How many times have you heard that your body needs eight hours of sleep every night? Perhaps no one has ever directly told you that, but you believe it because it’s accepted as general knowledge by most people. While eight hours a night may be a good starting point that possibly suits many people, there is no set amount of sleep that is effective for everyone. Just like jean sizes vary, sleep schedules vary as well.
Guidelines for how much sleep we need on a daily basis from National Sleep Foundation:
- Newborns (0-3 months): 14-17 hours
- Infants (4-11 months): 12-15 hours
- Toddlers (1-2 years): 11-14 hours
- Preschoolers (3-5 years): 10-13 hours
- School-Age Children (6-13 years): 9-11 hours
- Teenagers (14-17 years): 8-10 hours
- Young Adults (18-25 years): 7-9 hours
- Adults (26-64 years): 7-9 hours
- Older Adults (65+ years): 7-8 hours
Rather than prescribing to a predetermined sleep schedule, take the time to listen to signals sent from your body. If you look in the mirror and see puffy yes with dark circles, you know that you aren’t getting enough sleep for your body even if you are sleeping eight hours a night. Some other signs of sleep deprivation may include:
Your memory is getting worse and worse.
Are you constantly racing around the house in search of your keys? Do you have to rely upon post notes and keep a notebook on hand at all times because you will forget anything that isn’t promptly written down? Forgetfulness will interfere with all aspects of your life if you don’t start giving your body the extra snooze time it so desperately needs.
You struggle to focus on one thing for even a short period of time
This is something you may notice after a long night of insomnia. Something as simple as reading a magazine article in the doctor’s office seems too challenging as your mind continually wanders. You end up staring at the wall doing nothing, but even that feels too exhausting. This is a dangerous side effect of sleep deprivation because if you can’t focus on what your boss is saying or simple words in a book, you can’t properly focus on driving, walking straight or doing other activities either.
If you’re feeling sluggish and you can’t focus on one thing with a clear head, don’t get behind the wheel of a car or any type of heavy machinery. There are more than 100,000 car accidents potentially caused by someone driving while tired every year, and there are thousands of injuries and fatalities resulting from those accidents. You may think that feeling a little out of it or just a bit drowsy is no big deal, but it can change your life for the worse in the blink of an eye.
Your sex drive has plummeted without known cause
There are other things that can send your desire for sex out the window, but sleep deprivation is a major cause for many men and women. If you normally go wild for your partner but these days they just aren’t as appealing, ask them to wake you up after a long weekend of napping. Better yet, suggest better sleeping habits as a couple so that you both feel more like getting rowdy more often.
You are often irritable, hateful and cranky
Have you ever heard a parent say “he’s ready for his nap” when their toddler starts to get grumpy? Adults are prone to irritability and crabbiness when they’re sleepy as well. There is scientific evidence that humans are more prone to negative thinking, anger and bitterness when they aren’t well rested. When your spouse can’t say anything right, your children are on your nerves and everything at work is someone else’s fault, it may be time to shut yourself in your bedroom and get some rest before you ruin relationships that are important to you.
You can’t stop the tears from pouring down
Does everything strike you as horribly sad these days? Do you find yourself trying to fight back tears at the most awkward or inappropriate moments? Sleep deprivation can put your emotions on overdrive, so take a nap or rearrange your schedule to include more sleep if you can’t do anything but cry these days.
You are more prone to trips, slips and spills than graceful entrances
You rely on your body to balance itself, perceive depth correctly, and react when something flies at your face. When you don’t give your body the rest it needs, those natural reflexes and perceptions become far more difficult to keep up with accurately. You end up spilling, dropping and tripping over things everywhere you go. Just go back to bed before a bad day gets worse.
Your body just loves being fat, or so it seems
There are many reasons that your body may put on weight easily or resist weight loss, but sleep deprivation is one proven trigger. You depend on balanced hormone levels to tell your body when you’re hungry, when you’ve had enough food and what types of food are needed to meet your functional needs. Those hormones become unbalanced when you’re sleep deprived, allowing intense cravings to take over while you struggle to recognize when you’ve had enough food.
Studies have shown that humans are more likely to eat out of control, choose unhealthy foods and eat too much when they are deprived of sleep. You will also notice that your metabolism slows during tired periods, and that means your body won’t burn calories as quickly and is more likely to store food as fat.
You tend to catch every bug that goes around
Research has shown that mice are more likely to get sick when they get less than eight hours of sleep each night, and the same goes for humans. After a few nights of sleep deprivation, your immune system takes a hit and becomes less able to fight off attacks. You are more likely to stay healthy if you get your rest.
You’re splurging more often than your budget or your thighs can handle
Are you finding it more difficult than usual to bypass the cookies in the break room? Do you find yourself throwing items in you cart at random as you walk through the grocery store without responsible regard to your budget? Sleep deprivation can interfere with decision making and impulse control because it messes with an area of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex. Add the lack of focus to the mix, and you can easily become a zombie wandering around directionless eating 10 pounds of potato chips.
You start experiencing vision problems or abnormalities
Are there dots dancing in your peripheral vision? Do you have to squint to see the computer screen in front of you? Brain neurons that fire off in distinct patterns so that you can see clearly may not function at their best without rest. They stop processing everything that your eyes detect in an effort to save energy. Consider it a matter of batteries run low on juice. It’s time to plug into your bed and recharge.
These signs of sleep deprivation will only get worse if ignored. Even if you’re getting your eight hours most nights, your body is telling you that more sleep is needed. Always listen to your body rather than some randomly assigned number.