Sleep Deprivation Explained
Sleep deprivation is a problem many people face in their daily life. Causes can be many, including early mornings for work, late nights with friends, insomnia or drug withdrawal. There are many different types of sleep deprivation related to related conditions. It can cause both long-term and short-term problems and can significantly hinder someone’s ability to properly function. In fact, driving when sleep deprived can be as dangerous as drunk driving, which is why professional drivers account for their time at work by the hour.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation can be defined as the situation or condition of suffering from a lack of sleep. It can occur to anyone of any age; nobody is immune to it. According to some statistics, however, children and young adults are more vulnerable.
The amount of sleep needed to avoid sleep deprivation depends both on age and person. A new-born, for example, needs 14 to 17 hours of sleep, whereas an adult only needs 7 to 9 hours, and this number is an average; different people may need more or less than that depending on their lifestyle, metabolism and more. A standard sleeping schedule can help ensure a proper night’s sleep.
Types of Sleep Deprivation
The body uses two mechanisms to make sure a person gets enough sleep: by stimulating the release of the neurotransmitter adenosine and by sending messages from the circadian clock.
As the cells in our body work throughout the day, adenosine is slowly released into the bloodstream.
As it attaches to receptors in the brain, the person will feel increasingly tired and start showing the signs of sleepiness. Simultaneously, the circadian clock is regulating almost all bodily functions. Sleep deprivation can occur due to a problem with adenosine or the circadian clock or a physical ailment.
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Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Common causes of sleep deprivation are medical conditions, stress, anxiety and depression. However, things like diet and lifestyle can also be causes. Additionally, drug withdrawal often causes insomnia.
Sleep apnoea, a medical condition, causes people to stop breathing during their sleep. This causes a drop in oxygen levels that leads them to briefly wake up. Many people suffering from food addiction have shown symptoms of sleep apnoea.
Things like anxiety cause sleep deprivation due to feelings of overstimulation.
Factors like evening exercise can also make it more difficult to fall asleep; however, once asleep, the quality of the sleep itself won’t be impacted.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation, no matter what the type or cause is, has the same symptoms. Most people will have experienced some of them at least once in their life. The most common ones are yawning, feeling grumpy, fatigue and forgetfulness.
It can also make people feel depressed, less motivated and clumsy, amongst other things. The combination of these symptoms makes it very dangerous to drive while sleep deprived and makes a person unproductive. The symptoms last until the person has slept sufficiently again — until they repay their ‘sleep debt’.
However, keep in mind that oversleeping may as well be bringing about similar symptoms if it’s a chronic issue. The best solution is to have a full blood test and physical exam to find out if the issues are related to sleep deprivation, chemical disbalance or a different problem such as drug or alcohol abuse.
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