We all know the recommended amount of rest we need each night. However, so many of us have busy schedules and the first thing we sacrifice is sleep. According to the CDC, 35% of all American adults are getting less than the minimum amount of sleep each day. While drowsiness and irritability are clear signs of sleep deprivation, there are many not so obvious symptoms of poor sleep hygiene. Here are five of those less recognizable signs.
Weakened Immune System
Sleep is how the body takes time to rest and recover. This applies to not only the outer body but the inner mechanisms, as well. When we continually get less sleep than we need, we risk affecting our bodies’ main line of defense: our immune system. According to Healthline reporter Kristeen Cherney, Ph.D., this is because “While you sleep, your immune system produces protective, infection-fighting substances like antibodies and cytokines… Sleep deprivation prevents your immune system from building up its forces.” If you find that you are getting sick more often than usual, even when you haven’t been in close contact with another sick person, you might want to evaluate your sleep schedule!
It can be incredibly jarring to find yourself drifting into other lanes while driving or tripping over household items that have always been in the same place. We may be tempted to attribute these accidents to carelessness or workplace distractions, but they may be a serious sign of sleep deprivation. According to Stacy Sampson, D.O., inadequate sleep slows down the nervous system, making it hard for you to perform routine movements.
Poor Gut Health
The link between sleep and the digestive tract is more direct than you might think. A lack of sleep has numerous effects on gut health, such as weight gain, unhealthy cravings, and even type 2 diabetes. Dr. Allison T. Siebern attributes this to the connection between sleep and molecular production, stating “Ghrelin stimulates hunger and leptin signals satiety to the brain and suppresses appetite…Shortened sleep time is associated with decreases in leptin and elevations in ghrelin.” If you’ve noticed you’re getting hungry at strange times or gaining weight without much of a change to your diet, the cause often lies in how many hours of sleep you’re getting each day.
During sleep, the body works to repair outward skin damage. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, you may first notice a bagginess under the eyes, but the problem can become worse if steps aren’t taken to get better sleep. “It’s during deep sleep — what we call slow-wave sleep — that growth hormone is released,” claims sleep expert Phil Gehrman, Ph.D. “It seems to be part of normal tissue repair — patching the wear and tear of the day.” The stress that arises from poor sleep can also cause breakouts, which only adds to the cycle of stress we already encounter in our day-to-day lives. In fact, lack of sleep is one of the three main causes of acne.
Because there is a strong link between sleep deprivation and stress, there is also a connection between the former and a lack of libido. According to Andrew Goliszek, Ph.D., stress affects the production of both estrogen and testosterone. He also states “It’s [sleep] also important for a good sex life because it reduces stress and keeps the immune system healthy.” If you want to keep things on the up and up in the bedroom, make sure you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep there every night.
Sleep is a vital part of our daily routines. Many of us need help to recognize the signs of sleep deprivation, but once we become aware of the negative side- effects of poor sleep, we can work towards getting those solid 8 hours and be back to peak performance.