Chronic sleep deprivation can have a drastic and significant impact on your overall health. On occasion, everyone has a bad night or two of sleep, but anything more than that may be the result of an untreated sleep disorder.
Research shows sleep provides more benefits than just rest and recovery from everyday life. Sleep maintains mood, memory and learning. It also plays a critical role in the normal function of the endocrine and immune systems.
Most adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Some people may need more or less sleep.
Short-term sleep deprivation
If untreated, sleep deprivation can cause:
- Memory and cognitive impairment
- Decreased performance and alertness
- Occupational or automobile injury
- Poor quality of life
Long-term sleep deprivation
Inadequate sleep over a period of time is associated with serious medical conditions like:
- Heart disease causing heart attack or heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Mental impairment
- Attention deficit disorder
- Fetal and childhood growth delays
The good news is that these problems should decrease after getting proper treatment for a sleep disorder.
There are five phases that most people cycle through during sleep. Healthy sleep follows a pattern of alternating between the two basic states: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM). For most people, they start with four phases of NREM sleep.
- Stage 1: Drowsiness, between being awake and falling asleep
Stage 2: Light sleep
Stage 3 & 4: Deep sleep, the most restorative sleep
Stage 5: REM sleep. Each complete sleep cycle takes about 90-110 minutes. REM periods start out short, but as the night progresses the period of sleep in REM increases.
When people don’t cycle through these stages properly, they do not get the quality and quantity of sleep they need. For some people, getting enough sleep can be as simple as making lifestyle changes. However, for others help from a sleep specialist may be needed.