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Sleep Deprivation Effects & Ways to Start Sleeping Again

Though lack of sleep can negatively impact health, natural strategies can help you start sleeping again. Do not sleep on these sleep deprivation treatment tips!

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When it comes to health, diet and exercise tend to come to mind first. However, sleep is also vital to physical, mental, and overall health.

What's more, a growing body of research shows poor sleep habits can lead to a number of health problems and concerns. Learn the effects of sleep deprivation and action to take to beat such risks.

Sleep deprivation describes not getting the recommended amount of sleep. According to the National Sleep Foundation, adults need between 7 to 9 hours of sleep nightly. However, the CDC reports about 35 percent of adults are sleeping less than 7 hours.

Short and long-term lack of sleep can affect physical, mental, and overall health.

Lack of Sleep Side Effects

The risks and effects of sleep deprivation are extensive and fairly broad. Specific consequences of lack of sleep include weight gain and an increased risk of health conditions. Mental health can likewise be negotiated.

1. Lack of sleep can cause weight gain.

Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain in a number of ways. First off, cortisol tends to increase when sleep-deprived, in turn increasing appetite. 

The hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin may also become imbalanced. This can reduce feelings of fullness and heighten cravings.

Sleep deprivation can further slowdown metabolism, along with lessening energy. Low energy levels can compromise workouts and the desire to cook a nutritious meal.

2. Sleep deprivation increases the risk of health conditions.

Mostly related to an unhealthy weight, health conditions and diseases can become a risk.

Chronic lack of sleep increases the likelihood of heart disease and failure, high blood pressure, stroke, and diabetes. 

Sleep deprivation can also adversely affect the immune system according to the National Sleep Foundation. Weakened immune health puts illness and infection at greater risk.

3. Inadequate sleep may lead to depressive feelings.

Over time, lack of sleep can contribute to symptoms of depression and lower quality of life.

Insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, has the strongest link to depression. This correlation is not too surprising, though, as insomnia is one of the first symptoms of depression.

Insomnia and depression feed off of each other and create a vicious cycle. Depression can prevent the mind from dozing off at night, while sleep loss can aggravate the symptoms of depression.

A meta-analysis also indicates insomnia is significantly associated with an increased risk of depression.

4. Sleep deprivation may accelerate skin aging.

A restless night can lead to dark bags under the eyes and eventually accelerate the aging process.

When the body is deprived of sleep, it releases more of the stress hormone known as cortisol. Too much cortisol can break down skin collagen, the protein responsible for skin's elasticity and smoothness.

5. Lack of sleep can compromise cognition.

Sleep deprivation compromises attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem-solving.

The brain fog can inhibit day-to-day functions and lessen productivity and motivation. Studies show such cognitive consequences can increase the likelihood of car accidents.

Sleep Deprivation Treatment

With such risks of sleep deprivation, it is understood why catching the Zzz's is now a desired nightly routine.

Fortunately, there are treatments for sleep quality and quantity. These include sticking to a regular sleeping pattern and implementing relaxation techniques. Limiting caffeine and screentime can be helpful, too.

1. Stick to a bedtime routine and pattern.

A "bedtime" is not only for children. It is an influential nightly hour that may have powerful effects on the body.

Forming a sleep schedule can keep sleep and wake cycles regulated and promote an awakened and lively mind come morning hours.

2. Create a comfy sleep environment.

Evaluate the bedroom to ensure appropriate and ideal room temperatures, sounds, and lights.

Sleep on a comfortable mattress with a cozy, but sturdy pillow as well.

3. Turn off electronics leading up to bedtime.

Electronic devices may impede on a restful night's sleep. The shining light can disrupt sleep regulation and hinder the ability to feel sleepiness.

For that reason, turn off the television and electronic devices well before an established bedtime.

4. Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours.

Limit caffeine in the afternoon and evening hours, as drinking after mid-morning can disrupt sleep cycles come bedtime.

Caffeinated products include coffee, soft drinks, energy drinks, tea, and chocolate.

5. Relieve pesky nighttime hunger.

Snacking is generally discouraged following the evening meal. However, some snacks can promote a restful night's sleep or beat those annoying cravings.

If you can't sleep, try these midnight snack ideas to cure hunger such as a warm oatmeal or protein shake.

6. Write out any nagging worries.

Despite the efforts to power down, the mind tends to be loudest at night. But rather than allowing thoughts, worries, and anxieties to prevent from sleep, write down the feelings that keeping the mind awake.

Continue writing until the mind becomes blank and eyes heavy. Also end with statements such as, "I feel better and this can wait until tomorrow."

7. Practice relaxation techniques.

Rather than stressing over not being able to fall asleep, prime sleep cycles by practicing relaxation techniques. From breathing exercises to guided imagery, these relaxation exercises for falling asleep can quiet the mind and calm the body.

Using essential oils may also be able to aid in sleep. For instance, lavender oil shows to reduce feelings of anxiety, in turn quieting the mind. Spray on pillows or other preferred areas to induce relaxation.

8. Consult with a doctor or sleep specialist.

It is important to talk with a primary care provider or sleep specialist if having sleep problems.

A number of health conditions that may impede on sleep quantity and quality, including obesity, sleep apnea, and arthritis. Certain medications may also have a negative impact on sleep cycles, too.

A healthcare professional can help treat the underlying conditions to promote a good night's rest. They can also recommend safe products for better sleep, including melatonin supplements.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 29, 2013. Updated on March 29, 2020.

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