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Are you getting enough rest? The dangers of sleep deprivation

March 15, 2014

Do you find yourself struggling to get through your day, thinking, “If only I had another hour or two of sleep…?" Well, your body might be on to something. If you find yourself daydreaming about your next nap, contemplating purchasing stock in Starbucks, or drinking more coffee and caffeinated beverages than water, you may have to ask yourself, “Am I getting enough rest?” Or perhaps you are sleeping six to eight hours each night but just not feeling rejuvenated. If you are dozing off during meetings and presentations, or noticing your commute home from the office seems longer each day, these may be signs of sleep deprivation.

Insomnia is defined as difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep or unfulfilling sleep. Whichever category your sleep patterns fall into, if you are questioning whether or not you are sleeping right or sleeping tight, it is important to assure your body and mind an adequate night of rest. According to the 2005-2008 National Health and Nutrition Survey published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than one-third of individuals reported sleeping less than seven hours per night. These individuals were more likely to report difficulty concentrating than those who slept between seven to nine hours. There is no magic number for any given person for the adequate number of sleep hours. However, you can determine how much sleep you need by analyzing how awake and alert you feel after a night’s rest. You should be able to freely maneuver through your day without effort even when placed in potentially boring or monotonous situations.

Poor sleep quality can also result in sleep deprivation. If you are frequently awakened due to movement, a snoring spouse, children, or other members of your household, fragmented sleep will eventually cause signs of deficiency. Symptoms of sleep deprivation may mimic anxiety or depression, cause irritability, fatigue, memory problems, deceased libido, immunosuppression, poor judgment, and increased appetite and hunger. These symptoms often disappear once normal sleep is restored. Don’t underestimate the importance of sleep. Symptoms of sleep deprivation can become out of control, affecting your safety, health, work life, and personal relationships. Excessive sleepiness has also been reported as the second leading cause of car crashes and the major cause of truck crashes and has been associated with major catastrophes. The National Commission on Sleep Disorders Research estimated sleepiness-related incidents cost billions of dollars each year.

So, if you are feeling like you need another hour or two of sleep, chances are, you probably do. Improve your sleep hygiene by sleeping long enough only to feel rested.

  • Try to establish a regular bedtime each night.
  • Do not force sleep with medications.
  • Create bedtime rituals that are relaxing such as reading a book or taking a warm bath.
  • Avoid having coffee, tea, and foods that may have caffeine several hours prior to your planned bedtime.
  • Avoid alcohol and smoking, especially in the evening.
  • Try to solve problems before you reach your bedroom.
Also create an ambiance that encourages sleep such as a dark, cool, quiet environment well equipped with the amenities that make your sleep peaceful such as blankets and comfortable pillows. Exercising regularly will also enhance your ability to rest. And remember; keep work-related and stimulating items such as your computer and television out of your nighttime oasis.

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