Expert Insights from Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernández, MD, FCCP, a lung health specialist at PCSI, the largest integrated pulmonary and chest specialty group in Palm Beach County.
According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly one in three people are not getting enough sleep each night. That equates to more than 40 million people whose sleep quality is severely suffering.
You may not believe that a loss of sleep can be severe, but if an individual is chronically sleep-deprived – they can be at risk for serious short-term and long-term health complications.
What is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is a condition that occurs when a person isn’t getting the necessary amount of sleep each night in order to feel rested and functional throughout the day.
The amount of sleep each person requires in order to function is highly individualized but when a person isn’t getting their desired amount each night, a sleep debt begins to accumulate.
The amount of sleep debt a person experiences before becoming vulnerable to the effects of sleep deprivation is contingent on a variety of factors. Typically, older adults are less prone to sleep deprivation while children and young adults are more susceptible to it.
The effects of severe sleep loss can decrease a person’s overall quality of life and cause difficulties in a person’s ability to function every day.
Causes of Sleep Deprivation
Sleep deprivation has a variety of causes—some are within a person’s control and others are not.
When a person voluntarily deprives oneself of sleep on a regular basis, this is known as Behaviorally Induced Insufficient Sleep Syndrome, which is a form of hypersomnia.
It must happen on an almost daily basis for three months or longer at a time in order to qualify as hypersomnia. A person may also become sleep-deprived due to an involuntary sleep disorder or physical/mental medical issue.
Alternative sleeping schedules can also lead to sleep deprivation. Because of this, shift workers are highly susceptible to experiencing sleep deprivation and the sleep disorders associated with it.
However, shift workers aren’t the only ones at risk. Consistently being woken up in the middle of the night for any reason could contribute to the issue. Personal obligations that restrict the amount of time a person is able to sleep, such as taking care of family members or providing home care for someone who is sick, can have an adverse effect on someone’s sleeping schedule.
Those who are at the highest risk for sleep deprivation include teenagers, caregivers, military personnel, shift workers, those who suffer from sleep disorders, and those with various medical conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease that cause sleep difficulties.
Treatment for Sleep Deprivation
“Sleep deprivation can be treated with a variety of methods including lifestyle modifications and even medications in select cases,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández.
There are a variety of therapeutic interventions that have been found to be viable treatment options for sleep deprivation. These include fixing your sleep hygiene, practicing relaxation techniques, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and stimulation control.
How to Prevent Sleep Deprivation
There are a variety of actions a person can take to help prevent sleep deprivation before it begins.
The first step is ensuring that a sleep debt isn’t accumulated. If you do lose sleep for a day or two, it’s important that you pay it off as soon as possible.
If you don’t make it up soon, that time is forever lost and can contribute to symptoms of sleep deprivation.
“To prevent sleep deprivation, maintain healthy sleep hygiene habits,” says Dr. Peña-Hernández. “Keep up with a regular sleep schedule being sure to get at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night. I also recommend patients getting regular exercise and maintaining a healthy diet to protect their sleep health.”
Getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet are important components toward being able to sleep throughout the night on a regular basis. It may also help to invest in new sleeping tools (like getting the best mattress, best sheets, and best pillows) that are designed to cater specifically to your unique sleeping position and preferences.
Are you tired of feeling exhausted and without energy during the day due to lack of sleep? Don’t wait any longer to fix it!
Lung MD and expert Dr. Luis Javier Peña-Hernandez can help you treat and prevent sleep deprivation. Learn about the causes, treatments and preventive measures for a healthier and more restful life.