Sleep disorders and disturbances are common experiences for at least 50-70 million adults in the US, and millions more around the globe. Lack of sleep and low-quality sleep can cause many troubling symptoms, often all happening in your body at once.
Are you struggling to get enough restorative sleep? Check if you have any of the following signs of sleep deprivation.
Your Skin Is Breaking Out
One of the first ways lack of sleep messes with your health is on your skin. In addition to looking haggard, you might see acne and blemishes pop up more than usual. Why? When we don’t get enough restorative sleep, the body is stressed. As a result, the stress hormone cortisol kicks into high gear. Excess cortisol triggers excess oil production in our skin, leading to breakouts. Sleep and all the body’s hormones are closely linked. Keep reading to learn how more hormones could be messing with your health when you don’t get enough good sleep.
You’re Experiencing Weight Gain
Weight gain is another hormone-triggered symptom of sleep deprivation. Two hormones influenced by sleep are ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin causes feelings of hunger. Leptin decreases hunger. Lack of quality sleep throws these hormones off balance, often triggering your appetite to turn on more often. If you notice you’re feeling hungrier when you don’t get much sleep, it’s because your body’s hunger signals have likely gone rogue. Along with that increased hunger, the types of foods you crave on low-quality sleep could change significantly.
You’re Craving Carbs and Junk Food
Another reason you might be gaining weight is because sleep deprivation could be affecting what you want to eat. In particular, lack of sleep could lead to craving sweets and other carbs. Poor sleep can lead to junk food cravings because it disrupts the endocannabinoid system — a system throughout the body that helps regulate (among other things) our appetite. If you seem to have the munchies for no other reason — especially right when you wake up — you’re probably not getting enough quality sleep.
You’re Drinking More Caffeine
This one is pretty obvious. If you’re drinking more caffeine for energy or to stay functioning throughout the day, you probably need more or better sleep. However, if you’re drinking more caffeine to stay awake, you’re causing yourself even bigger sleep challenges. All that caffeine in your system will make it harder to get the sleep you truly need. If you can start drinking a little less caffeine per day over the next week or two, you might see your sleep patterns gradually improve from that change alone.
You Don’t Feel Well in the Morning
Someone who suffers poor sleep night after night is going to struggle with mornings, even with extra caffeine. Sometimes this brings on troubling symptoms beyond low energy. If you regularly wake up with symptoms like a sore throat or heartburn, those are clues to what could be causing low-quality sleep. You might have sleep apnea. You might suffer from acid reflux, especially if you eat within a couple of hours before bed. Getting support for those issues might bring you the sweet relief and the full night’s sleep you need to feel better in the mornings.
You Look Older Than Your Age
A recent study in The National Library of Medicine concluded that long-term poor quality sleep can result in “increased intrinsic aging” — or accelerated signs of the aging process. If you have dark circles under your eyes and more noticeable wrinkles, your sleep deprivation might be making you look older than you are. During quality sleep, your skin gets a bigger supply of blood to restore collagen and repair damage. Without restorative sleep, your skin — the biggest organ of the human body — suffers noticeable consequences.
You’re on an Emotional Roller Coaster
Have you been feeling angrier than usual and moodier in general? These could be signs that you’re not getting enough high-quality sleep. According to Psychology Today, “…some research suggests that sleep deprivation enhances negative mood due to increased amygdala activity (a brain structure integral to experiences of negative emotions such as anger and rage) and a disconnect between the amygdala and the area of the brain that regulates its functions.” That biochemical disruption adds up to one pretty sound hypothesis — the worse your quality of sleep, the crankier you’re going to be.
You’re Battling Anxiety and Depression
Long-term sleep disorders can lead to serious mental health challenges, including anxiety and depression. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) states that research shows most mental health disorders are linked in part to low-quality sleep. The ADAA recommends supporting yourself with meditation, stress relieving activities (like listening to soothing music), and contacting your doctor for help getting better sleep. You might be referred to a sleep clinic, as well as a therapist for emotional support.
You Can’t Seem to Focus
Low-quality sleep can really muddle a person’s concentration. If you have faulty focus, are easily confused, and walk around feeling discombobulated all day, these could be warning signs that low sleep is wreaking havoc on your brain. The older you are, the more low-quality sleep will cause you to suffer focus issues. The twenty-something college student can sometimes study all night and still manage to pass a test the next day. In mid-life that’s much harder to do. Quality sleep is a thinking man’s fuel. If you want better focus, get better Zzzs at every age.
You Struggle to Retain Information
Not only are you unable to focus, but information seems to drop right out of your head. Memory loss and trouble remembering new information could also be signs of poor-quality sleep. Again, the older you get the more this is going to be an issue. If you’ve been thinking that aging is the only reason you suffer memory loss, try getting better-quality sleep and see if that helps. You might be surprised how much more you’re able to remember when your brain gets the rest it needs to function at high capacity.
Get Support for Better Sleep
Even a few of these symptoms can make you feel pretty lousy 24 hours a day. To get better sleep, and better overall health, try some lifestyle practices that might make a big difference. Try going to sleep earlier than usual. Eat nutrient-rich foods, but don’t eat later than four hours before bed. Meditate to calm your brain. Turn on soothing music or a white noise machine. Turn off or put away all electronic devices before nestling in.
If those practices aren’t helping enough, consult with your doctor to get extra support. Your health and well-being depend on getting regular restorative sleep.