This month we continue our 3 part series on Sleep. Last time we looked at what sleep actually is and why it is important. We also delve into how much sleep is needed by and the effects of not getting enough sleep.
How much sleep do we need?
The amount of sleep you need is affected by many factors. The major one being age. This amount also increases if you were deprived of sleep the previous days. Getting too little sleep creates a “sleep debt”. Eventually your body will demand that the debt be repaid. A common myth is that people can learn to get by on little sleep with no negative effects. However, research shows that getting enough quality sleep at the right times is vital for mental health, physical health, quality of life and safety.
Age Recommended Amount of Sleep
Newborns 16-18 hours a day
Preschool aged children 11-12 hours a day
School aged childrenAt least 10 hours a day
Teens 9-10 hours a day
Adults (including the elderly) 7-8 hours a day
Some people nap as a way to deal with sleepiness. Naps may provide a short term boost in alertness and performance. However, napping doesn’t provide all the other benefits of night time sleep. Thus you can’t really make up for lost sleep.
Effects of Sleep Deprivation
If you feel drowsy during the day, you probably haven’t had enough sleep. If you routinely fall asleep within 5 minutes of lying down, you may have severe sleep deprivation, possibly even a sleep disorder. Micro sleeps are another mark of sleep deprivation.
Sleep deprivation is dangerous! Sleep deprived people have been tested using a driver stimulator or by performing hand eye coordination tasks and have performed as badly or worse than those who are intoxicated. Sleep deprivation also magnifies alcohol’s effects on the body. Driver fatigue is responsible for an estimated 100, 000 motor vehicle accidents and 1500 deaths each year.
The signs and symptoms of sleep deficiency may differ between children and adults. Adults generally slow down when sleep deprived while children are the opposite, they actually become hyperactive.
Symptoms of sleep deprivation in adults include:
The likeliness to doze off when not active for a while; for example while watching television
Grogginess when waking up in the morning
Sleep grogginess experienced all day long (sleep inertia)
Poor concentration and mood changes (irritability)
Symptoms of sleep deprivation in children
Moodiness and irritability
The tendency to emotionally ‘explode’ at the slightest provocation
Over activity and hyperactive behavior
Grogginess when they wake up in the morning
Reluctance to get up in the morning
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Personal Choice: Some people don’t realize that the body needs adequate sleep. Instead of regularly going to bed at a reasonable hour, they prefer to stay up late to socialize, watch TV or a read a book.
Illness – Illnesses such as colds and tonsillitis can cause snoring, gagging and frequent waking, and have a direct effect on sleep.
Work – People who do shift work disrupt their sleep-wake cycles on a regular basis. Frequent travellers also tend to have erratic sleeping patterns.
Sleep disorder- problems such as sleep apnoea, snoring and periodic limb movement disorder can disturb the person’s sleep many times during the night.
Medications – some drugs used to treat disorders such as epilepsy or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) can cause insomnia.
The sleeping environment – sleep may be disrupted for a range of environmental reasons; for example, because the bedroom is too hot or cold or because of noisy neighbors or a snoring bed partner.
Poor sleep hygiene – some people’s habits are disruptive; for example drinking coffee or smoking cigarettes close to bedtime stimulates the nervous system and makes sleep less likely and poorer quality. Another common problem is lying in bed and worrying, rather than relaxing.
Babies, older babies and toddlers – parents almost always experience sleep deprivation because their young children wake frequently in the night for feeding or comfort.
Sleep deficiency is linked to many chronic health problems, including heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, obesity and depression.
Studies show that sleep deficiency alters activity in some parts of the brain. If you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble making decisions, solving problems, controlling your emotions and behavior, and coping with change. Sleep deficiency also has been linked to depression, suicide and risk taking behavior.
Children and teens who are sleep deficient may have problems getting along with others.
They may feel angry and impulsive, have mood swings, feel sad or depressed, or lack motivation. They also may have problems paying attention, and they may get lower grades and feel stressed.
Sleep plays an important role in your physical health. For example, sleep is involved in healing and repair of your heart and blood vessels. Ongoing sleep deficiency is linked to an increased risk of heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke.
Sleep deficiency also increases the risk of obesity. For example, one study of teenagers showed that with each hour of sleep lost, the odds of becoming obese went up. Sleep deficiency increases the risk of obesity in other age groups as well.
Sleep helps maintain a healthy balance of the hormones that make you feel hungry (ghrelin) or full (leptin). When you don’t get enough sleep, your level of ghrelin goes up and your level of leptin goes down. This makes you feel hungrier than when you’re well rested.
Sleep also affects how your body reacts to insulin, the hormone that controls your blood glucose (sugar) level. Sleep deficiency results in a higher than normal blood sugar level, which may increase your risk for diabetes.
Sleep also supports healthy growth and development. Deep sleep triggers the body to release the hormone that promotes normal growth in children and teens. This hormone also boosts muscle mass and helps repair cells and tissue in children, teens and adults. Sleep also plays a role in puberty and fertility.
Your immune system relies on sleep to stay healthy. This system defends your body against foreign or harmful substances. Ongoing sleep deficiency can change the way in which your immune system responds. For example, if you’re sleep deficient, you may have trouble fighting common infections.
This concludes our 2nd part of “What is sleep?”. Next month we finish our sleep discussion with the final part looking at ways to get better sleep and the best position to sleep in.
As always if you have any questions on anything covered here please ask one of our practitioners.