Guest Blog by The Sleep Help Institute
Most of us live in a culture that glorifies busyness. We stay up late to get things done, then we get up early so we can get to work on time. We try not to think about how little sleep we’re getting, how much coffee we’re drinking, and how tired we feel. After all, thinking about it just makes us feel worse, and we feel like we can’t do anything to change the situation. We are just going to have to learn to function while sleep deprived.
Sleep deprivation, at its most basic, means not getting enough sleep. How much sleep you need will depend on who you are and how much you do in a day, but most people need between 7 and 9 hours every night in order to function well the next day. Miss out on some sleep for just a few days, and you will notice its effects.
Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation
Some symptoms of sleep deprivation are easy to spot. People who are yawning, who are having trouble staying awake in classes or in meetings, or who are always particularly moody or emotionally touchy are, quite possibly, sleep deprived.
However, there are other symptoms that can be associated with sleep deprivation, too. Sleep deprived people can be clumsy, can have trouble making decisions or consistently make poor decisions, and they may always be hungry. They may be accident prone, in their vehicles or otherwise, and they may get sick easily or have trouble getting better when they do fall ill.
All of this happens because the human body needs sleep. We are made to sleep and, when we don’t, it has consequences for how (and how well) the body functions.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
The above mentioned symptoms occur because of the effects of sleep deprivation on the human body. Here are just a few health issues that seem to be caused, at least in part, by a lack of sleep.
Immune System Problems
During sleep, the body produces cytokines and other substances that fight infection. When we don’t sleep enough, we don’t have enough time to produce all of these that we need. Then, when something invades the body, we can’t fight it off as effectively.
Cytokines also help fight inflammation in the body, which has been tied to heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and more. When the body isn’t producing enough of these substances, inflammation rises and the chances of developing these related conditions rise, too.
People who only sleep for a few hours every night don’t process glucose as effectively as those who sleep for at least 8 hours. Researchers don’t know exactly why this happens, but the end result is that those who only sleep a few hours are significantly more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.
In addition, once they wake up, people who are sleep deprived release more insulin after they eat. This messes with their blood sugar levels, causes them to store more fat and also heightens their risk of developing Type 2 Diabetes.
When your sleep, your brain rests and recovers, processing information and storing memories. When it doesn’t get a chance to do these things, it is required to function while exhausted. Thus, sleep deprivation causes you to be impatient, to have wild mood swings, and to struggle to be creative or solve problems well.
Sleep deprivation also correlates with higher levels of:
Some hormones depend on sleep for their production and release. Testosterone is one of these. You need at least 3 consecutive hours of sleep to make enough. Since both men and women need testosterone to achieve hormonal balance, sleep deprivation can throw this off.
Children and adolescents release more human growth hormone when they sleep well. If they aren’t getting enough rest, it’s possible that their bodies won’t grow and develop as is necessary for good human functioning.
In addition to releasing more insulin and being at risk for Type 2 Diabetes, both of which correlate positively with a higher than desired body weight, sleep deprivation causes people to eat more than they need. The body is trying to get the energy that it didn’t get while asleep. However, it has to store these extra calories somewhere and this often makes losing weight much more difficult for people who are sleep deprived.
On top of these issues, people who are sleep deprived are more likely to make poor food choices. Their brains are tired, their impulse control is down, and so they are more likely to eat junk food than their well-rested friends.
Causes of Sleep DeprivationAt its most basic, sleep deprivation is caused by not getting enough sleep. Sometimes, we simply choose not to get enough sleep or to do other things rather than sleep. However, there are also conditions that can cause sleep deprivation, or at least make sleep more difficult. These include:
Sleep deprivation can also be caused by poor sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene looks at the behavioral and environmental conditions under which you try to sleep. Some situations are better than others. Good sleep hygiene involves:
Treatment of Sleep Deprivation
Improving your sleep hygiene, as outlined above, can help you sleep better. However, if you have a sleep disorder or one of the conditions mentioned above, you may need to find an effective treatment for that, too, before you can sleep well.
If you simply need to make more time for sleep, treatment involves moving the pieces of your schedule around until there’s adequate time for sleep. You may have to eliminate some things or learn to use your time differently.
There are medications that can help you sleep, but these tend to have significant side effects. If nothing else works, it’s definitely worth talking to your doctor about the pros and cons of these medications for your particular situation. If medicine is the only way to sleep better, you may need to consider taking it for a while.
Sleep deprivation is a major problem, but it is very treatable. We need to become a culture that values rest as much as we value work and efficiency. As more and more of us come to prioritize sleep in our own lives, this will slowly change. Be part of the revolution! Get more sleep today!
Isaiah 48:17 – This is what the LORD says – your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel; “I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.”
It was just a normal morning. I was attending a training session. Some of it sounded interesting while other sections not so much. And then it happened.
I was doing what could be seen as a regular training activity when I picked up something that weighted fifty pounds then twisted it while lifting and I heard a pop in my neck and immediately my left index finger became numb and pain radiated from my neck and down into my arm.
Like I said, it was just a normal morning when it turned into a life changer. That one movement. That one task. That one instruction session caused a herniated disc.
I was scared. I didn’t feel normal and I was in pain. I thought about whether I should tell someone or just wait and see if the pain went away. But it didn’t and by the next morning I was in more pain so I went to see my doctor.
It is said that you can do the same task time after time, but then when you’re not paying attention, that task can cause damage to the discs in the neck or back. These are the kinds of stories you hear about someone simply bending over to pick something up when it becomes the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.
Months of physical therapy, and two years later surgery was recommended for my neck. I thought at last I’d find relief, but I never healed completely from the surgery all because of one small piece of bone pressing into my cervical spine. For some people, surgery is the best option and pain is reduced or eliminated completely. But it’s not that case for everyone.
For me, the injury was twenty-four years ago and I still don’t have relief.
Treating neck or back pain does not always provide an easy fix. Our bodies have areas of strength and those of weakness. Yet, both don’t only affect the immediate area of an injury. Much of the time the pain can radiate to other areas as well. Another thing that happens is that discs become thinner as we age and thus can cause the discs to compact on each other and lead to pain.
Let’s take a look at some ways we can find relief from our neck or back pain. Spine-health.com in their article, “9 Lesser-Known Tips for Easing Neck Pain,” provides some alternative ideas on relieving pain, in this case neck pain, instead of only the usual choice such as surgery. Suggestions include choosing a neck-supporting chair and sleeping with a water pillow. Also, mayfieldclinic.com in their article, “Self Care for Neck and Back Pain,” not only makes suggestions for pain relief it provides illustrations of correct body posture while standing, sitting, bending and stooping down.
Armed with the suggestions in the articles above you can make an informed choice with your doctor the direction for your treatment. Remember also that God is the one who can teach and direct you in the ways you should go. He, ultimately, gives us the wisdom we need to reduce or even eliminate our pain and shows us how to live.
Isaiah 48:17 - This is what the LORD says-- your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: "I am the LORD your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go.
As we age it seems to be that our brain capacity diminishes. We forget things more frequently, and make more errors. We work at bringing our capacity back up, but it can be difficult to do.
There are many brain games out there that have proven they help your brain functions both the ability to think clearer, and in some cases, the brain can actually grow in size.
Yet, many of us find ourselves having to leave notes all around our homes and offices to remind us of tasks we need to complete for the day and what we need to pick up at the store.
There are several other ways to help your brain including your diet. The food you eat does affect your brain health. So take a look at some of the foods that keep the brain healthy, improve your ability to retain information stored and help you make better choices.
Webmd.com in their article titled, “Eat Smart for a Healthier Brain,” lists several foods such as blueberries that have been tested to improve the learning capacity and reduce the effects of age-related conditions. Wild salmon, nuts and seeds also have a positive effect on the brain.
In addition, on eatthis.com you’ll find their article, “30 Best and Worst Food for Your Brain,” and as the title says, it lists not only thirty best foods for your brain, but also the thirty worst foods.
Armed with the recommendations of these two articles you’ll be able to put together meal plans that will make your brain and the rest of your body happy as you eat healthier. Also, remember that God will teach you what is best for you and will direct you down the road you should take to feed your brain and improve your brain’s health.
Psalm 22:24 – For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.
We look on the outside of a person and see them as one whole person, but there are also individual body parts at work:
Each part moves as one unit with each part doing its job. But sometimes the job of the body is given up to chronic health conditions.
Each part still acts as a whole with the pain in one part of the body, but it can cause pain to radiate into another.
When speaking to someone about your pain, they may not understand why you have so many chronic health conditions.
Sometimes there’s no convincing someone that your body is pieces of a whole acting in rhythm to the beat of pain, but it is worth trying to understand.
Relationships can become strained when one person has multiple health issues and the other person doesn’t. Learning how to have conversations with someone ill can seem daunting, but learning how to approach someone with health conditions can actually strengthen relationships. So what are some ways that we can communicate with our family and friends, and what kinds of things can we do to help them?
CNN.com addresses what not to say to someone who’s suffering and what we can do to help them instead in their article, “Talking to Someone With a Chronic Illness.” One of their suggestions is to tell them that you don’t know what to say, but you do care about them, and letting them know you’ll be going to the store and ask what you can pick up for them.
Little-by-little if others begin to treat the one who’s suffering with compassion and understanding, the one who feels like pieces of a whole will know that we care about all of their needs.
God also cares about the one with multiple health conditions. He doesn’t turn away from them or despise them for it, nor does he disbelieve what is happening. Instead he doesn’t hide his face from them but listens to their cry for help. We also can listen to their cry for help and then respond to them regardless of what we think about their many health conditions.
Karen Dalske is a freelance writer, public speaker, is active in her church and writes her blogs out of her own experiences of pain, illness and loss.