3 Not-So-Obvious Signs You Aren’t Getting Enough Sleep
In an ideal world, we would all be getting enough sleep each night; around 8 hours. But, we live in a world where things like Netlfix exist… and yes, we binge on our favourite shows…. We also have late nights that consist of studying or working… or blogging! Ha-ha. Lots of us are running on low-sleep and this can be affecting so much more than just our productivity and energy levels. The long-term consequences of a lack of sleep are a lot more complicated and harder to “fix”. Some of these include high blood pressure, paranoia, hallucinations, and weight gain.
This leads me to highlight the importance of being able to listen and read your body through it’s language – symptoms! There are obvious signs you might not be catching enough sleep (i.e. things like under-eye bags, headaches, feeling chronically tired), and then there are some not-so-obvious signs that are worth noting.
Many people associate health and fitness with diet and exercise, however, sleep is factor that is often neglected from what is the health triad. When the body has not had enough sleep, the hormones become unbalanced and the body tries its hardest to preserve the energy that it already has1. When this happens, appetite increases – if energy is not being gained from restful sleep, the body naturally becomes hungrier so that it can gain energy from other sources. Another aspect to the body preserving energy is that the metabolic rate decreases, meaning that any food consumed is digested at a slower rate, and calories are also burned at a slower rate2-3.
Your Immunity. A weakened immune system is typically a sign of poor sleep. If you’re constantly trying to overcome a cold, assess your sleep patterns and try to get some extra restful hours in – yes, hit the snooze button! What does immunity have to do with sleep, though? Well, we actually produce natural killer cells while we sleep; natural killer cells exist throughout the body and to put it simply, they clean up things like viruses and mutated cells that can make us sick! A lack of these cells can really increase our susceptibility to getting sick. In a 2015 study in the Journal of Psychoneuroendicronology4, sleep-deprivation decreased natural killer cells, as well as reducing the function of existing natural killers cells. The verdict? Get more zzz… it’s golden.
3. Super emotional and sensitive.
We can often be a bit more emotionally sensitive when we are hanging by, say, 4-5 hours of sleep5. We all know that sleep is essential in stabilizing our mood and emotions, but we don’t all understand why or how this happens. In particular, the prefrontal cortex *points to forehead* is responsible for decision making, social behaviour choices, and rationalizing5-6. This part of the brain really can’t function at it’s optimum when the body has sacrificed on its sleep. Therefore, sleep deprivation ultimately decreases our tolerance levels, restricts us from regulating our emotions as well as we typically can, and we become a lot more reactive. Sleep debt can also cause a spike in the body’s cortisol (stress hormone) which can further result in less sleep7. The cycle is real. However, the hustle to gain more sleep should be real-er. *taps forehead for trying to make a cool rhyme, and then realising real-er isn’t a word. D’oh!*
2Copinschi, G. (2005). Metabolic and endocrine effects of sleep deprivation. Essential Psychopharmacology, 6(6), 341-347.
4 De Lorenzo, B. H., de Oliveira Marchioro, L., Greco, C. R., & Suchecki, D. (2015). Sleep-deprivation reduces NK cell number and function mediated by β-adrenergic signalling. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 57, 134-143.