Have you ever woken up after a long night of sleep, only to find yourself still exhausted? Or have you gone to school or work in the morning, catching yourself yawning during the middle of the day wanting nothing more than an afternoon nap?
If you said yes to any of those, you might be experiencing sleep deprivation. From lack of asleep to long-term health effects, sleep deprivation can be harmful for your health in many ways.
What is sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation occurs when you don’t get the amount of sleep you needs over an extended period of time. Just like how your body needs food to keep you going, your body needs a certain level of sleep to function effectively. If the body doesn’t get the adequate amount of sleep it needs, the more it craves it.
Suzanne Bertisch, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, describes the body like a battery. If you don’t get a full charge by the time you wake up, you’ll be running on empty throughout the day while you’re awake.
It’s agreed among medical professionals that adults optimally need around seven hours of sleep a night. But according to Mayo Clinic, you could become sleep deprived if you’re getting less than that on most days. In America, the CDC found that 1 in 3 adults, almost 70 million people, got less than seven hours of sleep. They also report negative side effects from sleep deprivation that affect their daily life as well.
Read more: Do I Have A Sleep Debt?
What are some of the negative effects of sleep deprivation?
Some of these negative side effects include:
- Daytime drowsiness
- Excessive yawning
- Slowed physical and mental capabilities
- An inability to concentrate
Throughout the world, sleep deprivation is becoming an increasingly serious issue for more people. Scientists throughout the world are becoming more aware of the fact that sleep is not an isolated activity. Sleep affects nearly every aspect of a person’s health and life. According to medical professionals at the University of Rochester Medical Center, lack of sleep can lead to other health issues:
- Weaker immune system
- Higher risk of respiratory diseases
- Higher risk of type 2 diabetes
- Higher risk of heart related diseases
Dr. Virend Somers, a sleep expert at Mayo Clinic, explains that sleep deprivation not only puts people at risk for new health concerns, it can make existing conditions worse and even reverse medical treatments:
“There are things that happen during sleep that carry over into the daytime and can have very dramatic effects on worsening daytime disease or on blunting the response to treatments that we have available.”
While Dr. Somers acknowledges that occasional periods of sleep loss are acceptable, long-term habits of sleep deprivation are serious health concerns we must worry about.
Read more: Do I Need Sleeping Pills? Benefits and Risks
So if sleep deprivation is such a huge issue, what are some things we can do to prevent it?
Nearly all medical professionals claim that waking up naturally is the most healthy choice for our body. Unfortunately, most of us can’t do so, especially with our early work schedules and long nights.
According to Columbia University and the National Institutes of Health, one of the most common ways people intensify the effects of sleep deprivation is by raising their blood pressure and heart rate immediately upon waking up. This causes sleep inertia, which makes you feel groggy & impairs your cognitive performance and decision making abilities.
Many people use loud alarm clocks to wake up, thinking that the loud noise will make them alert and ready for the day. While loud alarms might be effective, how exactly does it contribute to the sleep we were awakened from?
The National Institute of Industrial Health, in Kawasaki, Japan explored this question. They found that patients using loud alarms had acute increases in both heart rate and blood pressure, contributing to daytime fatigue. Even though they might wake us on time, loud alarm clocks can send our bodies into a state of stress and shock. In many cases, this compromises the feelings of alertness and being well-rested that you get from sleep.
The researchers in Japan are not alone in this discovery. Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, found that abruptly being woken up could contribute to sleep deprivation and even a deterioration of long-term cognitive performance. For many, alarm clocks are not only disrupting the sleep people get. They are disrupting the people’s health as well.
How can we stop relying on loud alarms to wake us up?
Based on the research of many institutions and universities, there are options for people to explore regarding new ways of waking up that do not increase stress and high blood pressure.
One common point of advice is to use sunlight to wake up. Instead of setting an alarm and waking up forcefully to a loud noise, many researchers suggest opening your curtain blinds to let natural sunlight wake you up. The gradual brightness of the sun is a more natural way to wake up.
There are some practical criticisms. Many people usually don’t have the luxury or the means to consistently wake up to the morning sun. Many of our jobs require set hours when we need to be at work or school. This doesn’t even account for the problem of moving your bed to a position where the sun can shine bright enough to wake you up.
Vibrating alarms are also highly suggested. Vibrating alarms are non-intrusive alarms specifically designed to minimize stress. These kinds of alarms have been used for years by folks who are hard of hearing. Now they are becoming more and more popular with people who want a less-intrusive and disruptive way of waking up.
Instead of loud noises, vibrating alarms rely on a gradual awakening. By doing so, vibrating alarms can prevent the high levels of blood pressure and stress that are associated with a loud alarm clock. According to researchers at the University of Maryland, in comparison to alarms that rely on light and sound, vibrating alarms were the only ones which could consistently gently wake up any member of the general public.
Read more: The Best Alarm Clock In 2020
Get better sleep tech
With greater advances in technology, alarms like VibeRise are able to improve the way you wake up with great benefits to your health. By waking you up gently and without disrupting you from deep sleep, vibrating alarms like VibeRise ensure you wake up reliably and protect your sleep quality so you wake up well-rested and refreshed every morning.