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Sleep deprivation

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We all know how important it is to get our beauty sleep – especially if you’re the parent of small children. There’s nothing worse than facing a day’s work after being up all night with a feeding baby or teething infant. We also know the chances are we won’t be at our best the next day and will probably be feeling grumpy and irritable. However, according to medical experts, the effects of sleep deprivation can go much deeper than that and can have serious consequences for your physical health.

Getting your 8 hours?

Most of us need a good eight hours of sleep a night, yet a third of Brits struggle to get enough; things like stress, computers and taking work home often get in the way of good quality rest.

If you’re pregnant, recovering from illness or living with a chronic condition then it’s likely you will want as much as 10 to 15 hours of sleep a day.

But as well as being tired and bleary-eyed, sleep deprivation can cost you more than a bad mood and lack of focus; according to the NHS, regular and continued lack of sleep can put you at risk of more serious conditions such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, as well as shortening life expectancy. But before dashing straight to your bed because you’ve only had six hours, it’s important to note that not everyone needs the standard eight hours – some need more, others less. It’s the quality of sleep that counts as well.

How much sleep do you need?

sleep deprivationThe key thing is to find out how much sleep you need in order to be able to function properly then try to achieve that amount if you can. For example if you wake up tired and spend all day feeling like you need a nap then you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

Although the occasional restless night won’t harm you, the mental effects of not sleeping become more serious after several nights – hence the zombie-like daze that often surrounds new parents for the first few months. Eventually you will find it difficult to concentrate and make decisions. You might feel down in the dumps and drop off to sleep in the middle of the day. This increases the risk of injury and accidents at home, at work and on the road.

Long term sleep deprivation

Continued lack of sleep over prolonged periods of time can make you more prone to medical conditions like the ones listed above. This is because as well as making you feel good, a decent night’s sleep also has other benefits:

  • It boosts immunity
  • can help you stay slim
  • can improve your mental wellbeing. That’s because chronic sleep deprivation can lead to long term disorders such as depression and anxiety.

Studies have also suggested that people who regularly sleep less than five hours a night have an increased risk of diabetes due to changes in the way the body processes glucose.

Long-standing sleep deprivation is also thought to be associated with increased heart rate, blood pressure and higher levels of certain chemicals linked with inflammation which could increase your risks of developing heart disease. A good night’s sleep also increases your fertility.

So you know the facts, but what to do about it?

Family demands permitting, there are ways you can catch up on lost sleep. This may take several weeks if you’ve had months of deprivation.Try to add on an extra hour or two of sleep at the weekend by going to bed when you’re tired and allowing yourself to wake up naturally (you may need an understanding partner for this). Don’t rely on caffeine as a pick me up as it can disrupt your sleep patterns even further in the long term.

 

 

 

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