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Stress and Sleep Deprivation--And Shortcuts To Better Sleep

Causes, Effects, Prevention and Management of Sleep Deprivation

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Updated March 07, 2013

Stress and Sleep Deprivation--And Shortcuts To Better Sleep

Sleep deprivation has many effects. Here's how to get better sleep.

Photo from iStockPhoto.com

Prevalence of Sleep Deprivation

Are you getting enough sleep? If you’re like many people, you’re no stranger to sleep deprivation. According to a sleep poll of about 15,000 respondents on this site, around half of my readers are getting 6 or fewer hours of sleep per night, which can put them in a state of sleep deprivation.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

If you’re reading this having gotten less sleep than you wish you did last night, you may also find yourself more stressed than you could be. Studies on sleep show that those who get significantly less than the optimal 7.5-8.5 hours each night may be operating under a sleep deficit, and may be prone to the following and more:
  • Mild to Moderate Cognitive Impairment

  • Motor Skill Impairment

  • Emotional Irritability

  • Weight Gain

  • Weakened Immunity

Stress and Sleep Deprivation

Most of these factors can lead to greater stress: being less mentally sharp at work can jeopardize your performance at work and potentially cause problems on the job; getting sick more often puts you under pressure and additional stress; experiencing emotional reactivity can cause conflict with co-workers, family and friends; being more prone to accidents obviously has its own set of dangers. More than just being tired throughout the day, not getting enough sleep can color your whole day and subtly but pervasively create more stress.

Combating Sleep Deprivation

If you find yourself wishing you’d gotten more sleep last night, and an honest look at your lifestyle reveals that lack of adequate sleep is a common occurrence, some changes should probably be made. You may try one or more of the following:
  • Find More Time For Sleep
    Often the cause of sleep deprivation is simple overscheduling. It’s difficult to find time for all the things we do these days, and sleep is often the first item on our schedule that gets sacrificed when we get too busy. See these life plan strategies for finding better balance.

  • Create Sleep-Promoting Habits
    Sometimes we have habits in our lifestyle that can sabotage our sleep without our realizing it. That’s why building better sleep habits into one’s schedule is so important and effective in combating sleep deprivation.

  • Cultivate a Sleep-Friendly State of Mind
    If you’ve found yourself losing sleep over a conflict or stressor you’re experiencing in life, you’re not alone—most of us have been there at one time or another I think. Try a mindfulness meditation or one of these tips to clear your mind.

  • Manage Stress in Your Life
    Sometimes it’s just general stress that affects our sleep—our body’s stress response gets triggered and stays triggered, and our body’s systems get out of balance, resulting in sleep problems. Get ongoing support for stress management by following my Stress Management Blog, subscribing to the free weekly newsletter, and put what you’ve learned into practice. It could change your life.

These are great plans for the future, but if you're still feeling tired today, see page two of this article for "sleep deprivation cheats", simple and effective ways to feel less stressed and more alert--to feel as though you got more sleep.
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