Sleep, Health, and the Holidays

Written By: Morgan Renninger

       One sheep, two sheep, three sheep, four…four thousand. For some, sleep is an elusive, almost mythical creature that they can never seem to catch.

     There are many times I have watched the moon give way to the sun, and not caught a single hour of sleep. For those who do not know what it is like, it is hard to understand the trials the sleepless zombies go through.

     Sleep deprivation can be caused by a myriad of outside forces, such as stress, anxiety, or internal problems like thyroid malfunctions. It can also be caused by sleep disorders such as insomnia, narcolepsy, and sleep apnea. Insomnia is the persistent inability to fall asleep and stay asleep. Narcolepsy is collapsing into deep sleep at random times, while sleep apnea is the inability to breath well when sleeping. All of these factors can cause one not experience a good night’s sleep and can have numerous effects on one mentally and physically.

Sleepy Boo : Monsters Inc :Pinterest
Sleepy Boo : Monsters Inc :Pinterest

    The hours pass by and suddenly it’s morning. This will happen to everyone at some point. Usually, when one pulls an all-nighter for college. Imagine this was a regular occurrence. Lack of sleep diminishes concentration and ability to focus on even minor tasks. It becomes difficult to do work and can cause grades to suffer. Prolonged sleep deprivation can make it difficult to function normally and cause one to be distant and seem almost “fog brained.”

     Not getting enough sleep can also affect mood. In a study a study done by the University of Pennsylvania and Psychologists  those who received less than five hours of sleep every night were more likely to be angry, depressed, anxious, and aggressive. This can lead people to lash out or act in a way that is contrary or abnormal to their normal behaviour. Being in this state can lead to impaired judgment and lack of mental ability.

     One’s mental and physical health is jeopardized by lack of sleep. The immune system is weakened when the body is not able to be rested and replenished through sleep. This lowers immunity and makes healing take longer. According to a Harvard study,
the body does not get enough rest it is more likely to gain weight. The body is also more susceptible to heart diseases, strokes, and episodes of microsleep (where a person fall into mini sleep episodes and is usually unaware).  Depression, hallucinations and delirium are all serious side effects of sleep loss, especially over extended periods of time.

     Don’t be completely discouraged, as there are ways to ease these effects and even fall asleep. First, even though people do not like this word, is exercise.

    Exercising in the early evening can alleviate stress and allow the release of endorphins that can calm the body. Closely following is diet. What you eat does have an effect on sleep. Eating a heavy carb dinner or before bed will make it more difficult to fall asleep. Getting enough iron and vitamins, along with having a balanced diet will improve body and mental function. It will allow the body to create tryptophan and serotonin, allowing one to fall asleep.

     Natural sleep aids such as melatonin, magnesium and Valerian root can allow one to sleep better. Herbal teas and over the counter sleep aids are other options that have given people relief. Surprisingly, many people have found that drinking a cup of warm milk is actually beneficial for getting one’s beauty sleep. Other good methods are breathing exercises, essential oils, such as lavender; music with no lyrics, and warm baths. Try to avoid using your phone or other electronic devices, as the blue light from the screen makes it more difficult to sleep. Try to be in a quiet and relaxing place before going to bed as this will put you in a better position to fall asleep.

    If you have tried these and still have trouble sleeping, you are like me and have no luck. Even so, for most people that suffer from sleep deprivation, there is hope that you will see sleep again.

     The elusive creature of sleep is easier to catch if you have proper knowledge and the right tools. Knowing what causes sleep deprivation, what it can do, and how to fix it can bring relief to those who suffer from sleep loss. Even if you have the wonderful ability to sleep, this knowledge is good to have for friends and loved ones who may not be so fortunate.