Are you more forgetful, feeling stressed, irritable, depressed, have muscle aches, or gaining weight, and don't know why? The cause could be related to lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation is more than simply feeling tired, it affects your physical, mental, and emotional state. Our bodies and brain need to recharge and heal by sleeping enough hours each day.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine (www.aasmnet.org) estimates that one in five adults do not get enough sleep. Sleep varies by individuals, but on average the National Sleep Foundation (www.sleepfoundation.org) recommends that adults get 7-9 hours of sleep, and children and teenagers need more than that.
Feeling drowsy during the day is an obvious sign that you need more sleep. However, there are other indications that you are sleep deprived. In brief, below are 5 signs that you need more sleep by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF) and the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).
5 SIGNS THAT YOU NEED MORE SLEEP
1. STRESS: lack of sleep can make manageable situations seem more irritating, stressful, and increase feelings of burnout and depression. Lack of sleep worsens the problem for those who already have a mental disorder. Subjects in a University of Sydney study who slept less than six hours a night were twice as likely to experience psychological distress (depressive and anxious symptoms) compared to average sleepers (8-9 hours per night). Subjects who already had psychological distress who slept less than five hours per night were three times more likely to be distressed one year later (http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=1867).
2. MEDICAL PROBLEMS: Sleep deprivation has been associated with an increased risk of medical conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, obesity, and mortality. A study that examined 1,088 pairs of twins and found that "sleeping less than seven hours a night was associated with both increased BMI [body mass index] and greater genetic influences on BMI. Previous research has shown that genetic influences include things like glucose metabolism, energy use, fatty acid storage and satiety" (http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=3043).
Researchers Irwin & McClintick, et. al. found that even a modest disturbance of sleep produces a reduction of natural immune responses and T cell cytokine production (Irwin M, McClintick J, Costlow C, Fortner M, White J, Gillin JC., "Partial night sleep deprivation reduces natural killer and cellular immune responses in humans," FASEB J. 1996 Apr;10(5):643-53). Animal studies found that rats deprived of sleep only survived 3-5 weeks compared to the normal rat life span of 2-3 years. (The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke: NINDS at www.ninds.nih.gov).
3. DIMINISHED MOTOR SKILLS: lack of sleep leads to longer reaction time and lack of coordination. Those who drive sleep deprived are functioning on the same level as someone who is driving drunk. A study by Mark Chattington of Manchester Metropolitan University showed that sleep deprived drivers had reduced eye-steering coordination, similar to potentially losing control of the car (http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=472).
4. VISION PROBLEMS: sleep deprivation can cause visual distortions and difficulty focusing. Babkoff, Sing, et. al. found subjects who were sleep deprived for either 48 to 72 hours had visual task-related perceptual distortions and hallucinations (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2748294).
5. MEMORY AND CONCENTRATION: not getting enough sleep can result in forgetfulness, lack of concentration, increased errors, and poor decisions. A study by Hairston, Little, et al. found sleep-restricted rats had a harder time remembering a path through a maze compared to their rested counterparts (http://jn.physiology.org/content/94/6/4224.short).
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, sleep is necessary for neurons in the brain to repair themselves. "Without sleep, neurons may become so depleted in energy or so polluted with byproducts of normal cellular activities that they begin to malfunction. Sleep also may give the brain a chance to exercise important neuronal connections that might otherwise deteriorate from lack of activity" (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm).
Beauty sleep is term for a good night's sleep, often used with the cliche 'I need to get my beauty sleep.' The American Academy of Sleep Medicine cites a study that supports getting enough sleep can make you more attractive. In a study where two photos were taken of subjects, one photo after a normal night's sleep and one after sleep deprivation, the sleep deprived photos were rated lower on perceived health, attractiveness and tiredness
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke says that there is some validity to beauty sleep: "Many of the body's cells also show increased production and reduced breakdown of proteins during deep sleep. Since proteins are the building blocks needed for cell growth and for repair of damage from factors like stress and ultraviolet rays, deep sleep may truly be 'beauty sleep'" (http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm).
The National Sleep Foundation lists the following that occur with a good night's sleep:
1. Blood supply to muscles increases
2. Tissue growth and repair
3. Memory consolidation and release of hormones regulating growth and appetite
4. Hormones are released, such as: Growth hormones, which are essential for growth and development, including muscle development
5. Sleep helps us thrive by contributing to a healthy immune system
Getting enough sleep is vital to functioning at an optimal level. Besides good nutrition and moderate exercise, getting enough sleep is essential for overall physical and mental health and well-being.
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