Sleep Deprivation Is A Reality.
Let’s Get Real.
Author: Dial•a•Bed | September 2020
You’ve heard the expression – “Don’t lose any sleep over it”. It’s said in jest, or in passing. At Dial•a•Bed, we don’t take it lightly. Ask sleep scientist, Dr Dale Rae. Nothing is worth the compromise of your sleep. Everybody has an emergency now and then, work pressures, or some form of anxiety that will give you a few sleepless nights. We’re happy to write off these exceptions. But an ongoing lack of sleep can have repercussions for your physical and mental health.
What is sleep deprivation?
“Simply put,” says Dr Rae, “sleep deprivation occurs when you don’t get the right type of sleep your body needs, every night. You may be sleeping your usual number of hours, say 6-8 hours, but if your sleep is shallow or interrupted, you may become sleep deprived. Alternatively, while you might imagine that you are operating just fine on short sleep (perhaps 4-5 hours), behavioural symptoms (forgetfulness, short fuse, moodiness) might begin to suggest otherwise.”
Is sleep deprivation the same as insomnia? “Not really,” informs Dr Rae. “Insomnia is a specific sleep disorder that needs to be dealt with, since one of the obvious consequences is sleep deprivation. People can become sleep deprived without suffering from insomnia. Behaviourally, they might not prioritise sleep and over an extended period as you rack up sleep debt, the consequences can creep up on you.”
What causes lack of sleep?
Dr Rae notes stress, anxiety and perhaps unhealthy routines as the more obvious reasons. Poor diet and lack of exercise can also play a role. “Sleep is not a passive activity. It is one of the single most important things that we should plan our lives around. As they say, a good day starts the night before.” Usually, a little self-analysis should give you some clues.
- Are you being overly snappy or tetchy? You may be sleeping too lightly or not long enough.
- Do you suffer from chronic pain? This can impair sleep quality.
- Perhaps you’re being forgetful or overly clumsy. Again, ask yourself whether you’re getting the right quality sleep. This could be a sign of sleep deprivation.
- Losing focus or concentration during the working day could mean your brain needs a little more downtime at night.
- Bingeing on treats, confectionary and coffee to get you through the afternoon is a sure sign that you may be sleep deprived.
- Brain stimulating activity like working, high intensity exercise or spending too much time on devices just before bedtime already puts you at a disadvantage for relaxing into a calm, deep sleep.
“Always remember,” Dr Rae advises, “the quality of your sleep determines the productivity and effectiveness of your day.”
Trick yourself to sleep
“Again,” stresses Dr Rae, “sleep is an activity. It requires attention and application. Your mind and body will naturally want to calm down to a state of rest when it gets dark. Whether you choose to sleep earlier or later in the evening, it helps to prepare yourself for sleep.”
Here are a few things to consider with simple tips.
- Slow down your thoughts. If you’re under work pressure, perhaps write out a to-do list for the morning, so you’re telling yourself you are in control and can afford to “let go” for a while in order to sleep properly.
- Manage your sleeping environment. The more you associate your bedroom as a calm, retiring place, the easier you will naturally respond and relax when getting ready for bed.
- Do a simple, menial chore or relaxing activity. Get the kids’ lunch ready for the morning. Water the pot plants. Read. Meditate.
- When last did you change your mattress? Often it is the most obvious thing we think of last. Everyone’s body changes as they get older. Check at least every 8 years that your mattress is still right for your comfort and support preference. The feel of a brand new mattress is a great motivator to get more quality bedtime.
Take your rest seriously
Our health is sleep dependent. “Extended sleep deprivation can have disastrous consequences,” warns Dr Rae. “It is likely a combination of bad lifestyle habits that can affect your health, but lack of sleep can be a catalyst. Heart disease, weight problems, cognitive impairment and mood volatility, including depression, are just some of the possible effects of extended sleep deprivation.”
If you constantly struggle with the quality of your sleep, get professional help. Dr Dale Rae’s Sleep Science Clinic offers personal consultation and evidence-based analysis to help you optimize your sleep cycle. Find out more at https://www.sleepscience.co.za/.
#SleepForLife with Dial•a•Bed
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