Sleep deprivation means pretty much what it says on the tin: not getting enough sleep. For most adults, 7 to 8 hours of sleep are needed per night for optimum health, but not everyone always gets this. Sleep deprivation is actually rather common as people often sacrifice their sleep, in order to get other things done. For example, pulling late night study sessions in the library to get as much revision done as possible is something that most students are guilty of.
Firstly, sleep deprivation can be caused by a sleep disorder. The most common types of sleep disorders are insomnia, narcolepsy, restless legs syndrome, obstructive sleep apnea and circadian rhythm disorders. Sleep deprivation can also be caused by illness, stress, or a change in schedule. Therefore, it is rather common among university students who’s sleep schedule can change constantly. This can be due to staying up late to work, particularly around exam season, as well as changes in social life such as spending a few late nights at labs before early morning lectures on the following days.
Being sleep deprived is certainly not ideal, as it can cause difficulty fighting off infections, mood swings and depression. It can also cause forgetfulness, so spending too long in the library at night and sacrificing sleep may not be the best revision idea and could actually be counterintuitive. Sleep deprivation can also cause a lack of alertness and excessive daytime sleepiness: not the best combination to have in your 9:15 lecture! Finally, sleep deprivation can cause difficulties in your relationships, as mood swings due to sleep deprivation make you more likely to have conflicts with others. It can also decrease your general quality of life, as it can make you less likely to participate in your normal daily activities.
Do not fear, there are ways to help prevent sleep deprivation. Firstly, aim to exercise at least 20-30 minutes daily, at least 5-6 hours before going to bed. In other words, time to make use of the Sports Training Village! This exercise will make you more likely to fall asleep when you go to bed and it will just benefit your general health – so really, it’s a win-win. You should also create a bedtime routine. For example, you could read before bed, have a warm bath or meditate. Make sure to keep a regular sleep-wake cycle as best as you can, by going to sleep and waking up at the same time each day (that’s right – even at the weekend!). Try to keep the bedroom dark, quiet, and at a reasonable and constant temperature. Avoid using substances containing nicotine, caffeine, or alcohol (especially a few hours prior to bedtime) as these disrupt regular sleep patterns. Also, avoid using electronic devices right before bed. If you do wake up in the night, avoid looking at the clock as this can cause more anxiety about getting back to sleep. We are all guilty of attempting some quick mental maths in the night before thinking “if I fall asleep right now, I will get 5 hours and 27 minutes’ worth of sleep”. But I can’t image that this has ever helped anyone so try to avoid it.
If you feel you have problems with sleep deprivation, see a doctor. If you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder by a healthcare professional, you may be given medication to help you get a better night’s sleep on a regular basis, and you will feel the benefit. For now, wishing you good health!