Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on your health in the form of physical and mental impairments
Inadequate rest impairs our ability to think, handle stress, maintain a healthy immune system and moderate our emotions. In fact, sleep is so important to our overall health that total sleep deprivation has been proven to be fatal.
Without adequate rest, the brain’s ability to function quickly deteriorates. The brain works harder to counteract sleep deprivation effects, but operates less effectively: concentration levels drop and memory becomes impaired.
Similarly, the brain’s ability to problem solve is greatly impaired. Decision-making abilities are compromised, and the brain falls into rigid thought patterns that make it difficult to generate new problem-solving ideas. Insufficient rest can also cause people to hallucinate.
Other typical effects of sleep deprivation include:
- Heart disease.
- Slower reaction times.
- Slurred speech.
Here are some tips on ways to improve sleep:
Established a pattern to your sleep by going to bed at the same time and getting out of bed at the same time.
Avoid taking naps but if you do nap, make it no more than 25 minutes.
If you have problems sleeping at night, then you should not take naps.
Establish a pre-sleep ritual to give your body cues that it is time to slow down (for example taking a bath, or reading a few minutes before bed).
Use the bed only for sleep (do not use your bed as a desk, eat or watch television).
If you are unable to sleep for more than fifteen minutes, then get out of bed and engage in a quiet non-stimulating activity such as meditation or listening to relaxation Cd’s.
Restrict the amount of time you spend in bed to your usual amount of sleep (for example seven hours).
Even if you do not sleep as well as you would have liked, do not lay in bed extra hours feeling frustrated, it will not help.
Bedroom Environment Tips
Sleep is associated with decline in core body temperature from state of relative warmth. You can raise your body temperature by taking a warm bath twenty minutes before bed and as your temperature cools, it will signal your body that it is time to sleep.
Eliminate illuminated clocks or any other sources of light (except night light).
Caffeine (stimulant) should be discontinued four to six hours prior to bedtime.
Nicotine (stimulant) should be avoided near bedtime or if you wake at night, DO NOT SMOKE a cigarette if you cannot sleep. Alcohol (a depressant) may initially promote sleep onset but it causes awaking later in the night.
A light snack may be sleep inducing however, a heavy meal too close to bedtime might interfere with sleep.
Avoid mentally stimulating activity just before bed (for example, action movie, stimulating discussion or loud music) Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and visual imagery can help sleep onset.
Mentally quiet tasks such as listening to relaxing music, calming thoughts, et cetera can help the onset of sleep.
It is my experience in Cyprus that sleep deprivation is quite rare because of the environment we live in. Most people live in very quiet peaceful areas such as in the mountains, villages, small towns and hamlets. Nevertheless, the only two areas that can cause problems with sleep deprivation are the tourist areas with loud disco music, et cetera, and dogs barking endlessly throughout the night.
I had the misfortune to spend a couple of nights in a village near Polis last summer and one night, there was a dog locked up in a kennel barking endlessly throughout the night. Because of the valley, the loudness of the barking was exacerbated; by the echo. After a couple of hours of continuous barking, I could feel myself becoming more stressed and getting angrier as the night progressed.
By morning, I was completely exhausted and livid. I could not function fully. I was physically, mentally and emotionally drained, and I was in a bad mood for most of the day. I telephoned the local authority to make a complaint and the response was that there was nothing they could do; in fact, they were very dismissive and disdainful towards me.
I tried to find the owner of the sad dog and was told that the owners were away and that they were returning in a few days time. I cut my visit short and returned to my very quite and peaceful abode in Limassol. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to resolve this type of problem in Cyprus, as there is no recourse for this type of noise pollution.
To conclude, I have seen several clients recently with sleep deprivation cause by dogs barking and I can identify (empathy) with them the pain and feelings that they are experiencing. My therapeutic work involves working with clients cognitively where I implement a psychotherapeutic programme to help reduce the stresses and strain that noise pollution, such as dogs barking, create.
Dr Vasos can help with sleep deprivation and attendant issues.