We live in a busy world that often prevents people from getting adequate rest. Juggling the obligations of home, work, school, and social life can be a challenge, but when you're choosing which tasks to prioritize, you shouldn't let sleep go by the wayside. Poor sleep hygiene can negatively affect both your physical and mental health. If you're wondering how to know if you're sleep deprived in the first place, read on to discover some common signs of sleep deprivation and learn if sleep medicine might be beneficial for you.
1. You usually don't get seven to nine hours of sleep.
How many hours of sleep do you get most nights? Even if you think you're getting sufficient sleep, you may not be getting enough rest to reach your highest potential.
For most adults, seven or more hours of sleep every night is recommended. This is general advice, though. Many factors can influence how much sleep you need, including your activity level and any health conditions you might have.
Moreover, sleep deprivation is a vicious cycle. If you are sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases-- you can't fix the problem by getting a full night's sleep every once in a while.
2. You don't have a regular sleep schedule.
The quality of your sleep is just as important as how many hours you get each night. Even if you get enough sleep most of the time, your rest can still be disrupted by an irregular sleep schedule.
Your body has something called a circadian biological clock, which is one process that controls your sleep-wake cycle. When you constantly fall asleep and wake up at different times, it can throw off your circadian clock, making it harder to fall asleep or stay awake at an appropriate time.
Once you figure out how much sleep leaves you feeling ready to take on the day, you should set aside that number of hours at the same time every night. This habit will help you to make the most of the hours you dedicate to catching z's.
3. You've experienced unexplained weight gain.
Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between unhealthy body weight and a lack of quality sleep. Researchers are unsure of the exact reason for this connection, but it may have something to do with neurotransmitters, the nervous system's messengers. Certain neurotransmitters impact appetite, cravings, and fullness cues. Sleep deprivation may change how your body regulates these neurotransmitters, leading to appetite changes and weight gain with seemingly no other explanation.
4. You get sick often.
If you feel like you're catching every virus that comes your way, it could be a result of sleep deprivation. Your immune system thrives when you get adequate sleep. Your body needs sleep to produce cytokines, proteins that help fight disease. Without enough quality sleep, your immune system produces less cytokines and other antibodies, which increases your risk of infection.
5. You experience mood swings.
Your physical health is not the only thing that suffers when you experience sleep problems-- your emotional health can take a hit as well. If you have experienced mood changes, like an increase in feelings of irritability, stress, or sadness, it might be time to examine your sleep patterns.
6. Your mental health has worsened.
Sleep and mental health are interconnected. You might already know that mental disorders can cause sleep disruptions, but did you that the opposite is also true? Poor sleep can cause mental health problems to develop or worsen.
Getting enough sleep is great for your nervous system. Each stage of sleep helps maintain the health of your brain, but the rapid eye movement (REM) stage is especially important because it helps consolidate the positive emotional information from your thoughts and memories. If you aren't getting enough sleep to facilitate this process, you may find that your mental health is taking a hit.
7. You feel tired during the day.
If you experience daytime sleepiness, you might chalk it up to dreary weather or a monotonous daily routine. You might not even realize what you're experiencing is daytime sleepiness. However, if you regularly feel irritable, inattentive, or spacey during the day, it's probably daytime sleepiness, and sleep deprivation is a likely cause.
8. Your memory has worsened.
Memory problems are another common side effect of sleep deprivation. Like we mentioned earlier, good sleep is essential to proper brain function. Without enough sleep, you might struggle to absorb and recall new information. Sleep deprivation may be to blame for those times when your head feels foggy and your memory is hazy.
What are the long-term effects of sleep deprivation?
Aside from the undesirable symptoms of sleep deprivation that we've already mentioned, a lack of sleep can lead to more serious health problems in the long run. Long-term sleep deprivation can put you at an increased risk for issues such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, and others.
It might seem impossible to fix your sleep habits, especially if you have been struggling to get enough rest for a long time. However, there are plenty of ways to improve your sleep hygiene. Start by developing a relaxing bedtime routine and creating a soothing sleep environment. Try to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. You can even talk to your about how to build healthy sleep habits.
When to See a Sleep Specialist
Chronic sleep deprivation can indicate that you have a sleep disorder. If you feel like you've exhausted every method to fix your sleep problems with no success, it might be necessary to see a sleep specialist. Sleep medicine involves the diagnosis and treatment of sleep disorders like insomnia, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and others. These practitioners can provide medical care as well as suggest lifestyle changes that address the causes of sleep deprivation.