The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation to Your Brain and Body Function

Dangers of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is not getting the required amount of sleep for your body to function correctly. Long-term lack of sleep can affect your ability to function and your quality of life. Sleep deprivation can be caused by lifestyle and environmental factors.

Sleep deprivation is not getting the required amount of sleep for your body to function correctly. Occasional sleep issues can be annoying, but long-term lack of sleep can affect your ability to function, quality of life, and health.

The recommended amount of sleep ranges from seven to nine hours each night for adults. More sleep is required to ensure proper development and function for children and teenagers.

What Happens When You Don't Get Enough Sleep?

Your body needs sleep to function properly, just as it needs air and food. During sleep, your body heals and restores itself. Without adequate sleep, your brain and body systems won't be able to function normally.

There are short term and long term effects of sleep deprivation. Some of the effects of sleep deprivation on health, function and wellbeing include:

It doesn't take too long for some of these effects to start impacting your day to day life. The longer the sleep deprivation occurs, the worse and more long-term issues will show up.

Studies have shown that a consistent lack of sleep can dramatically lower your quality of life. It even increases the risk of early death if untreated for too long.

The Causes and Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation

In most people, sleep deprivation is caused by a consistent lack of sleep or reduced quality of sleep. Getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis for most adults can cause a range of issues.

Sleep deprivation can have causes that aren't due to underlying diseases such as sleep disorders. Often it's due to stress or poor sleeping habits.

In adults, so many factors could lead to sleep issues due to stressful and busy lives. However, the most common causes of sleep deprivation include:

  • Personal choice
  • Illness
  • Work and study
  • Sleep disorder
  • Medications
  • Sleeping environment
  • Poor sleep hygiene
  • Alcohol, coffee and other stimulants
  • Parents with babies

There are lots of lifestyle and environmental factors that cause sleep deprivation, but you may have an underlying sleep disorder or another health condition. These can be harder to diagnose yourself, and it's best to chat with your doctor.

If you're struggling with poor sleep, you're likely to see noticeable signs of sleep deprivation, including:

  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Frequent yawning
  • Irritability
  • Daytime fatigue

Of course, this can look different in different people. There is also a difference in symptoms between adults and children regarding sleep deprivation.

How Much Sleep Do You Need?

According to the National Sleep Foundation, the target amount of sleeping hours is different depending on your age group, which are:

  • Adults 65+ years: 7 to 8 hours
  • Adults 26 to 64 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • Young adults 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours
  • Teenagers 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours
  • School children 6 to 13 years: 9 to 11 hours
  • Preschool children 3 to 5 years: 10 to 13 hours
  • Toddlers 1 to 2 years: 11 to 14 hours
  • Infants 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours
  • Newborns 0 to 3 months: 14 to 17 hours

For most adults, a minimum of seven hours of sleep is needed to improve health and reduce fatigue symptoms. If you're unsure about your needs, you can ask your doctor or book an appointment with a sleep specialist.

What Can You Do to Improve Your Sleep?

The best way to prevent sleep deprivation is to ensure you get an adequate amount of sleep. Of course, this is usually easier said than done, but it's essential to try. Often, you can improve the problem by making some immediate lifestyle changes.

Suppose you're experiencing mild or occasional problems with sleep. In that case, there are some simple lifestyle changes you can try before seeing a doctor, such as:

  • Make getting enough sleep a priority by scheduling your sleep
  • Keep a consistent wake-up time, even on weekends
  • Put away electronic devices an hour before you go to bed
  • Make time for relaxing down time before sleeping
  • Avoid looking at the time if you wake up during the night

Depending on your personal needs, you can try a whole range of other things to get back into a healthy sleep rhythm. Some more suggestions to help you get better sleep include:

  • Going to bed earlier every night
  • Setting a regular sleeping and waking up time
  • Reducing light and sound in your bedroom
  • Limiting daytime naps
  • Exercise regularly, but not in the hours before bed
  • Not smoking, drinking alcohol, or drinking caffeine in the evening
  • Using relaxation or meditation techniques

Further Treatments for Sleep Deprivation

There are many ways to support better quality sleep, including counselling, lifestyle changes, environmental adjustments, medication, and other alternative therapies.

If you find yourself having problems with sleep, you can talk to your doctor or find someone specialising in sleep and sleeping disorders. They can also test you for underlying health conditions that might be causing your lack of sleep.

Sometimes, sleep deprivation occurs because of more than just lifestyle factors. It can be caused by sleep disorders such as:

  • Obstructive sleep apnoea
  • Narcolepsy
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Insomnia
  • Circadian rhythm disorder

Sleep disorders may make it much more challenging to get a good night's sleep, even after making lifestyle changes. This is where you can seek treatment or solutions from a doctor or sleep professional.

First Aid Responses to Sleep Deprivation Issues

The long term effects of sleep deprivation are real and can either lead to or be caused by other serious health conditions.

If you are living with someone suffering from a sleep disorder or other health problems as a result of sleep deprivation, you might need to administer first aid one day. You can learn how to handle these situations by doing a first aid course.

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