I never understood sleep deprivation until I experienced medical residency and worked 24 or 36 hours straight. I’d come home, sit down at my kitchen table to eat and fall asleep with the fork in my hand. I’m not kidding.
When you’re sleep-deprived, your body works overtime to get you to stop what you’re doing and sleep. That’s because sleep is critical to our physical and emotional health. Lack of sleep can lead to weight gain, headaches, irritability, and confusion and put you at increased risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke.
You won’t become sleep deprived from missing a couple of hours of sleep for one or two nights. You can become sleep deprived if you’re repeatedly cheating yourself out of sleep, pulling all-nighters, or going to bed too late.
If you think you “catch up” by sleeping for 14 hours on your next day off, you can’t. The only way to recover from sleep deprivation is to add 1 to 2 hours of sleep every night. Sleep deprivation happens over time and so does recovering it.
Below are somes classic symptoms of sleep deprivation. If you are experiencing several of these symptoms or have questions or concerns, then you should schedule an appointment with your doctor.
1. Falling asleep instantly, including standing up. (Leave that to horses.)
2. Extreme irritation and mood swings.
3. Problems with mental focus and memory.
4. Frequent infections/illnesses.
5. Difficulty socializing.
6. Experiencing hallucinations.
Photo credit: FCC, cyron