Most people know that sleep is important, but not everyone understands just how dangerous sleep deprivation can be. Sleep (just like water, food, and air) is a necessity for all humans. While you sleep, your body is hard at work, restoring, strengthening and rejuvenating itself. Researchers suggest that the average amount of sleep needed to prevent the side-effects of sleep deprivation is 8 hours & 10 minutes, while some people need more than that, and others need less.
What Causes Sleep Deprivation?
Busy schedules and societal demands to burn the candle at both ends, have led to widespread lack of sleep, but this is not the only dynamic at work. Sleep disorders often lead to limited or fragmented sleep. Insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless leg syndrome are all offenders. Certain medications can affect your sleep. Consumption of caffeine or other stimulants can be helpful when you need a boost, but used regularly, they can keep you from getting the sleep that you need.
The environment that you sleep in is also a factor. If you or your bed partner snores, you may not be getting the amount or quality of sleep that you need. Noisy spaces, excess light, and working split or night shifts can also significantly disrupt your sleep.
The Consequences of Losing Sleep
Being sleepy is not comfortable and it can be downright dangerous. Sleep deprivation leads to difficulty with critical thinking and processing information. It can also make you feel anxious or depressed. Chronic sleep deprivation interferes with your coordination, balance and decision-making capabilities. This affects more than your productivity, it can actually cause automobile accidents. Accidents resulting from drowsy driving have become so common that national public awareness programs have been developed to combat the issue. When mixed with alcohol, drowsy driving can easily become fatal.
Long-term sleep loss has been proven to lead to a number of significant health problems, such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity and even premature aging. In fact, one Harvard Medical School study found that those who sleep for five hours or less have an increased risk of premature death from all causes. Unfortunately, trying to squeeze in a few extra hours of sleep on the weekends does little good in the long term. To really catch up, you’ll need to dedicate a few extra hours to sleep each and every night.
While you sleep, your immune system produces antibodies and cells that fight off infection. When you are well-rested, your body stands a better chance of fighting off illnesses. Sleep deprivation keeps your body from strengthening its defenses. This puts you at risk for both short-term illnesses and chronic diseases. If you are already suffering from conditions like chronic lung diseases, missing out on sleep may make it worse.
Snoring or Sleep Apnea and Sleep Deprivation
Snoring is not just an annoyance. It is actually one of the key indicators of sleep apnea, a serious medical condition. People with sleep apnea experience frequent pauses in breathing throughout the night. This leads to lack of sleep. Combined with lower oxygen levels, sleep deprivation can lead to major concerns for sleep apnea sufferers.
If you snore and experience excessive daytime sleepiness, wake with a sore throat, make choking or gasping sounds while you sleep, or feel short of breath, you may have sleep apnea. The condition can be diagnosed by an experienced otolaryngologist (ENT doctor). Untreated sleep apnea is extremely dangerous, but fortunately, there are many treatment options. Many state-of-the-art treatments are minimally invasive, immediately effective, and do not involve the use of bulky masks and equipment. If you are worried about your snoring, start by taking our snoring quiz to determine the severity of your snoring.
The board certified otolaryngologists at eos sleep work closely with their patients to discover the root causes of their snoring and to develop a treatment plan that considers their needs, preferences, and lifestyle. There is no reason to live with ongoing sleep deprivation. Schedule your appointment by completing our secure web form today!