As the end of the year looms closer, your schedule is most likely becoming more hectic. There are a hundred and one things to do before the end of the year. As your schedule gets busier, the first thing you will most likely cut back on is sleep. Sleeping less and drinking more coffee might seem like a way to get extra hours into your day. However, there is a chance that you might be overdoing it.

Sleep is one of the most important ingredients of a healthy lifestyle. If you don’t get enough sleep, your work, social life and even health might suffer serious consequences.

This of course raises the question: how much sleep is too little?

According to the National Sleep Foundation in the United States, adults between eighteen and sixty-four years old should get between seven and nine hours of sleep per night. While they can get away with as little as six hours per night, anything less than that is not recommended.

Children, of course, should sleep a lot more. Teenagers between the ages of fourteen and seventeen should get between eight and ten hours. The younger children, the more they should sleep. New-born babies should sleep as much as fourteen to seventeen hours every day.

Now you have to understand that this is just a suggested average. The perfect amount of sleep varies from person to person.

There are, however, some sure-fire ways to know that you are suffering from sleep deprivation. Here is a list of eleven signs to look out for.

Let’s dive right in!

  1. You are overly emotional

need more sleep

When your brain suffers from sleep deprivation, it becomes overly sensitive to emotional stimuli. According to a study done by Harvard Medical School, you are much more emotionally resilient after a good night’s sleep, while sleeping less will make you more liable to mood swings. You might find yourself having a lot of negative feelings. Depression, anxiety and constant gloominess have all been linked to sleep deprivation. In another study done by Harvard Medical School, it was found that patients suffering from depression often report problems with insomnia as well. On the other extreme, some studies have also shown that sleep deprived people might become overly excitable and aggressive.

So, if you’re finding that you seem to get out of bed on the wrong side more and more often, you should maybe re-evaluate your sleeping habits.

  1. You are getting sick

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Another sign that you need more sleep is when your immune system starts deteriorating. In a 2009 study by the Archives of Internal Medicine, healthy people was injected with the cold virus. Some startling results came to light. The group of people who had slept less than seven hours each night the week before, was three times more likely to develop cold symptoms than the people that had slept eight hours or more. This could be attributed to the fact that your immune system produces cytokines while you are asleep. Cytokines are proteins that help protect your body against inflammation and infections. The logical conclusion is that sleeping longer will help protect your body better in the long run. If you are running a busy schedule, it will be a good idea to ensure that you sleep enough and thus give yourself a better chance at staying healthy.

  1. You are constantly hungry

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You might be suffering from sleep deprivation if you find yourself constantly craving food. Doctor Chris Winter from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia, says that your brain will suffer a severe deficiency in energy when you don’t sleep enough. This causes your brain to try and make up for that deficiency by signally you to eat more. When your body isn’t resting enough it can cause an increase in the production of ghrelin in your gut. Ghrelin is found in your gut, and is also known as the hunger hormone. When your body produces too much ghrelin you can find yourself craving fatty and sugary foods. What furthers this condition of constant hunger is the fact the insufficient sleep can also mess up the production of leptin. Leptin is the satiety hormone, that prevents you from eating too much. According to doctor Winter, you eat a lot more when you’re not sleeping properly. This is because you don’t feel, or even get, the signal that you’ve had enough.

  1. You are gaining weight

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Related to the previous point is increased weight gain as a result of sleep deprivation. It stands to reason that when your appetite increases, you will also gain a lot of weight. Doctor Chris Winter from Charlottesville Neurology and Sleep Medicine in Virginia has found that when you’re tired from not sleeping enough you tend to not watch what you’re eating. Another comprehensive study done by the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort in 2004, showed that people who sleep fewer than six hours a night are more likely to be overweight. As mentioned above, the abundance of ghrelin, the hunger hormone in your gut, makes you crave fatty and sugary food. Eating fried foods and sweets can be tolerated by your body in moderation, but since your sleep deprivation has put your satiety hormone out of sync as well, you might find yourself eating way too much.

Another recent study has identified some alarming connections between a lack of sleep and an increased risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. This might be connected to the fact that sleeping as little as four and a half hours a night can reduce your fat cells’ ability to respond to insulin.

  1. Your memory is acting up

need more sleep

Are you struggling to remember simple things like what the pastor preached on last Sunday or where you last put your car keys? While this might be a sign of a more serious memory problem, you should first take a long hard look at your sleeping habits. When you’re suffering from sleep deprivation you are most likely struggling to pay attention to what’s going on around you when you’re trying to memorize a fact. This can be caused by the fact that your brain uses the downtime when you’re asleep to organize the events of the day in your head. This is also the time your brain uses to form memories and expel harmful chemicals from your brain. When you don’t sleep enough you create, in effect, a large backlog that your brain has to run through before it can process new information or access memories.

Getting enough sleep is paramount in ensuring good and lasting brain health. Not getting enough sleep can cause permanent neurological damage and impair your brain’s ability to keep your bloodstream clear from harmful toxins.

  1. You are acting impulsively

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When you aren’t getting enough sleep, you might find yourself doing things you don’t usually do. For example, you might be impulsively shopping or eating things you don’t actually feel like having. You might also be ranting or lashing out at co-workers, family members or your spouse. According to doctor Gail Saltz, a psychologist, this is attributed to the fact that people tend to act without thinking when exhausted. Your ability to resist impulses become weaker, and you don’t think as logically as you usually do. Kelly Baron, an assistant professor of neurology at Northwestern University in Chicago says that the main problem is that people act with less inhibitions while suffering from sleep deprivation.

  1. You are struggling with clumsiness

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Another sign that you need more sleep is that you find yourself becoming more and more clumsy. You might even find yourself falling over your own feet, or constantly dropping things.  If you find yourself tripping or dropping things multiple times a day it means that you are most likely too tired and sleep deprived to concentrate on what you’re doing. This is due to the part of your brain that controls your gross motor skills becoming more and more fatigued. According to doctor Chris Winter, of Charlottesville, Virginia, there is a general lapse in how you function neurologically when you’re suffering from sleep deprivation. Your reaction time to external and internal stimuli becomes slower and your concentration span also shortens. This causes difficulty in movement. When you think about it, the simple act of walking up or down the stairs requires a certain amount of mental processing. When you’re sleep deprived you struggle to maintain those processes.

  1. Your skin isn’t looking good

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If you’re suffering from bad breakouts or aging skin, you might need more sleep. Beauty sleep might be an actual concept. This was shown by a 2013 clinical trial done at a medical centre in Cleveland, Ohio. The trial found that skin recovery was 30% higher in people who slept enough, compared to people who didn’t. Doctor Debra Jaliman, dermatologist and author of Skin Rules, says that sleep deprivation upsets your hormonal balance and elevates circulating estrogen levels. This can cause more acne. If you don’t sleep enough for a longer period of time you might start noticing more wrinkles on your face. Your body produces collagen while you sleep. A decrease in collagen can cause more wrinkles to form.

  1. Your eyesight seems to be getting worse

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Lack of sleep can cause your eyesight to worsen, ophthalmologist Steven Shanbom of Berkley, Michigan, has found. When you don’t get enough sleep your eye muscles become tired. Especially the ciliary muscle can become fatigued. The ciliary muscle helps your eye to focus, and fatigue of the muscle results in difficulty when reading. Another muscle that suffers when you skimp on sleep is the extra-ocular muscle. This muscle moves the eye up and down and from side to side. Many people have an imbalance in this muscle, which causes their eyes to not track together very well. When you are well rested your eyes can make the adjustments to work together on their own. However, sleep deprivation makes the misalignment difficult to control. When you find yourself struggling to read, or suffering from double vision, you should consider making more time in your busy schedule for sleep. You can notice these eyesight difficulties after just one night of bad sleep. They will worsen and persist the larger your sleeping debt becomes.

  1. You can’t make decisions

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Sleep deprivation can have negative effects on your ability to reason and focus. This causes problems when you have to make decisions. Even simple things like what to have for dinner or which road to take to work. You might find it more difficult to manage projects in both your personal and work life. When you need more sleep your ability to quickly and effectively manage higher-level cognitive processing becomes significantly lower. In a 2009 study done by Sleep the researchers conducting the study asked two groups of people to perform a set of tasks that required quick decision making. The two groups, one of which was sleep deprived while the other was well rested, had to perform this test twice. The group that was well-rested improved in accuracy by 4.3%, while the sleep deprived group’s accuracy went down by 2.4%. It seems to indicate that a good night’s sleep improves your decision-making.

  1. You might have fallen asleep while driving

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In the later stages of sleep deprivation your brain might start shutting down for seconds at a time. When you nod off in this way, sometimes without even noticing, it’s called microsleeping. Microsleeping is when your brain is so fatigued that it just decides to sleep, without consulting you first. It seems to be a way for your body to force you to get the sleep you need, if you’ve been ignoring the previous signs. Microsleeping becomes very dangerous if you happen to be driving while it happens. In the US, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has estimated that between 2005 and 2009 2.6% of all fatal crashes involved drowsy driving. Driving while sleep deprived is extremely dangerous. You should be very careful of travelling if you know that you are tired. If you feel sleepy while driving, the safest bet is to pull over and catch a nap before continuing your journey.

 

That’s it, folks!

I sincerely hope that you haven’t noticed any of the above signs in your life. If you have, get yourself a pillow and a comfy bed and start working off your sleeping debt immediately!