Most people are familiar with the classic daytime drowsiness and mental fog that comes from not getting enough sleep. But what about the less obvious signs? Feeling like a zombie isn’t the only indicator that you’re falling short on sleep. In fact, you could feel perfectly well-rested during the day and still be failing to clock in the recommended amount of sleep you need each night.
Even though you may feel fine during the day, research shows that missing even a single hour of sleep can significantly increase your risk of getting sick and negatively impact your daily well-being. To avoid the long-term health consequences, here are some less obvious signs that you aren’t getting restful sleep.
Your mood is all over the place.
You probably know there’s a connection between sleep and mental health. When you don’t get enough shut-eye, you’ve probably noticed that you get upset easily and feel overwhelmed by the little things. The reason for this, according to WebMD, is that a poor night’s sleep impairs your ability to cope with day-to-day stress.
Unfortunately, acute and chronic stress can also make it that much harder for you to get a good night’s sleep. To alleviate stress and get better shut-eye, try building a calming bedtime routine. Make yourself a cup of chamomile tea, snuggle with a weighted blanket and relax with a good book. The calmer you are before bedtime, the more likely you are to drift off into a peaceful slumber.
You’re hungrier than usual.
Feeling ravenous? Craving all kinds of junk food, lately? A restless night’s sleep could be to blame. When your brain doesn’t get the energy it needs from sleep, it alters your appetite-controlling hormones to get energy from food instead. The result is non-stop stomach growls and strong cravings for potato chips, doughnuts and other calorie-dense foods with a rich energy signal.
Unsurprisingly, this can lead to weight gain if the problem (poor sleep) isn’t corrected. If the bathroom scale is inching upwards, it could be yet another indication that you’re not getting a restful night’s sleep.
You have dark circles under your eyes.
Dark bags under the eyes may be a sign that you’re not getting enough restorative sleep. Lack of sleep often causes your blood vessels to expand, which increases blood flow throughout the body. The blood vessels under the eyes are particularly noticeable because the skin around your eyes is thinner. (Hence, the dark shadows you get when you skimp on sleep.)
Similarly, lack of sleep can also result in fluid retention around the eyes. If you’re waking up with dark circles and/or puffy eyes in the morning, you might try sleeping with a weighted sleep mask. Along with blocking light and making you feel more relaxed before bed, many weighted sleep masks have heating and cooling properties that can help soothe tired-looking eyes.
You’re making uncharacteristically poor decisions.
We all make bad decisions at some point. Mistakes are how we learn and become better human beings. But if you’ve been making a string of poor decisions lately, sleep deprivation could be the culprit.
In a study published in the journal Sleep, researchers asked 26 healthy adults to make decisions based on fictional dilemmas before and after staying awake for 53 hours. The results of the study showed that sleep-deprived participants were slower to respond to moral dilemmas and had greater difficulty deciding on the appropriate course of action.
In a similar vein, research has also shown that a lack of sleep tends to increase your impulsivity. This is because your sleep-deprived brain is slower to process information — like the potentially negative outcomes of the action you want to take.
The bottom line? Don’t make important decisions when your sleep quality is suffering.
You’re more forgetful.
Feeling more forgetful, lately? It could be a sign that you’re not sleeping well.
Getting enough REM sleep is vital for the processing of new information and for memory consolidation. According to the National Sleep Foundation, a poor night’s sleep can lower your learning abilities by up to 40 percent.
Sleep deprivation can negatively impact the brain in another way. According to a 2018 study, even one night of tossing and turning can cause a buildup of beta-amyloid, a metabolic waste product that is linked to decreased mood, memory and overall brain function in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
You’re clumsier than usual.
Some people are just born clumsy. But if your normally nimble-footed self is tripping and bumping into things a lot, it could mean that you’re overtired. Not logging enough shut-eye can mess with our motor skills, which is your body’s ability to process movement. Being exhausted can lower your reaction time and make it difficult to focus, neither of which is ideal if you’re playing a team sport or working a dangerous job that requires complete concentration.
It’s worth mentioning that unusual clumsiness can also signify a serious underlying health condition, such as a stroke or a brain tumor. If you’ve been clumsy as of late, it doesn’t hurt to schedule a checkup with your doctor.
Your libido is tanking.
If want to have a healthy sex life, start prioritizing your sleep. Studies have shown that getting more sleep can improve your sex drive, while not getting enough sleep can have the opposite effect.
It’s not difficult to see how a lack of sleep can make your desire for sex dwindle. When you’re exhausted, the last thing you probably feel like doing is an energy-burning activity like sex.
But there could be more at play here than simple exhaustion. Poor sleep can also suppress the production of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone, ultimately leading to a decreased sex drive.
Get the Rest You Need
We all know that sleep is essential to better health, so why don’t more of us prioritize our sleep? If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends lately, consider this your friendly reminder to build a better bedtime routine and start getting the quality Zzzs you need.