Trying to get by with less than seven hours of shut-eye a night can have serious consequences. Here are nine symptoms of sleep deprivation that you must be aware of.
What do swimmer Michael Phelps and supermodel Heidi Klum have in common? They both heartily endorse the importance of a good night’s rest.
The most decorated Olympian in history says training and sleeping eight hours a night were critical to his success at the Rio Olympics. Not only does he track how long he sleeps, he also notes the quality of his slumber — such as REM, and deep and light sleep cycles. Likewise, Klum makes it a priority to get enough sleep, clocking up to 10 hours a night if her schedule allows.
The question is: are you as vigilant about getting adequate shut-eye as they are? Or are you trading sleep for more hours at work and play, like some busy urbanites in Singapore?
A 2016 study by SingHealth Polyclinics found that 44% of Singaporeans aged between 21 and 80 sleep less than seven hours a night on weekdays, and 26% don’t get enough hours in bed even on weekends. If this sounds like you, pause and see if you experience the following symptoms of sleep deprivation:
1. YOU FEEL HUNGRY VERY OFTEN
When the body lacks rest, it produces more ghrelin, the hormone that increases your appetite, and less leptin, the hormone that makes you feel full. As a result, you crave sweet-tasting and high-fat foods, which lead to the next symptom.
2. YOU PILE ON THE POUNDS
Along with the increase in food intake, your metabolism slows down when you don’t spend enough time in dreamland — a combination that spells inevitable weight gain.
3. YOUR SKIN DOESN’T LOOK SO GOOD
When your skin doesn’t get enough time to repair itself, it can look sallow and lacklustre. A lack of sleep also accelerates skin ageing, which is marked by an increase in fine lines, uneven pigmentation, reduced elasticity, and a slackening of the skin, as revealed in a study commissioned by Estée Lauder.
4. YOU FALL SICK MORE OFTEN
While you sleep, your immune system produces cytokines, which fight inflammation, viruses and bacterial infections. This is why sleep deprivation compromises your immune system and your body’s ability to ward off disease-causing organisms.
5. YOU HAVE TROUBLE MAKING DECISIONS
A lack of adequate sleep impairs the ability to focus and think clearly, which leads to difficulty in carrying out tasks that require decision- making and problem solving skills.
6. YOU ARE CLUMSIER
On top of the brain fog that comes with sleep deprivation, your motor skills and reaction speeds are also impaired. Many studies have shown that a lack of sleep can slow down reaction time and have similar effects on your body as consuming alcohol. Therefore, driving after less than five hours of shut-eye is similar to drink driving. According to the American Automobile Association, you double your risk of getting involved in a car crash if you lose just one to two hours of sleep off the recommended daily duration of seven hours.
7. YOU BECOME FORGETFUL
It is during sleep that your brain processes information and forms memories. So if you don’t get enough rest, you can’t recall what you have learnt or experienced as effectively. One study found that college students who studied through the night for tests tend to have lower scores than those who get regular sleep.
8. YOU NOD OFF
Most of us have dozed off during long meetings or dull movies, but if you notice yourself nodding off often for no reason, watch out. Known as micro-sleep, this is your body’s way of telling you it needs to rest. Avoid getting behind the wheel or operating machinery if you are sleep deprived — it can endanger your life!
9. YOU FEEL MOODY OR DEPRESSED
There is a link between insufficient sleep, emotional instability and mental health issues. The Great British Sleep Survey found that people who didn’t get enough shut-eye were twice as likely to suffer from low moods than those who did. A 2015 study published in Sleep Medicine reported that healthy teenagers who missed just one night of sleep showed more severe symptoms of depression, anger, anxiety,confusion and fatigue.In addition to the above symptoms, chronic sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, heart attack, high blood pressure, stroke,obesity and type 2 diabetes.So think twice before you delay your bedtime again!
Are you Sleep-Deprived?
A simple way to find out whether you are sleep-deprived is to take a sleep onset latency test in the middle of the afternoon. As demonstrated on a BBC programme called The Truth About Sleep, you will require three items: a watch or timer, a metal spoon and a metal tray.
All you need to do is place the tray on the floor by your bed. Next, lie down and hold the spoon over the side of the bed and above the tray. Start the timer, close your eyes and try to sleep. The moment you doze off, your hand will release the spoon and you should be awakened by the loud clang when spoon meets tray. Check the timer immediately to see how long it took you to fall asleep. If it is 10 minutes or less, you are sleep-deprived. If it’s less than five minutes, you may have severe sleep deprivation!