Sleep Deprivation and What Causes It
Sleep deprivation, also known as Insomnia, is the condition of not getting enough sleep; it is a serious medical issue. Sleep deprivation can be categorized as acute or chronic. Acute total sleep deprivation occurs when no sleep occurs for a relatively short period of time. Chronic partial sleep deprivation occurs when only brief periods of sleep occur consistently for a prolonged period of time. It is not possible for a human to go without sleep completely for a long period of time; whether the individual tries or not, microsleeps will occur. Acute total sleep apnea is dangerous to human health on a short-term basis, but chronic insomnia can lead to the deterioration of brain functioning, and in excessively long periods, death can occur.
Causes: Many different factors can contribute to sleep deprivation.
- Stimulants: Ingesting stimulants throughout the day can make it difficult to get to sleep at night. Stimulant medications like caffeine can make sleeping at night extremely difficult.
- Hormonal Changes: Distinct changes in the body’s hormone levels can cause Insomnia. During a woman’s monthly menstruation, she is more likely to experience trouble sleeping because of her heightened hormone levels. Pregnant women experience the same issues.
- Pain: Many people who experience chronic or constant pain have trouble sleeping at night. When going to bed, the mind focuses on the pain and it seems amplified; it becomes hard to concentrate on anything else. The mind can’t relax so the body tenses. People who suffer from severe pain are commonly woken up by it during the night. After waking up because severe pain is occurring, it is hard to relax and go back to sleep.
- Anxiety: The stress hormone, Cortisol, can stop an individual from sleeping well during the night. Arousals caused by apneas release the hormone, and apnea victims who wake up repeatedly during the night often experience Insomnia when their arousals cause heightened stress hormone levels. In addition, heightened levels of worry or anxiety during the day will lead to increased Cortisol levels at night, preventing the individual from falling asleep and staying asleep.
- Sleeping During the Day: Napping during the day can make it difficult to go to bed at night. People who suffer from daytime sleepiness, especially as a result of Sleep Apnea, are much more likely to sleep during the day than energized people without sleeping disorders.
- Other Medical Issues: Sleep deprivation is often caused by underlying health issues. Many different issues and diseases can lead to the development of Insomnia including, but not limited to: Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, antidepressants, thyroid problems, kidney disease, acid reflux, diuretics, corticosteroids, medications for blood pressure, asthma, Parkinson’s disease, cancer, allergies, Narcolepsy, Restless Leg Syndrome, and of course, Sleep Apnea.
- Environment: You can’t have a good night of sleep in a bad environment. Millions of people around the world experience Insomnia because their environment is not conducive to sleep. If there is too much noise or light in your bedroom, falling asleep may become very difficult. Arousals are likely when the room temperature is too warm as well. The best sleeping environment is a cool, dark, quiet environment. In addition to outside stimuli, your internal association with your sleeping environment is imperative. Only use your bed for sleeping; when the time comes to get in bed, your brain will automatically know that it’s time to go to sleep.
Effects of Insomnia on Apnea Patients
Sleep deprivation has serious consequences on all of the people who suffer from it. Victims of Sleep Apnea are at a much higher risk, however, of experiencing serious effects. Sleep deprivation coupled with Sleep Apnea is a dangerous combination.
- Brain Function: When the biological clock is disturbed, there are serious consequences on the brain. The brain gets a chance to rest and recuperate when sleep occurs; when sleep doesn’t occur, the brain is not able to function properly. Sleep deprivation causes a reduced speed in mental response because nerves are not able to transfer messages correctly. Patients with Central Sleep Apnea already have issues with their neurological messages being delivered and understood quickly enough; adding Insomnia to the equation makes proper neurological functioning very difficult. The memory becomes seriously impaired during periods of Insomnia, and a general lack of focus and balance is observed.
- Intensifies Alcohol: Alcohol has a devastating effect on Sleep Apnea patients. Because sleep deprivation intensifies the effects of all drugs, the depressant effects of alcohol are more prevalent and dangerous.
- Microsleeps: Significant periods of Insomnia can result in microsleeps. When a microsleep occurs, the brain immediately shuts down and the victim falls asleep for less than a minute. It doesn’t matter what physical activity a person is completing, when microsleeps hit, the person will fall asleep. Microsleeps are dangerous, especially when coupled with the fatigue associated with Sleep Apnea. Falling asleep suddenly during the day can lead to accidents and the endangering of your life as well as the lives of others.
- Immune System: Sleep Apnea patients suffer from an increased risk of nasal and respiratory infections. The immune system has to be in tip-top shape to fight of these dangerous infections, and sleep deprivation prevents that from happening. Patients already at risk have to be extremely careful when experiencing a period of insomnia.
Combat Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation
While caffeine, naps, and medications may be popular ways to wrangle sleep deprivation, the only certain way to treat the problems and risks associated with Insomnia is to get an adequate amount of sleep at night.
- Treat Symptoms: The best way to ward off future episodes of sleep deprivation is to treat the underlying causes of the problem. Try keeping a sleep diary to help you identify what may, or may not, be causing your Insomnia.
- Recovery Sleep: After periods of acute sleep deprivation, one night of recovery sleep may reverse the negative effects of prolonged wakefulness on cognitive functions. In chronic sleep deprivation, however, the recover of cognitive and neurological functioning take much, much longer.