk for other work-related accidents, as well. For example, some of the biggest disasters in recent history can be at least partially attributed to sleep deprivation, including the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl in 1986, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, and more recently and closer to home—the fatal train derailments of Dobbs Ferry, New York and Hoboken, New Jersey.
Some other effects that can occur as a result of chronic sleep deprivation include depression, weight gain, lowered sex drive, heart disease, high blood pressure, and an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Additional health risks can occur if the sleep loss is due to sleep apnea, a serious condition that prevents proper breathing during sleep.
While missing out on a good night’s sleep every once in awhile is fairly normal for most people, it can be detrimental to your health if you are repeatedly missing out on quality sleep. If you think you might be sleep deprived, here are some signs to watch for:
- Increased hunger: A lack of sleep causes your body to produce an increased amount of ghrelin, also known as the “hunger hormone.” This means your body will begin to crave energy from foods that are generally bad for you, such as fatty or fried foods.
- Weight gain: This is often a result of increased hunger, but it can also be related to the fact that you may be more impulsive while sleep deprived, and therefore more willing to eat junk food. Additionally, your metabolism can slow down as a result of chronic sleep deprivation.
- Irritable/emotional: Individuals who do not get enough sleep may exhibit a short temper and/or heightened emotions, causing them to bicker with loved ones or cry over minor things.
- Falling asleep in under five minutes: If you are regularly falling asleep almost immediately after your head hits the pillow, your body is trying to tell you that you need more sleep!
- Memory loss: When you are operating on a minimal amount of sleep, it can be difficult to focus/concentrate. However, because certain sleep cycles are crucial for creating memories, chronic sleep loss can also make it difficult to retain information.
- Weakened Immune System: If you notice you get sick often and easily, it may be a sign of sleep deprivation.
- Clumsy: Your motor skills may not be as sharp after losing a lot of sleep, so individuals who aren’t getting quality sleep tend to be a bit more clumsy.
- “Spacing out” or falling asleep: During the day, if you are falling asleep, especially in a dark room such as a movie theater, you might need to get more sleep. The same goes for individuals who constantly find themselves “zoning out” and thinking about nothing.
If one or more of these signs sound like you, it is likely that you are not getting an appropriate amount of sleep. If improving your bedtime routine doesn’t seem to help, you may be losing sleep due to snoring or sleep apnea. If you suspect you may have sleep apnea, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukovsky.
Getting a full and restful night’s sleep means:
- You are able to fall asleep almost effortlessly
- Sleep is not interrupted by waking up completely
- You feel refreshed when waking up
- You are not woken up too early
Sleep cycles generally take about 90 minutes to complete, and each cycle is made up of five stages of sleep.
- Stage 1: Light Sleep (5-10 minutes)
- Feels like you are drifting in and out of sleep
- You may experience small muscle spasms or feel like you’re falling
- Stage 2: Onset of Sleep (20 minutes)
- You become unaware of your surroundings
- Your body temperature drops
- Dreams are brief and simple
- Stage 3: First Stage of Deep Sleep
- Most people become very difficult to wake up in this stage
- Your brain activity is a combination of fast and slow brain waves
- Stage 4: Second Stage of Deep Sleep
- Your muscles relax
- Slow brain waves take over
- Tissue regrowth and repair occurs in this stage
- Your body becomes re-energized
- Dreams often consist of simply a color or emotion
- Individuals who experience sleepwalking, night terrors, or bed wetting are in this stage of sleep
- Stage 5: Rapid Eye Movement (REM)
- Your brain becomes active
- Your eyes dart back and forth
- Your muscles are inactive — your body becomes immobile
- Dreams become more intricate and memorable
- Newborns (0-3 months) 14-17 Hours
- Infants (4-11 months) 12-15 Hours
- Toddlers (1-2) 11-14 Hours
- Pre-schoolers (3-5) 10-13 Hours
- School-aged Children (6-13) 9-11 Hours
- Teens (14-17) 8-10 Hours
- Young Adults (18-25) 7-9 Hours
- Adults (26-64) 7-9 Hours
- Older Adults (65+) 7-8 Hours
The length of time spent in deep sleep phases varies with age, as does the ability to sleep soundly (young children and older adults tend to be lighter sleepers). The amount of sleep recommended for different age categories varies, as well.