Sleep deprivation and your health

Florence Cardinal Health Guide
  • Sleep deprivation can undermine all areas of your physical and mental health. It weakens the immune system leaving us more susceptible to diseases and disorders like diabetes, cancer and even the common cold.


    It is not uncommon for people who suffer from sleep deprivation due to sleep disorders - sleep apnea, narcolepsy, insomnia, etc. - to also suffer from other problems including diabetes, asthma or a second sleep disorder.


    Sleep deprivation destroys not only physical health, but mental health as well. It can cause everything from minor irritation to outbursts of temper to full-scale mental illness. In fact, along with chronic sleep deprivation, night-shift work is also implicated.

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    Shift work is a real danger when it comes to sleep deprivation, especially if it's the graveyard shift, or a swing shift that moves from week to week through morning, afternoon and graveyard shifts. This can really screw up a person's circadian rhythm.


    Abnormal insulin levels, common in both shift workers and people who are sleep deprived could increase the risk of degenerative disorders, including Alzheimer's.


    Learning is also affected by sleep deprivation. To learn something, all those little wheels should be in place, and this includes sleep times and circadian rhythm. Students preparing for final exams often stay up all night studying. This is the wrong approached. They'd be wiser to go over the material earlier in the evening, and then "sleep on it." They will wake up refreshed and with much of what they studied just before falling asleep retained.


    Sleep deprivation and working night shift tends to lower serotonin levels. This causes mood swings that don't appear in those who get normal sleep.


    Yet another possible result of sleep deprivation is flawed circadian rhythm that might cause bipolar disorder. Bipolar Disorder is a mood disorder characterized by episodes of mania and depression.


    Coping with Shift Work

    • Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on days off. This may seem difficult for those working night shift, but it will help you stay healthy.
    • Bright lights at work when working night shift would be beneficial. However, when the night shift is over, avoiding bright lights will help you sleep. Keep the bedroom as dark as possible.
    • Napping isn't recommended for those who suffer from insomnia, but in the case of shift workers, short naps may be beneficial.
    • The food supplement melatonin helps promote daytime sleep. Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland.
    • Provigil (Modafinil) is a prescription drug that can keep a person more alert when working the night shift.
    • Another very common way to alleviate sleepiness is by drinking coffee or Colas that contain caffeine. Chocolate is also high in caffeine.


Published On: April 30, 2008