Sleep deprivation is no fun. Yet it’s a growing problem for most Americans. The Sleep in America polls indicate that most Americans are sleeping 6 hours or less per night, which is much less than the recommended 8 hours per night most adults need.
There are multiple causes of sleep deprivation, and, often, it’s a combination of factors which result in insomnia (not being able to fall asleep) or poor quality sleep (waking up feeling tired.)
Losing sleep is a serious issue, and lack of quality sleep has been linked to health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, as well as to mood problems such as depression and anger.
Sleep problems have also been linked to driving accidents, relationship/marriage problems, and poor on-the-job performance.
The 10 biggest causes of sleep deprivation are:
1) Stress/Anxiety- This is probably the biggest culprit underlying most sleep issues. Stress is on the rise, and impacts everyone. Stress and sleep are circularly connected. Poor sleep leads to increased feelings of stress (in fact, one study shows that getting 6 hours of sleep or less per night causes you to function as if you’re legally drunk.) Stress also causes poor sleep. Learn more about stress and sleep.
2) Alcohol- while most people have a drink or two to relax, the truth is that alcohol disrupts your sleep cycle. It can impact how quickly you fall asleep and how long you stay asleep.
3) Nicotine- This is a stimulant that can lead you to be overly alert and unable to sleep. Smoking has many other negative health risks too.
4) GERD (aka gastro-esophageal reflux disease)- this is a condition in which the stomach contents and acids leak upwards from the stomach into the esophagus. This irritates the esophagus and can lead to heartburn. There are several circumstances that can lead to GERD, including alcohol consumption, hiatal hernia, smoking and obesity. Learn more about GERD and sleep deprivation
5) Pain- Being in pain can make it difficult to fall asleep and to stay asleep. Also, chronic pain makes it difficult to feel rested even if you got enough sleep. Learn more about chronic pain and sleep deprivation.
6) New Baby- being a new parent is an exhilarating and exciting experience. Everything is new- and you definitely would enjoy it more if you were getting more rest. However, since most newborns nurse several times per night, and because most new parents experience anxiety, there is more to learn about new baby and sleep deprivation.
7) Sleep Apnea- this is a medical condition where you stop breathing during sleep. Usually it happens when your tongue falls back and covers over your airway. Sleep apnea is a dangerous condition. Learn more about sleep and sleep apnea.
8) Environment- who hasn’t felt annoyed when they’ve really wanted a good night’s sleep and the environment made it difficult? Noise, too much heat, and other environmental conditions can impact your sleep. Learn more about your sleep environment and sleep deprivation.
9) Disruption in Circadian Rhythms (such as due to jet lag/shift work)- our circadian rhythms govern our body cycles. When these get disrupted, either due to changes in sleep, jet lag, or shift work, we find it really difficult to live a normal life. Learn more about circadian rhythms and sleep deprivation.
10) Poor sleep habits- watching TV too late, eating too late, using too much technology before bed- all of these can impact our sleep and quality of sleep. Learn more about poor sleep habits and sleep deprivation.