Are you having trouble concentrating or feeling unmotivated?
Does this happen frustratingly often?
Everyone has difficulty sleeping from time to time, however, if your lack of shut-eye is an ongoing issue and causing you concern, you may need further assistance to help you rest easier.
It could just be a bad night’s sleep. But it could also be an indication of a clinical sleep disorder. Either way, it’s important to know for sure – so where do you draw the line, and what are the signs?
Sleep is something that we all do every day as a routine because it is essential for good health and wellbeing. It’s normal to have better sleep on some nights than others, but we should all be getting sufficient sleep to keep our bodies functioning and our minds sharp.
Sometimes catching up after a period of poor sleep requires a simple adjustment of our daily priorities, such as spending a few more hours in bed to compensate for a big night out, but it’s not always that simple.
Unfortunately, there is a growing trend of sleep deprivation throughout the world1. A recent study conducted by Sovereign2 found that more than a third of New Zealanders (35%) reported not getting enough sleep, or that the quality of their sleep is compromised. Among those aged 35 to 49, the figure rises to 42%.
These statistics are quite concerning because a continued lack of sleep can be associated with several health issues such as poor mental and physical health, and even symptoms of anxiety and depression. But even more alarming is the severity of the potential long-term consequences of sleep deprivation, which include increased risk of susceptible heart disease and cancer3.
Sleep is an essential part of maintaining both physical and mental health, and while individual requirements can differ, the average required sleep is around 7.5 hours every night.
During these hours, we progress through a variety of stages, from light sleep to REM and deep sleep cycles, each refreshing our bodies and minds for the following day.
Sleep plays a more important role in your life than you may realise, and it’s common to take it for granted until, of course, you experience sleep deprivation.
We all have personally seen how tough a day can be when running on little sleep. It makes even the smallest task a burden, lowers our motivation and we get frustrated more easily.
When someone has enough quality sleep and maintains good sleep hygiene, the advantages include4:
After a refreshing sleep, you awake feeling fantastic and it’s in that state that you are most productive and alert to experience a high quality of life.
Sufficient and restful sleep lowers your body’s production of stress hormones such as cortisol, helping control blood pressure and other stress-related issues.
When you are well rested, your brain’s acquisition and recall ability
While you sleep, your brain processes and consolidates the day’s thought processes and memory. By obtaining enough sleep, you give it enough time to sort and file your memories away.
Studies have found that even a single night of poor sleep can slow our metabolisms and at the same time, increase our appetite5, thus having a two-fold effect. When your metabolism is impaired, the body is not effectively processing the calories from food into sustenance, and that is compounded by the fact that your increased appetite is encouraging you to over-eat, leading to weight gain. You can find out about this in depth in our previous blog, Does Sleep Affect My Body Weight?
We all know how we look when we wake up exhausted: dark circles, bags under our eyes and a dull complexion! Getting enough sleep keeps us looking healthy the next day.
Studies have shown that getting sufficient sleep ensures that our immune system is functioning correctly, keeping us healthy6.
Studies have shown links between maintaining good sleep hygiene and the reduction of inflammatory processes associated with
With these benefits, it’s definitely in everyone’s best interest to get plenty of shut-eye!
While many people simply choose to sleep less due to work or social commitments, continuing to deprive yourself of sleep over a long period of time can have a detrimental effect on your health and quality of life.
Among the possible ramifications of inadequate sleep are increased hunger and subsequent weight gain, decreased immune function, poor glucose control contributing to the development of diabetes, increased blood pressure, and higher incidences of heart problems.
People who are drowsy due to a lack of sleep are also prone to be more irritable and unable to focus, which can have a flow-on effect leading to accidents and social problems.
Therefore, it’s in our best interest to ensure that we are all making enough time in our busy daily lives to get the rest we need.
But how do you know the difference between temporary sleep shortage from lifestyle choices and an actual disorder?
A sleep disorder is more than simply not sleeping enough – it is rather a medically diagnosable reason as to why a person is consistently experiencing sleep deprivation.
Insomnia is a condition where a person struggles to get to sleep or remain asleep, due to illness or emotional stress, meaning that obtaining sufficient rest is difficult.
This is quite a common issue, which can affect breathing while sleeping, and disturb others in the room. Snoring is commonly linked to Obstructive Sleep Apnea (see below).
Sleep Hypoventilation is where a person is not breathing strongly enough during rest, due to a problem with the muscular system associated with breathing.
People who suffer from Restless Leg Syndrome experience pain and uncontrolled movement in their limbs during the night, keeping them from sleeping soundly.
Bruxism is when people grind their teeth uncontrollably during sleep, causing discomfort and disturbance.
This occurs when people are less able to regulate their sleep-wake cycles due to a neurological issue. This throws off their balance of rest, and a common symptom is excessive daytime sleepiness.
This disorder keeps the muscles in the body unusually active during the dreaming phase of sleep, resulting in a lack of relaxation during rest.
OSA (also spelt Sleep Apnoea) is the most common sleep disorder. Read on for an in-depth discussion about this issue.
OSA is a sleep disorder which occurs when a person is unable to breathe freely when asleep due to a blockage (or obstruction) in the upper airway –the nose or throat. When you have sleep apnea, air stops flowing to your lungs for 10 seconds or longer.
Sensing this lack of oxygen, a control centre in your brain triggers you to wake up just enough to take an active breath, before you fall back to sleep and the cycle begins again. In some cases, this can happen many times every hour even though you may not even remember waking up10.
As you can imagine, constantly being aroused back in order to breathe, hour after hour, night after night, can be straining on your body. You may wake up feeling very tired, without realising that your sleep has been interrupted and compromised with multiple periods of arousing due to having sleep apnea.
Here’s a mythbuster: OSA doesn’t discriminate between ages or gender. Men, women and children can all have the condition11. However, there are some factors, including ethnicity, that affect an individual’s vulnerability to displaying the symptoms of sleep apnea12.
Because much of obstructive sleep apnea’s symptoms present themselves during sleep, many people have sleep apnea, but may not even know it. But in fact, sleep apnea affects more than three in 10 men and nearly two in 10 women, so it's more common than you might think13.
If you think you might have sleep
Pay attention to these warning signs, as they could mean you're struggling with a sleep disorder. The good news is, once you know what you’re up against, you’ll soon be on your way to a better night's sleep.
At a general level, you want to be looking out for the following clues. All sleeping disorders have distinct symptoms that differentiate them from others, but at this point, you just want to pay more attention to your own experience to give you a general indication.
If you are experiencing one or a combination of the above signs, it may be a good time to start seeking further professional advice to help you restore your natural sleeping routine.
If you are experiencing problems sleeping, you may wish to consider undertaking a free online sleep assessment to better understand how to improve your restful state and your overall health. The assessment asks you a series of simple questions designed to help you uncover the cause, and the results will be conveniently sent to you via an email.
Snoring, drowsiness and morning headaches could all be signs of a sleep problem, like sleep apnea. If you think you or someone you know may be affected, complete our Free Sleep Assessment right now:TAKE OUR FREE SLEEP ASSESSMENT
 Stranges S; Tigbe W; Gómez-Olivé FX; Thorogood M; Kandala NB. Sleep problems: an emerging global epidemic? Findings from the INDEPTH WHO-SAGE study among more than 40,000 older adults from 8 countries across Africa and Asia. SLEEP 2012;35(8):1173–1181.
 “New study reveals a third of Kiwis are sleep deprived”. Scoop Business on behalf of Sovereign. 15th Feb, 2016. http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1602/S00453/new-study-reveals-a-third-of-kiwis-are-sleep-deprived.htm. Accessed 2nd October, 2017
 “Insomnia treatment in New Zealand”. The New Zealand Medical Journal. https://www.nzma.org.nz/journal/read-the-journal/all-issues/2010-2019/2012/vol-125-no-1349/article-okeeffe. Accessed 2nd October, 2017.
 “The Health Benefits Of A Better Night’s Sleep.” Good Health New Zealand. http://www.goodhealth.co.nz/health-articles/article/the-health-benefits-of-a-better-nights-sleep. 2nd October, 2017.
 The Guardian. ‘Bad sleep makes it harder to keep your waistline down.’ May 2017. < https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/20/sleep-deprivation-link-obesity-research>. Accessed 4 October 2017.
 M Irwin - Brain, behavior, and immunity, 2002 – Elsevier. ‘Effects of sleep and sleep loss on immunity and cytokines’.
 Norah Simpson, MA David F. Dinges, PhD. Nutrition Reviews, Volume 65, Issue suppl_3, 1 December 2007, Pages S244–S252 – ‘Sleep and Inflammation’.
 “Sleep Problems”. New Zealand Ministry Of Health. http://www.health.govt.nz/your-health/conditions-and-treatments/diseases-and-illnesses/sleep-problems. Accessed 2nd October, 2017.
 “Common Sleep Disorders.” Sleep Health Foundation. https://www.sleephealthfoundation.org.au/public-information/fact-sheets-a-z/219-common-sleep-disorders.html. Accessed 2nd October,2017.
 Harrington, C. The Complete Guide to a Good Night’s Sleep. Pan MacMillan Australia 2014.
 “Could My Child Have Sleep Apnea?” National Sleep Foundation. https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/could-my-child-have-sleep-apnea. Accessed 2nd October 2017.
 New Zealand Medical Journal, 20 August 2010. Volume 123 Vol 1321 ISSN 1175 8716
 Peppard PE et al. Increased Prevalence of Sleep-Disordered Breathing in Adults. Am J Epidemiol. 2013 (5.17)
 Palnitkar G, et al. Obstructive sleep apnoea in adults: identifying risk factors and tailoring therapy. Medicine Today 2012, 13(8):14-23
 Wong SH, Ng BY. Review of sleep studies of patients with chronic insomnia at a sleep disorder unit. Singapore Med J. 2015 Jun;56(6):317-23.