Psychologists warn of serious health risks from chronic bedtime procrastination

Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to health issues like weakened immune function, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders.

25 May 2024 08:00am
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF
Photo for illustration purposes only. - 123RF

SHAH ALAM - Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to a significant decline in cognitive abilities over time, psychologists say.

According to them, chronic bedtime procrastination would increase the risk of developing serious health issues, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, anxiety and depression.

Psychiatrist from International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM) associate professor Dr Hijaz Ridzwan said there were additional impacts on daily life and overall well-being, including reduced productivity as fatigue hampered concentration, decision-making and problem-solving skills.

"Bedtime procrastination can also result in mood disturbances, as sleep deprivation may cause irritability, mood swings and heightened emotional sensitivity.

"Prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to health issues like weakened immune function, cardiovascular disease and metabolic disorders," he said when contacted.

To minimise these risks, Hijaz recommended individuals to prioritise sleep and acknowledge its significance for overall health, making it a priority in their daily routine.

He also suggested practicing good sleep hygiene, maintaining a conducive sleep environment (cool, dark and quiet) as well as establishing a regular sleep routine.

Hijaz said managing stress by employing stress management techniques such as mindfulness, exercise and time management to reduce the temptation to delay bedtime could also be of help.

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"Seek professional help if sleep issues persist and consult with a healthcare professional who can provide valuable assistance," he added.

He said insufficient sleep can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression by disturbing the equilibrium of neurotransmitters and stress hormones.

Lack of sleep can heighten emotional reactivity and reduce coping mechanisms, making it more difficult to manage stress and negative emotions.

Meanwhile, Malaysian Society of Clinical Psychology president Joel Low said prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to a gradual decline in the human body.

He added that while individuals may not notice it immediately, if this pattern persisted for over weeks, it could become profoundly debilitating.

"Think of it as a browser with too many open tabs causing it to lag, or a computer that hasn't been switched off for days. You need to shut it down and let it rest to get it back to normal again.

"Procrastination on its own is unlikely to cause anything major to occur, but the prolonged reduction of sleep and fatigue associated to it can become problematic over time," he said when contacted.

Low emphasised that lack of rest greatly diminished the mind's ability to recover and cope with stress.

In such a compromised state, he said people were more susceptible to being affected by stressors and difficult situations, unlike someone who was well-rested and in optimal condition.

Low likened it to filling up the car with petrol. He said if the gas tank was full (getting a good night’s sleep, so their mind is rested), they can travel a 500-kilometre range (they can handle a lot of different things). However, if they leave it half empty, they can only accomplish half of what they wanted.

"The allocation of time is a great way, so you allocate time for rest or play or for entertainment.

"Remind yourself to take time off as it is important to stay healthy as well," he added

He said people would go jogging, running and swimming to take care of their physical health and taking breaks to care for emotional and psychological health were as important.

Low suggested that implementing good sleep hygiene practices would be highly beneficial and establishing a routine that induced a relaxed and calm state could optimise the conditions for falling asleep.