When was the last time you got 7 to 8 hours of sleep? If you can’t remember or want to laugh at such a question, you’re probably one of the 50 to 70 million Americans that have chronic sleep deprivation. And while it’s common to lose sleep every now and then, continually getting less than 7 hours can seriously harm your health.
Of course, on some nights, it just happens. Many of us can blame work, school, or jet lag. Or maybe you had that last cup of coffee just a little too late. However, a person with decent sleep habits can get back on track within a few days.
But what if you’re not that person? Adolescents and older people are more likely to suffer from chronic sleep deprivation. The risk also increases if you work crazy hours or night shifts, or if you have disorders like sleep apnea or insomnia. Because chronic sleep loss increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, depression, and early death, it’s vital to know the signs. From there, you can seek treatment depending on the cause.1
1. Daytime Sleepiness
After a night of poor sleep, it’s normal to feel groggy and tired. This becomes the norm if you have chronic sleep deprivation! You’ll be yawning the day away, especially while sitting still. So pay attention to how you feel on a daily basis. If you’re constantly feeling sluggish, don’t ignore it.
Constant daytime sleepiness can lead to “microsleeps” or dozing off in places other than your bed. This might happen while sitting on a train or in a public place, like a classroom. Can’t watch television without passing out? You can blame chronic sleep loss.
3. Poor Focus
The brain needs to rest and recharge at night. But without enough shut-eye, it doesn’t have time to repair itself. This can easily lead to poor concentration, focus, and attention. Decision-making will feel like running a marathon.
4. Frequent Mistakes
On that note, you’ll also be more prone to mistakes.2 Perhaps you forgot an ingredient in a recipe or sent an e-mail to the wrong co-worker. What’s worse is that making mistakes may also happen while driving, proving just how important sleep truly is.
5. Increased Appetite
Hungrier than usual? Blame the lack of sleep. According to a 2016 study in the journal Obesity, sleep restriction increases ghrelin, the appetite hormone. It specifically brings on a hankering for sweets!3 Meanwhile, a satiety hormone called peptide YY takes a nosedive.4
6. Mood Issues
Getting little to no sleep makes you prone to mood swings, or emotional lability.5 You can be fine one minute and fuming the next! It might seem like anything can set you off.
Other common signs include irritability, stress, and anxiety. Plus, when you’re chronically sleep deprived, you have a higher risk of developing depression.6
7. Frequent Colds
Sleep literally fuels immune cells. During rest, they increase in number, re-distribute to the lymph nodes, and develop an immunological memory to remember foreign particles.7 But when you’re always running on empty, it’s common to have a cold that just won’t quit.
|↑1||Colton, H. R., and B. M. Altevogt. “Extent and health consequences of chronic sleep loss and sleep disorders.” Sleep Disorders and Sleep Deprivation: An Unmet Public Health Problem. Retrieved from: books. nap. edu/openbook/0309101115. gifmid/55. gif (2006).|
|↑2||Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑3||Broussard, Josiane L., Jennifer M. Kilkus, Fanny Delebecque, Varghese Abraham, Andrew Day, Harry R. Whitmore, and Esra Tasali. “Elevated ghrelin predicts food intake during experimental sleep restriction.” Obesity 24, no. 1 (2016): 132-138.|
|↑4||Hibi, Masanobu, Chie Kubota, Tomohito Mizuno, Sayaka Aritake, Yuki Mitsui, Mitsuhiro Katashima, and Sunao Uchida. “Effect of shortened sleep on energy expenditure, core body temperature, and appetite: a human randomised crossover trial.” Scientific reports 7 (2017).|
|↑5||Lo, June C., Ju Lynn Ong, Ruth LF Leong, Joshua J. Gooley, and Michael WL Chee. “Cognitive performance, sleepiness, and mood in partially sleep deprived adolescents: the need for sleep study.” Sleep 39, no. 3 (2016): 687-698.|
|↑6||Healthy Sleep. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.|
|↑7||Besedovsky, Luciana, Tanja Lange, and Jan Born. “Sleep and immune function.” Pflügers Archiv-European Journal of Physiology 463, no. 1 (2012): 121-137.|