Can’t Get No Sleep? We Asked The Experts What Sleep Deprivation Is All About

It affects everything from your hunger levels to your mental health.

Having trouble sleeping? Well you’re not alone. According a recent study by Laya Healthcare, almost 80% of people suffer from sleep deprivation.

Having a lot on our plates, lack of exercise and just regular stress can lead to restless nights. The problem starts to become something serious when one or two nights without sleep leads to weeks of tossing and turning.

So what are the signs that you might be suffering from sleep deprivation? 

The best indicator that you’re getting sufficient sleep at night is to observe how you feel during the day. According to Motty Vaghese, Behavioural Sleep Therapist at Sleep Therapy Clinic, if you have energy during the day and your mood feels good, you are more likely to get a good nights sleep.

Being sleep deprived, however, can lead to physical, mental and emotional symptoms. “You can feel physically tired, not feel up to the task, put off exercising and avoid social obligations,” he told STELLAR.

It can also affect our ability to focus on the task, learn and memorise information, and increase your reaction time which is very critical if you are driving or involved in activities that need a lot of focus. If you are sleep deprived, it also affects your mood and impulse control.

What can cause sleep deprivation? 

The quality and quantity of sleep that you get at night is one of the big reasons. The recommended amount of sleep is seven to nine hours a night, although some people can mange on under seven. Insomnia, where you find it hard to get to sleep or fall back asleep regularly, leads to reduced quality of sleep.

“Sleep disorders like sleep apnea or restless leg syndrome can affect the quality of sleep. Pain, uncomfortable mattresses, excessive light and noise, caffeine consumption within eight hours of sleep, and exercising close to your bed time can also affect it,” says Vaghese.

What affects can sleep deprivation have on your health?

Unfortunately, being sleep deprived can affect both your physical and mental health. There are amounts of research pointing to the correlation between lack of sleep and anxiety and depression. Stress is a part of most people’s daily lives, but if you don’t get sufficient sleep it can harder to deal with everyday stress.

And if you’ve ever felt the need to eat your entire body weight in food after having a restless night, it’s totally normal.

“Sleep regulates some hormones that controls our appetite and satiety (when you feel full). Ghrelin or the ‘hunger hormone’ is one of them. When we are sleep deprived, there is increased production of ghrelin which makes us hungry. You may have noticed a craving for high calorie foods when you haven’t slept well,” Vaghese explains.

“On the other hand, leptin, which is the ‘thinner hormone’ controls your satiety. There is reduced leptin in your body when you haven’t slept well, and you would feel a need to eat more to feel full.”

What can you do to get a good nights sleep? 

According to Vaghese, getting into a good routine and avoiding technology is key.

We need to prioritise our sleep because the benefits certainly outweigh the extra wake time. Follow good sleep hygiene habits. A consistent bed time and rise is a must. Avoid using computers and hand held smart devices for two hours before bed time since the blue light from the screen can trick your body into thinking it is still daytime.

It is also imperative to embrace a healthy lifestyle. Coffee and caffeinated drinks should be avoided past 2pm (yep, you’ll have to cut out that post-lunch coffee run). Exercise during the day is great for sleep as it tires you out, but avoid it within three hours of bedtime to let your body unwind.

“If you have difficulty falling asleep, getting back to sleep, or find yourself waking up earlier in the morning, you may be suffering from insomnia,” says Vaghese. “Cognitive behavioural therapy is a way of treating sleep deprivation and insomnia without medication.”

“If you worry about your sleep, remember that it’s like hunger and thirst – beyond your control. Your best chance then to fall asleep is to accept it and let your body take charge.”

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