You may be tired in the morning and hit the snooze button too many times or yawn a lot during work. And yet, you sleep regularly.
How do you know if you’re more than just tired?
When your sleep cycle is normal, but you’re not getting enough sleep, it’s called sleep deprivation. Getting six hours of sleep a night instead of seven or eight can build up by week’s end, and it’s something your brain doesn’t forget.
Consequences from sleep deprivation can be short or long term, and while some can be reversed, other consequences can be prevented.
Lack of sleep affects your mind and mood
Increased tiredness and decreased alertness are initial side effects. Your decision-making and problem-solving abilities also can be slower.
A change in mood can follow. People who don’t get enough sleep are more susceptible to mood swings, depression and anxiety.
“You know how you feel after one night of sleep deprivation,” said Sue Trudeau, a Marshfield Clinic Health System sleep medicine nurse practitioner. “If this happens night after night, this accumulates and you become irritable more easily. That’s what I see frequently.”
When sleep deprivation is treated, your mood improves drastically.
Dreaming, memory and driving are connected
Your memory and ability to learn also are affected when adequate sleep is lacking.
“Dream sleep” is the sleep that helps you store memories. When you lose dream sleep, you tend to not remember day-to-day happenings.
People also are more prone to auto accidents because they fall asleep at the wheel.
“That’s becoming a huge problem,” Trudeau said. “Especially with teenagers because they don’t think they’re drowsy. But they are, and they fall asleep in a snap.”
The longer you are sleep-deprived, the less aware you are.
Trudeau says some studies show chronic sleep deprivation is worse than having too much alcohol. People know they drank, but people who are sleep deprived don’t know they did anything wrong.
Less sleep can lead to eating more
Sleep deprivation can affect the release of hormones that regulate appetite.
If you don’t sleep, hormones that tell your body it’s full may not be released. This also can be linked to making bad food choices and obesity because being tired leads to low energy and less exercise.
Increased risk for heart problems, diabetes and less libido
Sleep deprivation is linked to cardiovascular problems and diabetes. How our bodies regulate glucose is determined while we sleep and if your body can’t regulate glucose release, you are more likely to gain weight and increase your risk for diabetes.
Your immunity, too, can be affected and make you more likely to get colds or the flu because of being run down.
Other effects can include decreased libido and early aging, like wrinkles and sagging skin under the eyes.
Sleep more, live longer (and be healthier)
Life expectancy can decrease when sleep is lacking.
“This is apparent in people who work night shifts,” Trudeau said. “The hours they’re up are different than the normal sleep rhythm, so people become sleep deprived from shift work. If you work this shift your entire life, this can become a problem.”
Trudeau says being sleep-deprived now, doesn’t mean you’ll be that way forever. You can catch up on sleep, but you must be consistent. Catching up on sleep can reverse memory issues and put you in a better mood.