The Causes of Sleep Deprivation

14 Jun


My Story With Sleep Problems

Sleep deprivation sucks. There’s no beating around the bush when it comes to this – it plain sucks. I used to have problems falling asleep just about every single night. For me the problem all came down to one thing: lower back pain. Here’s what would often happen:

I would move or bend the wrong way before going to bed. This could be from any number of things – changing clothes, bending down towards the sink to brush my teeth, bending down in the shower to adjust the knobs, having sex, attempting to get comfortable on the bed, on so on. Somewhere along the line doing these things at night I would very often move the wrong way to trigger the pain in my lower back (there’s something wrong with the L1 portion of my spine, FYI.)

From here a horrible feedback loop would kick in.

With the pain seering in my back, I’d be unable to fall asleep. Unable to fall asleep, I’d often toss and turn, changing positions and doing something stupid like lie on my side when I know it’s not good for my back and BOOM – the goddamn pain flares up again and I’m now even more awake and in pain, lying there unable to sleep.

As I believe I mentioned twice before, let’s say it a third time: not being able to fall asleep sucks. If this is what you’re going through, I have nothing but empathy because I was there for a long time myself.

Over the years I worked a lot on improving the muscles in my back and knowing how to carry myself and do normal tasks without kickstarting the problem areas of my spine. This was accomplished through some specific physical therapy exercises designed to improve the muscles in my lower back, abs, buttocks, hips, and legs. I also did yoga for a bit, which I think was helpful, saw a chiropractic doctor, which I think did nothing for me, save for the electric stimulation therapy machine they’d hook me up to at the end of each adjustment, which felt great and provided instant relief.

But back to the point here: sleep deprivation and it’s causes.

For me it was back pain.

But what else causes this problem?


A Look at Sleep Deprivation and What Causes It

Sleep deprivation can be defined simply as the condition of not having enough sleep. (Source 1)

What causes this?

For many people, it’s rather simple.

They are too busy and don’t have enough time to get enough sleep.

My best friend falls into the category. Between raising 4 kids with his wife and a full time job with constant overtime hours, he rarely gets more than 6 or 7 hours of sleep a night. Many times it’s 5 to 6 hours. This has always concerned me because he does this habitually. It’s his normal sleep schedule, and it means he is depriving himself of the sleep he needs for maximum health.

But what about those who have enough time but just can’t fall asleep?

What is the cause of this type of sleep problem?

(This would more correctly be referred to as insomnia, by the way, with the effect being sleep deprivation, and insomnia being the cause. But let’s continue…)

Stress and Anxiety

For many people I think simple stress and anxiety is the number one reason they have problems falling asleep. This is not a doctors opinion, it is just my opinion. The solution for such a problem is not easy. It could mean reassessing your entire life and how you spend your time and how you respond to events. Is your job causing your horrible stress? Do you get panic attacks dealing with the responsibilities at work or at school? These are just a few questions to ask yourself. Taking a long hard look at how you feel and figuring out why you feel this way is important. But even if you can’t do this or aren’t interested in doing it, you can certainly reduce your stress and anxiety through a number of means.

Some suggestions:

  • Meditation & Deep Breathing
  • Visualization
  • Daily Exercise, Daily Walking
  • Yoga
  • Brainwave Entrainment (See my Sirius Mind Machine review for more info on this technique.)

These are obviously deep subject but I wanted to provide to videos to get started. Here’s a few I’ve selected from YouTube.

Breathing Exercises for Sleep

Yoga for Sleep, Insomnia, or Deep Relaxation

Health Conditions

Here are some health conditions and problem associated with difficulty sleeping.

  • Depression – Depression can interfere with the natural levels of cortisol in the brain, thus wreaking havoc your sleep quality.
  • Restless Leg Syndrome – An infuriating condition in which the legs move and twitch involuntarily when trying to fall asleep.
  • Sleep Apea – A very serious condition in which a persons breathing stops or slows down during sleep. Sleep apnea has serious consequences on the quality of ones sleep.
  • Bathroom Problems – Such as a consistent desire to go urinate, which may or may not be real. (i.e. Conditions in which you feel you have to pee but don’t actually have any urine to release.)
  • Muscle Pain – As mentioned, back pain can make it very hard to fall asleep. Pain anywhere in the body can make it hard to fall asleep.

Stimulants

Drinking too much caffeine is associated with sleep problems. I’m sure you know people who drink coffee all day long and suffer from sleep problems. This is no coincidence.

At the same time, other stimulants too will keep you up – this include illegal drugs like speed and cocaine and basically all uppers and amphetamines. Psychoactive substances such as mushrooms or LSD will also make it hard to fall asleep, even once their desired effects have worn off.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Consistently not getting enough sleep has real effects on your health. It puts yourself and others in danger, too.

These effects include:

  • Messing with your memory. The brain simply cannot remember things as well if you’re not getting enough sleep.
  • Trouble thinking and learning. If you stay up all night, it’s just hard to follow things the next day. Your brain just can’t focus.
  • Interering with your relationships. This is something many don’t think about if they’ve not experienced it firsthand, but the effects of sleep deprivation are not good for couples. Think about your sex life and how it can be effected if you’ve got serious sleep deprivation issues. Think about just being happy and awake and ready for life if you’ve got sleep problems. This state of mind is not good for relationships or raising kids.
  • It’s dangerous to drive or operate machinery. Your impaired congitive abilities due to lack of sleep make you a bad driver. If you fall asleep behind the wheel then obviously you could kill yourself and others. If you work with machinery at work and are too tired to concentrate you are creating a safety hazard.

Medicines to Help you Sleep

There are a number of over the counter medicines that help you sleep.

For our purposes here, we can divide them into a few different groups.


  • Prescription sleeping pills. This includes things like Ambien. These are strong drugs and lots of people hate them. For others they are a god send. You can’t buy sleeping pills online legally in this category, try as you might, unless you have a doctors prescription.
  • Melatonin. Ah, wonderful melatonin.Me personally – I am a huge fan of melatonin. It doesn’t have crazy side effects, it’s natural, it’s not going to me up or get me addicted to it. I plan on writing more about melatonin soon, but for now, you can learn more about melatonin or buy melatonin here.
  • Over the counter sleep aid drugs. Once you start looking at the ingredients for over the counter sleep aid medications, you notice that despite the pretty packaging and various brand names, all “insomnia tablets” contain only only a few different drugs in them. This includes diphenhydramine and doxylamine succinate. Click here to find sleep aids like this on Amazon.
  • Herbs and natural sleep aids. This includes things like valerian root and other herbs associated with going to sleep. While helpful, unless you take other actions to address the cause of your sleep problems, I don’t think drinking valerian root tea is going to make much of a difference. (For instance, if your problems are at root a stress related issue.) Here are some herbal sleep aid products.

Talk to your Doctor

Oh it’s cliche but it’s true – if you’ve got some serious sleep problems, you shouldn’t be afraid to find a doctor who will work with you on solving your problems. Also, don’t mistake anything in this article as professional medical advice – I’m just a guy who has been there when it comes to sleep problems, and this is my experience and my advice, but it is not to replace the advice of a doctor.

Comments

I would love to hear more about your experience with sleep deprivation, what’s caused it for you, and how you helped overcome it. Please leave your story, comments, and questions below.

Source 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sleep_deprivation


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