Not having the right sleeping pattern does not only affect your overall health but can also disrupt your routine and productivity.
In our fast paced and extremely busy lives, most of us don’t take good care of our health. We compromise on a balanced diet, adequate exercise and most importantly, a good night’s sleep.
Sleep is just as important as food and water to a healthy body. Most of us don’t get enough sleep and this can potentially be life threatening in the long term.
Most Tanzanians don’t take sleep deprivation very seriously and don’t appreciate the importance of quality sleep time. As a result, there has been almost no significant research carried out on sleep deprivation and its adverse effects on Tanzanians in recent years.
What is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation is the lack of sufficient restorative sleep over a cumulative period. The amount of sleep a person needs varies according to age.
According to the National Sleep Foundation of the United States, newborns need 14-17 hours of sleep, toddlers need 11-14 hours, teenagers need 8-10 hours and adults need 7-9 hours a night. Getting fewer hours of sleep than what is recommended for your age group can result in being sleep deprived.
One of the main causes of sleep deprivation includes insomnia, which is simply the inability to fall asleep.
Its symptoms include excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, memory impairment and mood changes.
Another common cause is sleep apnea, which is the collapse of the upper airway during sleep, reducing airflow to the lungs.
Mental illnesses like bipolar disorder, mania and depression are also common causes. Use of cell phones and other electronic devices before sleeping can also disrupt sleep and cause insomnia.
How does it affect health?
Sleep deprivation affects almost every major part of the human body. It adversely affects the brain and cognitive function and may be linked to severe mental illnesses like psychosis and bipolar disorder in the long term.
You will also experience reduced alertness, reduced attention span, slower reaction time, impaired judgement and poor memory, concentration and retention.
Lack of sleep can also affect school performance in children and lead to depression. The condition can also increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes type 2; it increases blood pressure, causes muscle aches, impairs the immune system and may cause weight gain. The individual will generally be easily irritable, , confused and might have headaches and hallucinations.
How to deal with it?
The main way to combat sleep deprivation is to increase the number of hours of sleep you get every night.
You can get a good night’s sleep by setting regular times for going to bed and waking up.
Avoid stimulants like caffeine and alcohol prior to sleeping, avoid using electronic devices before sleeping and use earplugs and eye masks to prevent disturbance by noise and light.
Cognitive behavioural therapy, a psychological technique has been very effective in managing insomnia. If the condition persists, seeking medical advice from health professionals might be your best option. For a healthy lifestyle, a good night’s sleep should be among your top priorities every night.
The author is a medical student at Hubert Kairuki Memorial University.