In the United States, sleep deprivation is now considered a public health epidemic. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) estimate that 50 million to 70 million people are affected by disorders of sleep or wakefulness.
When a person gets less sleep than he or she needs, over time, that deprivation builds up and can cause serious problems.
6 signs of sleep deprivation
The signs of sleep deprivation can range from mildly annoying to serious, affecting just one person, or the lives of many. Some of the signs that there’s a sleep issue going on include the following:
1. Lack of enjoyment in activities that one usually finds enjoyable.
2. Difficulty in communicating clearly
3. Sleepiness during daily activities.
4. Slow reaction times.
5. Trouble with decision making.
6. Irritability and anger.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) suggests that adults, including the elderly, get between 7-8 hours of sleep, while teenagers need approximately 9-10 hours of sleep each night. School-aged children need at least 10 hours a day. The amount of sleep that an individual requires varies, depending on factors like age, activity level, and other health issues.
5 effects of Sleep Deprivation
Over time, occasional bad sleep and continued poor sleep can build up, and affect life in some severe ways. These include:
1. Chronically sleep-deprived individuals are at risk of weight gain, which can lead to physical issues and unhappiness in general;
2. Hormone levels can be disrupted, particularly the stress hormone cortisol, and the appetite-regulating hormone, leptin;
3. Weakened immunity to illness;
4. Decreased alertness and reaction time can lead to accidents, for individuals who are driving, or just going about their day. WebMD notes that getting just 1.5 hours less sleep than needed can lead to a 32 percent reduction in alertness.
5. Increased mortality risk for those adults who get less than six hours of sleep each night. WebMD also reports that sleep is a bigger risk factor for early death than smoking or high blood pressure.
The bottom line is that getting enough sleep is important to living a healthy and productive life. Unplugging from the ever-connected society and putting off TV time can go a long way toward helping individuals get more sleep.
Staying healthy at college – crucial now more than ever
I have been a student most of my life; from grade school, to high school, to undergrad, to graduate school. It is really hard to believe, but my husband says I am addicted to learning, which I guess isn’t a bad thing. Most of college (as an undergrad and grad) I had to work while in school for financial reasons. Making the choice to do that for myself, was the best thing I could have done. So it would be accurate to say I have plenty of experience and knowledge on how important it is to not only stay on track in college, but also to stay healthy in college. Those years are vulnerable as you leave home for the first time and venture out into a new experience. Nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep, and limiting risky behaviors are some of the tools essential to pack with you as you head off to college.
When I started college I was eating to survive; in other words I ate as needed. I didn’t have enough time nor enough patience, so I went with convenience. I chose all the wrong foods—fast food, because let’s face it, it’s fast, it’s affordable and it tastes good. Little did I know, those food options caused some very difficult habits and mood swings. It was not until later in life studying to become a nurse that I figured out what it meant to fuel your body. The moment I stopped snacking and eating junk was the moment I realized I could go eight hours without feeling tired, or walk up a flight of stairs without getting short of breath, or focus through a three hour lecture without feeling my blood sugar drop. When it comes to nutrition, I have a few simple tools:
- Eat a healthy breakfast every morning. Don’t skip this meal, it’s full of opportunity to fuel your fasting body with healthy protein, necessary fats, and whole grains.
- Eat every two to three hours.Consume three big meals and two to three high protein snacks throughout the day. Keep healthy snacks with you so that you aren’t tempted to buy that bag of chips or piece of pizza.
- Eat mostly fruits and vegetables. These are full of healthy antioxidants and fiber to keep you fuller, and for longer.
- Hydrate. Water is life. Keep this as your main beverage of choice. I did not realize how many calories I was getting from my Starbucks lattes (thank you James Madison University for supplying my Starbucks addiction). I never realized I was drinking two to three sugary coffees a day at 130-180 calories each. On an average 2,000 calorie diet, my liquid consumption was 1/3 of my calorie intake for the day. The thing about indulging in those drinks is that your glycemic index shoots up, and within an hour your sugar starts to drop and your body feels you need more sugar to sustain. This is how we get into trouble. So how did I make a change? I started counting my calories. Once I realized how many empty calories I was wasting, and how many days a week I was going over my average goal, I knew I had to make a change. It was not an overnight change, but calorie counting was eye opening, and it changed the way I felt about food.
- Find a helpful tool. In today’s world of technology, there are many applications that can be used to help you track your goals. Use of these applications also help you to maintain a level of accountability. For example, downloading an app such as MyFitnessPal will enable you to type in your goals, put in what you eat, see what remains, and track the amount of water you are drinking. These applications will show where changes can be made.
Physical Activity and Exercise
Does anyone truly love to run? There are so many other things I would much prefer doing than spending time in the gym or running. Much like nutrition, I did not realize until I was older how difficult it was to get active again. Sure, when I was younger I could eat anything I wanted and not gain weight. I would occasionally go to the gym or go for a run, but it was never habitual. It was not until I found myself drowning in stress and exams that I felt I needed help. Stress drove me to become more active because I needed a safe and effective outlet. I started by using study breaks to do about 15-20 minutes of walking outside. Walking turned into jogging, and occasionally I would go for a quick run. I liked the way my mind worked and how my body felt being active, so I found other activities that I enjoyed. I enjoyed dance, so a girlfriend and I decided to try line dancing one night – we loved it and turned it into a reoccurring activity for years to come. I also discovered I had a passion for yoga, and that has since been my favorite physical activity to date. The trick is to find something that you enjoy.
As a student, you will be sitting in lectures, seminars, libraries, and working at the computer until you notice this becomes routine. You’re frequently in closed spaces and unknowingly face issues such as violation of blood circulation in extremities and oxygen starvation of important body parts, including the brain. Physical activity forces blood to move in the body, delivering oxygen to all important body parts, especially to the brain. Sedentary behavior is linked to health problems including heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. According to the CDC you should aim to get at least two and a half hours a week of moderate-intensity exercise, and participate in muscle-strengthening activities at least twice a week.
Stress and Time Management
College is a stressful time. Workload increases and as a student, you are expected to manage your time between school, work, family obligations, and maintaining a social life. I decided I needed to find balance and it needed to start with time management. Time is a finite resource. No matter what, you’re always left with the same 24 hours in a day to check items off to-do lists, spend time with family and friends, and unwind. By planning ahead and using your time wisely, you’ll be able to accomplish more and enjoy added free time. By becoming aware of where my time was being spent, I found that my phone was consuming a good majority of it and was actually distracting me. I was constantly checking social media for irrelevant stories such as who was dating who and who liked my photos. To make matters worse, I would try my hardest not to work and would surf the internet or shop instead.
Ultimately, I had to use my distractions as rewards during study breaks. I would put my phone in the other room and set my alarm for 45 minutes. Once the alarm went off I could use the next 15 minutes to do whatever I wanted, like re-watching all of the Pitch Perfect movie finales. This schedule worked for me and I needed the breaks. By planning ahead, I studied better and was more efficient with my time.
Another rule of thumb is to find happiness. This has a direct effect on a person’s overall health and helps decrease the effects of stressful situations. People who surround themselves with situations or items that make them happier have up to 12 times lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Expressing feelings of stress and conversing with friends or family can also lead to a lowered levels of cortisol. The only way I was truly able to get through the grueling nursing program at Marymount University was a core group of friends that are still my closest friends today. Again, everyone has their own happiness; find yours.
Sleep is Crucial
Sleep is another area I did poorly in when first going to college. Mostly because I couldn’t tell my brain to turn off, and constantly worried about what assignments were coming up. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute says adults need at least seven to eight hours of continuous sleep per night. I was getting on average four to five. Given the lack of sleep, I would get sick more often, I would have mental breakdowns, and I was not very productive in the day. I had to discipline myself by establishing a bedtime routine. During the week days that I had class, I set my bedtime to 10 pm. I would usually try to start winding down as part of the routine at 9 pm – set my coffee, wash my face, brush my teeth, take multivitamins, pray, and read. As part of my routine, I would leave my phone in its place and shut off any other electronic devices. Sometimes, I would even make a to-do list for the next day to keep my mind from wandering.
Keep your bed a “sleep-only” zone. If you have a small living area, it’s inevitable that you’re going to study in the same room where you sleep. However, designate your bed for sleeping only. When you work in bed, you subconsciously associate that area with work instead of sleep. Working before bed and looking at a screen reduces melatonin, which helps create a sound night’s sleep. Having a mental association between work and a bed can increase anxiety or stress that prevents sleep.
A quiet, comfortable bed enables sound sleep. Considering how important sleep is to overall energy levels, investing in a mattress you love is a smart idea. The temperature of your room can also affect how you sleep. It’s better to turn it down a couple notches than to keep it toasty; the ideal room temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees, that’s why a warm bath before bedtime is so effective – your body cools off after bathing.
Risky and Concerning Behaviors
Finally, the topic on the minds of all parents and students – sex, drugs and alcohol. According to the national survey, approximately one-third of teens are experimenting with risky behaviors – many for the first time – during their first semester at college. Roughly, one-third of current college students surveyed reported drinking alcohol (37%), engaging in intimate sexual behavior (37%), or having sexual intercourse (32%) during their first semester at college. Talk to your parents, and parents talk to your students. If I could give one piece of advice this would be it. I have a great relationship with my mom, she allowed me to feel safe talking to her about things that I was experiencing or things I saw other people experiencing around me. We would have conversations about the good and the bad in every situation, and she never made me feel bad about myself. She was always uplifting. You will be around it, more than you think. Be smart, be firm in your beliefs, be careful, set your intentions daily, and find a good support system. Build self-confidence by joining clubs or study groups where you can connect with like-minded peers. Participate in hobbies and social activities that let you have fun and meet new people. College can be an exciting time, but it can also be challenging. Take care of your mind and body to make college a more fulfilling experience.
About Fauquier Health
Fauquier Health is a community health system dedicated to high-quality, patient-centered care in a unique environment that considers the multiple facets of healing and respects the individuality of each and every patient. Located at 500 Hospital Drive in Warrenton, Virginia, Fauquier Health serves the residents of Fauquier and several surrounding counties. It comprises: Fauquier Hospital, a fully-accredited, 97-bed hospital; Fauquier Health Rehabilitation and Nursing Center, a 113-bed long-term care and rehabilitation facility; the Villa at Suffield Meadows, an assisted living facility; the Wound Health Center and a medically supervised Wellness Center offering health and wellness programs. Fauquier Health also operates nine physician’s offices, including primary care and specialties. More information on Fauquier Health is available online at FauquierHealth.org or by calling 540-316-5000.
What’s the best way to wake up?
Does it take you several minutes, or even hours, before your brain starts working in the morning? This phenomenon, known as sleep inertia, was recently studied by researchers from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. They found that the sound you wake up to may play a role in how long this state lasts.
What is sleep inertia?
Sleep inertia pertains to the transition phase between sleep and wakefulness. Depending on the person, this state of drowsiness can last up to four hours, although it typically lasts somewhere between 15 and 60 minutes.
The state is characterized by inattentiveness, slow reaction times, and an overall lack of alertness. These symptoms result in a higher risk of mistakes, which can be a problem if someone needs to operate machinery or make crucial decisions.
What do alarms have to do with it?
The study found that people who woke up to music reported feeling more alert than those who woke up to classic alarm sounds, such as a beeping noise. Researchers hypothesize this is because the rhythmic and melodic nature of music isn’t as disruptive as the harsh noises of an alarm.
If you suffer from persistent sleep problems, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss them. Over time, poor sleep can increase your risk of developing serious health issues.
6 types of exercise for all ages
Physical activity is a key component of healthy aging. It helps you maintain mobility and improve your balance, which reduces the risk of falls and injury. Adequate exercise can also slow or prevent the onset of osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease. Here are six activities to keep you moving at any age.
In addition to relieving stress, golf can improve your concentration. Opt to walk the course rather than rent a cart to get even more exercise.
This low-impact aerobic exercise helps with blood circulation, endurance, and balance. It’s also a great way to get some fresh air and explore scenic trails.
Since it’s a non-weight-bearing exercise, swimming gives you a full-body workout without putting pressure on your hips, knees, and back. For a change of pace, take a water aerobics class.
Activities like Pilates, yoga, and tai chi enhance flexibility, balance, and muscle strength. They’re usually practiced in a group and can be adapted to accommodate reduced mobility.
A cross between tennis, badminton, and ping-pong, this sport is a great way to express your competitive spirit without straining your muscles and joints.
Keep in mind that all of these options have the potential to be great social activities as well.
If you have health or mobility issues, speak with your doctor before starting a new type of physical activity.
Meal prep: the easy way to eat healthier
If you’re looking for an easy way to adopt healthier eating habits, then meal prep is for you. This method consists of planning and preparing your meals a week in advance and is easy to integrate into your routine. Here’s how and why you should do it.
How to do it
Make a menu for the upcoming week that includes healthy, balanced meals that freeze well or can keep for a few days in the fridge. You can either make a few different meals or a large batch of a single dish that you enjoy. Once you decide what’s on the menu for the week, make a list of everything you need and hit the grocery store. Spend an afternoon cooking and you’ll have a week’s worth of food that you only need to warm up.
One of the main obstacles to developing healthy eating habits is that cooking balanced meals takes time. Meal prep solves this issue by making it quicker and easier to eat nutritious meals throughout the week.
The impact of stress and how to manage it
Stress can impact your health and well-being. Understanding where it comes from and how it can affect you are crucial to remaining mentally and physically fit. Here’s what you need to know.
It’s important to be able to recognize if stress has become a problem. The symptoms below are common and not a cause for alarm when they occur occasionally. However, if they get worse or become ongoing, this could indicate that something’s wrong. Watch out for:
• Increase or decrease in appetite
• Mood swings
• Difficulty concentrating
• Irritability or aggressiveness
• Sleep problems
If you realize you’re living with too much stress, you need to identify its source. Think about your relationships, both personal and professional, your home life, your job, and how busy you are. You should also identify daily irritants such as a long commute, as these tend to add up and can impact your mental health.
What you can do
Once you have an idea of where your stress comes from, you’ll be in a position to take steps to improve your situation and health. In some cases, it’s a matter of adjusting an aspect of your life, such as how much work you’ve taken on, or working out a problem in a relationship. Importantly, things like meditation and therapy can help as well.
Whatever you do, don’t let stress take over your life. Over time, it can cause you to develop serious health issues and poor coping mechanisms like the consumption of fatty foods, alcohol, and drugs.
How to maintain your independence as you age
As you get older, you may lose the ability to accomplish certain tasks on your own. However, there are several things you can do to remain self-sufficient well into your golden years.
Engaging in physical activity on a regular basis is the best way to maintain your muscular strength, cardiovascular endurance, balance, and flexibility. From yoga and water aerobics to cycling and playing golf, an active lifestyle helps reduce the risk of falls and injury. You’ll also have more energy to accomplish daily tasks. However, be sure to speak with your doctor before taking on a new sport or workout regimen.
Adapt your home
As your needs and limitations change, various modifications can be made to your home that will allow you to continue to go about your daily routine without the assistance of a caregiver. Hire a professional or ask a loved one to install handrails and grab bars, anti-slip mats, additional lighting, lever door handles, pull-out cabinet shelves, and a seat in the shower if needed.
Rely on services
If you have reduced mobility, various service providers can help you with day-to-day activities you struggle to complete on your own. An in-home nurse can administer medications, change bandages, assist with bathing, and more. You might also benefit from rehabilitation or psychosocial services or simply hiring someone to pick up your groceries and help prepare meals.
For advice on how to adapt your lifestyle and preserve your autonomy, schedule a consultation with an occupational therapist.