Negative Effects of Not Sleeping Well

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This is a great subject to help us learn more about our own bodies and how they function (or fail to function at times). I have worked around kids and the elderly and have personally seen the long-term effect that lack of sleep can do to someone. Along with that I have an Aunt who is very sickly due to severe sleep deprivation. When I saw the video below it simply hit home.

This is why I want to share what I’ve learned through the years.

I myself have struggled with lack of sleep, as I think most of us do. While I think it’s completely normal for our bodies to keep us from sleeping sometimes I know the negative effects it can have in the long term. I have taken steps to defeat not sleeping and I know for a fact that it is possible.

On an up close and personal level; my Aunt was able to raise 2 healthy, intelligent children into adults with little trouble. Some point after getting her children off into the real world something changed. The change was very gradual and the symptoms were very minimal at first. As time went on she went so far as to check herself into a clinic because she was afraid to be alone. She eventually ended up moving in with her mom (who is now in her 80’s). Today my Aunt stays up through the night chain smoking, she has lost her appetite and desire to be social. Her daily/nightly routine is to drinks coffee and sit on the couch smoking. When she is approached she sometimes doesn’t seem like she hears anything. She has a difficult time reasoning and understanding very basic concepts. She mumbles words and scares easily with a knock on a door. While I feel she is better off with professional care, she won’t get it until there are no other options.

While my Aunt is a very extreme case, it provides an excellent example of what can come of someone who has sleep deprivation. The progression can be very gradual.

Here are some things I can recommend that can help with sleep deprivation.

  1. Stay away from Drugs. 
  2. Get off the caffeine, start drinking decaf to wean yourself off if you must
  3. Be social, even it means reading Facebook posts...start somewhere and work your way to more
  4. Create a sleep schedule. Start off by going to bed at the time you usually start feeling tired.
  5. Pay attention to the environment in your room when you get into bed. Is it quiet, are there any lights around. Try changing something each night to see if it helps.
  6. What did you do right before going to bed? Find out if there is a routine that may be keeping you from sleeping.

The goal is to see what changes have a positive effect. There’s no point in rushing to find out the solution (it will likely only make it harder).

Things that are known to work: Please feel free to add more in the comments.

  • White Noise, Example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WedvnI3L8dg
  • Not using electronics before bed. (Simple and general rule.)
  • Getting in bed before you’re tired. (Do something to make yourself relax before closing your eyes: stretch your body or massage yourself.)
  • Turn your brain off. (Don’t start a conversation right before bed or keep yourself awake with worrying thoughts.)

Back to my Aunt. While visiting this past time I decided to change some things up. I changed the coffee to decaf, turned on a fan in the living room (where my Aunt sleeps), with these two things I was able to notice a HUGE change in her behavior by the time I had to go.  I was actually able to have a halfway normal conversation with her. She even went to the kitchen and made herself a sandwich on the last day. While I truly hope she is still using these things I put in place, I also hope that this story helps someone else.

 

 

What happens to your body and brain when you skip too much sleep:

Posted by TED-Ed on Thursday, November 12, 2015