Not Getting Enough Zzzzzs

Story: Maritza Manresa

Simply put, if you still feel tired and sleepy when you get up in the morning, it means you did not get enough sleep. “How could that be possible?” you may say to yourself. “I was in bed the recommended six to eight hours.” The answer is, although you may think you “slept” eight hours and you should be alert and refreshed – the problem is, you might have not really slept the full eight hours. Recent studies have shown restless or interrupted sleep is just as bad for your health as insomnia and the long term effects of regular sleep deprivation will eventually take a toll on your system.

So what is the average needed amount of sleep – uninterrupted sleep? Although it varies from person to person as each individual’s sleeping needs are different, adults require an average of eight hours of sleep. This is average – some people may be perfectly fine with six hours while others may require ten to be fully functional the following day. Teenagers require an average of eight-and-a-half to nine-and-a-half hours of sleep, while infants will require between 14 to 15 hours a day. Getting enough sleep is important as it benefits your heart, your brain, your weight, and your overall health.

There are plenty of benefits associated with getting enough sleep to make it worthwhile to make an effort to get plenty of sleep. In fact, it is not a matter of just getting enough sleep, but getting deep Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep. It is necessary for our minds in order to process and consolidate memories, emotions, and stress – it actually helps to boost your mood during the day.

Benefits of sleeping

  1. Improve your memory.
    Getting adequate sleep will help improve your memory. For instance, things you have learned during the day are strengthened while you sleep through a process called consolidation.
  2. Control inflammation.
    Research has shown, people who get six or less hours of sleep every night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get the adequate amount of sleep.
  3. Improved performance.
    Whether you are an athlete, weekend warrior, or just someone whose job is labor intensive, getting adequate sleep has been proven to improve physical performance during your daily activities.
  4. Helps with weight control.
    A study conducted by the University of Chicago revealed people who had plenty of sleep seemed to have lost more weight than those who were deprived of sleep. Metabolism and sleep are controlled by the same part of the brain and when you are sleepy the levels of certain hormones go up, which are the same hormones that control appetite.
  5. Reduces stress.
    When people are stressed out, lack of sleep seems to be prevalent. However, these are the times when you need sleep the most. Sleep definitely reduces stress levels, which ultimately allows you to better handle whatever the situation might be.

Reasons why you might not be getting enough sleep and rest

There are a number of reasons why people may not be getting enough sleep and although some might be personal choice, others are caused by outside forces. It is quite common for people to have such busy schedules and so much to do in any given day, it makes it impossible to reasonably accomplish it all. Thus people end up going to bed too late and not being able to get a full night’s sleep before having to get up and do it all over again. Sometimes it might be staying up late studying or having an infant to care for that significantly reduces the amount of time you can sleep. Other factors that may affect your ability to get enough sleep and a good night’s rest include having an irregular bed time routine or consuming stimulants such as coffee or chocolate. Also, trying to go to sleep in a noisy environment or having too much noise inside – too much stress – will certainly keep even the most tired individual from getting any rest. However, there also could be medical reasons why you simply cannot get enough sleep.

One such medical condition is sleep apnea. According to Dr. Jose Delgado-Elvir, an Ocala pulmonologist who is also certified in sleep medicine, sleep apnea occurs when there is a complete or near complete deficiency of air flow when you are sleeping. ‘’When there is an interruption of air flow or complete cessation, there is a decrease of oxygen levels, and a variation of heart rate and blood pressure,” said Dr. Delgado-Elvir. “People with sleep apnea often complain of morning headaches and dry mouth as well as experiencing sleepiness, fatigue, and anxiety during the day,” added Dr. Delgado-Elvir. This condition can be diagnosed through sleep studies and it is normally treated by prescribing the patient with Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) Therapy or with surgery, as a last resort. Left untreated, sleep apnea can lead to other conditions such as hypertension, stroke, and insulin resistance.

What happens when you do not get enough sleep

Some of the short term effects of sleep deprivation include getting up feeling lousy and moody, having slower reaction times, finding it difficult to concentrate, struggling to pay attention, and tending to make poor decisions throughout the day. On the long term, people with who have suffered from sleep deprivation for extended periods of time experience excess fatigue, memory problems, anxiety, and tend to suffer from depression more frequently. Additionally, lack of enough sleep for extended periods of time will result in an increased perception of pain as well as a weakening of your immune system, thus increasing your chance of becoming sick.

Making the time to sleep long enough to be rested when you get up the next day is a great investment of time. All that could not be done in one day because you went to be early, will more than likely get done more efficiently the next day when you are more rested and are thinking clearly. Sleeping sometimes is put off as something you can do without in order to do other things, when in fact, it should be on the top of your priority list of things you must do so the rest can be accomplished.

Restless or interrupted sleep is just as bad for your health as insomnia and the long term effects of regular sleep deprivation will eventually take a toll on your system.

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