Is sleep deprivation harmful?

Guest Commentary

Posted 3/14/22

Sleep deprivation can be due to difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep...

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Is sleep deprivation harmful?

Guest Commentary


With the recent time change, many people feel the effects of sleep deprivation. Sleep deprivation can be due to difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, or not allowing enough time for sleep. If this issue persists it is known as insomnia. The consequences of sleep deprivation, even short term, can be deadly. Most people need 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep every night. Studies have shown that inadequate sleep increases your risk of having a fatal motor vehicle accident by 400-600%.

Sleep deprivation also leads to metabolic dysfunction which causes weight gain. Many experts have concluded that some of the major causes of preventable death are related to the important relationship between sleep and metabolism. Inadequate sleep is associated with higher rates of high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and heart attacks. It can also impair cognitive function including memory and decision making. With the overwhelming body of evidence emphasizing the importance of sleep, what can people do who suffer from insomnia?

Lifestyle modifications known as, “sleep hygiene” can help many people with insomnia. Sleep hygiene is a variety of different practices that are necessary to have normal, quality nighttime sleep and full daytime alertness and include:

• Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule,

• Using the bed only for sleep and intimacy,
• Avoiding caffeine past noon and large meals before bed,
• Establishing a relaxing bedtime routine,
• Avoiding napping during the day,
• Ensuring adequate exposure to natural light.

For those with insomnia that persists despite proper sleep hygiene, underlying conditions may exist that affect sleep. Trouble falling asleep is often associated with anxiety or restless leg syndrome. Whereas difficulty staying asleep can also be anxiety but is more often due to depression or sleep apnea. Treating these conditions effectively allows for proper sleep and a reduction in the above-mentioned risks. Sleep is restorative and necessary, and its importance and the integral role it plays in health cannot be emphasized enough.

Thomas Deker perhaps exhibited wisdom far beyond his time when he stated, “Sleep is the golden chain that ties health and our bodies together.”

insomnia, sleep, Dr. Leland Heller, Okeechobee Family Practice