Sleep Deprivation

Something that is often overlooked in discussions about health and wellness in sobriety is sleep. We get so wrapped up in macros and workouts and antioxidants that we forget some of the most basic (but most important) components of wellness. The body can not function on a massive sleep deficit; in fact, sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture.

There are two forms of sleep deficits, chronic and acute. An acute or short term sleep deficit happens when you pull an all-nighter; ideally you make up the sleep you lost by sleeping more over the next few days and recover after suffering some acute symptoms of sleep deprivation (confusion, slower reaction times, less tolerance of physical pain). Chronic sleep deficits on the other hand are much more detrimental. A chronic sleep deficit occurs when you continually get less sleep than your body needs. A sleep debt occurs, and the less sleep you get the more sleep debt you accrue. This sleep debt must be made up by, you guessed it, sleeping, but that isn’t terribly easy. Those with chronic sleep deficits experience a whole list of maladies, such as irritability, cognitive impairment, memory lapses, impaired judgment, hallucinations, depression, and symptoms that mimic ADHD. The immune system becomes impaired and the risk for type II diabetes and obesity increases. Heart rate becomes less constant and the risk of heart disease becomes higher. There is decreased reaction time, tremors, aches.

sleep apnea

for illustrative purposes only; any person(s) depicted in this photo is a model

Not exactly a pleasant list of side effects, right? You can see how some of these symptoms, especially the irritability, impaired judgment, and increased risk of depression can really be a threat to your sobriety and state of mind. The good thing is that with the knowledge of how important sleep is, you can definitely make a concerted effort to get enough rest. There is no magic number as sleep needs vary for individuals, but most people fall around needing about 7-9 hours a night for optimal health. If you can, try testing out what your optimal sleep number is. Do you feel rested and productive on 7 hours of sleep or lethargic and irritable? What about on 9 hours? Test is out, and then do your best to get that number each night, and I promise you that your mood and body will be much better off.

  • Sian
    Posted at 09:21h, 08 July Reply

    Less than 8 hours sleep and I am a mess. Not that I get that much, ever. I live on 5 hours sleep average a night and I can’t find the time to get any more. I have 4 kids, a husband, a home to run, a job to do and gym to attend. I am so exhausted both physically and mentally but I can’t figure out a let up until my kids are a bit older.

  • Libby
    Posted at 16:46h, 24 July Reply

    I need quite a bit but I don’t know if that is because my body is playing catch up on the so many times I am only able to get 4-5 hours.
    I also find going to bed around 10pm means I can wake up as early as 6.30am refreshed but the same amount of sleep from let’s say 1am to 9.30am and I would be groggy and grumpy, only fitfully sleeping those last 2 hours.
    My depression is really taking a grip at the moment as I am struggling to find time for a real sleep regime. That is how I know you are right about sleep deprivation. I feel drunk sometimes and it’s sheer dizziness from being so weak from sleep.

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