The primary causes of sleep deprivation are advanced technology and electronics as well as work and family demands. The availability of television, radio, internet, smartphones, tablets, texting and video gaming provide constant stimuli that may be interfering with sleep. Making a habit of staying up late (or getting up very early) and "pulling all-nighters" are viewed as badges of honor in some circles, but are not providing any health benefit. Ever notice how many people fall asleep at their desks or on a plane or train during the day? People who have an adequate amount of sleep should not fall asleep during daytime hours.
How much sleep do you need?
Sleep requirements vary from person to person, can change throughout one's lifetime, and can be influenced by age, gender and genetic factors. For example, newborns need more sleep than adults. Some adults function well with 7 hours of sleep while others need 9 hours. The general rule of thumb is to identify the amount of sleep that you need to function properly during daytime hours. If you sleep for 6 hours and feel exhausted, but feel refreshed with 8 hours of sleep, then this would indicate the amount of sleep that you require.
Sleep deprivation and your health
Lack of sleep can have a significant impact on our longevity and quality of life as it is commonly linked to:
- Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes;
- Increased risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse;
- Poor performance at work or school;
- Decreased attention, impaired memory or cognition;
- Delayed reaction time and sub-par sports performance;
- Increased risk for weight gain and obesity;
- Increase risk of life threatening driving, domestic or work-related accidents.
Getting a better night's sleep
Sleep occupies nearly a third of our lives, yet we continue to sacrifice and undervalue it. Take the first step to improving your sleep with these tips:
- Keep a regular sleep routine. Try to go to bed and wake up the same time each day---even on weekends.
- Make sleep a priority. Plan to get enough sleep every night.
- Exercise regularly.
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol at least several hours before bedtime.
- Quit smoking.
- Try not to eat within 3 hours of bedtime.
- Make the bedroom a place for sleep and sex only. Keep things that prevent you from sleeping in another room: TV, tablets, computer, e-reader, Smartphone
- Create a comfortable and relaxing sleep environment. Use a comfortable mattress and pillow. Keep the bedroom quiet, dark and cool.
- Relaxation techniques. If you have a hard time falling asleep or "shutting your mind down", try to have a routine of relaxation techniques before bedtime. For example, a warm bath or meditation.
- Make lists. If you tend to worry about things that you need to accomplish the next day, make a list. Instead of worrying all night, set a goal for things that need to be done. Once they are done, cross them off the list and go to bed. Try to have realistic expectations of what can be accomplished each day.
If you are still tired no matter how long you sleep each night, you may have a sleep disorder. Snoring, gasping, choking and abnormal breathing patterns at night may be a sign of sleep apnea. If you suffer from fatigue, snoring, sleep apnea, or insomnia and these tips have not relieved your symptoms, talk to your health care professional.
Sleep is critical to your health and well-being. Making it a priority will improve your health, mood, memory and daily performance.