Lifestyle factors often trigger sleep deprivation. Some people may view sleep as optional and try to counter the effects of sleep deprivation with coffee, jet lag remedies and sheer stubbornness. Others may have work obligations, such as a third shift (night shift) schedule or excessive travel, that make getting regular sleep difficult.
Diet and Sleep
Diet and sleep are related. For example, obesity increases the risk of sleep apnea. Sleep apnea disrupts sleep, which in turn can contribute to weight gain.
A connection exists between what you eat (your diet) and sleep. Eating just before bedtime often interferes with rest. A space of several hours between evening meals and bedtime improves both diet and sleep. Additionally, foods that cause heartburn can disrupt sleep.
Side Effects of Caffeine
Caffeine, a stimulant, can be a major cause of sleep disruption. Many beverages and foods contain caffeine, often in combination with high-energy sugars that also contribute to sleep deprivation.
Caffeine-containing substances include:
- Some cold medicines, appetite suppressants and pain relievers
Side effects of caffeine include nervousness, agitation, irritability and anxiety. Physical effects of caffeine include nausea, stomach problems, muscle tremors and an increased heartbeat. These side effects of caffeine can trigger insomnia and sleep deprivation.
People suffering from sleep deprivation often compensate by consuming caffeine. However, excessive caffeine can lead to more insomnia, which is then combated with more caffeine.
To prevent the effects of caffeine on sleep, limit consumption to the equivalent of three cups of coffee a day, and avoid caffeine after noon.
Jet Lag Remedies
Jet lag is a temporary sleep disorder experienced by travelers adjusting to new time zones. The body’s internal clock, or circadian rhythm, takes several days to adjust to new sleeping habits. During that time people experience sleep deprivation. People who travel frequently for work, such as pilots and flight attendants, often suffer from jet lag.
Time is the most effective jet lag treatment. After a few days, people adjust to the new time zone. To speed up the adjustment process, try the following jet lag remedies:
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol during travel.
- Rest before traveling.
- Sleep while travelling if possible.
- Stay hydrated.
Other jet lag remedies include slowly adjusting sleep schedules to the new time zone before traveling, exposure to sunlight at particular times of day and scheduling free time after arrival to adjust to a new sleep schedule.
Third Shift and Sleep Deprivation
People working the third shift, or those who work on an alternating schedule, where they work the third shift and then rotate into a day or evening shift, are prone to sleep deprivation. Constantly switching shifts does not give the body time to reset its internal clock, worsening sleep deprivation.
People who work the third shift have their sleep cycles disrupted during days off, when they must alter sleep schedules to accommodate family and social demands. Sleep deprivation in employees working the third shift often worsens with age, as age increases the risk of sleep disorders.
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Mayo Clinic Staff. (2009). Caffeine: How much is too much? Retrieved September 23, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/caffeine/NU00600.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2010). Jet lag disorder. Retrieved September 22, 2010, from http://www.mayoclinic.com/print/jet-lag/DS01085/METHOD=print