6 Signs That You're Sleep Deprived

By Brittany Lyte on 15 October 2014 0 comments

Yawns, irritability, lack of oomph. These are the tell-tale signs of sleep deprivation we're all familiar with. But studies show a shortage of slumber can have far greater — and stranger — consequences on our bodies and minds. (See also: 8 Hours? 9 Hours? This Is How Much Sleep You REALLY Need)

Read on for our roundup of some of the less-than-obvious repercussions of sleep loss.

1. You've Got a Shortened Attention Span

A shortened attention span can result directly from sleep deprivation. Now for the scary part: It can also be irreversible. Leading researchers this year found evidence of brain damage in people suffering from chronic sleep loss.

"In general, we've always assumed full recovery of cognition following short- and long-term sleep loss," said Sigrid Veasey, the lead researcher behind the study. "But some of the research in humans has shown that attention span and several other aspects of cognition may not normalize even with three days of recovery sleep, raising the question of lasting injury in the brain."

2. You've Got High Blood Pressure

A single night of inadequate sleep in people suffering from existing hypertension can trigger elevated blood pressure. Researchers believe this may explain the correlation between sleep deprivation and cardiovascular disease and stroke.

3. You're Gaining Weight

Poor sleep is now considered a risk factor for obesity, right up there with overeating and lack of exercise. Studies show that people who sleep less than six hours per night are much more likely to have a higher than average body mass index. People who habitually sleep eight hours or more have the lowest BMI.

The bodies of people who are sleep deprived also tend to secrete greater amounts of insulin following a meal. Insulin promotes fat storage, and higher levels of insulin are associated with weight gain, which is a risk factor for diabetes.

4. You're Making Mistakes Left and Right

Sleep deprivation can impair job performance — and the consequences can be mammoth. Investigators have determined that sleep deprivation played a role in the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger, the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and the nuclear disasters at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

Sleep loss is also the culprit behind an untold number of medical errors in hospitals. More than a million injuries and up to 100,000 deaths each year result from preventable medical errors, and many of these may be caused by insufficient sleep, according to Institutes of Medicine.

5. You've Been In a Car Crash — And It Was Your Fault

A National Sleep Foundation survey found that 60% of adult drivers — about 168 million people — have been drowsy at the wheel in the past year, and that more than 100 million people have actually dozed off while strapped in the driver's seat. Another estimate by the Institute of Medicine points to drowsy driving as the cause of 20% of all motor vehicle crashes. That would mean that poor sleep causes approximately 1 million crashes, 500,000 injuries, and 8,000 deaths each year in the U.S.

6. You're Feeling Depressed

Lack of sleep may trigger depression — especially in teens. Teenagers who don't get enough sleep are four times as likely to develop major depressive disorder as their peers who sleep more, according to research from the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston.

Ironically, sleep deprivation is also being studied as a treatment for depression, the very mental ailment it's known to cause. Research shows that sleep deprivation is successful up to 70% of the time when used as a method to boost the mood of a person who's feeling depressed. But here's the kicker: It only lasts until the person falls asleep.

Can't get a good night's sleep? What are you doing to sleep more? Please share in comments!

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