You might feel stressed, irritable and unable to concentrate on tasks, but you might not realize why.
If you’re struggling with focus at work or at school, sleep might be the last thing on your mind. You might not even feel tired!
But if you ever think that you might be sleep deprived, well, you’re probably right. Sleep deprivation is common, and if you find that you are struggling with energy, concentration and even getting a handle on your emotions, it might be because you’re not sleeping well at night.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Are you sleep deprived? You may find that you are experiencing these symptoms if you’re not getting enough sleep:
- Junk food cravings and weight gain
- Moodiness, irritability, sadness, or depression
- Increased caffeine consumption
- Difficulty focusing and recalling information
- Waking up with discomfort
Why You’re Not Sleeping Well
There are many common causes of sleep deprivation. Some people experience sleep deprivation due to a single cause, while sleep deprivation can often be the result of multiple causes in others. If you’re not getting enough sleep, some of the following causes may be to blame:
- Sleep disorders, which might include sleep apnea, insomnia, and restless legs syndrome, among others
- Nighttime electronic use and exposure to bright lights
- Medical conditions, especially conditions that are painful
- Demanding schedules, which can make it difficult to fit in sufficient sleep hours
- Stress, anxiety, or depression — which can be exacerbated by insufficient sleep
What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Enough
If you’re not sleeping well at night, your overall wellness begins to suffer. You aren’t living at your best and you may be at a greater risk of developing illnesses or medical conditions. You might even be at higher risk of experiencing an accident. Your memory and emotional regulation aren’t optimal, either. These are some of the effects of sleep deprivation:
- Increased risk of accidents, including drowsy driving or fatigue-induced accidents or accidents on the job
- Decreased cognitive function, including memory, alertness, concentration, attention, and problem solving
- Increased risk of health issues, which might include heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, diabetes, and obesity, among others
- Decreased sex drive
- Struggles with emotional regulation and mood, which could lead to depression, anxiety, or overall general moodiness
How to Beat Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation is common. As a matter of fact, more than one third of adults in the United States don’t get the recommended seven hours of sleep each night. But getting treatment for sleep disorders and practicing healthy sleep habits can make it easier to sleep well and, in turn, feel well.
Treat sleep disorders and other conditions that impede sleep. If you have a sleep disorder, it may be difficult, if not impossible, to sleep well, but treatment is available, including CPAP therapy and behavioral therapy.
Since medical conditions, especially those that cause chronic pain, may keep you up at night or reduce the quality of your sleep, you might want to talk to your doctor about treatment for sleep disorders and other medical conditions that can and do contribute to sleep deprivation.
Stick to healthy sleep habits. A regular sleep schedule, bedtime routine, and avoiding sleep pitfalls like late night caffeine or screen time can help you sleep better at night. Consider your bedroom environment, and make sure you’re sleeping in a cool, dark, quiet, and comfortable room with a mattress and bedding that meet your needs.
Sleep deprivation may be common, but you don’t have to live with it. Focus on treatment for conditions that make sleep difficult and consider how you can improve your sleep habits for a better night’s sleep.
About the Author
Amy Highland is a sleep expert at SleepHelp.org. She loves taking naps during thunderstorms and cuddling up with a blanket, book, and cats.