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Effects of sleep deprivation

One in three Americans are sleep-deprived, which can lead to serious long-term health effects.

What causes sleep deprivation?

Often, people don’t get enough sleep due to their work schedule (e.g. shift workers), sleep disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia, medical conditions like depression, or lifestyle choices.

What are the short-term effects of sleep deprivation?

While we’re asleep, our brains form new pathways for learning and memory. Getting enough sleep helps us pay attention and make decisions. Sleep also allows healing and repair of our heart and blood vessels and maintains certain hormone levels.

  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Trouble decision making or solving problems
  • Irritability or frustrated mood
  • Reduced sex drive

What are the long-term effects of sleep deprivation?

Over time, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to increased risk for diseases or conditions like:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Hypertension
  • Stroke and heart disease
  • Obesity

How do you know if you’re sleep deprived?

Excessive daytime sleepiness, frequent yawning, irritability, waking up tired, and needing a nap during the day are all signs of not sleeping enough.

How can you improve sleep?

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine close to bedtime — these can make it harder to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. It’s best to avoid them completely if you can.
  • Exercise regularly — regular aerobic exercise can lead to better sleep quality.
  • Develop a sleep routine — this means going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time each day. Prepare your body for sleep with a nighttime ritual that involves relaxation and reduced screen time.
  • Create a comfortable environment — invest in a comfortable mattress and bedding, and block out excess light in your bedroom while you sleep.

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