We are all addicted to sleep – just try to go a few days without sleep and you will go through withdrawals worse than any heroine or meth addict quitting cold turkey. Simply put, an addiction is psychological or physical dependence of a substance or behavior used compulsively and/or repetitively despite harmful consequences to one’s health, social life or mental state and withdrawal symptoms begin to occur when the body starts to crave the substance or behavior. If this definition is the preliminary basis to judge whether or not something we do or consume is an addition, then most of our behaviors would be considered an addition including eating the foods we love, talking on the phone, drinking, walking the dog, and sleeping – just to name a few common things.
If we did not eat for a few hours, you will begin to feel hungry. If you did not eat for a day, you will be more than likely start to feel pain in your abdomen. If you do not get your normal night’s sleep, you will wake up tired and ready for a nap. If you go several days with restricted sleep, you will begin to suffer many of the symptoms of sleep deprivation which are widely known such as yawning, lack of energy, irritability, memory problems, aches and pains, a change in your appetite, headaches, and many other minor symptoms at first. For the most part, getting a good night’s sleep will most often reverse any of these withdrawal symptoms quickly.
Unfortunately, many of us have grown accustomed to a reduced sleep schedule and have learned alternative ways to handle the minor withdrawal symptoms of reduced sleep. In this case, these individuals may actually be addicted to sleeping less and less, even though the withdrawal from sleep has far more serious side effects if continued for prolonged periods of time. Among the more serious side effects of long-term sleep deprivation are problems such as heart disease, blood pressure abnormalities, obesity, breathing disorders, and death. These are most often not even considered by an individual when they continually resist sleep.
Addictions are not always a bad thing. It is really the degree of the addiction and whether someone is truly listening to their body. Occasional lapse of sleep or sleeping too much is not necessarily a bad thing. Often there are great reasons to miss a few winks and catch up at a later time. It is only when it becomes a habit that interferes with achieving happiness in one’s life or creates a more dramatic health issue that the addiction becomes a problem.