Sleep deprivation can have profound consequences on your physical health. If you constantly do not get enough shut eye, you would probably have felt the effects of sleep deprivation like feeling grumpy, snappy, lack of focus, just to name a few. For 4 years since my helper left, I have to ‘learn’ to take over the house chores, leaving me with at least 3 hours short of my usual 7-8 hours of sleep each day. That left a profound dent on my physical and mental health – from lacking in stamina to feeling edgy, moody, crabby, fluttering heart beats and a whole load of problems.
The cost of all those sleepless nights is more than just bad moods and a lack of focus. Regular poor sleep puts you at risk of serious medical conditions, including obesity, heart disease and diabetes – and it shortens your life expectancy.
According to Scientific American, not only can lack of sleep lead to psychosis, but sleep deprivation in healthy people can also begin to rewire the brain’s emotional centers, causing people’s behavior to seem erratic and unstable. This explains why I feel easily agitated on most school-going days as I only get a maximum of 5 hours of sleep each night. However, taking two power naps of 20 – 30 minutes twice a day helps to recharge my batteries and put my mood back in order.
Different people have different thresholds of erratic behavior after a period of insomnia. Someone who also has a physical illness, someone with a lot of previous traumas, someone who is genetically predisposed to mental illness, someone who hasn’t had good nutrition–all of these conditions can increase the severity of combative, unruly behavior due to lack of sleep.
An occasional night without sleep makes you feel tired and irritable the next day, but it won’t harm your health.
After several sleepless nights, the mental effects become more serious. Your brain will fog, making it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You’ll start to feel down, and may fall asleep during the day. Your risk of injury and accidents at home, work and on the road also increases.
How much sleep do we need?
Most of us need around eight hours of good-quality sleep a night to function properly – but some need more and some less. What matters is that you find out how much sleep you need and then try to achieve it.
As a general rule, if you wake up tired and spend the day longing for a chance to have a nap, it’s likely that you’re not getting enough sleep.
How to catch up on lost sleep
If you don’t get enough sleep, there’s only one way to compensate – getting more sleep.
It won’t happen with a single early night. If you’ve had months of restricted sleep, you’ll have built up a significant sleep debt, so expect recovery to take several weeks.
Starting on a weekend, try to add on an extra hour or two of sleep a night. The way to do this is to go to bed when you’re tired, and allow your body to wake you in the morning (no alarm clocks allowed!).
Expect to sleep for upwards of 10 hours a night at first. After a while, the amount of time you sleep will gradually decrease to a normal level.
Don’t rely on caffeine or energy drinks as a short-term pick-me-up. They may boost your energy and concentration temporarily, but can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.
Lastly, try to stave off stress from your life. Living a stress-free life is just as important as getting sufficient enough sleep every night. If you find that you cannot manage the stress in your life, try to get professional help.