Sleep deprivation refers to not getting the right amount of sleep. Someone can have acute sleep deprivation, which lasts only a short time, or chronic sleep deprivation, which lasts for a long period of time. Learning about the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation can help you determine if you need help for this sleep disorder. If you do, try some of the suggested remedies for sleep deprivation to increase the number of hours of sleep you get each night.
What Are the Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation?
This sleep problem has both physical and psychological effects. When you do not get enough rest, your body does not have enough time to repair and renew itself for the days ahead. Lack of sleep also takes a toll on your stress level and mental functioning. One of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation is tiredness. If your mind does not have time to rest, you may also find yourself unable to tolerate the stresses of daily life as well as normal. You may find yourself snapping at your spouse or losing patience with your kids, as sleep deprivation causes irritability. This condition also impairs your ability to concentrate and remember things, so you may find it difficult to write reports or take tests if you have not gotten enough sleep.
The physical effects of this sleep problem range in severity from bothersome to downright dangerous. One of the most dangerous effects is blurred vision, which can lead to workplace accidents or auto collisions. Sleep deprivation also causes physical discomfort, lack of appetite and intolerance of physical activity. If you have another medical condition, it can be difficult to determine what are symptoms of sleep deprivation and what are problems caused by your health issue.
Not getting enough sleep can even lead to weight gain, according to research from Laval University in Quebec, Canada. Jean-Philippe Chaput and his colleagues studied 276 adults ranging in age from 21 to 64 over a period of six years. They investigated the relationship between the number of hours of sleep the participants got each night with the amount of weight they gained during the study. They found that people who got only five to six hours of sleep each night gained 4.4 pounds more during the study than people who got seven to eight hours of sleep each night. The results of their research appeared in the April 2008 issue of “Sleep.”
Sleep Deprivation Remedies
If you find yourself tossing and turning at night, don’t turn to a commercial sleep aid just yet. There are several natural remedies for sleep deprivation you can try first. The first is using essential oils to help you relax and drift off to sleep each night. There’s a good reason the lotions and oils used to help babies fall asleep contain lavender: it is very calming and helpful for inducing sleep. Lavender essential oil contains chemicals such as linalyl acetate, terpinenol, beta-caryophyllene and cineole, which are just a few of the ingredients that give it its trademark scent. Mix a few drops of the essential oil with distilled water and pour the mixture into a spray bottle. Lightly mist your pillowcases or sheets with the spray to make it easier to fall asleep. You can also apply the lavender oil directly to your body. Mix the lavender oil with a carrier oil and then massage it into the soles of your feet for extra help getting to sleep.
Valerian is another one of the best home remedies for sleep deprivation. Pharmacies in Germany and other parts of Europe actually sell it as an over-the-counter remedy for insomnia. Researchers from Charité University Medical Center in Berlin, Germany have confirmed the sleep benefits of using valerian. In a study led by F. Donath, investigators from the Institute of Clinical Pharmacology studied the short-term and long-term use of valerian extract in 16 people. Although a single dose of valerian did not improve sleep quality, taking the valerian extract for 14 days did. The researchers also noted that the valerian had very few side effects. The results of this study appeared in the March 2000 edition of “Pharmacopsychiatry.”
Melatonin is a natural compound that plays a role in how much sleep you get. The pineal gland releases this hormone every day, but some people do not get enough, leading to a lack of sleep. Some manufacturers produce melatonin dietary supplements for those who do not get enough natural melatonin. These supplements cause the amount of melatonin in the blood to increase so that you can fall asleep more easily. Taking melatonin can also help combat the learning and memory problems experienced by those with sleep deprivation.
Meditation and other relaxation techniques can help you calm down and relax just before it’s time to fall asleep. One of the easiest relaxation techniques to use is visualization, which is where you imagine a relaxing scene to induce calm. Which scene you imagine depends on what relaxes and calms you. For some, it might be a tropical beach. For others, it might be a favorite pet. Experts recommend that you involve all of your senses in achieving relaxation. Don’t just imagine looking at a beach; imagine the feeling of the hot sand beneath your feet, the smell of the salty air and the sound of the waves crashing against the shore.
Mindfulness meditation helps you eliminate the stress and anxiety of the past by focusing your thoughts on the present. Practicing mindfulness involves sitting in a comfortable place where you have the peace and quiet you need to relax. Instead of focusing on the past, focus on your breathing in the present. Pay attention to air entering and leaving your body. If your thoughts run away from you, take a moment to acknowledge these thoughts and then go back to your focused breathing.
What you eat and drink each day has more of an effect on your sleep than you know. Most people know that caffeine makes you jittery and can make it difficult to sleep, but sugar can also interfere with sleep. If you eat sugary foods before bed, your blood sugar levels will spike just before you go to sleep. As they fall during the night, you may find it difficult to stay asleep. This is why you should avoid sweets before bed. You can also eat foods to help you fall asleep, as some foods contain chemicals that cause sleepiness. You feel tired after eating Thanksgiving turkey for a reason: the turkey contains tryptophan. This chemical helps stimulate melatonin production by acting as a precursor to serotonin.
Foods that are high in magnesium can also help you get to sleep because magnesium acts as a natural sedative. Dark green vegetables, legumes, almonds, seeds and whole-grain foods contain high levels of magnesium.
Whether you try relaxation techniques, dietary changes or natural remedies, combating sleep deprivation could help improve your quality of life. Once you establish a more predictable sleep schedule, you may find that your concentration improves and that you can better handle the stresses you encounter each day. If your sleep deprivation does not improve with these changes, however, seek medical advice to determine if you have a more serious problem.