Sleep deprivation is a sleep disorder characterized by having too little sleep. It can be either chronic or acute. Long-term sleep deprivation causes death in lab animals. A chronic state of being restricted of sleep can cause fatigue, daytime sleepiness, clumsiness and weight gain. When a person is sleep deprived they have brief moments of micro sleeps which cannot be avoided.
Micro sleeps occur when a person has significant sleep deprivation. The brain automatically shuts down, falling into a sleep state for a period that can last 10 to 60 seconds. The person mentally falls asleep no matter what activity he or she is engaged in. Micro sleeps are similar to blackouts and a person experiencing them is not consciously aware that they are occurring.
Lack of sleep may result in aching muscles, dizziness and nausea, dry mouth, hallucinations, hand tremors, headaches, increased blood pressure, increased risk of diabetes, increased risk of fibromyalgia, irritability, memory, obesity, slowed word recall, etc.
Due to our fast paced lifestyle sleep deprivation is on the rise. Most physicians are unaware of the problem of sleep deprivation because they were not taught about the importance of sleep in medical school.
In the way of lost production, accidents and human lives the cost is of sleep depravation is astronomical.
According to professionals we need enough sleep to keep us alert all day especially during the afternoon.
What is a sleep debt?
A sleep debt occurs when we don’t get enough sleep either due to going to bed too late, forcing ourselves to get up too early or psychological disorders that prevent sleep. If you have a sleep debt you won’t feel alert all day especially in the afternoon. Then our circadian pacemaker kicks in and makes us feel more alert early in the evening. Some senior citizens don’t get enough sleep due to pain at night.
How to you pay off your sleep debt?
You pay off your sleep debt either by either taking a nap or going to bed earlier at night. If you work you need to sleep longer on your day off or take naps. This will not upset your natural sleep cycle if you have a sleep debt.
Simply taking a nap may be one of the best things you can do to correct poor mental performance, especially after a stressful night of disrupted sleep. Naps can help make up for nighttime loss.
In a study done with Japanese men, a mid-afternoon 20 minute nap had positive effects upon their day time work performance.
Studies show that sleep loss effects memory and learning. When humans and animals are deprived of sleep they do not perform well on memory tasks.
How to pay back your sleep debt also known as “recovery sleep”
For recovery sleep, the intensity and the hours you sleep are both important. Some of our most recuperative sleep occurs during the intense sleep. The more hours you sleep the more you allow your brain time to rejuvenate.
As you erase your sleep debt, your body will naturally fall into its own rhythm. Sleep researchers believe that genes (which ones are yet to be discovered) determine our individual sleep patterns. You cannot train yourself to be a short sleeper and you are fooling yourself if you think otherwise. In a 2003 study in the journal called “sleep” it was found that the more tired we get, the less tired we feel.
So earn back that lost sleep and the follow the dictates of your innate sleep needs.
Finally a scientific reason to sleep in on Saturdays!
Wikipedia: Sleep Deprivation
Sleepnet: Sleep Deprivation Links and Information
The Franklin Institute: The Human Brain
Scientific American: Can you catch up on lost sleep?