A study published in November in the journal JAMA found that nearly half of American adults are sleep deprived. This is caused by lack of sleep or poor quality sleep. Most adults need 7-8 hours of good quality sleep per night for good health.
Lack of sleep can lead to fatigue, tiredness, and lightheadedness. But that’s not all. Studies show that lack of sleep negatively impacts almost every bodily function. Lack of sleep leads to significant changes in cognitive function, with reported difficulties in short-term memory, learning, attention, reaction, and decision-making, to name a few. , is also associated with decreased libido.
These problems can negatively affect quality of life and relationships, and can increase the risk of accidents. The negative effects of sleep deprivation on performance and function are much the same as being under the influence of alcohol.
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Lack of sleep can also have physical effects that impair the immune system, exercise endurance, and metabolism. Studies show that people who don’t get enough sleep may have more difficulty controlling their diabetes and weight.
One to two nights of sleep deprivation can be managed without serious health consequences.
As a sleep doctor, here are some tips for getting through the day after a sleep-deprived night.
Any sleep is better than no sleep. Take short naps if possible. A 15- to 20-minute nap will boost your mood while avoiding the “sleep drunkenness” that occurs after a long nap, especially if you need to perform a specific task right after your nap.
If you can’t take a nap, strategically timed caffeine or energy drinks (but not overdosing) can improve your performance. I say “strategic” because if taken at the wrong time, such as late at night, these stimulants will interfere with sleep later on. cannot replace sleep.
Do not use other substances to maintain alertness unless prescribed by a professional. Many of these substances, such as amphetamines and other stimulants, are addictive and can cause more harm if not given under controlled and supervised circumstances.
Allow extra time to recover after sleep deprivation. Remember, you may need a full night or more of sleep to fully recover.
Adopt good sleep habits to avoid chronic sleep deprivation: avoid late meals, limit light, screen time, and excitement before bed. If you continue to experience excessive sleepiness and sleep deprivation despite having a good sleep habit, you may have a sleep disorder and should seek professional help.
Bottom Line: The quality of sleep is just as important as the amount of sleep.
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Talk to your healthcare provider if you can’t shake off the drowsiness or have a restful night’s sleep. Sleep apnea, restless leg syndrome, insomnia, or other medical and psychiatric conditions that interfere with sleep and require treatment.
Wissam Chatila is a pulmonologist specializing in sleep medicine at the Temple Lung Center and professor of thoracic medicine and surgery at Temple University’s Lewis Katz School of Medicine.