What You Should Know About Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation effects millions of adults each day, with ever increasing numbers. Whether it’s from insomnia, sleep apnea, Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS), or another sleep disorder, the danger of sleep deprivation is undeniable, manifesting in both minor and major ways and creating problems for your work, school, and day-to-day activities.

When your body does not get the right amount of sleep, it cannot do all that you need and want it to do effectively. When this happens over a period of time, the risks are increased considerably. Consider what happens to the body, for example, in a person that is suffering from sleep deprivation.
  • The brain doesn’t get enough rest. This in turn affects the frontal cortex. The frontal cortex
    can’t do its job.
  • Without it functioning properly, the frontal cortex can not aid you in speaking clearly, in
    accessing your memory, and in solving the problems that you present it with.
  • On the physical side, there is a problem with energy. The body does not provide enough
    energy to the body to perform tasks.
  • Without the sleep it needs, the body physically becomes that of an elderly person.
    Movement is limited and weakened.
  • Early signs of disease including diabetes begin to surface. That’s become the body can not
    metabolize glucose correctly.
What is important for you to realize is that when a person rests even when some or all of these symptoms and effects are evident, the end result is that they can go away. When this goes on over a long period of time, though, the body continues to weaken and often is put at risk both in health terms as well as in terms of physical danger.

Those that face sleep deprivation shouldn’t just write it off as being something that just requires rest. You shouldn’t say that one day you’ll rest. The longer it goes on, the worse the effect on the body can be. Driving, using machines, or just working in a physical environment can pose as life threatening.
Proper sleep is a vital component to being healthy and it needs to be treated with the same concern and care that your other health care issues receive. The consequences of ignoring your sleep deprivation could be harmful to yourself or another person, depending on the circumstances.

Identify Your Sleep Disorder

One of the challenges of treating a sleep disorder is first recognizing that you have one. Many of us shrug off the symptoms, refusing to treat them as anything serious. In some cases, we may tell ourselves “get more sleep,” but this is easier said than done.

To be successful, you need to make a concerted effort to fix the mounting problem: a lack of sleep. If not, then the only thing that will pass is time. Here’s a quick primer of common sleep disorders to give you a head start on identifying your sleep deprivation issues:

Insomnia: A common sleep disorder that’s defined by sleepless nights. You may have difficulty getting to sleep and/or staying asleep and as a result, you often wake up feeling tired. Fatigue is a warning sign, which can lead to irritability, drowsiness, and daytime sleepiness.

Sleep Apnea: Though there are three types of sleep apnea, the most common is “obstructive sleep apnea,” which occurs when enough air isn’t able to get through your mouth/nose and into the lungs.

As a result, your breathing will grow shallow and in some cases, cease completely – at least for a few seconds. This tells your body to re-trigger the breathing process, so you may snort, cough, or snore.

You’ll resume sleeping, but it’s been interrupted, so the quality isn’t there and you’ll begin seeing signs of sleep deprivation. Not everyone who snores suffers from sleep apnea.

Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS): If you suffer from RLS, you’re literally unable to rest your legs, just as the name implies. For a number of reasons including a burning, crawling, or tingling sensation – you may feel the need to attend to your legs. By moving them, the sensation is addressed, but the result is a restless sleep.

Periodic Limb Movement Disorder (PLMD): Similar to RLS, if you have PLMD, then you move often during sleep. However, unlike RLS, the movement is involuntary. The limbs move periodically in twitches or jerks.

This usually takes place in the legs, but for some, the arms are also affected. These movements – though you may be unaware of them – lead to a restless sleep. Upon waking up, the deprivation is apparent through the moodiness, fatigue, or drowsiness that you feel.

Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS): If you’re suffering from DSPS, it seems as if your circadian rhythm (an internal 24-hour cycle) is off by half a day, and you’re unable to sleep during nighttime hours. As a result, you need to sleep during the day, which can seriously interfere with your lifestyle from work to quality time spent with the family.

Narcolepsy: A dangerous disorder defined by excessive sleepiness during the daytime, as well as periods when the body’s muscles are weakened into a state of cataplexy. You’re at risk when you’re doing everyday tasks, like driving a car from Point A to Point B, since a narcoleptic attack could occur at any time.

In addition to these sleep impairments, there are also others such as snoring, seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.), night terrors, and sleepwalking. All of them can lead to sleep deprivation and each is sure to have a physical, mental, or emotional impact on your life.
It’s important that if a sleep disorder is present, that you identify and address it quickly. You may have to try different methods to find a solution that works best for you.

What is Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS)

Restless Legs Syndrome (RLS) is a fairly common condition that causes uncomfortable sensations in the legs and affects up to 10% of American adults. Symptoms of RLS may be present all day long, making it difficult for an individual to sit motionless. Or they may be present only in the late evening. Late evening symptoms can lead to sleep onset insomnia, which tends to compound the effects of RLS.

RLS can affect both sexes, although women tend to be affected more often than men. The condition is also more common in older people, and the symptoms tend to get worse and more persistent as a person gets older.

If the symptoms of RLS are very mild, no treatment will be necessary. In cases where RLS is more troublesome, simple lifestyle changes can often help to ease the symptoms. For severe RLS, a combination of lifestyle changes and medication is often recommended.

Here are some facts about Restless Legs Syndrome along with some helpful information on how to treat it if you suspect one of these may be the root cause of your sleep deprivation:

Restless Leg Syndrome is a sleep disorder where your legs are so uncomfortable that you want to move them to make them feel better. Moving the legs makes the feeling go away, but it returns once you try to relax and fall asleep again.

You’ll know if you have Restless Leg Syndrome if you notice a sudden urge to move your legs because they feel jittery, like they’re burning, or as if something’s crawling on them. It will occur when you’re sitting or lying down. If you move your legs and it feels better, it’s assign you might have RLS.

Some people can simply stretch out or change positions in bed, while others have to get up and walk around. There’s no known cause for RLS, but the disorder often runs in families. Scientists are honing in on the chemical dopamine, since it’s what manages your muscle movements.

Controlling RLS may be as simple as controlling your stress, which appears to worsen the symptoms. A doctor can diagnose RLS through a series of questions, but there’s no simple test to confirm it.
To treat it, you’ll want to make sure you have your doctor check to see if you’re suffering from an iron deficiency, because many RLS sufferers have found that their symptoms disappeared after their iron levels were brought back to normal.

Your doctor may prescribe medications similar to what Parkinson’s or epilepsy patients receive. Or, he may recommend a simple muscle relaxant. Lifestyle changes will also be in order, such as cutting back on stimulants like caffeine.

You can help curb the tendency to move your legs by using hot and cold packs, pain relievers, or a warm bath. Meditation, Yoga, a relaxing environment, and exercise also contribute to the elimination of RLS symptoms.

Is Fatigue the Cause of Nacrolepsy?

Chronic sleep disorders can be paralyzing, depending on their severity. Narcolepsy is one of the most damaging sleep disorders because it strikes without warning, sending you into a sudden state of sleep. Narcoleptics can fall asleep while working, cooking, or even driving during the day without warning. Even if you get plenty of sleep at night, you still fall asleep during daylight hours.

Narcolepsy sometimes gets misdiagnosed as everyday depression, fainting, or seizures. There’s no known cure, but there are ways to manage this particular sleep disorder and lessen the symptoms you experience.

It can be humiliating to fall asleep when it’s not the right time or place, and many who suffer from narcolepsy enroll in counseling to help them cope with the sleep disorder and how it affects their life with friends, family, and co-workers.

This is a very real medical disorder. If the condition worsens, it can interfere with your job, driving, social life and severely limit your normal activities. Common symptoms of narcolepsy are:
  • Falling asleep one or more times during the day, even if you had enough sleep at night.
  • You suddenly feel like your legs won’t support you. The feeling is one of fatigue not fainting – and you are aware of the weakness that overcomes you
  • You can’t avoid falling asleep even when you’re doing things you enjoy like spending time with family and friends, participating in a sport, enjoying a hobby or attending a special event that you really wanted to attend.
It’s important not to ignore this sleep disorder because it can have potentially harmful consequences. Aside from affecting your personal and professional relationships, narcoleptics run the risk of wrecking their cards while driving or causing a fire in their home, such as when they fall asleep in the middle of cooking with hot oil and grease.

No one really knows what causes narcolepsy, but scientists believe it may be genetics coupled with uncommon brain chemicals that respond to triggers in your environment. They think narcoleptics may have imbalances in the chemicals that regulate sleep, such as a low level of hypocretin, which tells you when to wake up – and stay awake.

If you think you may have narcolepsy, then your doctor will conduct a series of tests to find out if it’s true. You’ll fill out a standard sleep questionnaire and may enroll in an overnight sleep study where they place electrodes on your scalp to monitor your sleep cycles.

If you’re found to have narcolepsy, then you have several treatment options to consider. Everyday stimulants may not be enough to keep you awake, so your doctor might prescribe something stronger, like Provigil.

You also have to be very cautious about making lifestyle changes that can help you control this disorder. Make sure you read labels on medications to see if they cause drowsiness. Simple things, such as making a schedule that includes naps, exercising, and avoiding substances like nicotine and alcohol can curb the effects of narcolepsy.

Don’t feel like narcolepsy has to control your life. Talk to others about what you’re going through and adhere to a safe routine that ensures you won’t harm yourself (or others) if a sudden sleep attack should occur.

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