Losing a little sleep once in a while is no big deal; everyone feels like they could use a few extra hours of sleep when they’re working long hours or keeping up with kids or studying for final exams. However, being tired is different from being sleep deprived. If your sleep issues cause you to become sleep deprived, you can face a number of physical and emotional consequences.
What It Means to Be Sleep Deprived
When you are sleep deprived, you are not getting enough sleep. This may seem like a simplistic way to define a condition that can have devastating effects on a person’s life. However, that’s really what it is – people are sleep deprived when they are not sleeping enough. There are various reasons and conditions that may lead to their sleep deprivation, and in order to manage the problem, the causes need to be understood.
If you are finding that you’re sleep deprived, you are probably struggling to fall asleep at night. Or, you are able to fall asleep but then you wake up a few hours later, and you’re unable to fall back to sleep. When you get up to start your day, you feel like you haven’t had any rest at all, and you’re exhausted, restless and irritable. Lack of sleep can lead to physical illnesses, including heart disease, as well as mental problems, such as anxiety and stress.
People who are sleep deprived experience acute sleep deprivation, which means it happens once in a while, but it’s often extreme; or they have chronic sleep deprivation, which means it happens on a fairly regular basis. Sleep deprivation can lead to sleep deficiency, in which there isn’t enough sleep, or the quality of sleep is not adequate.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Any number of factors can cause you to feel sleep deprived. If you have experienced recent stressful events in your life, or you’re facing changes that are confusing and frightening, you might find yourself unable to fall asleep and stay asleep. Endless hours of tossing and turning can lead to sleep deprivation. Environmental factors can also play a large roll in your risk of becoming sleep deprived. If you live in a noisy city or building where you can’t find the peace you need to sleep, or there’s too much light or distractions such as the television – sleep deprivation can be a result.
While environmental or behavioral causes are usually the most common, people can also become sleep deprived because of a medical condition or a physical illness. It may be part of a mood disorder and if you are suffering from anxiety or depression, feeling sleep deprived is often a symptom.
How to Manage Sleep Deprivation
Focusing on your sleep habits is one of the best ways to avoid sleep deprivation. Good sleep starts with a good and consistent bedtime routine. Try to go to bed at the same time each night, and create an environment that’s conducive to sleep. Your sleeping space should be dark and cool, and it’s a good idea to turn off any electronics or other distractions.
Other strategies include avoiding large meals and caffeine in the evening. Cut down on smoking, or quit if you can. Try to get outside every day and get some physical exercise on a regular basis. If you can develop good sleep habits, your risk of becoming sleep deprived will be much lower. If your sleep deprivation morphs into other, more serious forms of sleep deficiencies, you will need to talk to a doctor and see if there are more aggressive strategies you can take to ensure your body is getting the rest it needs.
Depressed and Sleep Deprived
Depression and sleep deprivation often go hand in hand. People who are depressed often have problems with sleep – either they find they’re unable to sleep or they are sleeping too much. When you suffer from sleep deprivation, it can also lead to depression because of the problems it creates in your life and your ability to think, reason and act. If you are sleep deprived and you’re also feeling depressed, talk to your therapist or doctor about it. According to the National Sleep Foundation, insomnia, sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome are conditions that are often linked with depression.
If you feel like you’re sleep deprived, take immediate action to get more sleep. Occasional problems with lack of sleep are normal and expected, especially when your life gets hectic for temporary periods of time. However, if you are so sleep deprived that your health and your daily life begins to suffer, you need to get immediate help. Don’t wait until it’s too late, because you don’t need to be sleep deprived and miserable. You can make the necessary changes to be well.