If you are a teenager or older, then you most likely know the perpetual never ending love-hate relationship we all experience with sleep. The constant battle to get enough sleep every day is something we are all well versed in. A study shows that 93% of the Indians are sleep deprived and electronics had a part to play. There may be a multitude of reasons for sleep deprivation, having to get up travel long distances every day for your work and losing sleep as a result, using your electronics more than the healthy amount, preparing for your board exams, to finish up your project that you have been procrastinating, watching just one more episode of the season etc. Whatever the reason, it is time to face the fact that sleep deprivation and its effects are more serious than we give it credit for. The irregularity in schedules in the modern world is a major precipitator of the lack of sleep we experience. But before we even go ahead with article, let us clarify what and how many hours of sleep clarifies as sleep deprivation.
Chronic Sleep deprivation in the simplest terms and as the name suggests, is a health condition where a person is not getting the hours of sleep that they are required to which impacts various factors of their life. Now how many hours is enough sleep and how much is less? Infants, toddlers and preschoolers require about 10-15 hours of sleep, with infants requiring more sleep than toddlers or preschoolers. The meter drops a tiny bit for teenagers who require 8-9 hours -of sleep. Now adults require 7-9 hours of sleep for better effects. The required hours of sleep may vary by an hour or two depending on the difference in the working of your body. That occasional deprivation is not problematic because your body has enough strength to regain the lost sleep. But recurring habits of sleep deprivation creates an accumulation of the scarcity. Think of it this way, It keeps hoarding the lack of hours of sleep in a storage until one day the storage is so full that you don’t have any more hours of sleep. The hoarded debt in sleep finally takes its toll on your body. We may be used to the experience of sleep deprivation these days but that doesn’t mean your body is adjusted to the effects it has.
Feeling tired while reading this post?
There are various symptoms that help you distinguish between the usual weariness and perpetuating sleep deprivation. The first one being that you are constantly hungry. The body is not able to get the required energy through sleep and thus turns to other ways to get that energy, that being food. So you start feeling hungry frequently to gain the deprived energy. Another symptom is gaining weight, which is an outcome of the previous symptom. Due to the constant eating and your body not getting enough sleep to properly digest it, it starts accumulating as fat, consequently making you gain weight. Lack of sleep also effects your reactions to various situations, sometimes making you more impulsive. Your brain does not have enough energy to react the way you want to and therefore you tend to become more impulsive. An obvious symptom is the way your memory works. You tend to start becoming more forgetful, scatter-brained, oblivious or absentminded. Your constant state of weariness intensifies the above indicators. The lack of sleep also effects your ability of processing information and your higher level cognitive functioning, and hence effecting your capability to make decisions. So you find yourself finding it tough to take decisions, think again. Other physiological symptoms of sleep deprivation are getting sick often, a result of your weakening immune system, bad eyesight, consequence of your brain not having enough energy to focus properly on the external environment, and drying up of your skin owing to the disruption of your ‘beauty sleep’.
Did you know?
A person can stay three times longer without food than without sleep. The longest a person can stay without sleep, as demonstrated by a high scholar in 1965, is 264 hours, after which you reach a near-dying state. But the effects of sleep deprivation start long before that. You may start hallucinating after two days of complete sleep deprivation. And you start dreaming while awake, after the third day of no sleep. But a week without sleep has a higher price, the person starts losing their sense of time and a bit of their sanity.
Paying the dues
Now that we have gotten the symptoms out of the way, it is time to face the scary after effects of not getting enough sleep. A few of the effects of sleep deprivation are discussed above while talking about the symptoms. Like impaired ability to make decisions, constant feeling of weariness, the weight gain, being unable to properly process information etc. But now let us discuss in detail the effects it has on our body. Statistics show that several cases depression are a result of constant lack of sleep. As discussed above, sleep deprivation also meddles with your immune system, weakening it and consequently making you more prone to a multitude of diseases. Hallucinations are also noted to be a common effect of sleep deprivation. Disorientation, being another effect, occurs in a state of confusion called delirium and makes the person lose track of their equilibrium. Paranoia is one of the psychiatric effects. The person, if sleep deprived for long enough, starts believing that everyone is out there to get him. These thoughts though seem irrational, make complete sense to the person living through them. Lack of sleep also has the effect of developing aches in various parts of your body. It also increases your risk of developing other serious diseases like type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity etc. among other heart related diseases. Depression is constant after effect of sleep deprivation. It was shown that symptoms of lack of sleep and depression are dependent on each, making the other stronger.
The Russian Sleep Experiment
Now, you might probably have heard of the infamous Russian Sleep Experiment. If not, here is a brief description of the gory experiment.
Do you think it is real or just a piece of fiction? Well, it is in fact a well written piece of fiction which involves the story of 5 people who were kept awake for 15 days as part of an experiment. Now the story may have been inspired by the various incidents and medical experiments conducted by the Soviet Union during the 1940s, which were pretty gruesome themselves. The political prisoners, who were taken to be part of experiment were given a gas based stimulant by the researchers to avoid sleeping for 30 days. The subjects were then locked up stating that they would be freed if they could successfully complete the experiment by not sleeping for 30 days. But the prisoners started behaving bizarrely few days into the experiment. The early days of strange behavior was blamed on the gas but bizarre behavior persisted. The subjects were then briefly taken out the gas filled environment and sent back in later with three researchers accompanying them. The story ends here when one of the researcher refuses to go in and kills his fellow researchers and the subjects as well. The dialogue between the research and one of the subjects right before he is killed is a captivating climax to the story.
Facts state that the Russian Sleep Experiment is nothing more than a piece of fiction posted online on Creepy pasta in 2010. Though it was nothing but a fabricated story, the story points to the garish truth of the effects of sleep deprivation. The way the subjects are forced to stay awake, the changes that take place within the subjects due to lack of sleep to the final climax dialogue of the last standing subject, all the themes explored in the story are a real eye opener to how intense sleep deprivation. There are all these articles online about sleep deprivation with pictures of a comfortable soft bed with a person smiling and sleeping on it. But this is one story that actually paints sleep deprivation in all its negative glory.
A Happy Ending to the love story
Now that we have discussed all that there might be to sleep deprivation, let us go to the final step. How to overcome sleep deprivation. The first and most frequently heard advice is to avoid caffeine or sugary treats at night. Even if you negate the sleeping hours and a couple of hours before that, you still have the whole day to binge yourself with caffeine and sugar. Avoiding electronics before going to bed is also a good way to possible get more sleep. Using your device before bed reduces the hours of sleep you get by a significant number. Another useful tip is to not use pills or sedatives to help you sleep. It might seem worthwhile for a day or two it starts becoming your crutch, thus screwing up your sleep cycle in the long run. Proper physical exercise is another way to ensure a healthy sleeping pattern.
So now that you have completed reading this article, it is time to go check your sleeping pattern and go take a nice long well deserved night of sleep or nap.