When life is so goddam busy, it’s easy for sleep to slip down the to-do list. Shut-eye can wait when you’ve got deadlines looming, social media scrolling and box-set bingeing to tick off. But short changing sleep can play havoc with your health and wellbeing in ways you’d never imagine.
“You might think scraping by on five-hours-a night is nothing to worry about, but chronic sleep deprivation can affect your cognitive performance at work but has been linked in some studies to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, obesity, depression and can even affect your performance in endurance sports.”
So in honour of World Sleep Day, here are nine subtle signs you need to up your sleep game.
You’re always starving
Constantly reaching for the biscuits? Blame it on a bad night’s kip. “If your brain is deprived of the energy is requires from sleep, it’ll often try to get it from elsewhere – namely food!” explains Hope Bastine. “Not getting adequate rest increases the production of the hunger hormone, ghrelin. And too much of this makes us crave sugary and fatty foods. On top of this, poor sleep can affect something else called leptin – the satiety hormone. If you’re not getting adequate sleep you more inclined to buckle to your cravings because you’re not feeling the signals to stop eating.”
Your libido is flagging
Fatigue can play a pivotal role when it comes to not being in the mood for sex. According to Hope Bastine a study from the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that sleep-deprived women were 14 percent less likely to have sex than those who had gotten proper sleep. “Lack of sleep means lack of libido,” says Certified Sleep Consultant DryNites® expert Sofie Petts-Sabine. “Feeling drained, tired and stressed means that sex isn’t featuring on the agenda.”
And men are affected just as much. “Another study from the University Chicago showed that men with poor sleep patterns have significantly lower levels of testosterone – the body’s natural mojo – which reduces their interest in being intimate with their partner,” says Hope Bastine.
You’re chugging the coffee
No coffee, no function? If caffeine has become more of a life source, than 3 x a day treat, you might need to up your Zeds quota. “Another common sign of sleep deprivation is increased caffeine intake,” explains Sofie Petts-Sabine. “If you find that one cup of coffee is no longer enough to kick start your day and you’re relying on caffeine to keep you going you need to review how much sleep you’re getting.”
You’re being clumsier than usual
Those frequent trips up the kerb might not just be down to your new stacked heels, or one too many G&Ts. “Movement and mental focus are impaired when we’re sleep deprived,” explains Sofie Petts-Sabine. “We start to feel sluggish and clumsy in a similar way to when we’re intoxicated.”
And just as our emotions are harder to control when we’re sleep deprived, so to are our bodies. “When you’re less rested, there’s a lapse in how you neurologically function in general. If you’re busy rushing about, there’s a lot processing going on. And when we’re sleep deprived our brains can’t process as well,” explains Hope Bastine.
You’re making bad choices
Always making the wrong move? Tiredness could be the culprit. “When you’re tired, you’re not going to be on your A game,” explains Hope Bastine. “Sleep deprivation can affect speed and higher-level cognitive processing. This means essential functions, like problem solving, decision making or time management, become even more difficult to carry out.”
Your emotions are all over the place
Hysterically happy one minute, then sobbing uncontrollably the next? Sleep deprivation could be playing havoc with your emotions.
“A strong link exists between poor sleep and low mood,” explains Dr Guy Meadows, Clinical Director of The Sleep School. “For years we’ve associated ‘Getting out of bed on the wrong side’ with being in a grump. However, it’s only recently that scientists have understood why. Poor sleep pushes us from the rational part of our brain, our pre frontal cortext, into our primitive amygdala, lowering our mood and making our outlook on the world more negative.”
You can’t concentrate
Struggling to read this article? Yeah you’re probably not getting enough sleep. “Research demonstrates that being awake for just 17 hours has an equivalent effect on focus as having a blood alcohol level of 5% (the UK legal limit),” explains Dr Meadows.
You’re getting forgetful
Walk into a room and forget why you went in? Time to head back to bed. “Getting enough sleep is essential for brain health in the long term,” says Hope Bastine. “Sleep leads to memory consolidation and emotional processing. So a lack of rest may be messing with your memory. When you’re tired, it’s also harder to form memories.”
You’re taking risks
“Sleep deprivation has been implicated in many world disasters including Chernobyl and Exon Valdez,” says Guy Meadows. “Initial sleep research suggests that sleep deprivation makes us more likely to expect a positive outcome causing us to take greater risks.”
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