You can already tell from personal experience that there is a definite link between sleep and your mood. Spending a sleepless night can cause you to feel irritable, anxious, and tired the next morning. Things only get back to normal when you turn in for the night and wake up fresh and well-rested. Even a few hours of sleep deprivation can have a significantly adverse effect on your overall mood.
The alternative is true too. When you feel anxious, stressed or disturbed, it is more difficult for you to fall asleep. Therefore, the state of your mood can also affect your sleep cycle.
You may be using your smart motorized shades and a comfortable bed, but still finding it difficult to fall asleep.
Where does the problem lie?
A few days of less sleep will probably not do you any permanent damage, especially if you make it a point to get the rest and break you deserve afterwards. But if this practice continues for longer periods of time - say for weeks or even months, then it may lead to psychiatric problems. Chronic insomnia may lead you to develop problems like anxiety disorders, panic disorders and depression. In a study conducted with 10,000 individuals, the ones who were not able to sleep were diagnosed with depression and other related mental disorders.
Again, the fact that you are not able to sleep consistently may also be a sign of some underlying mental condition. Renowned psychiatrists are of the opinion that sleep deprivation is the first symptom of mental issues like anxiety disorders and clinical depression. Studies are still being conducted to establish a definite pattern or relationship between depression and sleep, but it has been observed that almost all people with all types of anxiety disorders and depression have trouble falling asleep at night.
How does sleep deprivation affect your mind?
Doctors and scientists who study sleepiness have observed that chronic sleep deprivation leads a person to feel disoriented. People who are sleep deprived show common symptoms of irritability, fogginess and an inability to discern situations properly. There are quite a few reasons for this:
- Sleep deprivation hampers your capacity to think
- Sleep deprivation shortens your memory
- Sleep deprivation dulls your reaction to things
If you find it difficult to make any decisions when you are sleep deprived, there is a medical reason for that. Sleep deprivation has an adverse effect on your capacity to think rationally, and on your judgement facility as well. You are more unable to judge situations correctly and end up confused most of the time.
This is especially applicable for students. When you learn something, sleep basically functions to embed that knowledge in your brain. Sleep is the reason why you remember things better. However, sleep deprivation affection with this embedding, which is why you may find yourself losing memory quickly.
The most dangerous effect of sleep deprivation is that it slows down your reactions and impulses. If you are not sleeping at night, chances are that your body is shutting down at other points of the day, which makes it extremely inconvenient to focus on things.
This becomes dangerous when you are doing things like driving. While driving, you need your complete focus on the road. But when you have not had a good night’s sleep in a while, your body and mind will try to shut down, and you may feel drowsy behind the wheel. This can lead to an increased chance of accidents.
How do you know whether you are sleep deprived?
Generally, doctors prescribe 8 hours of sleep to a normal adult, but the truth is that your sleep cycle is largely dependent on you. Some people need more than 8 hours, and some can function pretty effectively on less.
The only way you can judge whether you are sleep deprived or not is by judging how you feel. You should not be groggy on drowsy when you wake up. You should wake up with an adequate amount of energy that lasts you throughout the day, and slowly wind down when it gets closer to bedtime.
If you wake up in the morning and still feel tired - and there is no medical reason for it - then chances are that you need more sleep to feel better.
How can we combat sleep deprivation?
As we have established, sleep deprivation can take a toll on your mental and physical health, and can also cause you psychological problems. It is important for you to sleep properly each day, and if you are unable to do that on your own, there are certain treatments that you can avail.
Before looking for external treatments, check if you can improve your sleep cycle yourself. You might be getting less sleep because you are working late into the night, or overthinking about something. Try to eliminate these things - go to sleep early for a few consecutive days - and see if things improve for the better.
If that does not work for you, seek help from the internet. There are sites online that guide you through developing proper sleep habits that can help you fall asleep better and get more rest than before.
If none of the above steps work, then you can talk to a medical provider. The doctor will conduct a series of examinations to determine whether your sleep deprivation is due to stress or any other condition. Accordingly, you will be guided through the process of getting more. Alternatively, you may be diagnosed with an emotional condition and can start treatment for the same to save yourself from bigger complications in the future.
You may feel that sleep deprivation is a normal thing that a lot of people suffer from, and that the problem will go away on its own, but it can point towards many underlying conditions that may be seeking diagnosis. Chronic sleep deprivation is a very serious condition, and needs immediate medical attention.