What Are the Signs of Sleep Deficiency?

Feeling tired? Ask anyone from high school age and up how they’re feeling, and they’re likely to tell you that they are feeling tired. Perhaps you’ve given that answer yourself when someone asked you how you were feeling.

There are so many responsibilities vying for your time that it can be hard to get enough sleep on any given day. Over time, you can become sleep deprived and experience some negative physical and mental side effects. Suffering from lack of sleep can make it difficult for you to focus on your work, be present at home, or get enjoyment out of life.

Chances are, if you think you’re not getting enough sleep, then you need to make time to rest! Here are some of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation to warn you when you need to make a change.

Symptoms of Lack of Sleep

Feeling Sleepy

Feeling tired or drowsy is one of the first symptoms that will happen when you aren’t getting enough rest. Your body is good at telling you when it needs more sleep. Unless you have a medical condition or are taking medication that can make you drowsy, if you’re feeling tired, then you need to get more sleep.

If you are sleep deprived for long enough, you could feel exhausted even after you have taken time to rest. In this case, you’re likely suffering from fatigue, which is defined as a profound, unrelenting exhaustion.

Have you ever nodded off in the middle of a lecture, or even at the wheel? This is called micro sleep, and it can be dangerous. Micro sleep is when your brain decides you are going to sleep right then and there, because it recognizes you haven’t gotten the amount of rest your body needs.

Mental Fog

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When you’re tired, it’s difficult to think clearly. The longer you are awake, the harder your brain has to work to process the same information. This can cause a lot of strain on your mind, and make it difficult to focus.

Sleep deprived people are 62% more likely to have difficulty concentrating. Getting less than 7 hours of sleep each night on a regular basis can create a cumulative deficit with the same effect as going an entire night without sleep.

Sleeping helps your brain and body get the fuel they need to function. When you don’t get enough sleep, your cognitive functions drop off, and research shows that your blood stream gets becomes overburdened with a toxic substance that inhibits a variety of bodily functions.

Tired brains also drastically increase the risk of accidents. If you’re feeling tired, don’t get behind the wheel. An estimated 100,000 accidents per year are caused by drowsy driving. Even if you’re not in a car, you can still have falls and smaller accidents – when your brain suffers, so does reaction time. When you’re tired, it’s also harder to focus on what’s happening, and your brain might not be processing the environment around you properly. This can lead to misjudging how close or how far away an object is, dropping something, or falling.

Mood Changes

Have you noticed that you’re more likely to lash out at someone if you’re feeling tired? You’re not alone. When you don’t get enough sleep, your mental and emotional state are less stable. Your mood dampens, and many people don’t enjoy being around you. They might call you crabby or cranky.

During sleep, your brain builds pathways that help you process emotions and interpret the behavior of others, among other cognitive functions. These neurons help you handle stressful events in your life. Have you ever gotten into a fight with someone and then gone to bed, only to find that you feel much calmer in the morning? That’s your brain at work while you sleep.

When you don’t get enough sleep, all of the stresses of your week begin to add up. This makes it easy to overreact to things that didn’t bother you before, and can make it nearly impossible for you to deal with emotionally difficult situations.

Memory Problems

Along with having a major impact on your mood and emotional state, a lack of sleep can seriously mess with your memory.

When you are asleep, your mind works on processing the events of your day. During sleep stages, your brain is working on recording memories and categorizing them properly. Your brain creates neurons that help you record information from your day.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your short-term memory capabilities are diminished and your learning skills suffer. If you can’t remember what you learn in school or on the job, your education and performance will suffer. Your thoughts are likely disorganized, and you could be suffering from other thinking issues.

Your long-term memory could suffer as well. If your brain isn’t able to store information from your day, you might not remember family stories that get passed down. The amount and quality of sleep you get is directly related to how well your brain retains and activates your memories.

Disorientation, Hallucinations, and Paranoia
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In extreme circumstances, sleep deprivation can cause hallucinations. This is when you see or hear something that doesn’t actually exist. If you have never experienced hallucinations before, this can be an incredibly frightening experience.

Given enough time without sleep, 80% of people will experience hallucinations. Some of these symptoms can mimic other mental illnesses commonly associated with hallucinations, like schizophrenia.

When you don’t get enough sleep, your brain begins to fail to properly process the visual information it is receiving. The processes it uses when it is well rested fall apart, leading you to see or hear things that aren’t actually there.

Along with hallucinations, sleep deprivation can cause dissociation and paranoia. Dissociation is when you have a disconnect between your thoughts and your environment. It can make you feel like the world around you isn’t real, or feel like you’re lost during the day. When you’re tired, you’re more likely to zone out, because your brain has a hard time paying attention to what’s going on around you. This is a type of dissociation.

Getting Sick More Often

Have you noticed that when you don’t get enough sleep, you’re more likely to catch a cold? Or that you’ve gone through finals, only to get sick a few days after you finish?

Sleeping helps your immune system protect your mind and body from infection. While you are sleeping, your immune system creates cytokines, which are the proteins that fight against the bacteria and viruses that lead to illness and infection.

A lack of sleep deprives your body from these necessary proteins, which leaves you more susceptible to any bug you come into contact with. Long term sleep deprivation can seriously mess with your ability to be healthy, as it increases your chances of developing chronic illnesses.

Weight Gain

When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s easier to gain weight. There are a few reasons for this. Perhaps one of the most obvious ones is that you’re less likely to watch what you’re eating when you’re tired. Eating well takes a lot of effort, and if you’re already tired, you’re less likely to put forth that effort.

Not getting enough sleep also messes with the hormones that control your hunger levels. There are two hormones associated with hunger levels: leptin and ghrelin. Leptin makes you feel full, while ghrelin makes you feel hungry.  Lack of sleep causes leptin to decrease, and ghrelin to increase, which causes you to want food more often.

It’s also easier to skip exercising when you already feel exhausted. In fact, feeling too tired is the number one reason people decide not to go to the gym. With a decrease in physical activity, and an increase in the amount of food you’re bringing in, you’re likely to gain weight.

You might think you can get by on just a few hours of sleep each night. However, there are many consequences to depriving your body of the sleep it needs. Try to get at least 7 hours of sleep each night, so that your mind can function properly, and your body can get the nutrients necessary to each system.

Getting enough sleep each night will help you avoid fatigue, hallucinations, catching the flu, and getting into an accident. You’ll also have better focus, which will help you be more productive during the day, and get the same amount of work done in less time. The consequences of lack of sleep are not worth the potential benefits you might get.

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