Sleep Deprivation

Written by CaringClassmate 

I remember the misery of being deep in condition, and being unable to fall asleep. Never mind being unable, most of the time I was unwilling to allow myself to sleep. I felt it a waste of time, I hadn’t done enough with the day, I didn’t deserve to sleep yet, I should be studying, I needed to stay up to ‘burn calories’, I wouldn’t be able to sleep anyway so what was the point. Those were the thoughts that went on in my head. Later in recovery I got very defensive about my sleep, because I was afraid I would seem ‘less recovered’ if I admitted that sleep was a challenge. Which is ridiculous when I say it out loud.

These days I still have a strange relationship with sleep. I work a job that requires night shifts, very early starts, late finishes, coming it at weekends to check on things etc. I have found the month of August particularly challenging, and my sleep was definitely being affected. I don’t know if I’m coming or going. I can’t imagine what it will be like when I have babies!

I listened to a podcast by a neuroscientist who studies circadian rhythms. This podcast was specific to the sleep deprivation of my profession, but I followed this up with his TedTalk, which is more general and definitely worth the watch. I’ll link it below. I started reading about sleep and think it’s a very relevant topic in recovery!

Consequences of sleep deprivation:


Slowing of thought processes and ability to learn

Decreased alertness, productivity and performance

Poor memory

Decreased empathy

Increased impulsivity

‘Micro sleeps’ that can cause accidents if driving etc

Impaired ability to make a decision

Mental illness


Weight gain (!)

Diabetes and impaired glucose tolerance

High blood pressure and cardiovascular disease

Growth retardation

Decreased libido

I don’t know about you, but I’d like to be alert, quick, empathetic, and healthy!

I learned some interesting things about sleep:

From the moment we open our eyes, we begin to mount ‘sleep pressure’ which is the need for the body to sleep. We can temporarily override this in the short term (God bless adrenaline and caffeine), but over time the body suffers immensely.

Our body clock is anchored to the environment, so it’s a myth that the body adapts to night shifts. It most certainly does not!

The body wants to sleep when it’s dark, and be awake when it’s bright, and no amount of scolding ourselves will change the body’s needs.

REM sleep is important for processing of emotions. And deep sleep is very important for cementing memories and learning.

Sleep with the aid of a sleeping tablet is not restorative. We simply induce sedation.

Naps are great ways to zap a bit of alertness into us, but it cannot undo the damage of not sleeping at night.

We mount a ‘sleep debt’ that we need to pay back to the body. It only accepts sleep, and cannot be paid for with caffeine or the will of crazed condition.

My apologies if this was a bit long-winded. I just find the whole topic truly fascinating. I also wonder if I caused myself way more suffering than necessary over the years by putting off going to bed…

From now on, I am prioritising my sleep. I will make a huge effort to get myself organised so I am in bed at a reasonable time.

Have you been neglecting your need for sleep?

What are you going to do about it!?