Turns out, we’re not that good at knowing when we’re sleep deprived. As sleep experts explain it, we quickly adapt to not getting the rest we need, in order to get through the day. Then we tell ourselves we don’t need eight hours of sleep—six will do just fine.
But the body doesn’t really adapt to not getting the sleep it needs. Here are five common signs you’re not sleeping enough, even if you feel like you are:
You’re gaining weight—or finding it hard to lose
There’s a strong and growing body of research that connects lack of sleep (and poor quality sleep) to a tendency to gain weight, and a higher risk for obesity. Studies show not sleeping enough changes hormones that regulate appetite—driving up production of hunger hormones and inhibiting production of hormones that deliver messages to the brain of satiety, or fullness. When we don’t sleep enough, we’re also more likely to crave junk food, and indulge in late-night snacking. And when we’re short on sleep, we’re less likely to exercise and move around as much as when we’re well rested.
You’re noticing trouble with memory and concentration
Think your fuzzy-headedness is a sign of age? It might have to do with how much sleep you got last night, and the night before. Sleep is a rebooting time for the brain, when we process newly-acquired information into memory, and wipe the slate clean for another day of learning and memory making. Spending enough time in all the stages of sleep, including slow-wave sleep and REM sleep is important for mental focus and memory.
You feel like you want to nod off during the day
Craving a nap before you even make it to lunch? That’s a surefire sign of sleep deprivation. Mundane or low-energy activities, including driving, sitting in meetings, and routine tasks at the computer might be the times when this daytime sleepiness is most prominent. Sleep experts say there’s one big exception, however. A bout of midafternoon sleepiness is common for everyone, and not in and of itself a signal of being sleep deprived.
You fall asleep immediately
Do you drop off into sleep almost instantly when your head hits the pillow? That’s less a sign of being a super-sleeper, and more a sign you’re short on sleep. When we’re sufficiently rested, it takes a few minutes to fall asleep once we’ve gotten into bed, typically around 5-10 minutes. Falling asleep within a minute or two of lying down suggests your body is so hungry for sleep, it’s switching into sleep mode at the very first instant possible.
On the flipside, spending 30 minutes or more in bed before falling asleep is too long, sleep experts tell us, and may be a sign of insomnia.
You wake feeling lousy in the morning
If you’re waking from sleep feeling fatigued right out of the gate, you’re likely not getting enough high-quality rest at night. The best night of sleep involves a combination of sleep quantity and sleep quality. If you’re short on either one, mornings can be uncomfortable.
In addition to feeling tired before you’ve even risen from bed, there are other morning symptoms to know. Headaches, sore throat, and dry mouth may be signs of snoring and sleep apnea.
Do any of these signs of sleep deprivation sound familiar to you?
Written by Caitlin Reynolds