A sleep expert has revealed five signs you may be suffering from sleep deprivation – including craving takeaways and weight gain.
New York-based Jasmine Lee, from EachNight Mattresses, says sleep deprivation is far more common than you may think.
Sleep deprivation happens when you don’t get enough sleep consistently over time, for example, because you go to bed too late.
And according to the psychologist and sleep writer, repeatedly missing out on sleep can become a threat to our mental and physical health.
New York-based Jasmine Lee from EachNight Mattresses has revealed the five signs you might experience if you are suffering from sleep deprivation (stock image)
Short term effects of not getting enough sleep include feeling moody and struggling to concentrate throughout the day.
According to Jasmine Lee, the long-term effects can be much more serious, with sleep deprivation linked to multiple health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease.
Therefore, sleep is critical to a healthier lifestyle.
What are some signs that I’m sleep deprived?
1. Craving a takeaway
If you’re getting sudden urges to indulge in a takeaway or junk food, it can be a symptom of sleep deprivation.
Lack of sleep alters appetite-regulating hormones as well as metabolism and brain function.
Therefore we are far more likely to turn to junk food due to the cravings for high calories, high sugar, high fat and salty snacks as a result, as a way to increase our energy levels.
How much sleep do I need to avoid being sleep deprived?
- Newborns (0 to three months): Between 14 and 17 hours of sleep
- Infants (four to 11 months): Between 12 and 15 hours of sleep
- Toddlers (one to two years): 11 to 14 hours of sleep
- Pre-school (three to five years): 10 to 13 hours of sleep
- Children (six to 13 years): nine to 11 hours of sleep
- Teenagers (14 to 17 years): eight to 10 hours of sleep
- Adults (18 to 64 years): seven to nine hours of sleep
- Older adults (65+ years): seven to eight hours of sleep
Sleep is vital for our bodies to regulate our internal temperature, Jasmine says.
Therefore, if you are feeling hot, it can be your body overheating due to a consistent lack of good quality sleep.
In fact, as we get more and more tired, our brain begins to overheat with yawning being a method of compensating for this thermoregulatory failure.
3. Poor memory
Sleep deprivation can affect the brain’s ability to learn and recall information.
During Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, the brain is active, processing information and storing memories from the previous day.
Less sleep disrupts this process because the body spends less time in this REM cycle.
The following day you may have trouble recalling what was said in a business meeting or what assignments you have.
Sleep deprivation also makes it harder for the brain to absorb new information, as the brain is working hard to focus and take in information.
Not only is your ability to remember affected but your motor skills suffer too as the brain’s ability to store memory also includes motor skills and physical reflexes.
This is another reason why a high percentage of car accidents occur due to sleep deprivation.
Sleep-deprived drivers have a slower reaction time. Poor motor skills can also be problematic if you play sports with less sleep – you may struggle to execute a specific move or manoeuvre, preventing you from performing at your best.
Long-term effects of sleep deprivation have been linked to health problems such as high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease, therefore, sleep is critical to a healthier lifestyle
4. Weight gain
Less sleep triggers changes in hormone levels that regulate your hunger. Leptin lets the body know when it’s full, while ghrelin signals hunger.
Little sleep produces less leptin and more ghrelin, meaning you’ll feel hungrier, but your body will be slower to react when you’re full, and you are likely to end up eating more than you need to.
In addition, studies have found that sleep deprivation can trigger an increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress hormone responsible for holding onto energy (sugars and fat) to be used later. More stress means your body retains more fat.
Your insulin levels are also affected. With a higher production of cortisol, your body is less sensitive to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that changes food into energy. Your body has a harder time processing fats from the bloodstream when it becomes less sensitive to insulin. These fats end up stored in the body, leading to weight gain.
Too little can sleep also affect your diet, with studies showing that less sleep leads to consuming more junk food.
You’re more likely to have intense cravings for high-fat, high-sugar foods, like french fries and ice-cream, and you’re also more likely to give in to those cravings.
Studies show that sleep loss is tied to making risky decisions. You become more impulsive and are less likely to consider loss, only focusing on the reward
5. Poor decision making
Studies have shown that sleep loss can be tied to making riskier decisions, finding that people can become more impulsive when sleep deprived.
Scientists have used gambling tasks to assess how 24 hours of sleep deprivation may affect decision making, when making poor decisions could result in a losing outcome.
Researchers have discovered that during these tasks, sleep deprived people are more likely to pick higher risk decks and show less concern for potential negative consequences when compared to well-rested individuals, who learn to avoid high risk decks as the game progresses.
A 2007 study published in the journal SLEEP used fMRI imaging technology to observe what is happening in the brain when sleep deprived people make these high risk decisions under experimental conditions.
The scientists found that an area of the brain involved with the anticipation of reward, called the nucleus accumbens, ‘became more active when high risk-high payoff choices were made under conditions of sleep deprivation’.
Moreover, the response to losses in a part of the brain which evaluates an event’s emotional significance (the insula), was reduced.
This built on previous findings that when sleep deprived, people are more likely to overestimate the potential rewards of risky behaviour, while underestimating the potential negative consequences.
To find out more on sleep deprivation and how to combat it visit: www.eachnight.com.
HOW CAN I ACHIEVE BETTER SLEEP?
If you want to improve your sleep hygiene, and make sure you’re getting enough Zzzzs, you can try incorporating these tips into your routine.
- Establish a sleep schedule
Setting a bedtime may seem childish, but in reality, it works. A set sleep and wake time makes it easier to fall asleep at night and wake in the morning.
Your body will adjust to the rhythm, so when it’s time for bed, you may automatically start to feel sleepy.
It’s just as important to maintain this schedule on the weekends too. Bodies respond positively to these consistent rhythms.
It may be tempting to sleep in for a few hours, but this can throw off your body. Plus, if you’re getting the right amount of sleep, you likely do not need that extra time.
Setting a bedtime may seem childish, but in reality, it works. A set sleep and wake time makes it easier to fall asleep at night and wake in the morning
2. Avoid heavy meals
There may be some truth to the ‘eat dinner like a pauper’ philosophy.
Avoiding heavy meals and snacking may improve your sleep.
Heavy meals take longer to digest. When it’s time for bed, your body may be focused on digesting, making it harder to fall asleep.
The best time to eat dinner is between 6 p.m. and 6:30 p.m., allowing your body time to digest your meal.
3. Keep your bedroom dark
Your body’s sleep-wake cycle is influenced by melatonin. Your body is continually producing melatonin.
However, production is lowest during the day and strongest at night. That’s because melatonin is largely secreted at night, in response to darkness.
Keeping your bedroom dark induces sleep. Any light exposure could reduce melatonin levels and make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.
Alternatively, if you can’t make your bedroom dark, a sleep mask can be effective.
4. Avoid your phone or laptop
We’ve all been there: you climb into bed and start scrolling through your phone, checking on messages, and browsing social media sites.
This may come across as a relaxing activity to help you sleep, but it’s the exact opposite.
When you’re using any electronic device (TV, tablet, computer, or smartphone), you’re exposing yourself to blue light.
Blue light tricks your brain into thinking it’s still daytime, halting melatonin production and making it harder to fall asleep.
Try to avoid any electronic devices for an hour or two before bed. If you need to scroll through your phone, use your night settings or the apps that filter out blue light.