Let’s face it—we live in a world where our work comes first and a quality night’s sleep is much lower on our priority list. We work long into the night, or we use that time to mindlessly de-stress with Netflix or Facebook after spending the daytime on our obligations. We then proceed to load ourselves with caffeine to keep us going the following morning (then late afternoon), and repeat the cycle. This has become the lifestyle for many modernized humans, much against what our nature requires.
About one in five adults fail to catch enough Z’s and experience the effects of sleep deprivation. This is a serious problem since the numbers have only gotten scarier in recent years. High school students are averaging a full two hours less of sleep per night than their grandparents had as teenagers. We can only imagine what this means for college students, simply considering our increasingly demanding schedules and inherent attachment to our laptops and phones.
So what’s the big deal? You’ve pulled all-nighters and were fine the next day (thanks to that coffee). It must not be all that detrimental—we’re young and have energy reserves for days.
Well, the effects of sleep deprivation can actually be quite severe. It comes in several different forms and the way you respond will vary. You could be mildly sleep deprived, which occurs when you regularly clock in one or two hours less of sleep than your body needs. You could be chronically sleep deprived, meaning you’re sleeping less than four or five hours a night for a prolonged period of time. Or you could be somewhere in the middle, getting an irregular amount of sleep each night. In each case, your body would remain hungry for the sleep it needs and craves.
Even if you are only a little bit sleep deprived, you are accumulating a debt of sleep which could take you a while to pay off. Unfortunately, this debt keeps growing as long as you’re not sleeping correctly. Whether you notice the effects or not, you’re being affected and sleep deprivation can really hurt your overall well-being. Over time, it can impair your cognitive abilities, damage your mental health, suppress your immune system, and mess with your metabolism.
Here are ten telling signs that sleep should soon become your number one priority:
- You are finding it difficult to make the simplest decisions, especially the ones you would normally solve easily.
You spent a half-hour this morning deciding whether to wear your hair up or down.
- You are overeating much more than usual—you experience considerable cravings for sugar and simple carbs.
You see carrots, you buy a brownie. Later, you realize that you need a slice of meat-lovers’ pizza for lunch, and two for dinner.
- You seem to be getting sick a lot lately.
Those dark under-eye circles and that increasingly raspy voice…
- You feel oddly disconnected to your emotions; either you are uncharacteristically overemotional, or you feel an unusual lack of empathy.
You barely feel like a real human being some days.
- You’re in a depressive state or feel stress much more heavily.
Two exams in one week? End. Of. The. World.
- You can’t seem to pay enough attention and you make simple mistakes.
Your mental and motor skills are not working in your favor right now. Life becomes an obstacle course. “Who put this wall here?”
- You are more forgetful than usual.
You have no idea why you just walked into that room.
- You find yourself zoning out far too many times in a day.
Your friends keep snapping their fingers in your face.
- You fall asleep immediately when you lie down for a nap (given that you’re Blood-Caffeine-Content is under the legal limit).
All your body really wants to do is sleep.
10. You read a few of these sentences more than once.
Where’s your focus? Tonight you may want to look for it in your dreams.
By Melissa Espinal