Sleep Deprivation and How to Overcome It
Sleep is a naturally occurring condition of the body and mind, characterized by decreased awareness, relatively decreased sensory activity, decreased muscle activity and low concentration during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep, and decreased interactions with outside environment during deep sleep. Sleep is important for maintaining psychological well-being, reducing stress and improving memory and mood. Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on the body and brain, including disrupting the normal circadian rhythm of the body and reducing the effectiveness of the immune system. Sleep is also an important physiological process during the development of the newborn baby, and in adults it helps to reduce the suffering and death rates of many illnesses. Lack of sleep has recently been linked to obesity, depression, and various diseases and syndromes such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Although most people get enough sleep, the amount and quality of sleep can be greatly improved through certain techniques and treatments.
The first step in improving sleep quality and duration is to identify what stages of sleep are most crucial for your health. At the most basic level, four stages of sleep exist and are characterized by different sleep hygiene and arousal strategies. Stage 1 sleep is the deepest stage, when the brain is in the REM (rapid eye movement) stage and most active. Stage 2 sleep is the waking stage of sleep, associated with waking thoughts and a refreshed mental outlook, but still in the REM stage. Stage 3 is the slowest stage of sleep and occurs during the non-REM period and is accompanied by elevated daytime sleepiness and a decreased risk of becoming dependent upon alcohol or other stimulants to maintain alertness.
As the train approaches the fourth stage of sleep, the sleep centers become hyper-responsive and the efficiency of the brain declines slightly. This does not impair brain functioning, but rather, it allows the mind to work harder at problem solving and cognitive tasks. During the REM stage of sleep, the body releases chemicals that make us wake up from sleep. Some of these chemicals occur naturally while others are released through the use of certain drugs or by physical means such as getting up out of bed in the morning and moving our bodies.
REM sleep is most important for maintaining cognitive performance and memory. However, the release of chemicals during REM sleep can also result in changes in hormone levels such as those related to melatonin and adrenaline. These changes can impair the brain’s ability to think and function correctly during the waking hours. Some of the more severe side effects of this condition include depression, irritability, dizziness, insomnia, decreased libido, sexual problems and even seizures. If you experience one or more of these symptoms and are taking medications for any of these conditions, discontinuing the use of the medication immediately may improve your sleep.
The process of getting enough sleep and maintaining a healthy level of sleep during the night requires that certain lifestyle changes are made. First, it is important to get enough sleep on a regular basis. Many people experience difficulty sleeping due to a busy lifestyle, lack of relaxation time, stress, insufficient amounts of sleep and too little exercise. In order to sleep well, it is important to avoid being in situations that cause you stress, such as working too hard at the job, worrying about school or family, or having social gatherings. Being active in all areas of life helps alleviate stress.
Exercising regularly also helps alleviate stress, improves mood and boosts your energy. The combination of regular exercise and proper diet helps you maintain a healthy weight and feel better overall. These practices may not be easy to incorporate into your daily routine, but they are important elements in maintaining good sleep habits. The effects of sleep deprivation can often be more serious than you think if you ignore these simple, yet highly recommended, steps.