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Real-Life Stories of Sleep-Deprived Adults

Real stories of sleep deprived adults demonstrate the problem’s negative effects. It may also inspire you to practice habits that boost sleep quality daily.

A woman covering her eyes with both hands while wearing a pair of eyeglasses as she sits a desk. 

Sleep is fundamental to holistic wellness. Getting enough shut-eye restores energy levels, alleviates stress, and helps you recover from illness. Being sleep deprived, however, will put you in a bad mood and make it difficult for you to function at your best throughout the day.

Over time, it can increase your risk of developing some serious health issues. To help you understand just how bad it can get, here are two first-hand accounts of people who struggled to get quality sleep, and how it impacted their daily lives.

“Dozing off at the wheel nearly cost me my life” – Alex, 35

A woman leaning her arms and forehead against a steering wheel.
Being sleep deprived can endanger your life, especially if it causes you to fall asleep while driving.

Working full-time as a software solutions Project Manager meant two things for Alex – he was in for long hours of work, and he was finding it difficult to live healthy. Eventually, the stress took a toll on his body, and led to him feeling tired all the time.

“I used to fall asleep at my work desk and struggle to focus during meetings. Going through severe exhaustion, I couldn’t even manage to stay at the wheel for 20 minutes at a time. Sometimes, I needed to stop by the side of the road to take a nap before continuing on my journey. Twice, I met in accidents because I fell asleep while driving. I was lucky to survive both times, but I knew I needed to treat the problem, and fast.”

– Alex

He then sought the help of a specialist, who diagnosed him with severe obstructive sleep apnoea after running an overnight sleep test. To improve his sleep quality, he was prescribed to use a continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine.

Fast forward three years, and Alex feels more refreshed than he used to be, is able to drive across states without feeling sleepy, and has even lost 20 kilogrammes within a six-month period!  

“I only fall asleep after the sun rises for the past decade!” – Sushil, 40  

Ten years can feel like a hundred, especially if you’re sleep deprived. And that’s exactly how it is for Sushil, a Marketing Executive, who frequently finds himself falling asleep when most people are awake and starting their day.

Citing a personal struggle with anxiety and stress, he has turned to exercise and relaxation techniques to improve his sleep quality. These methods helped at times, but a scepticism towards clinical medication prevented addressing the root cause of his sleep deprivation.

As a result, there are days when his body completely shuts down on him. It has also been hard for him to get to work early, and to maintain a high energy output throughout the day.

Reasons Why Some People are More Sleep Deprived than Others 

Sleep deprivation comes in two forms – acute and chronic. Acute sleep deprivation may last for only a few days, but chronic sleep deprivation can extend over a period of three months or longer.

Essentially, they are one and the same, as both types are the result of each person’s own obligations and lifestyle choices.

Putting off bedtime

A woman smiling while watching television as she holds a bowl of popcorn and sits on a sofa. 
Staying up late at night to catch up on your favourite series provides temporary gratification but decreases sleep quality.

Revenge bedtime procrastination is extremely common among people who feel the need to regain personal time by delaying night-time sleep. It may seem gratified, but it actually results in them staying up later than they’re supposed to.

Doing the graveyard shift 

Working a night shift makes your circadian rhythm chaotic and deprives you of sleep. The findings of a study revealed that night shift workers slept six hours lesser every week than day-shift workers.

The same study also learned that night shift work suppresses your body’s nocturnal melatonin – a type of hormone that controls your sleep cycle – secretion.

Experiencing sleep-related disorders 

Snoring, sleep apnoea, or periodic limb movement disorder – a repetitive movement of the arms, legs, or both limbs during sleep – prevents you from getting quality sleep every night.

Interestingly, sleep deprivation also induces snoring by causing a relaxation of the throat muscles. Chest pain, loud snoring, choking or gasping for air during sleep can also be a sign of sleep apnoea.

Experiencing respiratory or psychological illnesses

Close-up of the face of a woman with bipolar disorder. 
Sleep deprivation can provoke the onset of extreme mood swings.

Coughing or gagging are symptoms of colds and tonsilitis, and can wake you up frequently throughout the night.

Recent studies have also found that sleep disorders are both the cause and effect of various mental health conditions. Sleeping less can worsen anxiety, depression, and manic bipolar disorder episodes.

At the same time, it may be a symptom of schizophrenia, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Developing internal imbalances 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) believes that pathogenic factors, negative emotions, and lifestyle choices are the reasons why we’re sleep deprived.

Poor sleep is associated with Heart, Spleen and stomach disharmony and a shortage of vital substances. Anxiety, stress, and irritability impair sleep by overburdening the Liver. Eating too much fried or spicy food encourages pathogen development, worsening your sleep quality.   

Eu Yan Sang Physician Ho Li Ying

What are the Negative Effects of Sleep Deprivation? 

The lesser you sleep, the more likely you are to experience negative consequences, such as: 

  • Fatigue 
  • Dizziness 
  • Headaches 
  • Poor decision-making 
  • Microsleep episodes  
  • Shorter attention span 
  • Irritability and a bad temper 
  • Reduced focus and concentration levels 
  • Making mistakes that directly affect a workflow process 

Clinical and Natural Methods to Improve Sleep Quality 

Taking a more positive and healthy approach to life can help improve your sleep tenfold. Exercise for 20-to-30 minutes, five to six hours before going to bed. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages. Quit smoking.

These may appear easier said than done, but isn’t having sleeping better than endless nights of bedtime procrastination?  

You may undergo light therapy to readjust your sleep-wake cycle, especially if your lack of sleep isn’t a symptom of a health condition. Sleeping pills can also help, but eventually becomes less effective after several weeks.

A CPAP machine, meanwhile, provides an uninterrupted flow of air through a mask, thus helping to keep your airway open as you sleep. 

Traditional Remedies to Improve Sleep Quality 

Eat and drink your way to better sleep by including herbal remedies in dessert, porridge, soup, and tea preparations. These include: 

  • Tuber fleeceflower stem (ye jiao teng, 夜交藤) 

Physician Ho also recommends using a Chinese Four Herbs soup (Si-Shen Tang) to strengthen the Spleen and digestive system, calm the nerves, and improve your appetite.

You may also add other ingredients to the basic soup formula to relieve bloat, calm your mind, cool down your body, and boost your appetite and energy levels. Examples of these are rose flowers (mei gui hua, 玫瑰花), cape jasmine fruit (zhi zi, 栀子), longan aril (long yan rou, 龙眼肉), Chinese dates (da zao, 大枣), dried tangerine peel (chen pi, 陈皮), and hawthorn berries (shan zha, 山楂).

To help you unwind and improve sleep quality, you may also consume a wholesome drink made from a blend of vinegar, spine dates, and walnut membrane.

These stories show just how important sleep is. To live life to the fullest, we urge you to practice the tips mentioned above. However, it’s best that you consult a licensed TCM practitioner before including the suggested herbal ingredients in your diet. If you’ve personally faced difficulties falling asleep, we’d love to know about your experiences in the comments section below.

References

  1. Sleep Foundation. 2022. Eight Health Benefits of Sleep. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023]  
  2. Sleep Foundation. 2022. Sleep Deprivation. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023]  
  3. Wired. 2021. Why You Stay Up So Late, Even When You Know You Shouldn’t. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 
  4. National Library of Medicine. 2022. Effect of night-shift work on cortisol circadian rhythm and melatonin levels. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 
  5. Sydney Centre for TMJ & Sleep Therapy. The Link Between Snoring and Sleep Deprivation. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 
  6. Better Health Channel. Sleep deprivation. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 
  7. Sleep Foundation. 2023. Mental Health and Sleep. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 
  8. Cedars Sinai. Sleep Deprivation. [online] [Accessed 9 February 2023] 

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