Look back in history, and you’ll see that sleep deprivation is partly to blame for a number of major events and catastrophes. The Exxon Valdez oil spill near Alaska, the Chernobyl nuclear accident, and the Challenger space shuttle disaster. The NRMA estimates that fatigue is involved in a staggering 1 in 6 fatal road accidents. In all of these instances, human error as a result of sleep deprivation played a major role.
The point is that sleep deprivation is more prevalent and more powerful than you might acknowledge. Have you noticed dark circles under your eyes? Are you yawning through the day? These are some symptoms of sleep deprivation. Read on to find out which other signs indicate that you need to catch up on some zzzz’s.
1. Hunger and Weight Gain
“Those who sleep less than 6 hours a day are 30% more likely to become obese than those who slept 7 to 9 hours”
When functioning on insufficient sleep, your body suppresses the circulation of Leptin (the hormone which keeps hunger at bay) and encourages the release of Ghrelin (the hormone which promotes hunger). You’ll find that your appetite increases and inevitably you’ll put on weight. And to add insult to injury, sleep deprivation increases our cravings for fatty and sugary foods – which makes piling on the pounds even easier.
A study into the effects of sleep deprivation on weight found that even one night of short sleep increased body mass index and negatively altered the levels of hunger hormones Leptin and Ghrelin. So if you’re wrestling with your appetite and struggling to control your weight, make sure you’re getting enough kip!
2. Impulsive Actions
If you’re struggling to resist temptation and make level-headed decisions, chances are you’re not getting enough sleep. An article entitled ‘Avoiding Temptation: Self-Control Requires a Good Night of Sleep’ indicates that our self-control is replenished while we sleep. To get technical, our self-control is dictated by how much blood glucose there is in the pre-frontal cortex: the more blood glucose, the better our self-control. So to avoid making poor or rash decisions, stick to a healthy sleep pattern of between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night.
3. Impaired Memory
The effect of sleep deprivation on memory has been hotly debated for several years. However, a recent study in Science Daily suggests that a lack of sleep (five hours or less to be precise) interrupts ‘the connectivity between neurons in the hippocampus, a region of the brain associated with learning and memory’. When the connectivity between these neurons is compromised, our ability to form and consolidate memories is impaired.
Clearly, a lack of sleep negatively affects our memory. However, on the positive side, these effects are not permanent. Ted Abel, senior author of the study, explains that broken neuronal connections are restored with several hours of recovery sleep. So, to ensure that your memory is in tip-top condition (no more forgetting where you put your car keys), aim to get a minimum of 7 hours of sleep per night.
4. Accident Prone
As well as being embarrassing, if you trip over regularly it could be a sign that you’re not getting enough shut eye. Actions which we usually take for granted, such as walking up and down stairs can become arduous tasks when our brains are worn out. Without sleep, our concentration and reaction time become impaired, increasing the chance of accidents. Now, tripping over might seem funny and harmless, but when you realise that one quarter of all crashes on the road are due to drowsy driving the severity of the situation becomes clear.
5. Highly Emotional
It’s no secret that a lack of sleep can leave us feeling emotionally strung the following day, but why, what’s the science behind our emotional irrationality? According to Psychology Today, sleep loss disrupts emotional balance via the amygdala. In fact, researchers found that even one night of sleeplessness can alter our ‘ability to regulate emotions and allocate brain resources necessary for objective cognitive processing’.
So, put simply, if you or someone you know is always cranky and emotional sensitive, it’s time to tuck up in bed and catch some zzz’s.
6. Feeling Under the Weather
According to research, chronic sleep deprivation weakens the immune system, shutting down programs involved in circulating bug-fighting white blood cells. In effect, a lack of sleep leaves you vulnerable to catching an illness. Moral of the story: sleep more to stay healthy!
7. Bad Skin
Estée Lauder, a famous cosmetic manufacturer, conducted clinical trials to see what effects sleep deprivation had on the skin. The results from these tests found that poor length and quality of sleep accelerated the signs of aging and made the skin appear spottier. It is thought that a lack of sleep has these effects on the skin as it alters the level of the hormone cortisol within the body.
Cortisol: When you don’t get enough sleep, the body secretes more of the stress hormone cortisol. When there is an excess of cortisol, the collagen in the skin can break down, compromising its smoothness and elasticity.
To avoid spots and (the dreaded) wrinkles, make sure you’re clocking in enough hours of beauty sleep!
8. Lower Libido
Sleep-deprived men and women frequently report feeling less interested in sex. In addition to the obvious reason (lack of sleep leaves us lethargic and devoid of the energy needed to have sex), The Telegraph offers a further explanation: men who have poor sleeping patterns produce less testosterone, the hormone responsible for sex drive.
Whatever the reason, sufficient sleep is the answer!
9. Eyesight Problems
Experts at the East West Eye Institute highlight how a lack of sleep can cause a variety of eyesight issues ranging from dry, sore eyes to myokymia (eye spasms). To avoid these issues and keep your eyes healthy, it is recommended that we get ‘at least 5 hours of sleep each night in order [for our eyes] to replenish themselves and operate to their full potential.
10. Micro Sleeps
The final and probably the most dangerous symptom of sleep deprivation are micro sleeps. This is when you fall asleep for short bursts of time without realising. Depending on where you are and what you are doing determines just how hazardous a micro sleep will be. At their worst, micro sleeps can kill. Take for example 19 year old Joe Andrews who, in 2014, died in a crash with a lorry after a 30 second microsleep at the wheel.
If these symptoms ring true with your daily life, you could be suffering from sleep deprivation. Now is the time to make sleep a priority. Make sure your mattress is properly supporting you, get into the habit of winding down before bed, and ensure you’re getting sufficient sleep each night. You’ll feel worlds better for it, trust us.
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