Your alarm goes off at 6 a.m. You hit the snooze a few times, roll out of bed and get through your day by downing a few cups of coffee.
You’re used to your daily routine. In fact, you might even chuckle at the sentiment that adults need seven hours of sleep per night — you think you’re getting by just fine.
Sure, you’re not so tired you’re fighting to stay awake or falling asleep at inconvenient moments, but your lack of sleep could still be negatively affecting you. Sleep deprivation is a serious problem — one in three Americans don’t get enough sleep. Here’s how to tell you’re not getting enough sleep.
You’re crabby. There’s a reason a toddler becomes an irritable, tantrum-throwing beast if he’s missed his nap: Sleep has a direct effect on mood. Researchers found that people who only received four and half hours of sleep per night for a week felt more angry, stressed, sad and mentally exhausted. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can also create anxiety or depression, which can further impact sleep quality.
You’re clumsy. If you find yourself continuously tripping over things or forgetting tasks, you could be too tired to focus on what you’re doing. This lack of focus and reaction time could have dangerous consequences. According Harvard Medical School, with each hour we spend awake, our drive to sleep increases.
You’re always sick. Studies have shown that those who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. That’s because when we’re sleeping, our immune systems release protective cytokines and antibodies that can help fight infection.
What’s more, researchers found those who consistently got less than eight hours of sleep per night were twice as likely to catch a cold than those who got enough sleep.
You’re tired during the day. You might think you’re OK because you’re not yawning during that afternoon meeting or you aren’t constantly clutching a cup of coffee, but being tired during the day can have more subtle signs. Have you ever found yourself staring blankly during a meeting or snapping your head awake while reading or doing some other task? These are microsleeps — very brief unintended loss of attention marked by blank stares, head snapping or prolonged eye closure.
Microsleeps may not sound dangerous, but a lot of them occur while someone is driving, which can result in injury or even death.
Consistent sleep deprivation can have the same effects on you as a few drinks. This test from Harvard Medical School shows you how alert you are.
Whether you’re getting enough sleep or you’re struggling to get the recommended amount, being aware of sleep deprivation signs can help you know when you need more shut-eye. If you’re consistently unable to sleep well or have questions about sleep quality, talk with your doctor.