It may seem like identifying sleep deprivation would be easy, or that the only symptom a lack of sleep would be tiredness. However, sleep deprivation can manifest into a variety of presentations, including depression. In some cases, both look the same.
Continue reading to learn what some of the most common symptoms of sleep deprivation are to help you identify if you may be struggling with getting enough sleep.
1. Lower Energy Levels
This may seem like the most obvious, but take a moment and think objectively about your energy levels during the day. Do you feel enthusiastic, alert, and highly motivated? Or do you feel sluggish and easily distracted? 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 receiving the appropriate treatment, these individuals often remark how much better quality of life they have with more sleep.
This is a lesson in taking the time to really observe your energy levels, helping to bring awareness to the potential for improvements.
2. Constant Irritability/Moodiness
Another common sign of sleep deprivation is chronic irritability. Do little things seem to eat at your more than usual? This may be a good indicator that your quantity and quality of sleep is not sufficient. Emotional regulation is a brain function that requires adequate sleep to properly carry out.
During the normal course of your day, it can be helpful to write down each time you feel especially irritable. If you notice that on certain days, you are more triggered than others, then your reaction could be a sign that your brain is operating at a sub-optimal level due to lack of appropriate sleep.
3. Less Enjoyment from Otherwise Enjoyable Experiences
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 is therefore easier to have a more negative outlook on life, causing you to feel less joy in activities that once made you happy. A good way to take stock on your enjoyment of your life is to keep track of your brain state when you are between activities. For example, when you are on your way to or from work, think about how you feel. This is a time when you are not busy or distracted, so you can really determine if you feel joyful, melancholy, vibrant, etc.
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 continue reflecting on your feelings to 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 Random Times
We have all experienced extreme fatigue where you feel like there is nothing that can make you stay awake. You may even feel this way first thing in the morning and think to yourself, “how am I tired right now? I woke up just a few hours ago.”
Perhaps your sleepiness kicks in later in the day when you are driving. If it seems like every time you get behind the wheel, your eyes begin to get droopy, then that is an important symptom to note.
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. Dependence on Common Substances
One of the signs that you may be sleep deprived is 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 an improvement of 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. One of the things that caffeine does is limit the body's ability to tell if it is actually tired. While this is helpful in the short-term, it 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 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 them 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.
If you relate with more than one of the items on this list, it may be time to get some help. Please click the orange button below to take a free online sleep test and talk with one of our sleep health experts.