At Hazelhill Family Practice, we see regularly see patients suffering from sleep deprivation. This is a more common problem than people think, with studies showing that 60% of the adult population aren’t getting enough sleep.
The recommended amount of sleep is 6 – 8 hours for adults.
Our sleep cycle is determined by signals from our circadian clock and increasing circulating levels of the neurotransmitter adenosine.
A loss of sleep, or ‘sleep debt’ upsets this balance as the circadian clock regulates all bodily functions.
Impact of sleep debt:
A recent report by Susha Cheriyedath, M.Sc states that a lot of adults tend to work through the night and forfeit sleep, resulting in a host of problems impacting the immune system, appearance and brain function. This includes:
– Puffy eyes and dark circles.
– Cravings and hunger pangs that lead to obesity.
– Poor concentration levels on tasks.
– Frequent infections because of poor immunity.
– Higher chances of heart disease, diabetes and even stroke.
A study on sleep deprivation by the University of Chicago had volunteers that slept for 4 hours on 6 consecutive nights. Results noted that besides an obvious increase in irritability and fatigue, they experienced a surge in blood pressure and the levels of the stress hormone, cortisol. They also displayed a decrease in antibodies to a flu vaccine and resistance to insulin, a precursor of type 2 diabetes.
How to repair sleep debt?
The best way to repay sleep debt is to ensure that you get the required amount of sleep over the weekend if you lost out during the week. Though curing sleep deprivation can be challenging for those with demanding work schedules, a few extra hours of sleep goes a long way.
It could take a few months to repair this condition, but it is worth keeping the alarm off for a few days a week to wake up feeling energized. One must avoid getting back into another sleep debt cycle during this process.
There are some other practical steps which help those suffering from ‘sleep debt’ to better manage their sleep.
- Aim to nap at the right time, preferably post-lunch when the body energy levels start to drop.
- Ensure that you limit your nap to 20-30 minutes a day as those exceeding an hour can result in troubled sleep at night.
- Make sure that you choose a spot that is quiet and dim-lit.
- Limit your caffeine intake after noontime to ensure that you sleep well.
- Exercise regularly to ensure that you feel tired at night.
- Reduce simulation by trying to read a print book rather than looking at your phone or laptop before going to sleep. If you do use your phone, switch on the backlighting or night light so that it strains the eyes a little less.