No matter how much sleep you need, if you don't get enough, you will suffer the effects of sleep deprivation. Research has shown that in tests of driving ability and hand-eye coordination, people deprived of sleep perform as badly as, or even worse than, people who are intoxicated. It's no wonder that drowsiness is a major cause of traffic accidents and deaths.
Individuals vary in their need for sleep. Some people require nine or more hours of sleep per night, while others may not feel deprived after just five hours of sleep. But the average adult requires seven to eight hours of sleep per night.
Are you getting enough sleep? Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you often feel drowsy during the day?
- Do you usually fall asleep within the first five minutes after lying down in bed?
If you answered yes to either of these, you're likely to be sleep deprived or have a sleep disorder. There are many different types of sleep disorders. Examples include:
- sleep-related breathing disorders such as sleep apnea,
- periodic limb movement disorder,
- sleepwalking, and
- restless legs syndrome.
Other than daytime drowsiness and rapidly falling asleep at night, short episodes called microsleeps are another hallmark of sleep deprivation. Microsleeps are short bursts of sleep that occur during the waking hours. These may be so transient that you may not even be aware that they are occurring.
It's not possible to fight sleep deprivation with caffeine or other stimulant drugs. Developing and maintaining a healthy sleep cycle is the only way to overcome the effects of sleep deprivation. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your sleep habits or if you are unable to achieve healthy, restorative sleep.
REFERENCE: Fauci, Anthony S., et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 2011.