Insomnia is when you cannot sleep; whereas, sleep deprivation is when you don't get enough sleep.
Sleep deprivation means not getting sufficient quality or quantity of sleep. The reasons could be physiological, like some medical conditions or stress; or there could be external factors like a noisy environment, demanding children or job.
Often overlooked, sleep is the first thing we cut back on, when we have to make time for something new. Most of us don't realize the effect of sleep deprivation and continue on with our lives, just shrugging the little signs off. It is easy to forget that sleep is a basic need of our body, just like breathing and eating, and even an hour of lost sleep can lead to irritability, tiredness, loss of concentration, weight gain or loss, carelessness, and impaired judgement. Severe sleep deprivation has even led to people falling off to sleep on wheels.
Sleep needs vary according to individuals, some can be dynamos with just 5 hours, while some people feel sluggish unless they get the full 10 hours. Sleep needs are rather ambiguous, so experts recommend keeping a sleep diary and note the time when you slept, got up and naps, if any, that you have taken. Also, look for these signs -
► You find it difficult to wake up.
► You feel weary and sluggish after waking up.
► You have trouble focusing.
► You are feeling drowsy during the day.
► You are feeling lethargic and cranky.
► You sleep in 5 minutes, when you hit the bed.
You can't, of course, extend the hours of the day to prevent sleep deprivation. But, what you can do is improve the quality of sleep and fall asleep faster. Implement these simple changes in your life to get better sleep.
Be socially active - Interacting with people socially and getting involved with the community is said to bring down stress.
Reach out - If something is worrying you, talk to a close friend or family member. Try not to think about the problems at night.
Take naps - A siesta of 10 to 20 minutes after lunch can make you feel revitalized. It works wonders for a shift worker or a new parent. Don't, however, nap for more than 30 min as it can interfere with nighttime sleep.
Sleep at the same time everyday - Sleeping at the same time everyday helps your body set the sleep patterns. Try to maintain this time even on weekends, and if possible, try not to sleep more than an hour later than the time you have set.
Go to bed early - If you are finding it difficult to get enough sleep, cut down on some activity. Re-prioritize and add "sleep-time" to your schedule.
Get physically active - Exercising regularly has been linked to a deeper, more vitalizing sleep. For best results, exercise 3 hours before your sleep time. A physically-demanding activity, like a game of squash, will also relieve the built-up stress.
Limit your intake of stimulants - Substances like coffee, alcohol and even nicotine stimulate the mind and might make you restless. Try to reduce their consumption, especially after 4 pm.
Avoid heavy meals at night - Have a simple dinner at least 3 hours before sleep time. If you feel hungry, have something light but filling like a banana, yogurt or a peanut butter sandwich.
Keep the thermostat down - People generally sleep better when its colder, and a room temperature of 60 to 66 degrees Fahrenheit is best for sleep. Snuggle in an extra blanket if its too cold for you.
Take a shower - Taking a shower will help you relax and bring down your body temperature.
Calm down - Avoid things that will charge you up, such as violent or disturbing books, action movies or exciting TV shows; right before sleeping.
Relax - Listen to some soft, soothing music in dim lights to unwind. This will also send a signal to your body that you are secure and safe; bringing down those anxiety levels.
Get some sunshine - Research has shown that getting some sunshine, especially during the early morning hours, positively impacts your body cycle. It will also make you feel energized.
Try CBT - Cognitive Behavior Therapy helps in recognizing and eliminating negative behavior and thoughts. It might help with relieving stress and thus, improve quality of your sleep.
It might seem a bit trivial, as the result of sleep deprivation are just tiredness and a foggy mind. But, disasters such as the Chernobyl and Three Mile Island nuclear meltdown, have been attributed to impaired judgement by sleep-deprived workers. A more realistic incident might be to fall asleep on the wheels.
Children react very differently to sleep deprivation from adults. They might become hyperactive and angry, have mood-swings, throw temper-tantrums, and misbehave. These are signs of lack of sleep. If you are worried that your child is not getting enough sleep, try these techniques to help him/her sleep longer, better and faster.
★ Establish a fixed, uncompromising bed-time and bed-time routine.
★ Try to use bedrooms only for naps and sleeping.
★ Ban electronics such as TV, computers, etc. from the bedroom.
★ Make sure their bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark. Put in a dim, night lamp, if necessary.
Sleep-deprived children have been found to struggle with grasping new information and remembering things, leading to low grades. Low energy levels, lack of motivation and confidence also affect their social life and overall performance at school.
For an adult, experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep, but this number greatly varies as per your circadian rhythm and other factors, including age. Here is a table which will give you a rough idea for people in various age groups -
|Newborns (0 to 2 months)||12 to 18 hours|
|Infants (3 to 11 months)||14 to 15 hours|
|Toddlers (1 to 3 years)||12 to 14 hours|
|Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)||11 to 13 hours|
|School-age Children (5 to 10 years)||10 to 11 hours|
|Older children and Teenagers (10 to 17 years)||8.5 to 9.25 hours|
|Adults||7 to 9 hours|
Sleep is one of the body's basic needs, and the body will not function well without getting enough of it. If you have a highly demanding job, try avoiding caffeine and instead, take a power-nap to boost your energy. In children, it can cause a decline in cognitive ability, so make strict boundaries and rules regarding bed-time.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.