Sleep Deprivation: What’s It Got To Do With Your Health?

by Caitlin Ultimo

“Does sleep deprivation impact your health?” It’s a simple question. And while there may be an obvious answer, finding a solution to improve inadequate sleep is not always straightforward. Lack of sleep can impact overall well-being in many different ways and its effects can present themselves uniquely from person to person. According to the CDC, adults between the ages of 18-60 should get an average of seven hours or more per night. If you’re in the category of seven hours or less, keep reading.

Has the Pandemic Negatively Impacted Your Sleep?

The pandemic has disrupted our lives and health in unfathomable ways. So it’s not a stretch to imagine that it has disrupted our sleep as well. A study involving 345,270 participants from 39 countries found that sleep problems appear to have been common during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Surprised? We weren’t either.  

The estimated prevalence of sleep problems was 31% among healthcare professionals, 18% among the general population, and 57% among COVID-19 patients.

What Happens When You Don’t Sleep Enough?

Sleep deprivation symptoms can vary in severity and in how they manifest. Take a look to see if you’ve been experiencing one or more of the below physical and psychological symptoms of inadequate sleep.

Typical Symptoms of Sleep Deprivation:

  • Higher levels of psychological distress
  • Impaired judgment or forgetfulness 
  • Depression or anxiety 
  • Lack of sex drive 
  • Slower reflexes and responses 
  • Sallow, dull skin 
  • Eye puffiness and dark circles

You may experience one, two, or all of the above–with some sleep deprivation symptoms causing more harm than others. That being said, lack of sleep can also be tied to more serious health conditions too.

Top 10 Illnesses Caused by Sleep Deprivation

It is estimated that the majority of people with insomnia (approximately 75%–90%) have an increased risk for medical disorders including: 

  1. Hypoxemia (low blood oxygen)
  2. Dyspnea (shortness of breath)
  3. GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease)
  4. Pain conditions 
  5. Neurodegenerative diseases
  6. Heart disease, heart attacks, or heart failure 
  7. Irregular heartbeat
  8. High blood pressure 
  9. Stroke 
  10. Diabetes 

Health Benefits of Getting Enough Sleep

The symptoms and risks caused by sleep deprivation and insomnia are serious. So preventing or mitigating those illnesses may be enough motivation to inspire you to get more sleep, but if not there are a plethora of other benefits. 

Healthy sleep habits can promote a healthy weight, mood, and immune system. You’re also likely to find that your productivity and physical ability improve too. Not to mention that receiving proper rest can allow your heart to function at its best.

How to Fall Asleep and Stay Asleep

We know, life gets stressful, and with more stress comes more restless nights. If getting the right amount of sleep seems like an impossible dream, don’t be discouraged. National Sleep Awareness Week 2022 is March 13-18th, so what better time to start making healthy sleep changes than now? With just a few small tweaks you can be on your way to better sleep before you know it. 

  • Put down your phone and other electronics at least one hour before bed. Pick up a book instead! 
  • In the same vein, take the TV out of your bedroom to remove temptation. 
  • Set a bedtime and stick to it. 
  • Avoid nicotine, caffeine, and alcohol.
  • Consider skipping dessert while you are it–sugar before trying to wind down might wind you up instead.
  • Exercise and engage in physical activity throughout the day. 
  • Consider consulting a therapist to help you better manage worries or stress.
  • Add an air purifier and/or humidifier to your bedroom.
  • White noise or sound machines can help relax your mind. 
  • Try a yoga or stretch routine designed for nighttime. 
  • Give guided sleep meditations a try.