Sleep is an important bodily function necessary for mental and physical well-being. The amount of sleep needed changes with age inversely. For example, an infant may sleep for up to 18-20 hours, while a person over 80 may only need a few hours of sleep. The recommended 7-8 hours lack of restful sleep (for an adult) is called insomnia, which may be due to difficulty falling or staying asleep.Also Read – Post-Covid Heart Attack, Stroke, Blood Clotting, Rising Chest Pain
Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, explains that the long-term effects of sleep deprivation can deplete mental capacity and affect physical health, ranging from weight gain to a weakened immune system. Long-term sleep deprivation also increases the risk of chronic diseases, such as diabetes mellitus, stroke, and heart disease. Also Read – 5 Yoga Postures That Can Relieve Your Back Pain | Beginner’s Guide to Yoga
Lack of sleep affects both types of hormones, one is leptin and the other is ghrelin. Talk about leptin which tells the brain that you have eaten enough. Due to lack of sleep, your brain reduces leptin and increases ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. It has also been found that sleep deprivation can reduce the body’s tolerance to glucose and is associated with insulin resistance, which can control feelings of hunger and fullness. In addition, these disturbances can lead to diabetes mellitus and obesity. Also read – Having trouble losing weight after the birth of your child? Take a look at some dos and don’ts | Nutritionist Manisha Chopra explains
Causes of lack of sleep:
Disorders of physical or mental health can cause sleep problems. Additionally, inappropriate bedroom environments such as extreme temperatures, poor noise levels or lighting can contribute to sleep deprivation. Drinking too much caffeine, stimulant medications, smoking, and alcohol can interfere with sleep. Certain mental health problems like anxiety disorders, depression, substance abuse can cause insomnia.
A nighttime breathing disorder called obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can interrupt sleep and reduce sleep quality. It is a common condition mainly seen in obese people. The common symptom is loud snoring and excessive daytime sleepiness.
Symptoms and signs:
- excessive daytime sleepiness
- frequent yawning
- irritability, lack of concentration
- daytime fatigue
- increase in accidents
Sleep study is a useful diagnostic tool performed at home to determine the exact cause of sleep problems. Treatment will depend on the cause. Sleep hygiene is an important aspect of treatment and most of them are simple but very effective self-help measures.
- Avoid daytime naps
- Say no to caffeine after 4 p.m.
- Maintain bedtime routine by sleeping and waking up at the same time
- Make sure the room environment is suitable for sleep
- Stick to your bedtime routine on weekends and holidays
- Spend an hour before bed doing relaxing activities, such as reading, meditating, listening to soothing music
- Avoid heavy meals a few hours before bedtime
- Avoid using electronic devices at least 2 hours before bedtime
- Exercise regularly, but not 3 hours before bedtime
- Reduce alcohol consumption
If the above measures fail to improve the sleep problem, a combination of psychological counseling using cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) and a short course of medication is recommended. The choice of medication will depend on the underlying cause of the sleep deprivation. Long-term sleeping pills or sedatives have a negative impact on sleep, which can lead to other mental health complications.
(Contributions by Dr Santosh Bangar, Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital)