Falling asleep and staying asleep is often something of an afterthought. It is truly one area where no one realizes how important that process is until it fades away. For many, then, that afterthought quickly turns into frontline news as an uninterrupted night of sleep starts to require an almost herculean effort of diet and lifestyle changes. When sleep disorders begin to interrupt nighttime rest, there are many serious consequences that might arise as a result. From mental health to physical health, the implications of sleep deprivation are serious.
How Does Sleep Impact your Mental Health ?
Sleep deprivation and mental health are directly related and one quite easily impacts the other. If someone is struggling with mental health issues, they might very well begin to have trouble sleeping. Similarly, if someone is constantly unable to fall asleep and obtain uninterrupted sleep, their mental health will rapidly decline. Even more concerning is the long-term impact that chronic sleep deprivation can cause if left untreated, with some symptoms often remaining even when sleep returns to normal.
Feeling drowsy can impact the way you feel physically, but it can also have consequences for your mental and emotional health. Mental functions such as judgement, analytical thinking, and problem-solving all decrease in efficiency when we’re running low on sleep. You can still do all of these things, but it takes more attention and mental energy than it would otherwise and you’re also more prone to making mistakes. Uninterrupted rest also affects memory and information recall, so too little sleep can make it more difficult to learn and retain information.
Sleep deprivation impacts emotional health, too. Mood swings are common symptoms of sleep deprivation and, over time, many individuals with chronic sleep deprivation develop mental health issues like depression or anxiety even when they had never suffered with either in the past.
Irritability and decreased sociability, sometimes resulting in damaged personal relationships and interpersonal conflict. This, in turn, often leads to an increase in stress, which is known to interrupt sleep. This cycle – stress making sleep disorders more prominent and sleep deprivation leading to stress – can continue to cause very serious issues for the individuals struggling with them.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is the state of not getting enough total sleep. While the exact amount of sleep necessary for healthy function in everyday life can vary from person to person, it is generally accepted that adults should sleep between six and eight hours every night. Anything less than six is too little and seven hours is often the ideal number. It is a good rule of thumb to assume you should be getting that much rest consistently. If you are not, you might be at risk for, or already experiencing, sleep deprivation.
The consequences of sleep deprivation are myriad. From poor concentration to sleepiness, fatigue, clumsiness, and even weight fluctuation, sleep deprivation has the potential to significantly impact your daily life. That is not even taking into account that a lack of sleep and mental health problems are closely related and an increase in one can result in the other becoming an issue, too. In fact, the cognitive impact of sleep deprivation can be quite marked and severe, with symptoms worsening the longer you go without getting enough rest.
If you are not sure if you are suffering sleep deprivation or sleep disorders that might otherwise be impacting your sleep, such as insomnia, sleep apnea, sleepwalking, periodic limb movement, or restless legal syndrome, there are some common symptoms to keep in mind. First, increased irritability and anxiety might be a side effect from a lack of sleep. As mentioned above, depression and fatigue are two other regularly reported issues.
Note that you might be dealing with sleep deprivation even if you don’t recall having trouble sleeping. Individuals with sleep disorders like sleep apnea rarely remember waking up, but their rest is interrupted all the same. If you are struggling with falling asleep or staying asleep, reach out to your healthcare professional for advice about how best to move forward and reclaim your nights.
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