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Sleep Deprivation: Key Facts

Sleep is so important to us, we all know this but for so many reasons we just don’t get enough. Whether it’s the feeling there is too much to do, not enough hours in the day, stress, anxiety, worrying, pain or just bad sleeping habits.

This blog was something I put together just to highlight the physical and mental health impact on not getting enough sleep and some simple steps to help.  So most studies suggest 7-8 hours of sleep per night is defined as the ideal amount to stay healthy. Explains then why as new parents we often feel on auto pilot and have prolonged baby brain and symptoms of brain fog.

Not getting enough sleep for 1 or 2 nights is unlikely to cause a long term health problem, other than a bit of temporary moodiness and lack of energy, this should resolve once you’ve gained the sleep necessary. However prolonged sleep deprivation on a regular basis according to the, is showing not only to have an emotional and physical impact but significant chronic illnesses are being linked to it.

Sleep deprivation causes; lack of energy and motivation, mood changes, poor concentration and memory, making frequent mistakes, clumsiness, poor ability to reason things through, craving for carbs, low sex drive, reduced immunity and resilience to fight illnesses

·        Sleep deprivation is also being linked with weight gain , Obesity, Heart Disease and Type 2 Diabetes.

Healing and Repair – during a state of deep sleep our bodies will experience Rapid Eye Movements, this is when our bodies start to heal and repair.  Therefore if you are suffering from sleep deprivation especially due to pain the healing process can be lengthened.

More literature are highlighting weight gain being associated with sleep deprivation.  Its believed the chemical Leptin is under stimulated, this chemical tells our body when we are full and thus an over production of ghrelin (the chemical which makes us feel hungry) occurs.

Lack of sleep is being linked to body changes and regulation of blood glucose leading to type 2 diabetes, and lack of sleep is also connected to an increase of BP thus putting a strain on the heart therefore people are more at risk of heart conditions

Stress, anxiety, excessive worrying, poor diet, excessive computer work, lack of exercise are just some of the contributing factors to poor sleep

What can help?

  • Exercise is important to helping aid sleep, not only has your body done something that will make you tired but it also: improves circulation; releases stress; releases endorphins which are the feel good hormones in the body improving mood and positivity. The exercise you choose needs to be something you enjoy. Over exercising can also have adverse effects and make you susceptible to injuries. Therefore moderation is the key.
  • Addressing pain is important.  For example if a joint or muscle is inflamed, pain can often get worse at night, disturbing sleep. Depending on the cause of pain, getting advice from your GP on appropriate pain medication or getting assessed appropriately by a Physiotherapist will be important to ensure an accurate diagnosis and that pain is managed effectively.  So important to promote recovery.
  • Drinking water in exchange for caffeine or sugary drinks may help particularly in the evening.
  • If you suffer with an over active mind. Avoid over using electronic devices that stimulate the mind before bed, avoid prolonged computer use. Try reading instead or some simple stretches and breathing techniques. Writing down things that are on your mind can be a great tool to transfer your thoughts and help to allow you to let go.
  • Avoid being in one position for too long, as with prolonged computer use or being a couch potato on the sofa. Move around frequently and stretch the body. Getting movement in the body helps to improve posture, improves circulation and increasing oxygen into the body, releases tight muscles and restores energy.  It makes sense if you are hunched over a desk all day, your breathing pattern and oxygen intake isn’t at its optimum.  Your muscles have to work harder and thus putting extra strain on joints and soft tissues.  Staying in one position can make you feel very sluggish.  Therefore good posture and movement is vital to ensure a healthy mind and body, allowing muscles to work more effectively in turn reduces the energy output required by the body.  Therefore you have energy to use on tasks that are important to you.
  • Relaxation, Meditation and Mindfulness. Fantastic techniques to calm the body and mind. Our brain is a powerful organ and our mind can often be out of control with thoughts and feelings which can trigger the sympathetic nervous system into overdrive, stimulating adrenaline influencing our BP and respiratory rate.  Relaxation and meditation can help to stimulate the para-sympathetic having calming effects and balancing the two systems.  Ever told yourself to stop thinking about something and then it keeps popping into your mind.


If you found this interesting, visit our physiotherapy page for more information.

For more information and resources from the NHS, visit their sleep self-assessment.