It is estimated that as much as one-third of the population has occasional difficulty sleeping and 10% of those have long-term problems leading to chronic sleep deprivation. We need 7-8 hours of good quality sleep every night, anything less can result in signs of sleep deprivation in as little as a day or two.
Short term sleep deprivation causes minor symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, poor concentration, headaches, aches and pains and impaired coordination. The severity of the symptoms will increase as more sleep is lost. In some cases, sleep deprivation comes with the job, e.g. military and medical personnel.
Chronic long-term sleep deprivation can have the following serious consequences:
- Negatively impacts attention and working memory making routine tasks extremely challenging and stressful.
- Ages the skin: exacerbates fine lines and wrinkles, causes dehydration, makes the skin dull, patchy and mottled, worsens pigmentation and enlarges pores.
- Increases blood pressure which can be a very significant precursor of serious heart disease.
- Makes it difficult to control high blood pressure, even with medication.
- Causes weight gain and difficulty losing weight.
- Causes insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance which can trigger the onset of Type II diabetes.
- Increases the production of our stress hormones, causing more stress and anxiety, which in turn will cause more sleep deprivation.
- Can cause depression, bipolar disorder and psychosis.
What to do?
- Treat the cause. If a known stressor is keeping you awake at night, take steps to resolve the situation. Anxiety often evaporates when we face our fears.
- Make enough time for relaxation and hobbies.
- Practice meditation.
- Sleep Renewal offers overnight Sleep Studies in the comfort of your home to diagnose or rule out the possibility of sleep breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea or upper airway resistance syndrome.
Brain mapping & neurofeedback
- Brain training with neurofeedback can improve quality and quantity of sleep.
- An individualised brain training program with neurofeedback can be created to improve stress and anxiety and remove the effects of emotional trauma on the brain.
- Studies have shown that regular exercise increases the quality of sleep and reduces stress.
- Exercise at least 20-30 minutes daily.
- Avoid exercising close to bedtime.
- A healthy diet will promote better sleep
- Avoid excess sugar, artificial sweeteners, processed foods, refined carbohydrates and energy drinks.
- Limit caffeine intake and avoid caffeine later in the day.
- Increase intake of antioxidant rich foods.
- Good sleeping "habits" can significantly improve both how much and how well we sleep.
- Go to bed at the same time every night. A regular bedtime can shorten the time it takes to fall asleep.
- Avoid alcohol before bed.
- Create a sleep time routine that you find relaxing, such as a bath or reading a book (paper only, no electronic devices).
- Switch off all electronics an hour before bedtime. This includes television, laptops, tablets, Kindles and cell phones. These devices emit a spectrum of light which interferes with melatonin production and can cause sleep disturbances.
- Avoid problem-solving and over-thinking in bed.
- Make sure your bed and pillows are comfortable.
- Make sure your bedroom is dark, quiet, a comfortable temperature and well ventilated.
Supplements for sleep
- Cogni-Serine: Contains phosphatidylserine, which helps to regulate stress hormones, has a calming effect and promotes better sleep.
- L-Theanine: Effective in reducing anxiety and can make it easier to fall asleep.
- Melatonin: Regulates the sleep cycle and helps to keep us asleep. It is also very effective in treating jet lag.
- 5-Http: Studies have shown that 5-Htp can reduce the time it takes to fall asleep and promotes deeper sleep. Not to be taken with antidepressants.
- Benesom: Contains Melatonin and several herbs to promote better sleep.
It is clear that insufficient sleep over an extended period can have devastating consequences. There is an impact on mood, mental health, physical well-being and aesthetics. If you feel like a lack of sleep is wrecking your life, driving you crazy, or making you look old before your time, seek help as soon as possible.