The United States is one of the most sleep-deprived nations on earth, with about 25 to 35 million people suffering from chronic, persistent sleep problems each year. So how do you know if you’re getting the sleep you really need? Ask yourself these important questions to find out if you may be sleep deprived. (Answer based on how you have been feeling in the past several weeks.)
Have you felt irritable, short-tempered, and stressed without any obvious cause for these feelings?
Before you blame your boss, your spouse, or the dog, know this: Studies have shown that sleep deprivation has a significant effect on mood, often leading to feelings of stress, anger, and sadness.
Have you been feeling fatigued and lacking in motivation?
The most immediate sign of sleep deprivation is sleepiness. Feeling sleepy can often feel more like lethargy – you don't feel like taking part in your usual activities.
Have you had difficulty getting important work done or making logical decisions?
If you’re sleep deprived, you’ll want to postpone that big meeting! The prefrontal cortex is the region of the brain responsible for many higher-level cognitive functions. When it is affected by lack of sleep, logical reasoning and complex thought become more difficult.
Has your stomach been bothering you?
Believe it or not, your gastrointestinal tract needs rest. Inadequate sleep prevents the body from producing enough of the hormones melatonin and prolactin, which help improve the good bacteria in your intestines. Without enough sleep, your digestion is thrown out of whack, and you may experience heartburn, reflux, stomach ulcers, and constipation.
Are you struggling to remember things or finding it difficult to concentrate?
Sleep plays a critical role in thinking and learning. When you don’t get enough sleep, it’s more difficult to concentrate. You can’t focus on learning new material, and trying to remember information becomes exceedingly difficult.
While it’s true that how much sleep each of us needs varies, most people sleeping less than six hours each night are likely sleep-deprived — even if they feel
they are getting enough sleep. During sleep, a variety of processes take place that restore your body and mind, and when you don’t get enough, it affects your mood, memory, attention and concentration, and it can lead to physical ailments and illness.
If you have concerns about the quality or amount of sleep you’re getting, see a doctor to check for underlying causes, such as sleep apnea and restless legs syndrome, advises Cleveland Clinic sleep expert Michelle Drerup, PsyD. While losing sleep due to an overly busy schedule is all too common, there may be another cause that requires medical attention.