Sleep deprivation is classified as a form of torture, according to international law. It is a popular vice of political and military institutions. Unlike electric shocks, beating, suffocating or hypothermia, losing out on sleep for a few days has far-reaching effects that result in the breakdown of the nervous system and long-term psychological and physiological damage. The victim of sleep deprivation torture is constantly exposed to bright lights, harassment, irritating noises and music.

Sleep anywhere any how

We are all familiar with the feeling! It comes from barking dogs, snoring, noisy neighbours, aches and pains, crying babies or constant trips to the toilet. Even the loss of one night’s sleep will temporarily lower your IQ and impair judgement. Over time sleep deprivation can become a chronic condition. It goes hand in hand with uncontrollable blood sugar, immune disorders and eventual burnout. From time to time we may have difficulty falling asleep or maintaining a reasonable sleep cycle without being interrupted. The next day one feels groggy, irritable and unable to concentrate. If this happens every day then you may need to take sleep deprivation more seriously.

The morning after a bad night:

The best way to cope temporarily without adequate sleep is to splash your face with cold water when you get out of bed. Drink plenty of water and remember to take your vitamins and other supplements. To feel more refreshed, add some peppermint oil to a bottle of water and use it as a spray. They say it wakes up the brain! You can also rub the oil onto your temples or wrists. Add rosemary oil to boost your concentration and memory. Have a little shut-eye during the middle of the day for 10 to 20 minutes to take up the slack. Drink water and eat nutritious low GI snacks to keep up your blood sugar. Go outside and get some fresh air and sunshine. This will help you to get through the day, but then do get some proper sleep to nip insomnia in the bud.

Making responsible decisions, operating dangerous machinery or driving vehicles are not safe occupations for those who suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. It is better to face and treat the cause of the problem than to keep patching up your weary state by depending on copious cups of coffee and “energy boosters”. Energy is better replenished with adequate sleep and stamina is maintained with sound nutrition, regular exercise and sensible supplementation.

Well timed, good quality sleep is important

Some people may be labouring under the ill effects of sleep deprivation even if they get adequate sleep. It is the quality and the timing that matters most. If deprived of a regular time and a dark place to sleep, humans as well as animals get out of sync with their endogenous circadian rhythm. This causes one to feel sleepy and disoriented during the day, yet more alert or even agitated at bedtime.

We can't survive without food, let alone water for a few days. How about sleep? Temporary bouts of jet lag, studying for exams, working overtime or party binges do not lead to chronic sleep deprivation providing we manage to make compensations or adjust to the new time zone in another country. Night shift workers, however, try to act in direct opposition to the natural 24 hour body clock. This adversely affects hormones as well as key meridians that dominate certain metabolic routines according to a strict circadian routine. This explains why over 60% of night shift workers such as nurses and technicians suffer from a chronic form of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is hazardous to your health

The physical, mental and emotional effects caused by sleep deprivation often masquerade as stress, chronic fatigue, cancer, psychotic behaviour, delayed reactions, depression, apathy and attention deficit disorders. Inadequate rest forces the immune system to work overtime. Cortisol becomes more active due to constant signals to stay alert and cope with stressful situations. Melatonin levels drop and weight, cholesterol and blood pressure go up.

We deprive ourselves of sunshine and we do not sleep in perfect darkness. Sleeping pills, blood pressure medications and hormone replacements do not address the basic cause of this disorder. When we have calcium and magnesium deficiencies, we also fail to sleep properly regardless of a perfect sleep-inducing routine. Adequate melatonin precursors such as hydroxytryptophan and vitamin B 12 are also essential.

We live in a toxic world and this includes harmful forms of radiation from our cell phones, computers and especially bedside radio alarm clocks. If these emit some form of light near your face you are guaranteed to experience a bad night's sleep. Sleep deprivation is a primary cause of prolonged stress that can lead to adrenal burnout. Ironically stress can deprive one of sleep in the first place.

Light versus dark is the key to circadian rhythm

Birds know this instinctively and set a good example to wayward humans. They sing at sunrise and go to sleep when it gets dark. We, as "night owls" get to bed later and later and wake up later and later. We do not always sleep when it is naturally dark and turn on the lights when we should be sleeping.

Our innate body clock depends on a 24 hour day/night cycle and is governed by 12 meridians. Meridians are invisible pathways that run from head to toe and link up the organs they are connected to. Each meridian has a 2 hour period of dominance within the 24 hour cycle. This allows each organ to have a special time for maintenance. During the night when we sleep, more energy will be used for the nocturnal meridians that govern the liver, the lungs and intestines. If you are up, alert and working a shift during these hours it will adversely affect your circadian rhythm and the meridian energies.

Light and darkAvoid midnight kitchen raidsCredit: Sue Visser

Your body temperature fluctuates at night

At 11pm the gall bladder gets a service, followed by the liver. You may wake up at 3am feeling hot and flustered. If the liver is toxic or overactive it generates a lot of heat. Some ladies think is a night sweat and blame it on the menopause but men heat up simultaneously. Throw off a blanket and go back to sleep. Being upset will only activate adrenalin, making you more alert and restless. After this phase the lung meridian takes over and a lot of people begin to cough - proof enough that each organ has a dominant time zone.

We doze off again and may wake up at 5am from the cold. This is when we reach our lowest body temperature, so pull up the blankets. The colon requires a lot of energy to prepare waste material for the morning bowel motion. If you are awake, drink a glass or two of water to help this along. With practice, one can stay relaxed and dreamy enough to doze off to sleep, regardless of any cyclic interruption. It is most important to prevent any form of light from reaching your eyelids because light deactivates melatonin, the sleep regulating hormone.

It is usually light by 7am when the stomach meridian gets a turn. Drink more water and soon it will be time for what your body assumes to be the perfect time for a trip to the toilet. After that you should feel fully "sleep-serviced" and ready for breakfast. Unfortunately modern man's schedule does not always synchronise with these default settings. We eat, sleep and excrete when it is convenient for us and may have to rely on sleeping pills, keep-awake pills and laxatives instead.

However, we can deal with some of the other causes of sleep deprivation more assertively. There are many effective supplements and modalities that work very well. It takes time and effort to overturn the ravages of sleep deprivation. First of all, we need to get some peaceful sleep. Hopefully at the proper time and in the dark!

Supplements that help to alleviate insomnia

There are good natural supplements and health modalities to help treat the cause of your sleepless miseries. Your health shop will show you their range of products which should be taken according to manufacturers’ directions. First attend to the basic vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

supplementsCalcium magnesium and chlorella
  • Vitamin B complex, calcium and magnesium and omega 3 supplements.
  • Melatonin supplements: under the guidance of a practitioner. Chasteberry tincture helps to boost natural levels of melatonin. During sleep trials the chasteberry subjects had an average increase of 60% in melatonin as opposed to the placebo group. (Ref 8)
  • 5-Hydroxytryptophan is a precursor for serotonin. (Basil seeds are a good source.) This neurotransmitter helps with depression, fatigue and insomnia. It is said to improve the quality of sleep by enhancing the rapid eye movement (REM) or dreaming state.
  • Herbal combinations of passiflora, valerian and hops are popular sleep inducers.
  • Herbal adaptogens are popular and help with insomnia and stress.
  • Vitamin B 5 known as pantothenic acid helps with stress maintenance and aids food assimilation and digestion.
  • Chlorella or blue-green algae supplements help to reduce pain, fatigue and insomnia. They enhance general wellbeing.

Often our supplements are poorly absorbed due to low stomach acid intensity. A hydrochloric acid supplement ( HCL) is often the key to activating nutritional factors that include asthma, allergies, skin disorders, arthritis, osteoporosis, depression, reflux problems and of course, insomnia.

Avoid electronics

Help yourself to a better night’s sleep

  • Darken the room where you sleep to activate the melatonin cycle. Remove clock radios, cell phones and electronic appliances that generate interfering frequencies or emit light.
  • Prepare for sleep by doing relaxing activities such as reading, aromatherapy massages, a hot bath or listening to soothing music or special relaxation courses. Some tai chi, yoga and meditation routines reduce cortisol levels and induce a state of deep relaxation.
  • Children used to be taught to pray before going to bed. So get in touch with your maker, forgive others and be at peace with yourself, with God and the rest of the world. This is the best way to shut down the active beta brainwaves. Submit yourself to the realm of sleep. Don’t force yourself.
  • Do not worry if you take longer to go to sleep or if you wake up. Worry brings on stress hormones that inhibit the slower, peaceful alpha and theta waves that are essential for a good night’s sleep.
  • Keep a glass of water by your bedside. We dehydrate at night. If you wake up after your first sleep cycle, drink some water. They say it improves your dream recall. Please refer to the other article I have written about sleep management for more help.

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Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem
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