What Are the Effects of Sleep Loss?
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. To learn more about the potential negative effects of continually getting a poor night’s sleep, please visit our page dedicated to sleep loss and sleep apnea health risks.
What Are Some Signs of Sleep Deprivation?
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 be snoring or have sleep apnea, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment with Dr. Shukovsky. If it is determined that one or both of these issues are causing your restless sleep, Dr. Shukovsky can identify the most effective method for helping you to stop snoring and/or treat your sleep apnea for an improved quality of sleep.
What is Normal Sleep?
“Normal sleep” is often characterized by things that help individuals obtain a genuinely restful and full night of sleep. For instance, you may be experiencing normal sleep if:
- You can almost effortlessly fall asleep
- You do not experience repetitive sleep interruptions that result in waking up
- You are not awakened too early
- Upon waking up, you feel very refreshed
Every night of sleep involves sleep cycles. A full cycle of sleep usually lasts about 90 minutes. Within each sleep cycle are five stages of sleep. These sleep stages include:
- Stage 1: Light Sleep (5-10 minutes)
- In this stage, you may be sensing that you are drifting in and out of sleep
- A “falling” sensation or even mild muscle spasms may be experienced
- Stage 2: Sleep Onset (20 minutes)
- You become unaware of your surroundings
- There is a drop in body temperature
- Dreams are brief and simple
- Stage 3: Deep Sleep (1st Stage)
- 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: Deep Sleep (2nd Stage)
- The muscles relax
- The slow brain waves become more prominent than the fast brain waves
- Tissue repair and regrowth occur
- 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)
- The brain becomes more active than it is during waking hours
- The eyes rapidly dart back and forth beneath the eyelids
- The body is essentially immobile as the muscles become inactive
- Dreams are often more complex and memorable
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.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
- Newborns (from birth to 3 months of age): 14 to 17 hours
- Infants (from 4 months-old to 11 months-old): 12 to 15 hours
- Toddlers (1 to 2 years of age): 11 to 14 hours
- Pre-Schoolers (3 to 5 years of age): 10 to 13 hours
- School-Aged Children (6 to 13 years of age): 9 to 11 hours
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years of age) 8 to 10 hours
- Young Adults (18 to 25 years of age) 7 to 9 hours
- Adults (26 to 64 years of age) 7 to 9 hours
- Older Adults (65 years of age and beyond) 7-8 hours