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The Mental and Physical Effects of Sleep Deprivation

When was the last time you got a great night’s sleep? Chances are, it’s been a while. According to the Sleep Foundation, more than one-third of U.S. adults report getting less than seven hours of sleep per night. (Seven to nine hours per night is the standard recommendation for adults aged 18-64.)

Many different factors can cause sleep deprivation. Parents of newborns experience disruptions as they tend to their baby’s needs at all hours. Blue light from screen use can disrupt the circadian rhythm. Caffeine or alcohol use can keep us awake or diminish sleep quality. Busy work schedules may not allow for sufficient sleep.

But what does all this sleep deprivation mean for our health?

Why do our brains need sleep?

Experts have not yet completely answered the question, “Why do people need to sleep?” Sleep may have one big function, or it may serve multiple purposes.

A few of the possible reasons why we sleep include:

Preserving energy, since our metabolism appears to slow down during sleep
An opportunity for the body to restore and heal itself
Helping the brain organize information

Although scientists do not fully understand the role of sleep, they have identified plenty of effects from too little sleep.

What happens with too little sleep?

You probably noticed that you don’t feel as mentally sharp and clear when you haven’t had enough sleep. Even mild sleep deprivation can affect cognitive functioning, though you may not always notice until the deprivation has built up over time. These cognitive effects can include:

Lower alertness; slower physical or mental response time
Reduced ability to concentrate
Less stable moods
Feeling angry or irritable
Less attention to detail
Memory issues, including working memory and long-term memory
Hindered decision-making abilities

The American Sleep Association suggests that partial sleep deprivation may hinder thinking in the brain’s prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain controls higher functions like language and creativity.

Fortunately, there is no conclusive evidence that lack of sleep actually causes brain damage. Over time, with sufficient sleep and better sleep habits, a person can recover from even severe sleep deprivation.

However, persistent insomnia and sleep deprivation should be addressed as soon as possible. This is because chronic and severe lack of sleep is also linked to serious mental health conditions that require further intervention.

Researchers have found connections between a lack of sleep and:

Increased risk of suicidal behaviors
Individuals with depression, about 75 percent of whom have symptoms of insomnia
Worse symptoms and functioning in people with bipolar disorder
Worse symptoms in adolescents with ADHD
Symptoms of psychosis, including hallucinations and delusions

Improved sleep can have wide-ranging benefits for both mind and body. Sleep health should be a top priority for behavioral health providers and their clients. Treating insomnia in clients with other behavioral health symptoms may significantly improve their functioning and quality of life.

When tracking a client’s progress and outcomes, consider including sleep quality and habits in your data. BestNotes’ OutcomeTools feature can help you track these outcomes and administer and record standardized and custom questionnaires. Contact us today to learn how our solutions can help your behavioral health organization become more efficient and provide better value.

date:  Dec 14, 2021
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