If you suffer from sleep apnea, insomnia, or any other type of sleep issue, you know the effects of irregular sleep can be difficult. If you’re dealing with an issue that has resulted in some form of sleep deprivation, it’s important to understand what’s happening and why – and that you take the steps needed to address the issue.
Here’s a look at some of the more common causes of sleep-related issues, as well as some of the effects of sleep deprivation on the body.
Your Circadian Rhythm: Why A Good Night’s Sleep Is Important
Sleep deprivation can really do a number on something known as the circadian rhythm. It’s often known as your “internal clock” or the “sleep/wake cycle.” Your circadian rhythm tells you when it’s bedtime, and when it’s time to be active.1
If you have sleep problems that disrupt your circadian rhythm or internal clock, you might notice that you’re sleepier than usual. Other issues that affect your internal clock include jet lag, or even looking at screens to close to bedtime. When your circadian rhythm is off, that can make it harder for you to concentrate during the day.2
Part of the body’s circadian rhythm includes the release of a hormone known as melatonin. It helps prepare the body for sleep by regulating the sleep-wake cycle. When the body is exposed to light at night, this can disrupt melatonin production, making it hard to get to sleep.3
What Are The Potential Risks And Effects Of Irregular Sleep And Sleep Deprivation?
If you’re having issues getting to sleep at bedtime, that can affect your mental health as well as your physical health. For example, you might find yourself feeling cranky or unable to focus after a night of poor sleep.4
If sleep problems occur on a regular basis, that can result in more serious issues, including anxiety and low mood. Studies show that people who get insufficient sleep are often mentally exhausted. These issues tend to improve when they get back to their regular sleep schedule.5
But poor sleep can do more than just make you irritable. It may also weaken your immune system, making you more susceptible to getting sick.6
Sleep Deprivation And Weight Gain
An inability to fall asleep might also eventually lead to weight gain. When you sleep, your body produces more of a hormone known as leptin. Leptin helps regulate appetite, essentially telling your brain that it’s full. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you may not have enough leptin, and you could be prone to overeating.7
Sleep also affects production of another appetite-related hormone called ghrelin. This is what stimulates your appetite. Your ghrelin levels go down while you sleep, so a lack of sleep may result in an excess amount of ghrelin. Your body thinks it needs calories through food, and it won’t burn the ones that are already there. The body stores calories as fat, so too much ghrelin may in turn increase your body’s fat content.8
Insomnia And Stress
If you feel stressed because of your work, there’s a chance you may have trouble falling asleep at night. Studies show that people who have this issue are at a higher risk for insomnia. Family problems and school-related stress can also lead to sleepless nights. Stress can put the body in a state known as “hyperarousal.” This means the body, as well as the mind, are always on alert.9
Stress-related sleep issues may cause a domino-like effect on your mental health. The less sleep you get, the more irritable and moody you may become. That only worsens your stress and anxiety.10
Other Factors That May Contribute To Insomnia
Certain medical issues may also increase the risk of insomnia. For example, you might have joint pain or breathing problems that can make it seem almost impossible to get a good night’s sleep.11
There’s also a problem known as “primary insomnia.” This is where someone has insomnia, but there’s no obvious physical or mental cause. It appears that the brain of a person with primary insomnia may sometimes be so active that it makes getting to sleep extremely difficult.12
The Dangers Of Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Another problem that may lead to sleep deprivation is obstructive sleep apnea. It occurs when your airway becomes obstructed by your palate and uvula. It’s not clear why some people have this issue while others don’t. However, overweight, middle-age males who sleep on their back appear to be at the highest risk.13
Sleep apnea can be a major problem if not properly addressed. It not only leads to daytime fatigue, but also, in some instances, severe issues affecting the cardiovascular system.14
That’s why it’s so important for people with sleep apnea to see their doctor. There are many safe, effective ways to address this issue.
Better Sleeping Habits At Bedtime: Try These Tips To Get On A Better Sleep Schedule
If you’re having difficulty sleeping, you might want to consider changing some of your lifestyle habits. For example, don’t consume alcohol or caffeine between four and six hours before bedtime. Alcohol, in particular, can really interfere with your sleep. It may cause you to awaken during the night, interrupting a normal, healthy sleep pattern.15
Another thing to try is turning your bedroom into an environment that promotes healthy sleep. Make it as dark as possible, and take whatever steps are needed to make it a quiet place as well. Wear an eye mask, and put up heavy curtains to block any sources of inside or outside light. Also, make sure your bedroom is comfortably cool when you’re ready for bed.16
Hopefully, you now have a better appreciation for just how challenging sleep deprivation can be. If you have any reason to believe a medical issue might be the culprit for your sleepless nights, talk to your doctor right away.
Proven Tips To Help You Sleep Better At Night
How to Make Yourself Fall Asleep: Easy and Practicable Ideas
14 Healthy Habits for Better Sleep: A How-To Guide