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Sleep Deprivation and How it Affects Us

Updated on May 30, 2009

 There are many things that are vital to our overall health. One of those things, is... sleep. Many of us know that, it is recommended we get at least 8 hours of sleep each night. We realize that we need sleep in order for our bodies to function properly. We also know, that... without enough sleep, strange things can happen to us. We might feel dizzy, sick to our stomach, our eyes might burn or water and we may develop a bad headache. These are just a few of the things that can happen without the appropriate amount of rest.

Think, for a moment, of sleep being akin to money in a bank account. We wouldn't want to withdrawl $10 one night, $20 the next, then $40, and $80... until we're actually borrowing money that isn't even there, would we? Most of us would say, no. The reason, is... if we do that, we will most definitely have to pay back all that money, plus fees, later on. Not a pleasant situation to be in.

By the same token, when we say to ourselves, "I'll just stay up a half an hour longer. It'll be o.k.," we're actually fooling ourselves into believing our bodies will be fine without that necessary sleep, when- in fact- the opposite is true. If we take away sleep time, not only are we deluding ourselves into thinking we'll be o.k., but we are actually setting our bodies up for many health failures, later on.

Suppose you have a good friend who drinks and drinks and drinks, until they're so drunk they can't stand up. Would you let them drive home? Hopefully not! They would, more than likely, get into an accident... injuring themselves/or someone else. Studies have shown that, the same is true for those who drive not having had enough sleep. Not only are you just tired when you're driving, but... it has been proven that your reaction time to certain aspects of driving, your attentiveness to detail and most all other mental faculties are affected.

Think about all the times you've heard stories (t.v., newspaper, word-of-mouth) about semi-truck drivers, deliverymen/women, people driving through the night (to get to a relative's or, whatever) that have, either had an accident and died, or had an accident and killed other people. I've heard my share. These are tragedies we don't want to see happen to our loved ones or those we're closely associated with.

As adults, we need to take responsibility for what we do. It is also our duty as parents to teach our children how to (and how NOT to) drive safely. We could also discuss this subject with those we're closest to... friends, family members, co-workers, etc. There's plenty of information out there for anyone who might be interested in this subject. We want to be very careful with medications, as well. Make sure you know what you're taking, how much (strength), dosage and how often. It's always good to keep a copy of this information on you, at all times. Medication, coupled with sleep deprivation, is a very deadly combination.

If there are outside reasons/sources that take away from your sleep time (no matter what/who they may be!), find a speedy solution to the dilemma. If it's work, talk with your boss. See if you can't leave a bit earlier. If it's a favor you're doing for someone, consider cutting back or not doing the favor. It's o.k. to say, no! Your health depends on it!!!

I have made it a point to know enough about this subject to make sure I keep my own self healthy. I tend to do well on 9 hours of sleep. Eight is not enough, and ten is too much. I have been a real "sleep-borrower" in the past, too. If, say, I miss one hour of sleep, I'm tired most of the next day, I'm sluggish and don't get much done (or the quality of what I do do is affected). If I miss two or more hours, you can pretty much count me out, the next day. I'm a zombie. I can be unable to function well, incoherent, on edge, have a bad headache or migrane and, basically, of no real use to anyone/anything. I don't go past that. So, I realize my body does not operate well on too little sleep. I just don't feel good.

Drinking alcohol can also adversely affect your sleep. If you drink too much, for instance, you may be so sick that you can't sleep... staying up later than you expected. Then, when you do fall asleep, you sleep until 2 or 3 the next afternoon. Many of you know exactly what I'm talking about! The only real way to avoid the hangover-sleep debacle is, to not drink excessively in the first place. If you do, you will surely "reap what you sew."

Another thing, I'd like to mention, that affects the quality of sleep you get, is the environment you sleep in. If you have a t.v. in your bedroom, is it on constantly or do you turn it off when you're not actually watching a show? Do you watch it so much, you can't miss a show or you can't turn it off when you need to go to sleep? The radio, on the other hand... some people actually fall asleep and sleep better with their radio on. That depends on you. If you can, fine. If not, off it goes. Do you sleep in a bed that is comforable or are you constantly tossing and turning, all night long? If so, maybe you need a new pillow or two. Maybe you just need to flip your mattress. If the mattress/or boxspring are so bad that you just can't sleep on them at all, then it's probably time to start looking for a newer set.

What about the lighting in your room? Can you sleep with a little light shining through the window (early in the morning), or do you need complete darkness in order to sleep? Do you have a lot of clutter in your room? Do you have papers and magazines stacked all over the place? If so, take them out of the bedroom and put them in proper storage containers (i.e. accordian files for paper and magazine holders for the magazines). Next, put the containers in places they can "live." You might put the magazine holders on a bookself, for easy access. Store the accordian files vertically, on a book shelf as well.

Is your room clean? Run the vacuum (or mop, if you have hardwoods). Dust. Change sheets/pillowcases. Spray deodorizer (if you're not allergic) to make the room smell good. Make sure, if you have any electronic devices in your room (i.e. cell phone, alarm clock, fan, etc.), these are all set to the appropriate settings, so as not to disturb your sleep.

Dress warmly (or cool, if it's cold), cuddle up with a favorite blanket and get ready to sleep. Sweet dreams will be here before you know it!



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