In a civilization that simultaneously values productivity and distraction, many of us find our own selves cutting corners on our nightly allotment of sleep. While it’s easy to view the loss of a few hours of sleep as no big deal, over time, the lost hours build up and develop a sleep debt.
There are many symptoms of sleep deprivation affecting our bodies and our brains. Sleep deprivation can be a source of domestic unhappiness, career shortcomings and potentially life-threatening situations. Without further ado, here are 10 signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation.
1. Incapacity to Deal with Anxiety
If you’ve been feeling burnt out lately, the conditions you’re buckling under may not be the dilemma, it may be lack of sleep. Sleep deprivation wears down our normal capacity to deal with daily aggravations and challenges, especially normal gridlock traffic.
Running short on sleep tends to lower the threshold for “stress perception.” When you’re dead tired, having to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work may seem like an impossible task, not a routine activity.
Although deficiency of sleep can add to anxiety, worry itself can induce very poor sleep. Studies have shown that stress hormones can be stimulating, especially in middle-aged men. This may be due to over activation of the stress response system in later hours of the evening.
Research tends to show that people who sleep soundly in times of stress are more focused on tasks, while those who respond to stress by losing sleep keep their focus on their roiling emotions.
2. Inadequate Memory
If you’ve ever mentioned, “I can’t even remember the last occasion I got a good night’s sleep,” it might not just be because you have an infant that doesn’t sleep on a schedule. After a restless night, you may become forgetful or experience “senior moments.”.
Analysis has demonstrated that profound sleep plays a crucial role in recollection, because it promotes connections between nerve cells. The less deep sleep you obtain, the less associations develop between nerve cells. Both humans and animals perform worse on memory tests when deprived of sleep.
REM sleep particularly helps in the development and retention of emotionally charged thoughts, which tend to be those that are most vivid to us decades down the road.
If you’re facing a task that will call heavily upon a sharp memory, you may want to choose sleep over late-night preparation. A student studying for tests shouldn’t stay up all night studying. It’s better to study until feeling tired and then get plenty of sleep before the next day’s test.
3. Inability to Focus.
If you’ve ever pulled yourself into the office on Monday after an unrestful weekend and had to feign interest in a long meeting, you may be familiar with another sign of sleep deprivation, an inability to concentrate.
Sleep-deprived people in studies are not only more likely to perform inadequately on tests calling for focus, but additionally, they’re more likely to mistake their effectiveness. They undervalue the impacts of sleep deprivation on their ability to focus.
Those ramifications boost as our sleep debt grows. A person having five hours of nighttime sleep for a week will function much better on jobs needing concentration than anyone who acquires four hours a night for a week.
Caffeine improves and offers a quick fix concentration (for a little while, at least), with effects peaking within about an hour of consumption.
You may have recently had a change in your sleep habits if you’ve noticed a change on the scale. Keep reading to learn about the connection between sleep and appetite.
4. Heightened Desire for foods.
Controlling what you consume is challenging enough for a lot of men and women, but when their sleep-deprived minds start making requests, it can be nearly unachievable to control the yearnings.
Lack of sleep poses many problems to a person with an otherwise healthy diet. Lack of sleep also makes you hungry.
Your brain metabolizes sugars at a slower rate when you’re sleep deprived. Studies have also shown a clear connection between sleep deprivation and obesity.
5. Eyesight Problems.
Vision problems due to lack of sleep grow the chances of all kinds of problems, such as slips, car wrecks or disasters at work. After being awake all night, you may discover yourself trying to stumble through a blurry area. Visual misinterpretations and difficulty concentrating are hazardous symptoms of sleep deprivation.
You may even begin observing elements that aren’t truly there, detecting movement out of the corners of your eyes. It can be challenging to deal with tangential images and the ones in your straight line of vision simultaneously.
Researchers associate this to your brain’s I-function, which integrates information from other parts of the brain. They struggle to perform functions such as providing you with a perception of the world around you when neurons are deprived of regenerative sleep. As they become less efficient, they cut corners and give you images that contain most of the information you need, but not all. It’s like providing only 750 pieces of a 1,000-piece jigsaw puzzle. As this image begins to differ more and more from reality, you experience severe visual distortion. If at this point, you decide to take a drive, you may also experience another sign of sleep deprivation that we’ll discuss next.
6. Poor Decision-making.
One symptom of sleep deprivation could have extensive complexities, even after you’ve rested and erased your sleep debt. The brain’s prefrontal cortex is involved in judgment and impulse control, and when it’s feeling the strain of sleep deprivation, your decision-making abilities feel the strain as well.
Researchers believe that REM sleep, though still far from being fully understood, helps our brains process information gained throughout the day. This important sleep stage also helps regenerate neurons in the brain.
If you miss a night’s sleep, your brain hasn’t had the opportunity to refresh and reorganize itself, so your ability to make good decisions suffers.
Studies have shown that sleep-deprived people are more likely to make risky decisions. Without sleep, you’ll act aggressively in hopes of achieving short-term gains.
Of course, you won’t be able to do any of those things if you can’t tie your own shoes and get out the front door, as we’ll learn in the next section.
7. Reduced Motor Skills.
If life suddenly feels like a Three Stooges episode, it may be a sign that you need more sleep.
Researchers discovered that after you’ve gone a night without sleep, you’re essentially operating on the same level as someone who’s legally intoxicated. Your mouth may not be able to get the words out as you try to communicate when you’re sleep deprived. Slurred speech, stuttering and speaking in monotone are clues that point to sleep deprivation. You may also fumble with small objects and be unsteady on your feet.
Sleep-deprived people have decreased activity in the temporal lobe of the cerebral cortex, an area of the brain that helps us process language. But another part of the brain, the parietal region, picks up the slack, explaining why we can speak at all when short on sleep.
Sleep deprivation also leads to slower reaction times. Studies show it affects speed before it affects accuracy (be it physical or mental). But stay awake a little longer, and you’ll be accurate nor neither quick.
8. Relationship Problems.
If you and your significant other have taken to separate bedrooms, it may have less to do with a desire for separation than with the desire of one party to get a normal night’s sleep.
When sleep disorders affect one member of a household, they affect all members. Keeping late hours, mixed with random daytime sleeping, throws off family activity schedules, bonding time and the sleep patterns of other family members.
But a sleep-deprived person may be kicked to the couch for other reasons: moodiness, agitation and poor memory, none of which is a trait we admire in our partners. A flagging libido may be a source of tension.
Chronic snoring or sleep apnea can also contribute to domestic strife. When one partner gets up feeling unrested due to a fitful night of sleep apnea, the other may feel just as fatigued from trying to sleep through the drama.
9. Health-related Complications.
Diabetics who experience sleep deprivation become less sensitive to insulin as the body’s ability to metabolize sugar decreases. They may have trouble keeping otherwise controlled blood sugars in an acceptable range when this occurs.
Sleep deprivation also prompts higher blood pressure, lower body temperature and a heart rate that can’t quite find its rhythm.
Rats in studies died when prevented from getting sleep, possibly as a result of immune system breakdown. While your body will forcibly shut itself down to catch up on sleep long before you could possibly die from sleep deprivation, sleeping less than four hours a night may put you at higher risk of death within the next six years.
10. Mood Swings.
When you’re exceptionally tired but unable to get sleep, it doesn’t take much to set you off. Situations that normally would be manageable may suddenly seem much more irritating. One study showed that children who slept less than 10 hours in a day were 25 percent more likely to misbehave.
Sleep deprivation increases your odds of experiencing feelings of depression, burnout and decreased empathy. Those who are already depressed or have other underlying mental health disorders may find those problems exacerbated by lack of sleep.
While it’s easy to view the loss of a few hours of sleep as no big deal, over time, the lost hours build up and form a sleep debt. While lack of sleep can augment stress, stress itself can lead to inadequate sleep. If you’re facing a task that will call heavily upon a sharp memory, you may want to choose sleep over late-night preparation. People who’ve gone without sleep have higher levels of hormones that signal the body that it’s time to eat and fewer hormones that signal being full, or satisfied.
While your body will forcibly shut itself down to catch up on sleep long before you could possibly die from sleep deprivation, sleeping less than four hours a night may put you at higher risk of death within the next six years.
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