Not only new parents suffer from it, but also a lot of people who could actually spend the night undisturbed: lack of sleep. After the first few nights, most people experience bad mood, persistent tiredness during the day and lack of concentration, but over time this can also become a serious health problem.
Those who suddenly can no longer follow their natural sleep and wakefulness rhythm, go through insufficiently regenerating deep sleep phases or have restless sleep for other reasons often suffer quickly from physical complaints and even health problems.
In this article we would therefore like to explain to you what the causes of sleep deprivation can be, how you can eliminate them and what other means you can use to finally get a good night’s sleep again – and thus also do something good for your health.
The most important facts in brief
- About 80% of all employees suffer from lack of sleep, so that one even speaks of a widespread disease.
- Lack of sleep over a short period of time is well compensated by the body, but permanent lack causes serious health problems and can even lead to death.
- Weight gain and loss can also be associated with lack of sleep, as well as the increased risk of disease.
As you can see, chronic sleep deprivation in particular is a serious disorder that cannot go well in the long run.
Therefore, you should always consult a doctor if you notice that you can hardly sleep or do not sleep well enough more than three nights a week or for a longer period of time – eliminating causes of this problem is now important for your health and should be a top priority.
What is lack of sleep?
Every person has an individual physical need for sleep, which includes the length of sleep, but also the number of REM and NREM sleep phases. In the deep sleep phases (non-rapid-eye-movement), the brain works to regenerate the body, “shut down” heavily loaded nerve cells and carry out maintenance and repair work on the entire body.
The REM (rapid-eye-movement) sleep phases, on the other hand, are there to process what has been experienced, to store information permanently and to learn from experiences made during the day.
The sleep phases and also the duration of sleep vary greatly from one phase of life to another – for example, a newborn baby sleeps longer and more often in the REM phase in order to arrive as quickly as possible in its new environment, while an adult sleeps less and stays more often in the deep sleep phase to recover.
If sleep is temporarily disturbed by external or internal causes, the natural human rhythm is disturbed – the body cannot recover sufficiently and tiredness and lack of concentration are the result.
If it is a chronic disorder, the body is permanently disrupted in its recovery phases. The body and psyche are unable to rehabilitate themselves, so that more serious consequences such as illness, life-threatening misjudgements and even depression can soon occur. Physical and mental performance can no longer be provided as usual, which greatly impairs the quality of life.
A lack of sleep is already mentioned when acute sleep disorders lead to an unhealthy and therefore hardly restful sleep, when there is far too little sleep, or when chronic
Backgrounds: What you should know about sleep deprivation
In order to be able to recognize sleep deprivation correctly, assess the symptoms and fight the causes, you should know more about the topic. Far too often, people who suffer from sleep deprivation are ignored because they cannot “afford” healthy sleep and are under a lot of pressure at work or at home.
Under no circumstances should you allow this to happen: Not only your performance decreases due to lack of sleep, but you also make important decisions under less good conditions, you react more irritated and psychologically not understandable by others, and you damage your health in the long run.
Therefore, you should always try to do the right thing about lack of sleep and allow yourself enough time for healthy sleep – even if parties, important tasks and work in some situations may seem more appealing than the cozy bed.
What can cause lack of sleep?
Sleep deprivation can have many different causes. One major factor, for example, is one’s own psyche, which is burdened by worries, fears or problems from everyday life and therefore cannot “rest” even at night – stress is considered the most frequently mentioned factor in this respect, which causes sleep deprivation in those affected.
Because in our society the professional and career pressure with regard to one’s own performance is constantly growing, one feels that one must always be available for social contacts and that the family should not be neglected, stress is pre-programmed in most people – if this cannot be reduced, lack of sleep is often the consequence.
Hormonal fluctuations and general physical changes can also cause sleep deprivation, such as pregnancy or menopause. Even advanced age is considered a cause of sleep deprivation. For good
Finally, external influences are usually responsible as disturbing factors for not being able to sleep sufficiently or well enough: Newly-born parents are often woken up by their offspring, heavy traffic at night prevents them from falling asleep, or night shifts due to their own jobs disrupt the sleep-wake rhythm.
What are the consequences of lack of sleep?
As mentioned above, acute or chronic sleep deprivation can manifest itself in several ways – symptoms range from poor concentration and persistent fatigue to depression, health problems and the increased risk of illness.
In general, lack of sleep simply makes you feel less able to perform and concentrate, you are more irritable and usually react more sensitively. If there is a serious lack of sleep, hallucinations can occur, microsleep in everyday life and health consequences, some of which are even dangerous.
So if you don’t feel rested after your sleep, get tired more often in everyday life or sleep badly all the time and only notice this during the day due to lack of concentration or something similar, it is high time to do something about the lack of sleep.
Regarding the consequences of sleep deprivation, it must also be said that people process it in very different ways. Some people are resistant to acute sleep disturbances and compensate for them very well in everyday life, while others react sensitively even to less intensive sleep disturbances and suffer a lower quality of life in everyday life.
With regard to the consequences, it is also very important that you know your body and know how to interpret its signals correctly.
What symptoms are caused by lack of sleep?
To help you interpret the signs correctly, you should know which symptoms are often associated with sleep deprivation. Surely you have already partied through the night, had trouble sleeping or had certain fears that accompanied you during the night and therefore you already know roughly how “sleep deprivation” affects and feels to your body.
Tiredness and persistent drowsiness
If one has slept well and is properly rested, sleep sluggishness in the morning does not occur at all, hardly, or only for up to 90 minutes after getting up – we are also talking about so-called morning grouches, who need some time to get really awake.
However, if this sleepiness lasts longer and also during the day at your otherwise most active times of the day, this can be an indication that you suffer from lack of sleep.
You often yawn, feel tired and could fall asleep almost immediately. Acute lack of sleep is usually less noticeable than chronic lack of sleep.
During the day this can even lead to microsleep during monotonous activities such as driving a car and can therefore be life-threatening for you and your fellow human beings!
Dizziness and circulation problems
Sleep deprivation can, among other things, also cause your circulation to simply not get going and you often have to deal with dizziness or even high blood pressure during the day. One of the reasons for this is that if you don’t get enough sleep, your body is less able to process blood sugar and your household seems confused.
A slight feeling of dizziness is normal in acute and short-term sleep deprivation – but if you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation, this is not infrequently accompanied by fainting spells and poor coordination.
Headaches and neck pain
If your body suffers from lack of sleep, more cortisol can be released. Cortisol is responsible for breaking down and decomposing fats, proteins and carbohydrates, which can cause headaches. Because cortisol also prevents you from falling asleep, an acute sleep disorder can quickly turn into a chronic one.
It is also possible that the disturbed sleep has caused you to lie down badly and that your body has positioned itself incorrectly at night – neck complaints are not uncommon with poor sleep, which in turn also lead to headaches.
Depression and psychological consequences
Because one’s own performance is weakened by lack of sleep and the ability to concentrate decreases considerably, but one also feels anything but fresh and comfortable, bad mood after lack of sleep plays a major role. Frustration and excessive demands come to light, stress at work or at home does what is necessary, so that depression is often the case with chronic sleep deprivation.
In the long run, the psyche is even damaged to such an extent that those affected isolate themselves, no longer get along with their own environment and even have suicidal thoughts.
Lack of concentration and loss of performance
Because not all severely stressed nerve tracts could be shut down and regenerated by sleep disorders, the most common effect of sleep disorders is probably that people find it difficult to concentrate during the day, take longer to complete their tasks and generally perform less than usual.
If you are under pressure to perform, stress and excessive demands are coupled with reduced performance – and quickly lead to a vicious cycle, which can quickly turn into a burn-out, especially for working people. Even caffeine and stimulating drinks usually do not help.
Other possible symptoms of sleep deprivation
Even externally, chronic sleep disorders and a severe lack of sleep can cause symptoms: The skin, for example, soon looks pale and sallow, rings under the eyes appear and in general the skin also shows more impurities. In addition, blood sugar processing problems in the body ensure that chronically affected persons gain and lose weight.
If the eyes are heavily strained during the day by, for example, monitors, the eyesight can also deteriorate. Furthermore, speech disorders and coordination problems are often within the realm of possibility. As a result, the environment will also quickly notice that something is wrong with the person concerned.
When should I go to the doctor for sleep deprivation?
If you suffer from acute sleep disorders caused by loud ambient noise, a night out drinking or similar, you do not need to see your doctor immediately – in this case, simply sleeping in the next day or taking a nap in the afternoon is sufficient to get rid of the symptoms or at least eliminate them for the most part.
However, if you are unable to sleep well for several days at a time, or if you are frequently disturbed in your sleep for a few consecutive weeks, so that the consequences seem worse and worse or you feel your quality of life is reduced, it is advisable to make an appointment with your family doctor.
This is mainly because he or she can check your thyroid function to see if there are any hormonal disorders that are causing the sleep deprivation. So you should only see your doctor if you have a chronic lack of sleep.
What to do against lack of sleep: Preventive measures
If chronic sleep deprivation such as insomnia is the case, patients are usually prescribed a drug that helps them fall asleep. In these sections, however, we will focus more on preventive measures that can help you fall asleep better during the day or sleep long and well enough.
The key to success is that you allow yourself plenty of time for yourself to switch off and relax, avoiding screens of smartphones and co. in the evening – with the right routine and good thoughts for falling asleep you can avoid sleep deprivation permanently.
Rituals and regular sleep rhythm
First of all, you should know how much sleep you need to feel fit the next morning – even too much sleep can make you lethargic, so you may not start the day well.
Then it is important to allow yourself exactly this time every night for regenerating sleep – no more and no less. So go to bed early enough when you have to wake up early in the morning to get to the office.
Then it is important to create rituals through which you can relax – right before you go to bed. Smartphones and televisions should not be part of these rituals, as their screens with integrated blue light can even ensure that the sleep hormone melatonin is not produced in sufficient quantity to fall asleep. At best, therefore, do without screens of any kind and allow yourself some rest to prepare your body for sleep.
As a ritual before bedtime you can listen to soothing music, for example – classical music is very suitable here, as is a natural tone CD. You can also meditate, take a relaxing bath or read a book. Anything that helps you to find peace is allowed.
Creating inner balance
In order for you to sleep well, you should eliminate stress factors, remove fears and let worries take the wind out of your sails. You can do this by achieving inner balance and consciously reducing stress during the day. This works quite well with the help of:
- Meditation, which helps you to become more balanced inside and to deal better with your thoughts
- Sports, with which you can reduce stress very well
- Sex, which also helps to reduce stress – and masturbation
- planning the following day to sort out thoughts and tasks and become more relaxed
- radio plays that deal with meditation and finding peace
The more stress you can relieve during the day, the better your body can switch off at night. Do not suppress problems and worries, but tackle them during the day and find solutions that calm you down.
Finding the right diet – as healthy and varied as possible
It is clear that your body can hardly switch off and relax if you bring a strong feeling of fullness or hunger into bed. The wrong foods can also become a nuisance at night, for example if they cause flatulence or stimulate you.
Therefore, always avoid caffeine and too much sugar in the evening, as well as anything that has a flatulent effect. Especially in the evening, try to eat healthy food and avoid fatty or sugary foods. In general, it is helpful anyway if you eat a healthy diet – and are therefore more balanced internally.
Creating an appropriate sleeping climate
In order for you to be able to rest at night, the sleeping climate should also be appropriate: Slightly cooler temperatures are ideal, fresh air is especially important. So air out directly before you go to sleep. Remove all devices such as smartphones from your bedroom to avoid interference from them – and make your sleeping environment as quiet and comfortable as possible.
A good mattress can make a difference, so you may want to seek advice on this.
Shake your pillow well before going to bed so that you lie comfortably and spray a little lavender scent under it if you wish: Lavender scent has a calming effect and therefore helps you fall asleep faster. If you drink calming tea with valerian before going to bed, there is nothing to stop you from having a good night’s sleep.
Sleeping pills for support – what herbal solutions are available?
If you suffer from chronic lack of sleep despite all preventive measures, you should not immediately take prescribed sleeping pills – after all, these are chemically compounded and often make your body even more confused than it already is. Not to mention the possible side effects and damage to the stomach and liver.
Herbal remedies are a good alternative to find a good remedy for better sleep. As already mentioned, you can use lavender and valerian – natural tranquilizers that are also effective for anxiety and panic.
Lasea capsules, for example, are filled with lavender oil and can be taken before going to sleep, as they combat inner restlessness well and thus help to achieve better sleep. Incidentally, St. John’s wort has a similar effect.
Cannabidiol (CBD), which is extracted from the hemp plant, is also a good helper for chronic insomnia and a healthy alternative to sleeping pills of chemical origin. It shortens the time to fall asleep, improves the depth of sleep and generally prevents the startle caused by disorders.
At the same time CBD is completely harmless, as it does not change consciousness.
Trivia: What else you should know about sleep deprivation
Although we have now covered the topic in detail, you may still have a question or two about sleep deprivation or simply want to know more – after all, sleep deprivation and its various consequences are not to be trifled with.
Can a lack of sleep be compensated for by a nap?
It depends on how much sleep was lost during the night and how disturbed it was. If you only suffer from an acute sleep deficiency with a slight reduction in your sleep time, a nap is usually sufficient to discard symptoms and tiredness.
However, if you suffer from chronic sleep deprivation or were unable to enjoy a deep sleep during the night, naps in the afternoon will not help much in the long run – because your body needs more than a few minutes to fully recover.
Lack of sleep for babies, children or newborns – what can I do?
First of all, you should bear in mind that children and babies have different sleeping needs than adults – so their sleep can be completely different from yours without being unhealthy.
However, if you notice that your child is not resting properly, is unbalanced and suffers from the symptoms of sleep deprivation, you can establish a ritual to make your child feel more secure in everyday life and provide times when he or she can rest better – then it will be easier to fall asleep at these times.
It is important that children are allowed to relax and fall asleep in a darkened, quiet and safe room. If they need you to accompany them to sleep, you should not deny them this need – because it is a basic instinct that gives them security and safety and therefore helps them to get a good night’s sleep.
Can I die from lack of sleep?
Lack of sleep does not lead directly to death, as you might imagine at first. However, the consequences of sleep deprivation are what you can actually die from – even if you may not like to hear or read about it. For example, fatigue caused by a microsleep while driving can put you in threatening situations, such as an accident that endangers your life.
The health consequences of chronic sleep disorders increase the risk of illness and, among other things, heart attack – which can also lead to death.
As you have now surely understood, sleep problems are anything but funny. You should therefore take all the symptoms mentioned seriously and consciously do something about them or eliminate the causes of your poor sleep.
Even if sleep is no longer considered necessary because you prefer to go out constantly, be available online or even work, good and regular sleep is essential for good health. Even your own personality can only impress with charm and humour, as well as expressiveness, if it is balanced and rested.
Who always wants to look tired and sallow, look stressed and not be able to perform their usual services? Right, nobody – and that certainly applies to you too.
Table of Contents
- 1 The most important facts in brief
- 2 What is lack of sleep?
- 3 Backgrounds: What you should know about sleep deprivation
- 3.1 What can cause lack of sleep?
- 3.2 What are the consequences of lack of sleep?
- 3.3 What symptoms are caused by lack of sleep?
- 3.4 When should I go to the doctor for sleep deprivation?
- 4 What to do against lack of sleep: Preventive measures
- 5 Trivia: What else you should know about sleep deprivation
- 6 Conclusion