How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Body and Brain

How Sleep Deprivation Impacts Your Body and Brain

Sleep is a crucial body function needed for mental and physical well-being. The quantity of sleep required decreases with age as one gets older. For example, an older person may need fewer hours of sleep, whereas an infant may sleep up to 18-20 hours. Insomnia is defined as a lack of recommended 7 to 8 hours of undisturbed sleep (for an adult), which can be due to trouble falling or staying asleep.  

Leptin and ghrelin, the hormones that govern appetite and fullness are influenced by sleep. Limit of eating is conveyed by the Leptin hormone. Without sufficient sleep, the brain produces less leptin and more ghrelin, a hunger motivator. This is why many people snack at night. Sleep loss is also linked to insulin resistance, as it reduces the body's glucose tolerance. There can eventually lead to diabetes mellitus and obesity.

Sleep deprivation has long-term impacts on physical and mental health, with associated conditions ranging from weakened immunity system to weight gain. Long-term sleep deprivation may raise the risk of chronic illnesses like diabetes, stroke, and heart disease.

Causes of sleep deprivation:

Sleep problems can be caused by mental or physical health problems. In addition, sleep deprivation can also be caused by an un-favourable bedroom environment, such as unpleasant sound levels, extreme temperature or poor lighting. Excessive consumption of stimulants such as coffee, smoking, and alcohol consumption can all disrupt sleep. Insomnia can be caused by a variety of mental health problems, including depression, substance abuse and anxiety.

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is a nighttime respiratory condition that can disrupt sleep and reduce sleep quality. It is a common condition that mostly affects overweight individuals. Loud snoring and excessive daytime drowsiness are common symptoms.

Common symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Excessive daytime drowsiness
  • Yawning frequently
  • restlessness, lack of attentiveness
  • daytime weariness
  • increased accidents

Treatment of sleep deprivation:

Sleep study is an important clinical technique that can be conducted at home to help understand the root cause of a sleep disorder. The following treatment will vary, depending on the cause

Sleep hygiene is a key part of therapy, and most of these are simple, but extremely effective self-help techniques.

  • Avoid daytime naps
  • Avoid caffeine after 4 pm
  • Maintain a nighttime schedule by sleeping at the same time
  • Make sure the bedroom setting is comfortable to sleep
  • Stick to your nighttime schedule on weekends and holidays; spend an hour before bed doing calming activities such as reading, meditation, or listening to soothing music
  • Avoid large meals within a few hours before going to bed
  • Limit your use of electronic gadgets before night
  • Exercise on a regular basis, but not three hours before night
  • Limit your alcohol consumption

If the above treatments fail to resolve the sleep problem, a combination of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) and a short course of medication is proposed. The medication used will be determined by the underlying cause of sleep deprivation. Mental health issues may arise from long term dependence on sleeping pills and sedatives, which may also have a negative impact on sleep.  

The above article has been contributed by  Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Parel, Mumbai. All views and suggestions that are contributed are his own and Mumbai Live may or may not agree with these views. 

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