Sleep deprivation simply means lack of the necessary amount of sleep. Sleep is as important to the human body as food and water. It plays an extremely important role in maintaining mental and emotional health and also keeps the skin healthy by allowing cell re-growth and regeneration. But many of us don’t get enough sleep. The practice of cutting down on sleep to get more and more done is common among busy employees, university and college students, professionals, etc. In the beginning it seems a good idea to go without rest but with passage of time it gives birth to many minor and major disorders.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 30% of our population is sleep deprived. Studies show that people who don’t get quality sleep or enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, such as a common cold virus. Lack of sleep can also affect how fast you recover if you do get sick. During sleep, your immune system releases proteins called cytokines, some of which help promote sleep. Certain cytokines need to increase when you have an infection or inflammation, or when you’re under stress. Sleep deprivation may decrease production of these protective cytokines.
Disrupted sleep is a pervasive problem, with numerous contributing factors from lifestyle and environmental factors to psychosocial issues and iatrogenic effects. Sleep is vital to most major physiologic processes, and, as such, sleep disruption has vast potential for adverse short- and long-term health consequences in otherwise healthy individuals, as well as those with underlying medical conditions. In healthy individuals, short-term consequences include a heightened stress response; pain; depression; anxiety; and cognition, memory, and performance deficits. In adolescents and children, disrupted sleep can lead to poor school performance and behaviour problems.
Long-term consequences for otherwise healthy individuals include hypertension, dyslipidemia, weight gain, metabolic syndrome, lower fertility rates, stroke, and psychiatric disorders. There is also evidence that sleep disruption may increase the risk of certain cancers and death in males and suicidal adolescents. Long-term sleep disruption may also worsen the symptoms of a variety of gastrointestinal disorders.
So, sleep loss is no longer considered a means of productivity or success. Research has shown over and over that it’s one of the worst things we can do for ourselves. The body may not need sleep so much, but the brain sure does: a huge amount of housekeeping is done while we’re sleeping, and losing sleep, especially chronically, prevents this essential work. A research by Michigan State University was carried out on 77 people who stayed awake all night in the lab while 63 went home and slept normally. All the participants were rested before the study began, and then separated into their respective groups for one night of sleep deprivation or normal rest. The researchers gave them tests of attention (the Psychomotor Vigilance Task) and cognition. The sleep-deprived participants did conspicuously worse on the tests than the rested ones. Study author Kimberly Fenn in a statement said, “Our research showed that sleep deprivation doubles the odds of making place keeping errors and triples the number of lapses in attention, which is startling.”
The US’s National Sleep Foundation recommends following hours of sleep for different age groups. Older adults, 65 + years: 7 to 8 hours; Adults, 26 to 60 years: 7 to 9 hours; Young adults, 18 to 25 years: 7 to 9 hours; Teenagers, 14 to 17 years: 8 to 10 hours; School age children, 6 to 13 years: 10 to 13 hours; Infants, 4 to 11 months: 12 to 15 hours. Proper hours of sleep refresh or restart the body and boost the immune system to thwart any sort of pathogenic attack on body.
The bottom line is that nowadays people are not getting enough sleep. They put sleep far down on their priority list because they believe that they have other so many things to do. But they need to understand how important sleep is and how to sleep better for a healthy and happy life.
—The writer is a student at School Of Biological Sciences, University of Kashmir