The dictionary defines the word insomnia as the, "Chronic inability to fall asleep or remain asleep for an adequate length of time." In modern day America, getting a good night's sleep isn't an easy thing to accomplish. This is something I'm sure all of us as busy college students, parents, and workers can understand. With the high stress lives we lead, sleep deprivation is an ever-present concern.

So, where might one begin to know or even understand the nuances of sleep deprivation? When addressing the problem of sleep deprivation, one needs to consider the causes of a poor nights rest, the effects on our physical and mental state, and ways to help get better rest.

First, I think it prudent to discuss the more common causes of sleep deprivation.

The causes of sleep deprivation are many and varied, taking shape among both men and women and people of all ages.

Stress is likely the most common and noticeable cause of insomnia. This stress might manifest itself in the form of work and school to something as simple as sleeping in a different room. With the presence of stress commonly comes the use of substances such as alcohol and other drugs which also hinder sleep. This is contrary to the more popular beliefs that alcohol will make you sleep.

Depression also tends to follow suit often making one feel anxious. Anxiety as we know is a sleep killer already. This can create a vicious cycle.

Further stress can be perpetuated and heightened by the concern of not expecting to get a good night's sleep in the first place and may be the cause of stress keeping you up in itself.

Other common causes may be more biological in nature. That is, more related to our own bodies and health. Some studies have suggested that insomnia is more common among females. This is especially true if the woman is in menopause. Depression and other chronic illnesses, such as arthritis and narcolepsy, also aid in the onset of insomnia. Breathing disorders such as apnea (repeated episodes of cessation of breathing during sleep) can lead to many other harmful effects. In fact, sleep apnea is a primary risk factor for high blood pressure

Now that you know the more common causes of sleep deprivation, let's take a look at some of its effects on our lives.

The effects of sleep deprivation affect one's body both physically and mentally. Mental alertness and clarity are some of the first things to take dramatic hits. Irritability is also a major side effect that will take its toll on personal relationships and add stress to those around you. Consequently the stress from this occurrence might induce further stress causing additional sleep deprivation.

On a more physical note, insomnia will have startling effects on one's body and well-being. Sleep deprivation has been known to aid in the onset of obesity. With obesity and insomnia together, one's heart is placed in unneeded strain that can raise one's mortality risk.

With the effects of sleep deprivation apparent, let's take a look at some methods of prevention. There are a few tried and true methods that one can do to help ward off insomnia.

  • Identifying problem areas in your life and eliminating them is crucial to success at this point.
  • One option is relaxation therapy or other such methods such as meditation.
  • Diet and exercise also play heavily into a well rounded lifestyle as well as proper sleeping habits.
  • Another method is the use of sleep inducing herbs and medicines. Try not to rely too heavily on these as they can be addictive. Many sleeping pills rob one of REM sleep as well, thereby not giving the person a real and proper night's rest.

Overall, one can see the effects of sleep deprivation and its highly negative effects on one's lifestyle. Many people suffer from sleep deprivation and may not even consider it a real problem in their lives. Modern culture continues to expand with more and more distractions and stresses in spite of all of its conveniences. I have covered some of the more common causes of sleep deprivation such as stress and disease. We also took a look at the effects it has on our bodies both physically and mentally. Lastly, we covered some basic ways to help circumvent this ever-growing problem.

I hope to have shed some light on this all-too-common problem. Now, go get some sleep!