The American Psychological Association (APA) found that two out of three Americans are sleeping either more or less than desired. Especially since the pandemic began, the chaotic routines, blended with more screen time, affected people’s boundaries between work and private lifestyle, which heavily altered mental and physical health.
Growing up, our parents would always advise us to sleep in early and get a full eight hours of sleep, but in adulthood, we tend to stay up late more due to work or other factors. Doing this continuously without a constant sleep program is causing sleep disruptions and, in the long run, messing up the whole organism. So, in the following paragraphs, we’ll discuss the leading causes of sleep deprivation and how to regain control of your sleep routine.
What are the causes of sleep deprivation?
Some of the most common causes of sleep deprivation include work schedules, illnesses and sleeping disorders. Regarding work life, some people work on night shifts or are airline crews, but sometimes work can get so demanding and stressful that it makes people stay up late. Then, illnesses that cause snoring, gagging, or frequent waking are fragmenting normal sleep, which affects the overall lifestyle.
Finally, sleeping disorders such as apnea, snoring, and periodic limb movement disorder make it difficult for people to breathe during a night’s sleep. Your sleep environment and poor sleep hygiene also play an important role in your sleep cycle. Drinking coffee and alcohol or smoking cigarettes close to bedtime stimulates the nervous system, which makes sleep less likely to occur.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation
Even if one night of sleeping late won’t affect you that much, the long-term effects of sleep deprivation are concerning. From gaining weight to weakening your immune system, having trouble with sleeping can cause:
- Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease;
- Chronic lung illness or other respiratory infections, like a cold or flu;
- An increased blood pressure that can develop further risks of heart attack or stroke;
- An interruption of the growth hormone production;
- Anxiety, impulsive behavior and mood swings;
The signs of sleep deprivation to look for are excessive sleepiness, frequent yawning, irritability and fatigue during the day. Plus, your concentration levels will be lower throughout the day, as you’ll experience sleep inertia that will make you feel groggy long after waking up.
How can you prevent or alleviate sleep problems?
To prevent sleep deprivation, insomnia or other sleep disorders, the best solution is to get the right amount of sleep. That means you should get seven to nine hours per night of sleep. If you want to get back on track with your regular schedule, try these tips:
- Go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same hour every morning;
- Avoid caffeine past noon and limit your daytime naps;
- Avoid bulky meals at least one hour before going to sleep;
- Reduce your alcohol intake;
But if these tips don’t help you, it would be best to talk with your doctor, who can prescribe you medication or advise you to use mouth devices for your sleep apnea, called CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure).
How to create the perfect nighttime routine
If you’re struggling with getting to bed because you don’t have a strict routine to follow, here are some tips on scheduling your activities so that you can have a good night’s sleep.
Prepare your bedroom
Sleep hygiene will determine the quality of your sleep. To ensure all five stages of your sleep cycle are correctly performing, make sure your bedroom is dark and cold enough to make your body sleepy.
Have clean sheets and good pajamas because the material of the clothes you’re sleeping in can make you either too sweaty or too itchy. Knowing that women are more prone to sleep deprivation than men due to pregnancy or PMS syndrome, getting bamboo pajamas for women and light layers for your bedding can help you get more comfortable and relaxed.
Among the reasons why people have difficulties sleeping, worrying is also common. It’s normal to be anxious about work, family issues or money, but it’s important to be in control of your thoughts and not let them affect your health. That’s why meditation is a widespread practice for people who want to sleep better and be calmer throughout the day because it’s an exercise that allows your thoughts to wander around, while you try to observe and get to know yourself better.
One of the most underrated pieces of advice is to try and exercise some more. If you have an office job where you have to stay on a chair for prolonged hours, exercising is crucial to avoid sleep problems, obesity and heart issues. Getting physical doesn’t mean running on marathons or doing HIIT workouts. You can only take a walk each day before nighttime or try yoga, which is less demanding on your body’s energy.
Another problem of sleep deprivation is lying awake for too long. When this happens for more than 20 minutes, try to do something that’s not too stimulating, like reading. You can have a lamp next to your bed and your favorite book (and if you don’t have one, it’s time to discover new genres). Reading doesn’t only get you sleepy in a matter of minutes, but you’ll also get to reduce stress and increase brain connectivity, and it will help you prevent cognitive decline as you age.
Stick to your program
If you created a schedule, be sure to stick to it, even on weekends and vacations. No matter what happens, if your internal clock is affected even for a bit, you may experience trouble with sleeping again. Don’t be afraid of losing social events or gatherings because you can be social and still respect your sleeping schedule.
Sleeping is one of the greatest causes of accidents and future illnesses. If we want to protect our health and live better, it’s important to have basic sleep hygiene and to put our sleeping schedule on top of our priorities list.