Sleep deprivation is a chronic problem in the U.S. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that approximately one in three adults do not get adequate sleep on a regular basis. Some of this problem is attributed to sleep disorders, while others just seem to have enduring difficulty getting to sleep or staying asleep throughout the night.
Understanding the effects of sleep deprivation helps individuals realize how vitally important good sleep is to living a productive and enjoyable life. Moreover, when people recognize sleep deprivation symptoms, they will be better prepared to address the problem before it gets out of hand. The frustration of lost sleep is wearying to the body, mind, and spirit. Fortunately, many remedies are available without requiring the use of potentially harmful pharmaceuticals. Many natural sleep remedies are readily at hand and begin to work with surprising speed and efficacy.
How Much Sleep Do I Need?
The necessary amount of sleep needed each night varies by age and activity levels. Additionally, some people seem to thrive on less sleep while others cannot seem to get enough. Doctors and scientists have studied sleep disorders and the negative effects of sleep deprivation for decades. Their research has led to the establishment of guidelines based upon age group. Remember, these are only guidelines. Individual needs for sleep may vary.
Between four and 11 months of age, babies may sleep between 12 and 15 hours a day. Between one and two years of age, babies should get between 11 and 14 hours of sleep. The need for sleep doesn’t change much between the ages of three and five. Experts recommend 10 to 13 hours of sleep for this age group.
Not surprisingly, very young children have some of the most demanding sleep requirements. Between birth and the age of three months, experts recommend between 14 and 17 hours of sleep per 24-hour period. However, up to 19 hours may be appropriate.
Children from six to 13 years old require about nine to 11 hours of sleep.
The requirement drops to eight to 10 hours for teens between 14 and 17 years of age.
Adults from 18 to 64 typically require a solid seven to nine hours per night. People older than 65 usually need between seven and eight hours of sleep, though as little as five hours may be appropriate.
Signs That You’re Sleep Deprived
Most people, especially adults, do not come close to getting the optimal amount of sleep every night. They “get by” on six or seven hours, and they may feel like they are doing just fine. The reality is that they are probably chronically sleep deprived and don’t recognize sleep deprivation symptoms. These symptoms may vary from one person to the next, but many sleep deprivation effects are all-but universal.
A person may have this condition when they experience these sleep deprivation symptoms:
- Constant feelings of hunger
- Weight gain
- Waking up on time is impossible without an alarm clock
- Routinely using the snooze button
- Lack of energy in the afternoons
- Tendency to feel sleepy during meetings or in warm rooms
- Difficulties with memory
- Coordination and motor skills are impaired
- Thinking and decision making are fuzzy
- Falling asleep while driving
- Frequent bouts of illness
The Effects of Sleep Deprivation
Many people who suffer from sleep deprivation are so accustomed to the condition that their bodies maintain an enduring deficit of sleep that can lead to high blood pressure, slowed metabolic rate, and temperamental behavior. The reality is that the effects of sleep deprivation are very real, and they can begin after just one night of inadequate sleep. Here are a few of the most common sleep deprivation effects:
- Ongoing mental confusion
- Continuous feelings of lethargy
- Inability to make good decisions
- Performance at work suffers
- Symptoms of depression increase
- Sex drive disappears
- Paranoia increases
- Emotions become erratic
When someone does not get enough sleep, their immune system suffers. Sleep provides the immune system with an opportunity to produce infection-fighting antibodies that are significantly reduced in number when adequate sleep is not obtained. These antibodies are crucial in fighting off diseases and infections, which partially explains why many people who get lower amounts of sleep tend to be sick more frequently.
Missing out on quality sleep also puts people at risk for developing serious health conditions. People who are chronically sleep deprived have increased chances of experiencing:
- Heart attack
- Elevated blood pressure
- Heart disease
- Irregular heart rate
How to Get Better Sleep
The benefits of sleep are many and far-reaching. Adequate sleep helps with the speed and clarity of decision making. It protects against illness and prevents accidents. When an individual gets enough sleep, they are more productive, happier and more content with life. Their relationships tend to improve, and their emotions are well regulated.
Knowing these benefits of sleep makes it clear that learning how to fall asleep and stay asleep is vital to good health. Fortunately, numerous natural sleep remedies are available. Developing good sleep practices can help anyone combat sleep disorders and related problems.
Learning How to Fall Asleep
Learning how to fall asleep begins with setting the right atmosphere. Consider removing electronics, especially cell phones and tablets, from the bedroom. Ensure that the room is adequately dark and insulated against distracting noises. Temperature can make a huge difference in sleep quality. Turn the thermostat down to between 60 and 67 degrees for optimal sleep conditions.
Establish a Routine
Establishing a routine is another crucial remedy for poor sleep. Try to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day. This conditions the body to follow a predictable routine. Additionally, consider making the most of relaxing rituals like meditation, reading, taking a bath or sipping a soothing tea. Any of these practices prepares your mind and body to relax and let go of the day’s stress.
Other Sleep Recommendations
Even what is done during the day can either harm or promote good sleep at night. Experts recommend vigorous physical exercise during the day to encourage restful sleep. Ideally, workout sessions should be completed three to four hours before bedtime to give the body time to relax and unwind. Moreover, it may be sensible to shun afternoon naps, as these may interfere with the body’s natural wake and sleep rhythm.
Eating too close to bedtime also may hinder the ability to sleep. Avoiding heavy meals at night and limiting caffeine intake to the morning hours both are proven ways to get better sleep.
Occasionally, a deficiency in vitamin and mineral intake can cause sleep deprivation. Consider taking natural sleep remedies like calcium and magnesium to improve the chances of falling asleep and staying asleep.
Other natural remedies and prescription medications are available to help people sleep. Most of these should be used in moderation, and many of them should only be used under the guidance of a physician. In general, such measures are only recommended on a short-term basis while better sleep habits are being formed.