Tue | Jul 17, 2018

Jennifer Ellison Brown | Sleep deprivation

Published:Wednesday | August 31, 2016 | 12:17 AM

If you could do something simple, safe and free to dramatically improve your mental, physical and psychological health, would you do it?

The opportunity is yours, starting tonight. All you have to do is go to bed earlier!

A majority of individuals suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. Most of us get less hours of sleep each night than we need in order to be fully alert during the day.

In earlier years, people sleep more hours than we do now. With the advent of electric light, now technology and the myriad of technological devices, sleep time decreased dramatically.

Many people view sleep as a luxury or a waste of time, but sleep is absolutely essential for life and health. Humans and other animals who are deprived of sleep for many days will either become very ill or even die.

Less extreme sleep deprivation over a long period of time makes us vulnerable to a wide variety of illnesses, including cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, high blood pressure and psychological disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Inadequate sleep also depresses the immune system, making people more likely to become ill with infectious diseases. Inadequate sleep affects learning, memory and attention span, all critical to academic performances.

Athletes who fail to get sufficient sleep cannot perform at their peak because fatigue slows reaction time and lessens endurance. Every aspect of life is easier and more pleasurable when you are well rested.

Sleep deprivation also takes a huge toll on society. Sleepy employees cost businesses money, in lost productivity; plus, the costs are much higher if you factor in mistakes, accidents and health problems caused by lack of sleep.

Drowsiness is a factor in at least one-third of all auto accidents; it impairs driving ability as much as alcohol use. Many of us think that irrespective of how tired we may be we can force ourselves to be alert.

Researchers have found that people who are sleep deprived may think they are wide awake, but often fall asleep at the wheel for brief periods without even realising.

College students are particularly vulnerable to sleep deprivation and poor quality of sleep. Most students lead hectic lives as they juggle studies, work socialising and family obligations.

Students who live in dormitories are often awakened by night time noise.

Partying, especially if alcohol and other substances are used, further disrupts sleep. To make matters worse, teens and young adults actually need more sleep than other individuals - more than nine hours of sleep - to be well rested.

Financial necessity dictates that many students work part time or even full time. Realistically, there are only so many hours in the day and many working students find it nearly impossible to get enough sleep to function well in school or at work.

A student who is faced with this dilemma needs to try for financial aid, loan or cut back on work hours, or it may be better to take an extra year to get the degree - it may be worth it to preserve your health and happiness.

How do you know you are getting enough sleep?

If you need an alarm to get you up every morning, rather than awakening naturally at the appropriate time, chances are you are significantly sleep deprived.

Another clue is if you sleep within just a few minutes of getting into bed, or if you fall asleep during the day when you don’t intend to, such as during lectures or while reading or watching TV.

Sleep you need but don’t get is referred to as “sleep debt”. Whenever you get less sleep than your body requires you add to your sleep debt. Week after week, sleep debt can build, leaving you chronically groggy.

If you have a large sleep debt, sleeping in a few extra hours on the weekends won’t solve the problem, although it can help a bit. The real solution is to make sleep a priority in your daily life.

Remember that the time you spend sleeping will pay for itself in increased productivity. For example, if you go to bed one hour earlier instead of trying to study when you are half awake, you are likely to get the work done in a fraction of a time when you are more alert the next day.

Knowing that the quality of your life depends on adequate sleep, make sleep a priority part of your wellness lifestyle.

-Information reproduced from Fit & Well