World Sleep Day

By Dr. Vaibhav Chachra in Pulmonology

Mar 21 , 2023 | 5 min read

Sleep is an important factor in our lives, but with the fast and often stressful pace of our lives, it can seem like less of a priority. We often sleep late or fewer hours because we think it doesn't affect our daily activities, but that is far from true. The use of mobile phones is so rampant that screen time is not only causing a burden to the eyes but also changing our sleep patterns.

Sleeping less can increase stress, which can cause a rise in binge eating and can affect our alertness. Here, we will explore sleep deprivation, its effects, the benefits of sleeping well, and how we can have better sleep habits. 

Are there stages to our sleep pattern?

There are four stages of sleep, and they are classified into two categories: non-rapid eye movement (NREM) and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. NREM sleep is divided into three stages, and it is the period when the body repairs itself.

  • Stage 1 is the lightest stage, where you drift in and out of sleep.
  • In stage 2, the body begins to relax, and brain waves slow down.
  • Stage 3 is the deepest stage, and waking up during this period is difficult. REM sleep is the period when you dream and your eyes move rapidly. During this stage, your body is paralyzed, and your brain is highly active.

What is sleep deprivation?

Sleep deprivation occurs when you do not get enough sleep. Chronic sleep deprivation can have several negative effects on your health. Common effects of sleep deprivation include:

  • Impaired cognitive function: Sleep-deprived individuals have difficulty concentrating and making decisions.
  • Increased risk of accidents: Sleep deprivation can cause drowsiness, which can lead to accidents.
  • Changes in mood
  • Mental health issues
  • Worsening of chronic conditions like hypertension, insomnia, vascular diseases and more.

A lack of sleep not only causes fatigue and mood changes but also affects our immune hunger patterns, muscle growth, breathing patterns and more. Sleep deprivation has a significant impact on various organ systems in the body. Here are some ways that sleep deprivation can put stress on different organ systems:

  • Cardiovascular system: Chronic sleep deprivation can increase the risk of strokes, high blood pressure and heart attacks. Lack of sleep can also lead to an irregular heartbeat and inflammation, which can contribute to the development of cardiovascular diseases.
  • Respiratory system: Sleep deprivation can exacerbate respiratory problems like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). It can also lead to a weakened immune system, making individuals more susceptible to respiratory infections. Additionally, conditions like sleep apnea can contribute to disturbed sleep, thus leading to sleep deprivation.
  • Digestive system: Lack of sleep can cause changes in appetite and metabolism, leading to weight gain and obesity. It can also cause inflammation in the digestive tract, leading to gastrointestinal problems such as acid reflux and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). The lack of sleep can also increase the hunger hormone. This promotes nighttime binge eating and obesity. Lack of sleep can also reduce the motivation to exercise, contributing to weight gain. Insulin production is also affected in the process, which can cause insulin resistance and ultimately contribute to diabetes.
  • Nervous system: Sleep deprivation can affect cognitive function, memory, and mood. It can also cause daytime drowsiness, leading to an impaired performance at work or school and an increased risk of accidents. Additionally, it can also cause mood swings and increase the chances of anxiety, depression and suicidal tendencies.
  • Endocrine system: Sleep deprivation can disrupt the release of hormones, such as cortisol and insulin, leading to a higher risk of diabetes, obesity, and metabolic disorders.
  • Weakened immune system: During sleep, our bodies produce antibodies that help us fight infections. Sleep deprivation weakens the immune system and makes one more susceptible to infections and diseases.
  • A good quality sleep should have a correct sleep duration. Sleep continuity & proper sleep timing is important so you can cycle through all four stages of sleep.

How to diagnose if you have sleep apnea?

  • If you are very obese, have uncontrolled diabetes, blood pressure, have daytime sleepiness, fall asleep in the backseat of the car, gain weight, or snore loudly, we recommend you contact an expert.
  • Sleep apnea can be easily diagnosed with a sleep test. A sleep test can be done at a sleep lab or at home.
  • There are many wearable devices available in the market that track sleep. In order to determine obstructive sleep apnea, the apnea-hypopnea index (AHI) is tracked. These days many apps and phones track sleep cycle/ oxygen levels. But they cannot determine the severity of sleep apnea. Hence, it is always better to do a sleep study.

What are the benefits of sleeping well?

Getting enough sleep has numerous benefits for your physical and mental health. Here are a few of them:

  • Improved memory and concentration: Sleep helps consolidate memories and improves cognitive function, including concentration and problem-solving.
  • Better mood: Lack of sleep is linked to anxiety and depression. Sleeping well can improve your mood and reduce stress levels.
  • Enhanced athletic performance: Sleep is crucial for muscle repair and recovery. Athletes who sleep well perform better than those who don't.
  • Boosted immune system: Sleep helps strengthen your immune system, which helps your body fight off infections and diseases.

Some tips to sleep well

Sometimes, we need a little help knowing some good ways to fall asleep. Some beneficial sleep habits include:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule: Treat sleep like the priority it is. Plan when to go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, even on weekends. Sticking to a certain time to go to sleep can help maintain your sleep schedule.
  • Create a bedtime routine: A warm bath or shower, listening to calming music before or reading a book can be helpful. A relaxing routine can prepare your body for sleep and aid with the process.
  • Making your bedroom comfortable: Ensure that your bedroom is quiet, cool, and dark. Invest in comfortable bedding and pillows. Ensure you use your bed and bedroom to sleep rather than watch TV and finish off pending work or study.
  • Limit screen time before bed: Avoid using electronic devices an hour before bed since blue light emitted by screens can disrupt your sleep.