In today’s busy world we all try to cut corners somewhere to fit in all that we want or need to do. Regretfully for many cutting back on sleep seems like a reasonable solution. Over time sleep loss of even just 1-2 hours per night can result in sleep deprivation. There’s a big difference between the amount of sleep your body and brain needs to the amount of sleep you can get by with. This sleep loss can cause changes in your mental focus, mood, energy level, ability to handle stress, weight and increase risk of illness. Sleep is like a savings account you can deplete it but you can also replace it. Average sleep needs per night for adults is 7.5 to 9 hours, teens 8.5 to 10 hours, children 5-12 years old 10-11 hours, children 1-5 years old 11-14 hours.
Just like cell phones and iPad’s our batteries need an adequate recharge time regularly so that our bodies and minds function to their highest potential. When we sleep, our brain is busy maintaining, cleaning and restoring vital cells and their functions. While it seems like a reasonable idea to let our bodies run on less sleep, sleep deprivation has been shown to produce many negative effects. Weight gain for one. Our brains release hormones that increase appetite and decrease sensation of fullness when sleep deprived. Mood changes are common irritability this reduces our ability to cope with stress. Focus falters with causes increased difficulty when making decisions and response time that can result in higher risk of accidents and poor job or school performance. Our immunes systems weaken increasing our risk of not only illness but also more serious and prolonged illness. Risk of major physical illness also increases including diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure. Depression, anxiety, chronic pain also increase.
Many people play catch up on the week end or days off and sleep in. This may help boost your energy for a day or two but symptoms of deprivation return quickly. Chronic sleep deprivation is like a sleep debt and it takes time to rebuild your reserve. Restoring sleep reserve will take planning. Initially be consistent and allow yourself enough sleep time each night aim for 7.5 hours. Schedule sleep like other activities in your and your children’s planners keep the same schedule on weekdays and weekends. Keeping a sleep diary on time you go to bed, awakenings and out of bed time can help you determine what bedtime and awake time is best for you. If you can take a sleep vacation for 2 weeks go to be at a regular bedtime and allow yourself to sleep until you wake up, no alarm clocks.
Quality of your sleep environment and outside factors can play havoc on sleep. Outside noises, pets, comfort of your bed, temperature or amount of light in your bedroom, a bed partner who snores are some examples. Room darkening curtains, white noise machines, fans, ear plugs, and separate bedrooms can help. Alcohol and nicotine in the evening are best limited for several hours before going to bed. Caffeine can cause a stimulating effect and should be avoided after noon some may need to avoid it all together. Avoiding devices with lighted screens as light can trigger our brain's wake center. Avoid TV, cell phone, tablet, and computer within 2 hours of bedtime. Some devices have options to change light level to warm yellow in the evening to night hours this change in light spectrum can eliminate stimulation of our wake center.
If you struggle to stay awake during the day, or do not feel like you are getting the restful sleep you did as a teenager, it may be time to see a sleep specialist. We can help you identify why you are not sleeping well and can help you get back on the path to a Great Night’s Sleep! Click here to take our sleepiness quiz or you can call and schedule a consult by calling (800) 226-6084.
Written by Carol Smith, PA-C, Sleep Medicine Physician Assistant