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September 22, 2022

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation: How Much Sleep Do You Need?

Woman lying on bed

Sleep deprivation is the result of a person not getting the amount of sleep each night that they need to feel rested and ready for the day ahead. It can be a result of voluntary or involuntary sleeplessness or a circadian rhythm sleep disorder.

Each of us needs a different amount of sleep in order to function for the day. When you do not get the amount of sleep each night that your body needs it begins to negatively affect your health.

Although sleep deprivation is defined by duration (the total amount of time a person spends asleep) the reality is that the quality of sleep you receive also matters. Consistently waking up in the middle of the night regardless of the reason or maintaining an irregular sleep schedule can impact your sleep quality and leave you feeling tired and lethargic.

Experiencing Sleep Deprivation

According to the American Thoracic Society, sleep deprivation is so common in the United States that 35% of adults report sleeping fewer than 7 hours a day. And this pattern starts in our most formative years. 73% of high school students report getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep on school nights and 58% of middle school students report getting fewer than 9 hours of sleep.

Severe sleep loss can decrease your overall quality of life and cause difficulty in your ability to function daily.  Sleep deprivation has a variety of causes and some are within your control.

Sleep deprivation is becoming increasingly common especially with new technology because people have a hard time “unplugging” – or putting electronics down – at night.

You may also have personal obligations or commitments that restrict the amount of time you are able to sleep without interruption, such as taking care of an infant, elder or sick family member.

Different Types of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation and sleep insufficiency may mean different things for different people, depending on your circumstances.

Acute sleep deprivation is a short period of time, usually no more than a few days, when a person has a significant reduction in sleep.

Chronic sleep deprivation, or insufficient sleep syndrome, is ongoing sleep deprivation or poor quality sleep that occurs for three months or more.

Causes of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation can be the result of various factors like unhealthy lifestyle choices, work obligations, poor sleep hygiene, sleep disorders, and other medical conditions.

tablet with chart in darkly lit room on bed Sleep deprivation is often driven by our own choices such as binge-watching a TV show, gaming or staying out late instead of getting a good night’s sleep.  Decisions like these may result in acute sleep deprivation.

The demands of work are another common reason we are sleep deprived. If you work multiple jobs or extended hours you may not have enough time for sufficient sleep. As a shift worker, you are highly susceptible to experiencing sleep deprivation and sleep disorders associated with your alternating sleeping schedule.

Sleep disorders and other medical conditions can be the reason for your lack of quality sleep as well. Sleep apnea is a breathing disorder that induces dozens of nightly awakenings and can hinder both sleep duration and quality. Other health problems can interfere with your quality and quantity of sleep either from pain, the inability to get comfortable or the mental exhaustion of it.

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Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Just 24 hours without sleep can result in minor impairments: drowsiness, irritability, impaired judgment, altered perception, memory deficits, vision and hearing impairment, decreased hand-eye coordination, tremors and muscle tension. All of these are possible consequences of one day without sleep.

After 48 hours with no sleep,  you may experience periods of light sleep, known as microsleep which are involuntarily falling asleep for up to 30 seconds. This light sleep can result in an auto accident, work-related injury or even an injury of a child that you are taking care of. After just two nights without sleep, your immune system will start to be affected, leaving you more open to illnesses.

With 72 hours without sleep. you won’t be able to concentrate, remember details or pay attention. This takes a toll on your emotions and mental health in addition to your cognitive capabilities. Lacking so much sleep will leave you feeling irritable, anxious, depressed, paranoid, or even give you hallucinations.

The Dangers of Sleep Deprivation

Acute sleep deprivation increases the risk of errors and accidents while driving or working. If you are sleep deprived, you experience mood changes that can affect your personal relationships. You may struggle with concentration at work or in school.

Chronic sleep deprivation can be a serious problem for your health, causing a slew of issues. Sleep plays a fundamental role in how most of the body’s systems function. Depriving your body of sleep creates significant risks to your physical and mental health. There are even studies linking sleep deficiency and cardiovascular problems such as high blood pressure, coronary heart disease, heart attack, and stroke.

A lack of sleep can also affect the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, increasing the risk of diabetes.

Research has found that you tend to consume more calories and carbohydrates when you do not get adequate sleep, which is just one of several ways that poor sleep may be tied to obesity.

Sleep and mental health are closely intertwined, therefore lack of quality sleep can directly affect your mental health resulting in depression and increased anxiety.

Treating Sleep Deprivation

If you feel you suffer from sleep deprivation, working with your doctor is a good first step to getting relief.

In many cases, your first step will be to focus on sleep hygiene which includes your sleep environment and daily habits.

It’s important to make sleep a priority in your life. Chronic insufficient sleep often occurs when you sacrifice sleep in favor of work, leisure, or other obligations.

Set up a sleep schedule and stick to it, set boundaries with your recreational time and create a bedtime routine.

Set up your bedroom to be all about relaxation by controlling the light, heat and noise level, as well as ensuring you have a comfortable, support mattress that conforms to your body, sleeping position and lifestyle.

Electronics need to be turned off before bedtime and you should avoid eating and caffeine and alcohol consumption a few hours before heading to bed.

 The Last Step to Quality Sleep

Comfort is a key component to improving your sleep quality. Choosing the correct sleep surface, pillows and accessories for you is extremely important. What is comfortable for each person is subjective; only you can make that determination.

A mattress should support the healthy curvature of your spine, promote comfort, provide proper spinal alignment, allow body temperature control, and fit your budget.

Come test out the mattresses at your local Mattress Express location or shop online. Need assistance? Have questions? Reach out and one of our sleep specialists will be happy to guide you in finding the mattress that will help you get quality sleep.