What does it mean to be “sleep deprived”?
You are sleep deprived if you’re not meeting your personal sleep need, which for most adults is between 7.5 and 9 hours per night. And the term “sleep deprived” certainly applies to anyone who has difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking up too early, and/or has poor sleep quality. Most Americans are at least modestly sleep deprived. While the average person claims to get 7.1 hours of sleep per night, sleep researchers find that those claiming seven to eight hours per night really slept closer to 6. It seems we’re so sleep-deprived, we aren’t even aware of how little we rest.
What are the signs of sleep deprivation?
Predictably, the most common symptom is fatigue. But as obvious as that seems, many people become so accustomed to feeling chronically tired that they accept it as normal. This same attitude is often applied to other symptoms such as mood swings, irritability, anxiety and difficulty concentrating, remembering, learning and interacting socially. You may feel you’re a loner, a slow-learner, or just not a vibrant or ambitious person, when in fact your fatigue has created a shell around your true personality and abilities.
People don’t recognize that sleepiness is not “normal,” and something must be done to break the cycle. Signs of chronic sleep deprivation can also include frequent infections/illnesses, blurred vision, changes in appetite, and depression. While these symptoms may be relatively minor and seem unrelated at first, they can be the precursors of life-shortening afflictions. Without proper treatment, they can grow to negatively impact your health and quality of life.
What are the most common causes of sleep deprivation?
The biggest and most prevalent is our society’s persistent belief that sleep is a luxury rather than a necessity. When it seems there just aren’t enough hours in the day, sleep is the first thing we cut, though ironically if we slept more, we’d be more efficient and productive. The advent of the Internet, buzzing Blackberrys and 24/7 entertainment has compounded it. Abusing sleep with blissful machismo is now deeply engrained in our global society. Beyond this general notion, there are many specific contributing factors to sleep deprivation. Temporary sleep-loss, for instance, is often triggered by passing stressors, such as a headache, toothache, indigestion, back problems, cold, flu or jetlag. While these causes are certainly real and frustrating, they’re relatively easy to treat.
Anxiety is the most common cause of short-term sleep-loss, and it can last for weeks. Nervousness about money, your marriage or relationship, losing or finding a job, your weight or other health concerns and even boredom, can all make you toss and turn.
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