In the electricity era and modern times of a very fast life pace, we underappreciate the importance of sleep. It’s nice to see that more and more people are starting to realize that. What is sleep deprivation? We don’t learn it in school… but we should.
In this article, we’ll talk about the necessity of sleep, meaning of and results caused by sleep deprivation. We’ll touch on the processes that happen in our brain while we sleep and circadian rhythm definition, but I’d rather rely on the expertise and scientific knowledge of the sleep specialists and encourage you to watch the video offered on this page. Then, I’d like to look at how our modern lifestyle affects our sleep pattern, what kind of natural sleep aid is available for us, and how we can change our work and leisure environment in order to eliminate the need for an alarm clock.
What Is Sleep Deprivation?
Sleep deprivation definition is simple: it’s the condition of not having enough sleep. “Lack of sleep” or “insufficient sleep” are all referring to the same condition. However, the effects of sleep deprivation can be very complicated and dangerous. There are many medical research studies on sleep and yet scientists still don’t know exactly what happens in our brain while we sleep. They do know that sleep deprivation is way too common nowadays, and it causes many health issues and serious mental disorders.
There are several scientific theories on the importance of sleep for our brain and overall health. Dr. Russell Foster, a British professor of circadian neuroscience explains them in a lively and engaging manner in the video below. Please watch it — you’d enjoy it and learn a lot. By the way, I started watching this video at 1:00 AM, but he convinced me to go to bed and finish watching tomorrow. 🙂
Since the invention of electric light at the end of the 19th century, we tent to abandon sleep in our thoughts and treat it as our enemy. That’s because it seems to us like a waste of time: we don’t do anything while we sleep; we are not productive. But that’s terribly wrong, and neuroscientists are beginning to explain why sleep is an incredibly important behavior that humans and other animals experience.
When we are asleep our brain does not stop working, and some areas of it are even more active during the sleep state than while we are awake. We have a biological clock in the center of our brain, which controls the sleep/wake cycle. This cycle is also called the circadian rhythm. It’s defined as a rhythmic activity cycle, based on approximately 24 hours intervals, that is exhibited by many organisms. This internal clock in the brain uses light coming through our eyes to synchronize our sleep/wake cycle with Earth’s 24-hour cycle of day and night.
During the daylight, hormone melatonin naturally produced in our body and involved in regulating the sleeping and waking cycles, remains inactive. As darkness falls, the pineal gland in our brain starts releasing this hormone into the bloodstream, which decreases alertness. We start feeling fatigued and our body temperature lowers slightly. The pineal gland starts producing melatonin around 9:00 pm. Melatonin stays elevated in our blood through the night for about 12 hours, and it falls back to almost undetectable daytime levels by about 9 O’clock in the morning.
However, bright light directly inhibits the production of melatonin: even if by the clock it’s time for the pineal gland to start working, it will not produce melatonin if the room is brightly lit by artificial lighting. Melatonin is called “Dracula of Hormones” sometimes because it only comes out in the dark. Do you see a problem here? Even though the electrical bulb was a great invention, it messed up our circadian rhythm and caused widespread sleep deprivation.
An adult requires about 8 hours of sleep, while children and teenagers need 9 to 10 hours for full brain performance. Unfortunately, too many people nowadays are sleep deprived. In the modern world, adults sleep 6.5 hours daily on average. The statistics for teenagers are even worse: on a school day, many kids are getting as little as 5 hours of sleep — that’s at least 4 hours less sleep than they need!
To fight this chronic exhaustion, we turn to stimulants like caffeine. And then to fight the stimulants, many people rely on alcohol, which sedates us and doesn’t allow our brain to perform its important functions during sleep.
Do YOU have enough sleep? If not, be sure to read to the end where we’ll try to find out why you don’t get enough sleep and how you could change it, even if it requires changing your job, your team of doctors or the overall lifestyle.
Why Do We Need to Sleep?
- We are doing some cellular repair and general biological upkeep… which actually happens while we are awake also.
- We are not active while we are asleep – so, we save some energy… but not much – only about 110 calories
- There is a theory that our brain is cleaning itself up from neuro-garbage while we sleep.
- Sleep is the only time for the region of our brain called prefrontal cortex to get a rest. It’s constantly working while we are awake.
- The latest and the most exciting studies discovered that while we sleep, many regions of our brain continue working, and some are even more active than when we are awake. These regions are sorting out the information we received during the day and consolidating memories.
- Sleep allows our brain to do the necessary rewiring required for better thinking. People, who have quality night rest, are more creative. If we sleep well at night, our ability to find solutions to complex problems is greatly enhanced.
Who Are Sleep-Deprived the Most?
Many sectors of our society get insufficient sleep:
- As mentioned above, teenagers need at least 9 hours of sleep, but many of them on a school night receive as few as 5 hours.
- Elderly people. As we age, our ability to sleep in a single block is disrupted, and many elders sleep less than 5 hours at night. Nevertheless, their need for sleep is still the same 8 hours per night.
- Shift workers. About 20% of the population work shifts. Their biological clock still locked on the same light-dark cycle. Therefore, when a person tries to sleep during a day after working all night, the body clock tries to keep him/her awake. Thus, the quality of sleep that night-shift workers get is very poor.
- World travelers suffer from jet lag.
- People with serious health issues who take a rich cocktail of pharmaceutical drugs: many drugs may sedate them to sleep, and others may cause lack of sleep as a side effect. When patients complain about not being able to fall asleep and/ or sleep through the night. Doctors prescribe more drugs, which sedate them. Either way, these people don’t receive the quality sleep during which the brain can perform all the functions discussed above.
Do YOU fall in one of these high-risk categories?
We are going to talk more about these groups of people and what they could do to improve their sleep. Please continue reading and if you have questions, use the “Comments” field under this post to ask them.
The Results of Sleep Deprivation.
Lack of sleep could be dangerous not only for a sleep-deprived individual, but also for people around him/her, or even may cause worldwide disasters.
The effects of insufficient sleep on the health of an individual:
- Poor memory
- Inability or poor ability to learn a new skill
- Mood swings and irritability
- Poor judgment
- Weight gain – 50% likelihood of being obese. Loss of sleep increases the release of the hormone ghrelin, the hunger hormone.
- Sustained stress, which in turn causes
- suppressed immunity, which results in a higher rate of overall infection. Some studies showed that shift-workers have a higher rate of cancer.
- an excessive amount of glucose thrown into the circulation, which results in Diabetes 2
- raising blood pressure, which results in cardiovascular disease.
And furthermore, our sleep deprivation is dangerous not only for us, but also for others. When we are exhausted, micro-sleeps occur – the involuntary falling asleep, which we have no control over. They could be simply embarrassing, but they could also be deadly. Statistically, 31% of the drivers fall asleep at the wheel at least once in their life. In the United States only, 100,000 accidents on the highways happen because of the driver’s tiredness, loss of vigilance and falling asleep.
The tragedies of Chernobyl and the space shuttle Challenger were caused by poor judgment as a result of extended shift work.
Please don’t expose yourself and others to danger. If you think that YOU might be sleep-deprived, you probably are. Let’s think together what can be done to change that. If you don’t find a suitable solution in the section below, please tell me about your situation in the comments. I’ll do my best to help you think what else you can do to get better sleep.
What Can Be Done For Sleep Improvement? Is There a Natural Sleep Aid?
There are two major questions to address in an attempt to find the solution:
- Are your internal systems out of balance causing a sleep disorder?
– OR –
- Is it your lifestyle that doesn’t allow for the sleep you need?
I. Sleep Disorder Causing Lack of Sleep.
I recommend talking to your doctor if you are experiencing a sleep disorder. But please do your own research as well. Unfortunately, the modern approach used by many medical doctors is to treat the symptoms – not the cause.
You complain that you have difficulties falling asleep or you wake up many times during the night, and your doctors may just prescribe you a sleeping aid drug. That’s not what I would expect from my doctors! I want them to find out and treat the cause rather than a symptom. Why can’t I sleep well? If you have a medical condition that causes a sleep disorder, that condition must be treated – not insomnia.
I have Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, which is an autoimmune disease causing hypothyroidism. Insomnia is among the symptoms. My doctor prescribed me the common thyroid hormone therapy, which is supplementing the natural production of thyroid hormones with man-made Levothyroxine. It’s good that she didn’t try to address insomnia as a stand-alone issue! But, even when my blood tests for thyroid were back in the normal range, many of my symptoms did not go away.
I started looking for a solution on my own and decided to try cannabidiol (CBD) oil drops. The first result I received in 2 days after I started taking the oil was the full restoration of my sleep. The other symptoms such as brain fog, loss of short-term memory and inability to concentrate for a prolonged period, were gone in 2 months.
If after your doctor visit you still have no answer to what causes your inability to sleep well, do your own research before taking a prescribed pharmaceutical drug. Each drug has side effects and causes even more chemical imbalance to your body.
Certain medications could cause insomnia. Your doctor must know this and tell you if one of your medications could be the reason. However, if (s)he didn’t, don’t just assume that your medications are fine – check online side effects for each drug that you take.
If at the end of the day, you need to use the brightly-lit bathroom to look at the mirror, remove your day makeup and put on some night creams, do it at least an hour before your bedtime. Then, dim the lights in your room about 30 minutes before you go to bed and let melatonin kick in.
Could your insomnia be due to your age? When we get older, our body may not naturally produce a sufficient amount of melatonin anymore. Then, artificial melatonin in pills might be helpful. Remember to take melatonin every evening at the same time: around 9:00 – 10:00 PM. That’s important because it correlates with your natural production of melatonin! Be careful with the dosage, better yet, consult your doctor on this particular question.
Another good herb that I know from my childhood as helping with anxiety, stress and better sleep, is valerian root. We used to buy it as a tincture.
I recently came across a product that contains all three remedies I mentioned: CBD, melatonin, and valerian root. All three components are much safer than any pharmaceutical drug. I recommend trying Sleep Support Oral Spray before taking any sleeping aid medication.
I am not against traditional medicine at all, but I strongly believe that the fewer drugs we take, the fewer new health issues we get. Therefore, I would always do my research and try to resolve health issues with therapies and natural remedies before I turn to pharmaceutical drugs.
If you are the person, who already has many medical conditions and take a rich cocktail of medications every day, I would suggest taking a second look at what you take. Ask yourself which of these medications will not cause too many problems if you run out of it for a few days. Then, start your research on the condition that this particular drug is taking care of. Seek for really good naturopaths in your area. Talk to them, follow their advice until you either can remove that first drug from your cocktail, or you are assured that this is the best and only help you can get. Slowly, one by one, examine each of your medications and know whether or not there are safer solutions to treat your conditions. Even if you’d be able to cut your medication by half, you’d be able to eliminate many future health problems that you don’t even know about just yet but they would have caused by those drugs if you kept them. Your sleep will improve as your overall health improves.
II. Lifestyle Causing Sleep Deprivation.
If your lifestyle causes your insufficient sleep, you need to think how and when you can change it. But you must change it rather sooner than later before permanent damage is made to your health, and before you unwillingly hurt others.
Do you party too much?
Well, that’s wonderful! And yet, you can’t party continuously every night; you need to sleep. You found this post and you read this far… This means that you were concerned with your sleep pattern, and you understand that sleep is important. Have fun at the earlier time of a day. Stay up late no more than one night a week and make sure that you have an ability to sleep longer the next day – though, you probably won’t because your biological clock will wake you up. Then, you may want to take a nap during the day after a late party. Occasional lack of sleep is not a big problem as soon as you don’t have to make important decisions, do precise work or drive long distance while you are exhausted. Your body will restore itself as soon as you get back to the pattern of 8 hours of nightly sleep.
Are you a frequent long-distance traveler?
If you travel a lot from one time zone to another, your circadian rhythm is often unsynced with the light/ dark cycle. This causes the jet lag disorder. You can somewhat reduce the effect:
- Start adjusting your home sleep schedule towards the time at your destination a few days before your flight.
- It’s good to buy tickets for a flight that arrives in the early evening. Thus, you’d be tired after the travel and should be able to go to bed and fall asleep easier at the normal local bedtime — around 10 MP. Even if your flight comes in earlier in the day, do not plan any activities for the second half of that day. Rest, but don’t sleep until the darkness.
- Before and during the flight, try to stay away from caffeine and alcohol as they are known to worsen the symptoms.
- Drink much water during the flight.
- Stay active on the plane as much as possible: exercise, stretch and walk along the aisle.
- Take melatonin pill about an hour before going to bed.
Do you work too much?
Stop! It seems like it worth it, but it’s not!. You think that you are fine and productive just because you don’t know that you could be twice as productive as you are now only if you had enough sleep most nights of the week. You’ll have the same amount of work done in half time if you use the other half for good night sleep.
Are you a shift worker?
Well, somebody has to work night shifts! However, it doesn’t have to be you all the time. Don’t let yourself work nights for prolong periods. Don’t accumulate exhaustion.
If your boss does not understand that everyone wins when employees are rested, and you love your job, then change your boss: start looking for another employer. In most cases, there is more than one company in the area that needs your skillset and your expertise. However, it won’t look for you. YOU must find it.
If your job is just something that provides for your family living, and your boss is not treating employees right, then find another job.
Yes, you heard me right: Change Your Job! It’s easier than you think!
No, I don’t suggest to just quit your job tomorrow. You need income. In general, I am against any extremes. I don’t think it’s right to break your existing lifestyle without thoroughly planning the change and preparing for it. On the other hand, I don’t think that putting up with what damages your health or otherwise makes you unhappy is a good approach either. Just don’t turn your planning and preparing for a change into procrastination. Start acting NOW. Evaluate your interests and skills. Begin your research.
Let me help you to get started. I can suggest two opportunities that don’t require a college education, and yet can change your life for good.
2 Business Opportunities — Work From Home on Your Own Flexible Schedule
Since I started working from home, I forgot what alarm clock was. I work about 30 hours per week and take care of my adult son with disabilities. I don’t waste any time on the commute. I create my own schedule, and I am no longer sleep-deprived. If you are ready to make a change, consider these two opportunities.
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The bottom line…
You need to sleep well in order to be healthy, creative, and productive. Your loved ones need you to be healthy. The natural sleep aid such as melatonin, CBD, valerian root could only be used in certain scenarios to help you sleep well. Pharmaceutical drugs may harm you more than help. Evaluate thoroughly what causes your sleep disorder and treat the cause. If you are sleep-deprived due to your lifestyle, it’s time to change your lifestyle!
Take care of yourself and of those who depend on you. Don’t fear a change!
If you are less than happy with your current schedule, your health or financial situation, make your first step towards the change: start investigating the opportunities I offered. Work from home on your own schedule, love your boss 🙂 , be in full control of your sleep hours.
Thank you for reading. Please comment below if you have questions or feedback. I appreciate your engagement. I look forward to chatting with you.
Sleep well, and be healthy and wealthy!
National Sleep Foundation
Medical News Today
‘It’s Okay to Be Smart’ YouTube channel
7 thoughts on “What Is Sleep Deprivation? || Is There a Natural Sleep Aid?”
Thank you, Julia, this is a well-researched article.
Getting older has really affected my sleep. Postmenopause is no fun, lol. That and bladder issues! My doctor tested everything, and when things were ruled out, I was prescribed sleeping pills. But I only take them about once a week to catch up.
The CBD oil also helps, but I haven’t been able to get it in Canada yet, so I’m waiting patiently. The CTFO brand is the highest quality I could find, for the best price. So hopefully soon…
Thank you for your comment. I am sorry to hear that you have difficulties sleeping. It sounds like CTFO will be delivering CBD products to Canada again very soon. They’ve already received their license. In the meantime, try melatonin. Only remember that it’s very important to take it at the same time every evening.
As someone who works in the mental health field and also at times has long shifts I can especially appreciate your well-written article on Sleep deprivation. I know, for example, that a lack of proper sleep over a long period can sometimes be a precursor to mental illness. On the other hand, shift workers, often in the health field, yes it’s ironic, at times don’t get enough sleep. This article is a great reminder of why they should. I thank you for the great and needed information.
Glad to see you back on my blog! Thanks so much for your important observation and essential feedback. As a matter of fact, I was thinking a lot about medical workers while working on this article. Nobody wants to be taken care of by an exhausted nurse or a doctor. But our medical problems most often don’t wait ’till the morning… So, medical personnel must work shifts. I definitely don’t want to get under a knife of a sleep-deprived surgeon — sorry for the dark humor… I wonder how you, guys, deal with the sleep deprivation issue – you are the ones who know best the terrible effects caused by the lack of sleep…
Try to get full-length quality sleep most of the time and be well! 🙂
This is very rich article on the importance of sleep. The video from TED talks is very good as well. I know I suffer from sleep deprivation because of lifestyle (always working), some internal issues (my father had real bad insomnia and so do I), and sleep apnea (overweight) affects the quality of sleep I receive. The sleep support oil spray could help with one of these issues and it is certainly worth looking into.
Thank you so much for visiting my page and for your comment. I am so sorry that you are not having quality sleep. Sleep apnea is a serious problem. Unfortunately, Sleep Support Oral Spray won’t be able to help with that. What I am glad to read in your comment is that you are aware of all the underlying issues, and your problems are solvable. You know what to do! The last step is to actually do it! LOL Change your work schedule – your health is more important. Lose some weight if that’s the problem – easier said than done, but you can do it! And if your inherited insomnia still troubles you, then Sleep Spray may help. It really is a great natural sleep aid.
Please improve your sleep and be well!
The importance of sleep to our overall health and longevity just can’t be understated. I love how comprehensive all the information you have included here is. You have created a fabulous resource for many that may feel they have difficulties with their sleep.
Recently I researched a bit about circadian rhythm and how the presence of light upsets this in your system. I was prompted to do this after a recent trip where I travelled north of the arctic circle during a trip through Norway. As this was during summer, we encountered the ‘midnight sun’ where it remained completely light for the whole night and we found the effects on us to be quite extreme.
We were wide awake and not able to get much sleep at all for some days. We just could not ‘turn off’ or ‘power down’ at all to get any sleep. The experience can be quite exhausting and in the end we needed to ‘black out’ the rooms we were sleeping in to have any chance of getting any sleep. It was a truly amazing and unforgetable experience.
This makes me wonder how people that live north of the arctic circle get their sleep – and of course during the winter, the opposite happens and their is no light at all for months!