Poor Sleep and Behavior

We are living in a society that thrives on an excess of hard work and lack of sound sleep all in the name of success. As this approach to our daily habits is widely accepted, it has become second nature for those trying to achieve their goals, to abide by the unwritten rule of working instead of giving your body what it needs, such as rest and nutrition. While many praise the idea, there are those who are aware of the effects of sleep deprivation. Over the past 10 years successful media mogul, Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, has become an advocate for getting adequate sleep after passing out at her desk and waking up in a pool of blood to see her daughter’s face. 

During an interview with CNBC, Huffington explained, “I can tell you with authority that when I’m exhausted. When I’m running on empty, I’m the worst version of myself,” says the entrepreneur. “I’m more reactive. I’m less empathetic. I’m less creative. And all of us can testify to that.” Even for everyday people who are not in the public eye, losing hours of sleep in an effort to perform better, complete necessary or desired tasks, or due to other internal or external factors can have serious negative consequences.

Getting sufficient sleep goes beyond following a schedule and just getting rest; our quality of sleep is strongly connected to our physical health, emotions, and behavior. The general population undergoes numerous adverse behavioral responses as a result of sleep deprivation, and the experience is significantly increased right now due to the current shelter-in-place environment. It is vital to understand how the loss of sleep affects us at the best of times and identify steps to reverse these effects during this current situation.

Poor sleep impacts daytime function and mental health.

How Sleep Deprivation Affects Us

What is sleep deprivation? Simply put, it is when the body is deprived of the amount of sleep it requires to repair and restore itself. Full-sleep debt occurs when a person is kept awake for a full 24-hour cycle and partial-sleep debt is when someone has limited sleep for several days or even weeks. Sleep debt is triggered by a host of agents including, but not limited to:

  • Environment
  • Sleep habits
  • Work
  • Study
  • Stress
  • Illness or ailments
  • Use of stimulants such as coffee or alcohol
  • Sleeping disorders (i.e. obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, etc.)

After a loss of needed sleep, you may find yourself highly irritable, intensely reactive in situations you normally wouldn’t be, or oblivious to the fact you put your keys in the freezer instead of on the key hook. In regards to sleep, most people have personally experienced a change in mood, energy, and the ability to handle stress when we get even one hour less than the optimal amount. Sleep deprivation is directly connected to our behavior and can be a key factor in the display of actions we would normally avoid.

Though sleep debt may seem like a minor thing, universally it is linked to significant social, financial, and human costs, resulting in a whole array of physiological and behavioral effects that range from excessive yawning to reduced reaction time. According to the American Sleep Association, drowsy driving is responsible for 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 non-fatal injuries in America annually, which, according to the Department of Transportation, cost more than $45 billion USD in 2015 alone. Shift workers, truck drivers, medical residents, and airline pilots working long hours or late shifts have shown an increased risk for crashes and near misses. Studies also show that adequate sleep is one of the most crucial factors in learning. Meta-analysis shows, on average, partial sleep-deprived subjects performed two standard deviations below their non–sleep-deprived counterparts, meaning sleep deficit does not The Effects of Sleep Deprivation on Inmates

Consider the effects of sleep deprivation during normal circumstances. Now intensify it. Families today struggle with the same causes and effects of sleep debt but now have the added element of a highly stressful environment that they cannot escape 24 hours each day. Additional influences on sleep include:

  • Living in a chaotic environment
  • Crowded living/sleeping space
  • Prescribed and non-prescribed drugs
  • Hypervigilance
  • Taking frequent naps during the day
  • Interacting with sleep-deprived family and co-workers

If you are dealing with full- or partial-sleep debt, it makes sense that one might respond irrationally at times.

Reversing the Effects of Sleep Deprivation

When it comes to improving sleep quality the resources are plentiful and generally application is realistic; however, we must consider the factors that hinder a more effective sleep situation and invest in creating a more sleep-conducive environment. Change is not something that occurs overnight but is the result of a series of steps in the right direction.

Sleep rehabilitation is pertinent to the holistic wellbeing of all people regardless of their situation and environment. We go in-depth and explore what rehabilitation looks like in our “Sleep and Rehabilitation” article. Providing better sleeping environments is both necessary and possible, leading us to offer suggestions that could be implemented for success within as well as outside of our own four walls.

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