Most experts agree that the average adults need between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. And yet, despite this advice, over a third of us fail to hit these targets, often getting by on six or fewer hours of nightly rest.
Many people believe that the 7-9 hours of sleep “rule” doesn’t apply to them and that they can happily and healthily sleep less than is recommended. However, just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Too little sleep can have a profound effect on how you feel, look, and perform – both mentally and physically.
Unfortunately, if you don’t get enough sleep, you can get used to the symptoms of sleep deprivation or, rather, you can learn to ignore them. This doesn’t mean that a lack of sleep is no longer an issue. In fact, it could lull you into a false sense of security where you stop thing of sleep as important. 7-9 hours of sleep per night? That’s for other people!
Here are 12 signs you are sleep deprived. If you experience more than a few of these signs on a regular basis, you really should take steps to fit more sleep into your life.
1. You fall asleep immediately
While a lot of people view this as a good characteristic, it’s actually a reliable indicator that you are sleep deprived. If you fall asleep the moment your head hits the pillow, you probably need to get more sleep. Most people should take 5-15 minutes to fall asleep. Instantaneous sleep suggests you are overly tired and affected by sleep deprivation.
2. You fall asleep at inappropriate times
If you fall asleep at the movies, during your lunch break, while watching TV, or any other time except bedtime, you are probably sleep-deprived. A good night’s sleep should provide enough rest and recovery to get you through the day. However, if you fall asleep during the day, there is a good chance you need more sleep at night.
3. You struggle to concentrate
If you tend to “space out” during things like meetings, conversations, or while driving, you may be sleep-deprived. Too little sleep can affect your ability to focus and concentrate. An inability to concentrate can affect your performance at work. It could even lead to serious or fatal accidents, especially if you zone out while driving or operating dangerous machinery.
4. You are clumsier than normal
Even athletes and dancers have days when they feel more accident-prone than usual, but if you are feeling clumsier and less coordinated than usual, you may need to get more sleep. Frequent stumbles, losing your balance, and dropping or knocking objects over are all good signs you need more sleep.
5. You are hungry all the time
If you don’t get enough sleep, your body will look for alternative ways to keep you energized, namely food. Uncontrolled hunger and cravings for fast-acting carbohydrates and sugar are linked to sleep deprivation and can also lead to weight gain. More sleep can also make losing weight much easier.
6. You keep getting colds
While your immune system works 24/7, it’s most active while you sleep. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, minor illnesses can drag on and on, or you may be more at risk of suffering from colds and other infections. A properly functioning immune system should be strong enough to fight off most minor illnesses. If you are frequently ill or find that things like colds last weeks instead of days, you may be sleep-deprived.
7. Your sex drive takes a nosedive
Lack of sleep can disrupt normal hormone production. If your hormones are unbalanced, your sex drive will suffer. This problem is made worse if, on going to bed, you fall asleep all but instantly. Lost sex drive can lead to relationship stress, especially if your partner is well-rested and has a normally functioning sex drive.
8. Your emotions are all over the place
Too little sleep can affect all aspects of mental health, including your emotions. If you feel unusually sad and weepy, overly happy, angry, depressed, disillusioned, frustrated, or notice that your emotions are unpredictable or very variable, you need to get more sleep.
8. Lack of creativity
Writer’s block? Unable to solve a simple math problem? Struggling to come up with interesting things to talk about? These are all signs of sleep deprivation. Creativity and imagination all suffer when you are tired, and that can affect many aspects of your work and home life.
9. Poor skin
Your skin is the largest organ in your body. The health of your skin often reflects the health of your body. If your skin looks dull or you are suffering from more blemishes than usual, too little sleep could be the cause. Lack of sleep can rob your skin of its natural elasticity, making wrinkles more common. The skin under your eyes is particularly prone to the effects of sleep deprivation. It’s called beauty sleep for a reason!
10. Forgetfulness and difficulty learning
Lost your car keys again? Can’t remember a colleague’s name? Struggling to remember important information for an exam? Can’t recall the plot of a movie you watched recently? Sleep deprivation may be the cause. Sleep affects memory consolidation, and too little sleep means that short-term memories are not stored properly. Ironically, students who pull “all-nighters” before exams would probably get better results if they went to bed and got a full night’s sleep instead.
11. Waking up is a battle
After a good night’s sleep, you should wake up feeling full of energy and be ready to face the day. If you struggle to wake up and have to drink cup after cup of coffee so you can function, you are sleep deprived. Some people are genetically “not morning people.” But, even then, if you’ve had enough sleep, you should be able to get up and function normally without gallons of caffeine.
12. You can’t see clearly
Profound tiredness can affect your vision. If you can’t focus properly, or otherwise notice your eyesight is not what it should be, getting more sleep can help. People who are sleep deprived and then start getting enough sleep often notice that their close-up vision improves dramatically.
Not getting enough can affect every aspect of your life, from your performance at work to your mood to your health. You might be able to get by on less than 7-9 hours of sleep, but regular sleep deprivation can make your life much less enjoyable and fulfilling than it should be. Too little sleep could also shorten your life. Not convinced? Try getting more sleep to see how much better you can look, feel, and perform.