sleep deprivation

Warning signs of sleep deprivation that you shouldn’t ignore

If you continue to operate without adequate sleep, you may experience long-term health problems. Therefore, it is important to notice the signs that say you suffering from sleep deprivation.
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In 1964, 17-year-old Randy Gardner stayed awake for 264.4 hours. That’s 11 days and 25 minutes. It was all part of the plan that would help him win a science fair. Little did he know, at the time, the impact this project would have on him. Two days into the experiment, he lost the ability to identify the objects by touch and had trouble repeating simple tongue twisters. By day three, Gardner became moody and uncoordinated, and by day five, he was hallucinating. At the end of the experiment, he was struggling to concentrate, had trouble with short-term memory, and became paranoid. The feat was even recorded in the Guinness Book of World Records. According to reports, Garnder’s feat was surpassed many times during recent years, but the organisation has stopped accepting entries for the longest period spent without sleep as it could pose dangers to people’s health. Although Gardner recovered from this experiment, decades later, he reported having suffered from sleep deprivation and insomnia in an NPR interview.

Sleep is an essential function that allows our mind and body to recharge, helping us feel refreshed and relaxed when we wake up. According to the National Sleep Foundation, USA, adults need seven to nine hours of sleep a night, and adolescents need about eight to 10. When it comes to sleep, our natural setting also plays an important role. The absence of light tells the body that it is time to rest. According to a TED-Ed video titled What would happen if you didn’t sleep, “The rise in sleep-inducing chemicals, like adenosine and melatonin, send us into a light doze that grows deeper, making our breathing and heart rate slow down and our muscles relax. This non-REM sleep is when DNA is repaired and our bodies replenish themselves for the day ahead.”

When we lose sleep, our ability to learn, memory, mood and reaction time become worse. As proven by the experiment mentioned above, sleeplessness can also cause hallucinations, high blood pressure, and it has even been linked to diabetes and obesity.

In our fast-paced society, getting a good night’s sleep has become a luxury. But if you continue to operate without getting adequate sleep, you may get more long-term health problems. Therefore, it is important to notice the signs that say you may be suffering from sleep deprivation. Here are a few of them.

You are moody and impulsive

Think about the time when you didn’t get enough sleep. How did you feel the next morning? Most of us feel irritable when we can’t sleep properly. Now, think about the time you slept well. How did you feel when you woke up? Chances are you felt energetic and focussed. Everyone feels better after a good night’s rest. According to a study, The Amygdala, Sleep Debt, Sleep Deprivation, and the Emotion of Anger: A Possible Connection?, “Individuals who get an adequate amount of sleep each night exhibit fewer emotional outbursts, such as anger, and display fewer aggressive behaviors.” Additionally, the study suggests that “getting an adequate amount of sleep each night promotes improved mood and health.”

You have gained weight

Another sign you need to keep an eye on is your weight. Sleep deprivation increases your appetite. When you are feeling sleepy, you might be tempted to reach out for coffee, skip your morning exercise, or order takeout for lunch and dinner. This adversely affects your weight. It happens because the balance between the hormones—leptin and ghrelin—is shifted due to lack of sleep. According to a WebMD, “Leptin is a hormone, made by fat cells, that decreases your appetite. Ghrelin is a hormone that increases appetite, and also plays a role in body weight.” When you are deprived of sleep, your body makes more ghrelin and less leptin, resulting in an increased appetite, overeating and weight gain.

Your memory has worsened

The effects of sleep deprivation are far-reaching and can have a serious impact on your quality of life. Some of the effects include cognitive impairment such as concentration and memory problems. It also reduces creativity and problem-solving skills. When you are sleep deprived, your energy levels will be low and it can even cause you to lose motivation to work. Your inability to concentrate is a sure sign that you’re not getting enough sleep.

You are losing control of your emotions

Whether you are snapping at a co-worker, getting into an argument with your spouse or losing your cool with your kids, not getting enough sleep increases the chances that your emotional responses will be more impulsive and intense. Your tendency to react strongly to negative situations increases significantly. When you find yourself losing control over your emotions far too often, consider it as a sign of sleep deprivation.

Your productivity has decreased

Almost everyone has experienced sleep deprivation at one point or another. A sleepless night once in a while isn’t something to worry about. However, chronic sleeplessness is a serious concern. According to a study by Rand Corporation, sleep deprivation costs American businesses more than 411 billion dollars annually—the equivalent of 1.2 million working days. Without getting adequate rest and sleep, you would struggle to perform optimally. When this happens, take it seriously and make changes in your daily routine. Eliminate any habit that is making it difficult to sleep and try to nail down a consistent sleep schedule. You can also consult a physician, who can help you create a plan for improving your sleep.

You doze off without realising

Feeling tired during the day is one of the most common signs of sleep deprivation. If you find yourself dozing off while working, you are experiencing what sleep experts call micro sleep. According to Healthline, it can last from a “few to several seconds” and people who experience it can fall asleep without realising it. It can be dangerous, especially if you are driving, and a sure-fire sign that you need to get more sleep.

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