Sleep deprivation is officially an epidemic in the U.S., where a third of all American adults are not getting the recommended hours of rest. Poor sleep poses a host of health risks, including heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes. Many adults think that feeling tired and sleepy during the day as ‘normal’. In fact, it is a sign that you could be risking your health. Luckily, scientists have developed a new test that can actually detect the results of sleep deprivation.
Genetic Changes from Sleep Deprivation
The above-mentioned study, published in September 2018 in the journal Sleep, involved 36 participants, all of whom skipped a night’s sleep. They stayed awake for 40 hours straight, providing blood samples to scientists. The measurements showed that the expression of 68 genes was different in persons who lacked sleep. The researchers noted: “The very existence of such biomarkers in the blood after only a period of 24-hour wakefulness shows the physiological impact a lack of sleep can have on our body.” In the future, researchers hope to develop another test that will successfully measure chronic sleep deprivation.
New Findings on Sleep Deprivation
Several new studies presented recently at a meeting of the European Study of Cardiology found that too little (and too much) sleep is linked to an increased risk for hardened arteries, strokes, heart failure, and many more serious problems. Researcher E. Fountas, who was part of a team that examined 11 studies with over one million participants, found that any less sleep than seven to nine hours per night is linked to an 11% increased risk for dying from coronary heart disease or stroke. More severe sleep deprivation ups the risk to 33%.
How Can We Tackle Sleep Deprivation?
If a serious disorder such as sleep apnea s present, professional help is needed. Usually, the problem can be addressed by wearing a device that opens the airways at night so that breathing is not interrupted. Those who simply lack good sleep hygiene, meanwhile, can make a few simple changes. These include sleeping at the same time every night, practicing progressive muscular relaxation exercises at bedtime, and ensuring that bedrooms are well designed. Mattress firmness is important for quality sleep since different sleeping positions require different types of support. Pillows should also be the right height, to avoid neck pain. Finally, rooms should be dark, quiet, and cool, for greater comfort.
What Effects Can Chronic Sleep Deprivation Have?
In addition to posing a health risk, sleep deprivation is also a big risk factor for accidents. Another recent study found that severe sleep apnea, for instance, is linked to a 123% increased likelihood of having a motor vehicle crash. One of the biggest problems with sleep apnea (a condition in which breathing is repeatedly interrupted during sleep) is that chronically sleep-deprived people often don’t feel excessively sleep and therefore do not know that their driving is impaired. Sleep deprivation tests, such as those currently being worked on by researchers, can help people understand the extent and effects of their problem.
If you wake up feeling tired, you feel sleepy during the day, or you snore, it is important to ensure you don’t have a serious condition like sleep apnea. Even if you don’t have this disorder, however, it is important to ensure your sleep quality is good. Not only should you sleep for seven to nine hours, but also ensure you sleep quickly. The National Sleep Foundation states that you should ideally fall asleep within half an hour of getting into bed. You should also wake up no more than once a night, and be awake for no longer than a total of 20 minutes after falling asleep.