Holiday time is meant for enjoying the vacations and spending some time with family and friends, but to take care of the body and heal it in a way as it desires. With the changed dynamics at the workplace (both physical and hybrid) and much on everyone’s platter, rest and sleep seems to have taken a backseat. Many of us often get the feeling that the body is craving for more rest and sleep. With so much to do on one’s mind and so much to catch up, the time to rest and sleep often gets used for other purposes, leaving one sleep deprived. Experts point out that recurrent feeling of just tired most of the time is a sign of being sleep-deprived. Being able to relate the situation that how many times in a day have you yawned and thought of just shutting down that laptop and taking a quick nap. Having that recurrent feeling and not being able to overcome it even after catching up with some sleep. Yawning is the first and foremost sign of obvious sleep deprivation, but there are other tip-offs that point towards that one is not getting adequate sleep, that could be more subtle.
Getting enough shut-eye is important, though many people swear by lack of sleep like an honour, often taking pride in pulling an all-nighter time and again or by being able to survive on five hours a night. But mind you skipping sleep shouldn’t be at any time valued as a sign of great strength or ensuring high productivity. Ensuring quality sleep is crucial for overall health and well-being. Not getting enough sleep can have harmful effects, not only personally, but also professionally.
Sleep deprivation, or not being able to get enough sleep each night, is not something that is uncommon. And now with globalised work schedules and new ways of working, the instance is just getting higher. With less than a third of the working population sleeping less than the average recommended sleep per night, six-seven hours as opposed to nine hours in case of adults.
There could be many symptoms of sleep deprivation and inadequate rest, feeling tired during the day and frequently is the obvious one. Experts suggest that one should look for sneaky signs of sleep/rest deprivation and ensure what helps one get a better shut eye.
What’s causing sleep/rest deprivation?
There are many causes of sleep/rest deprivation. The most common being the fact that one doesn’t acknowledge that there is any such deprivation. The others include:
- Restlessness: With constant thinking and not giving pause or break to the thought process often leads to feeling of restlessness and inadequate rest, despite being able to rest adequately.
- Sleep disorders: Over the years and with new age working styles, sleep disorders have increased amongst the working population. These include insomnia, sleep apnea, and restless legs syndrome and others.
- Fast Aging: With various lifestyle changes, the aging process seems to have hastened up a bit. And, mind you sleep changes with age, normally, the older the people, lesser or lighter sleep they have and for shorter periods. At times it’s due to chronic health problems, side effects of certain medications and lack of physical activity. Nowadays, many younger people are restricting physical activity.
- Prolonged illness: Sleep/rest deprivation is also not uncommon among people with certain medical problems, especially mental health issues, including depression and anxiety, that have come to fore post pandemic and many organisations are focusing on them. Chronic pain syndrome, onset of Alzheimer’s disease etc are also identified causes.
- Sudden disruptions: Shifts in one’s working schedules and sleep schedule gravely impact one’s sleep and rest cycle in a big way. These could include change in work hours, intense travelling and jet lag, and family changes. Having to practice poor sleep/rest hygiene is another fundamental factor to ensure good sleep and rest.
Tell-tale signs of sleep/rest deprivationRegular bouts of sleepiness and common daytime drowsiness are classic signs of sleep/rest deprivation. But, there are also more subtle effects of sleep/rest deprivation that one has to learn to spot.
Cognitive impact and Impairment
It has been proven over time that sleep/rest are essential for cognitive function. In short, it means sleep/rest deprivation has several negative effects on the brain. This could mean that by not being able to get enough sleep/rest, or quality sleep and rest, worsens brain function, including one’s ability to remember, concentrate and make sound decisions. Impaired cognition caused by sleep deprivation can also be dangerous. By just being able to add that extra one hour of sleep can impact one’s concentration and reaction time the next day, have a positive impact.
Unprecedented weight gain
If one is putting on those extra pounds without explanation, lack of sleep and rest could be the blame takers. When one is unable to get quality sleep and rest, the hormones get impacted. Sleep and rest deprivation disturbs the hormones that often regulate appetite and glucose breakdown, which can affect weight gain. And, at times even with the smallest disruption in sleep/rest routine can make one feel the effects. With even little disruption, sleep/rest deprivation, one feels more hungry, less full and experiences more cravings for calorie-dense foods that are high in sugars and fats. Importantly, sleep/rest deprivation can negatively impact how body stores fat from food. It has been found that people who experienced just four nights of inadequate sleep retained less fat in their bloodstreams after a meal. Simply put, when one is sleep/rest deprived, the body stores more fat. And this could have consequences for the number on the scale.
Sudden mood changes are not uncommon these days. Many times one tends to say, ‘Someone woke up on the wrong side of the bed.’ This expression is commonly used to describe when a person is grumpy or in a bad mood, and till an extent it holds true. It’s primarily because sleep and rest are essential to health, including mental health. Indeed, they play a pivotal role in certain brain functions that regulate emotions and behaviours. So, when one lacks them, one is more likely to experience mood swings or feel depressed, anxious or irritable. At times it can also ramp up negative emotional responses, reduce our ability to cope with mildest of the stress factors and diminish positive emotions. When one feels down or stressed, one tends to sleep even worse, so the problem perpetuates and can create a vicious cycle.
Reduced immunity and ability to fight off infections
At a time and era, when immunity has been a concern, and everyone wants to be healthy and fight off any virus. Sleep and rest deprivation might also make one sick. That’s primarily because during sleep, one’s body recharges and repairs itself. Lack of sleep and rest affects one’s immune system. During sleep, the body produces an increased number of cytokines (proteins) that create an inflammatory response, which help one recover when sick, fight infection etc. People who sleep and rest less than six hours per night are more susceptible to getting sick with the common cold. Similarly, sleep deprivation can also affect the body’s ability to build ample antibody response to vaccinations. Not only can inadequate sleep interfere with one’s immune system’s capacity to fend off infection in the short term, but a chronic lack of sleep is also linked to long-term health problems such as heart disease, kidney disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and obesity.
Guide to healthy sleep and rest practices
Here are some healthy habits to start forming for better sleep and rest that experts suggest:
- Stick to a schedule: Go to sleep and wake up around the same time every day, even on weekends and vacations. Take rest around the same time and for monitored durations. This helps the body follow the clock and produce positive results.
- Create a good environment: Having the right environment for sleep and rest is important. Turn down the lights, avoid loud sounds and keep the room at a comfortable temperature, try everything that soothes and calms down the body.
- Exercise is key: One must exercise everyday. Staying active is important, but one should try and avoid exercising during the hours right before bed. These can inversely impact the sleep and rest cycle.
- Relax before going to bed: Being in a state that can assist in good sleep and rest is imperative. Take a warm bath, read or do something that is relaxing, like meditation or listening to soothing music can help.
- Avoid stimulators: Don’t consume caffeine, nicotine and alcohol late in the day, as these substances can interfere with your ability to fall and stay asleep.
- Stay away from daytime napping: Yes, you read it right, daytime nap is avoidable. But if one is feeling sleepy or tired, a short nap (ideally less than 30 minutes) is doable. But avoidable after 3 p.m as it can impact the night sleep and rest cycle.
- Avoid electronics right before bed: Electronics, such as your phone or tablet, can interfere with your body’s production of melatonin, a hormone that helps one feel tired.
So, this vacation season catch up with your sleep and rest, follow the cycle and get rejuvenated for the year ahead. Stay healthy, stay happy!
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