Sleep deficit is a common event in the life of most people, there is rarely anyone who at one time or the other have not missed the expected sleeping hours per day and this may be due to so many reasons that are serious or frivolous. Sleep deficit may be due to such reasons as; job schedule, a spillover assignment, a party and a favorite TV episode that ran late into the night.
If sleep debts are to be like bank loans, obviously so many of us would have been classified as bad sleep debtors while the chronic cases would have been liable to foreclosure. However, just like in the business world, the most honorable thing to do is to redeem your credibility and payback on your sleep debts.
Medical practitioners have estimated that average adult requires seven to nine hours of sleep while children are estimated to sleep 13-14 hours per day. When you consistently violate the required sleeping hours that will give your body adequate rest, you are more or less breaching the law of nature that comes with appropriate consequences.
The consequences may not be immediate but the longer-term impact of it on your performances, health, and finances may grow from mild to worse.
Sleep deficit or debt (deprivation) is the difference between the amount of sleep you need to be healthy and the amount you are actually getting.
…..a Public Health issue
The US Centre of Disease and Control (CDC), already labelled sleep debt as a serious public health issue due to the size of the population it affects in the US. A third of Americans (33.3%) is estimated to suffer from inadequate sleep with more prevalence in women than men. According to Havard health publication, over 60% of women suffer from sleep deficit.
The National safety council estimated that up to 76% of Americans complained of been tired at work, no wonder the growing demand and push towards “work from home”.
Sleep debt when not addressed early can initially delude you of its seriousness because of the ability of the human body to stretch itself to adjust and accommodate some negative circumstances, however, the potential adverse impact on your health crystallizes when there is no immediate reversal of the sleep loss condition.
A temporary control of the situation through the intake of coffee, tea, and energy drinks cannot be a lasting solution. Increasing accumulation of sleep debt affects the body as if the victim had taken beer with traces of instability and tipsiness.
How does it feel or signs of inadequate sleep
Chronic sleep loss is characterized by increased fatigue, sluggishness at work, errors, fuzzy and suspended feelings in the brain, absenteeism, and accident. Your concentration becomes poor while you struggle to remember issues clearly, the sharpness of your vision becomes questionable while your driving skills become impaired and may terminate in fatalities. These feelings or symptoms are red lights that you are burning the candle at both ends and you may soon end up with serious health challenges like; obesity, heart diseases, and stroke.
Circle of Influence
Sleep debt is most common with professions and work schedule that entertains shift work system such as; doctors and nurses, pilots, construction workers, police officers, customer service representatives, restaurants, clubhouses and commercial drivers. Private security guards, warehouse workers are also not left out.
Can I pay-back on my own terms at my own time?
The complexity and the impact of sleep loss on the human body is an ongoing subject of interest to so many sleep researchers. It has been discovered that when there is persistence shortfall of sleep, the body systems are distorted, getting extra sleeping hours over a weekend may not restore normalcy to the body system.
When sleep losses occur over a short time interval, like within 48 hours period, it is generally agreed industry wide that it can easily be paid-off with targeted sleep-in period.
However, when it becomes longer than a short-term period, it becomes injurious to your health. According to Ellen Wermter, a family nurse practitioner with Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine, the genetic uniqueness of everyone determines their body responses to sleep loss, she further said, men, recovers much well than women from sleep loss. Hence, if you are thinking of turning back the hand of your body clock by sleep-in on weekends when sleep loss occurs, this may be an exercise in futility. I will suggest you adopt the popular saying that prevention/avoidance is better than cure.
Health hazard of Sleep deficit
We have discussed how sleep debt feels when you begin to accumulate sleep debt, what you should understand is that there are grave dangers to your health when you consistently accumulate sleep debt. Change the mindset that you will clear the debt by sleeping-in on a Sunday. The damage would have been done to your biological system.
Jamie Logie, a certified health, and wellness specialist said that sleep losses increases your stress hormone and negatively impact on how the body can break down sugar by becoming insulin resistant. Sleep losses trigger elevated stress condition within the nervous system and create hormonal imbalances that can lead to several related health challenges such as, hypertension, obesity, ulcers, cognitive difficulties, and immune deficiencies that exposes the body to infection, disease, and cancer.
Tips on overcoming Sleep debt
We have established the fact that total recovery to body system may not be possible for victims of accumulated sleep deficits. However, if it has happened, do not recklessly abandon yourselves to the consequences, you may consider the suggestions below;
Acknowledge sleep as being important to you same way you adore food, dieting, exercising and working.
Make a deliberate plan to unwind the schedule that has been causing you sleep losses and plan to pay down on your sleep debts by sleeping additional hours on weekends and adding one or two more hours during the week. Your vacations or time off work can also be used to clear accumulated sleep losses.
Plan a new lifestyle schedule that factors inadequate sleeping hours.
Restructure your biological clock by being consistent in the timing of your retiring to bed and waking up.
Review the ambience of your sleeping room to maintain a comfortable room ambience that will ensure a cool atmosphere that will accelerate the rate of getting to sleep quicker. A hot or warm room exerts more pressure on the body to adjust itself within the room temperature.
Ensure that you moderate lights and reflections. It is recommended that you maintain a dark room which helps in the stimulation of melatonin, a hormone required for deep restful sleep. If the bedroom is not dark enough, you can also wear an eye mask.
Put off electronic gadgets, television, sound systems, phone etc at least 1-2 hours before bed. The blue or other coloured light from electronic gadgets can unsettle your time to sleep.
Restrict stimulant intake in the form of caffeine, energy drinks and alcohol. Caffeine drinks will keep you up long into the night and lodges in your bloodstream for hours. Alcohol might send you to sleep but not deep or restorative sleep. Do yourself a world of good and stop the intake of stimulants much earlier before bedtime.
Sleep may not be numbered among the three basic need of human beings, but we know that we cannot do without it. We just need to get back to the fundamentals such as maintaining a regular sleep schedule, eat healthy food, manage stress and exercise regularly.
You should also have a conversation with a specialist or visit sleep centres across the country to determine if the cause of your sleeplessness is due to lifestyle or a medical condition caused by medically related to conditions such as depression or sleep apnea (the condition in which breathing pauses during sleep).
Sleeplessness in women is characterized by difficulty in having quality, timely and deep sleep. This condition otherwise called insomnia can negatively affect the state of your physical, emotional and mental health (see sleep disorder).
A good sleeping pattern improve concentration and memory development, it refreshes the immune system and helps repair cell damage, which helps to prevent diseases.
Sleeplessness is a national problem that requires everyone’s attention, it afflicts over 70 million Americans costing billions in healthcare. The American Psychiatric Association estimated that 10-20 percent of people complain of significant sleep problems while other statistics also show that more women suffer insomnia than men.
It is now a known fact that younger women generally have better sleep compared to older women whose sleeping pattern come under pressure due to some critical factors discussed below.
Six key causes of Sleeplessness in Women
The various root causes of sleeplessness are evolving and still on the count, however, it is more certain that every woman will experience insomnia at one stage of their life or the other.
This blog will only discuss a selected few among the many causes of sleeplessness in women.
1) Anxiety and Depression
Anxiety disorders represent the most common and pervasive mental disorders in the United States.
According to the Anxiety and Depression association of America (AADA), women account for almost twice of the diagnosed cases of anxiety disorder when compared to men in their lifetime. In the past year, prevalence of any anxiety disorder was higher for females (23.4%) than for males (14.3%).
An anxiety that is not addressed over a period can degenerate to depression, this observation most time is due to our social structure that places more burden on women, particularly in cases of divorce and child custody.
An example is a single working mom with kids, she has a lot to chew from worries about her kids, her office and her future; getting to bed early or resting well may not be an easy norm for such a mom.
The growth cycle of a woman’s life, starting from adolescence through old age comes with hormonal shifts that impinge on a woman’s sleeping pattern. The observed hormonal changes and imbalances reverberate through monthly menstrual shifts, pregnancy, peri-menopause, menopause, and post-menopausal stages.
These hormonal changes are temporary just as the stages are in phases, women should, therefore, embrace proper sleep hygiene to overcome sleeplessness or insomnia that may occur.
- Menstruation (Menstrual Insomnia)
There are two hormones that come into play during this period, one is estrogen that keeps you alert and progesterone that makes you sleepy. As the levels of estrogen decrease during menstruation, the progesterone induces sleepiness. The ovulation period is also characterized by rising progesterone which also make you feel sleepy.
Hence, the menstrual period is characterized by very low hormone levels and many women during their periods complain of sleepiness. Some women are hit most by insomnia during the pre-menstrual periods while others have the same challenges within the menstrual period.
- During Pregnancy
- Post-pregnancy Sleeplessness after the birth of a baby
Sleeplessness or Insomnia during pregnancy is not a strange development, however, it becomes more noticeable during the second and third trimesters as more pregnancy symptoms manifest and the belly of the expectant mom becomes protruding which make settling down in bed uncomfortable.
Do not panic and make effort to reduce your worry level in order not to worsen the situation when it occurs, it is a fact that sleeplessness often occurs during pregnancy.
The sleeplessness is due to hormone imbalances i.e. changes in the level of progesterone as the baby grows or it may be due to a historical extension of your sleeplessness if you have had it before.
Your sleeplessness may also escalate due to the growing baby pushing heavily on your uterus, thereby crystallizing more bathroom trips, heart burns due to reduced digestion, leg cramps, intensifying internal activity leading to elevated body temperature, the positioning of the baby and some unfathomable fears.
Nursing mothers are very sensitive to the wriggling, crying or any kind of noise or posture by their baby.
These readily cause them to wake-up culminating into a longer period of sleeplessness. Thus, younger women or women that have since wean their children often have better sleep than women who have infants with them.
Menopause marks an important transition in reproductive states in women and is defined by termination of menses and problems in maintaining sleep. It starts around the ages of 40 to 55 and it is characterized by hot flashes (HFs).
According to Bakers FC et al., HF is a sensation of heat, sweating, flashing, anxiety, and chills lasting between 3 and 10 min and is primarily a thermoregulatory phenomenon with characteristics of a heat dissipation response which often ease after a woman reaches post-menopause.
These changes are due to an oscillating hormonal effect of estrogen and progesterone levels in the body which actually wake the brain during sleep.
- Sleep disturbances remain a major complaint of women transitioning from menopause to post-menopause stage. Though the oscillation or surging of the hormones stops, sleeplessness may still persist. At this stage, a woman may have low thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) leading to an increase in weight and elevated risk of Sleep Apnea or snoring due to a disrupted breathing pathway.
In order to moderate sleeplessness or insomnia in women, it is important that you sleep relaxed, in a comfortable and well-ventilated room devoid of distractions such as noise, spiking bright light, elevated temperature, sudden phone ring and repetitive alarm noise.
It is important to adjust your lifestyle and embrace a positive lifestyle strategy particularly for those that are into alcoholism, smoking, caffeine and other high toxin products. You can suspend these during this period and possibly stop it.
In as much that you did not have a problem with insomnia before pregnancy and menopause, there is the likely possibility that after menopause, your sleep pattern will be restored to a very high degree of the pre-menopause period. Aging will definitely affect your sleeping behavior.
Further to the precautions stated above to moderate the impact of insomnia, you can also ensure that you clear your persistent worries and talk it out with your friends/partner before bedtime. Take dinner early to prevent constipation and heart burns on a bumpy tummy if you are pregnant.
Late intake of liquid can increase your bathroom runs in the night so take sufficient liquid early in the evening.
A bedtime schedule will also condition your body to a steady sleep timeline.
Also, power off all your electronic gadgets like phone, I-pad, e-reader, TV, speakers, laptop or other electronic devices before bed. The glittering light from these devices can increase alertness and distract smooth sleep.
Medical practitioners have also established that light from screens can impinge the activity of body melatonin, the hormone that regulates your internal clock and sleep cycle.
Whatever the case may be, speak with your medical doctor for more counsel and treatment.