It may seem like identifying sleep deprivation would be obvious, or that the only symptom of lack of sleep is being tired. This list is intended to help you take measured stock of some of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation, to help you identify whether or not you may be operating at a suboptimal level due to chronic sleep deprivation.
1 -- Decreased Energy Levels
This may seem like an obvious one, but take a moment and think objectively about your energy levels during the day. Do you feel enthusiastic? Vital? Or do you feel sluggish? Now think about your energy levels during the course of a week.
It’s easy to become accustomed to low energy levels, and after a while it may become difficult to identify whether your energy is lower or whether it has always been this way.
There are stories of individuals who, after years of increasingly low energy, went in for a sleep study only to find out that they had full-blown sleep apnea. After getting tested, and getting appropriate treatment, these individuals often remark about just how much better their life feels qualitatively.
This is a lesson in perspective: taking the time to really observe your energy levels can help bring awareness to the potential for improvements.
2 -- Irritability
Another common sign of sleep deprivation is chronic irritability. Do little things seem to eat a more than usual? The findings of lashing out in ways that are not atypical for you as a person? This may be good indicators that your quantity and quality of sleep is not sufficient. Emotional regulation is a brain function for which sleep is very important.
During the normal course of your day, it can be helpful to write down each time you feel especially irritable. It could be that your brain is operating at a sub-optimal level due to lack of appropriate sleep.
Sleep helps the brain and body restored to their normal and optimal functioning. If you
3 -- Lessened Enjoyment
Similar to irritability, chronic sleep deprivation can lead to decreased enjoyment of life overall.
When you are tired, your limbic system is operating with lessened inhibition. It can become easier to be emotionally unregulated. This can translate into a decreased ability to feel the joy that you would typically feel on a daily basis.
A good way to take stock on your enjoyment of your life is to keep track of how your brain state is when you are between activities. For example, when you are on your way to or from work. When you are not busy or distracted, how much joy do you feel? Do you feel melancholy? Do you feel vibrant?
If you notice that you are beginning to feel less and less joy on a daily basis, it may be a good time to consider the impact that sleep could be having on your mental state.
If you change your sleep patterns, it is a good idea to re-take stock and see if things have improved. Much of this list is geared toward increasing your own awareness, to support overall quality of life.
4 -- Falling Asleep at Inappropriate times
We have all experienced this: sitting in a meeting at 9:00 a.m. and beginning to nod off. You think to yourself, “how am I tired right now? I woke up just a few hours ago.”
Or you are driving, and it seems that every time you get behind the wheel your eyes begin to get droopy.
These are both indications that you are not getting enough sleep on a consistent basis. One or two instances of lessened sleep at night doesn’t
5 -- Reliance on Caffeine, sugar, or Nicotine
One of the final easy ways to recognize that you may be sleep deprived, is to take inventory on your daily consumption of caffeine or nicotine. Both caffeine and nicotine are stimulants, which stimulate sympathetic nervous system arousal. The effect of the stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system, is to improve energy levels overall. This can be very helpful on days when you feel low energy and needed boost.
The danger can come from becoming reliant on these substances to maintain normal energy levels. 1 of the things that caffeine does, is to limit the body's ability to tell if it is actually tired. While this is helpful in the short-term, can become very disruptive for sleep patterns overall. It can be all too easy in this busy world to forego sleeping appropriately, and instead reach for a vanilla latte with 3 espresso shots.
Sugar, caffeine, and nicotine are all addictive substances. Practically speaking this means that they can create habits very quickly, and it is all too easy to become reliant on them for stimulating energy.
An easy test to see if you have a reliance or addiction for these, is to go without for 2 weeks. If this is a challenge, or causes headaches or cravings, it might be an indication that you are relying a little heavier than is beneficial for quality sleep.
This is one way that we mask our sleep deprivation. We get in a cycle of stimulating our energy levels in the morning and afternoon, which in turn, can disrupt our sleep in the evening. This in turn makes us more tired in the morning which furthers our reliance on the stimulants to keep going through the day.
See where you fall on this list, and which areas may be troublesome for you. Each person has different ways of coping with lack of sleep, and each person’s presentation of sleep deprivation can be unique.
Taking stock of these 5 indicators of sleep deprivation can be one easy step toward a healthier balance in your sleep life, and life overall.