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How Much Sleep Do You Need? (Part 2)

old fashion alarm clock on table next to a cup of hot tea

Signs of Sleep Deprivation

Common signs that you haven’t gotten enough sleep include:

  • Feeling drowsy or falling asleep during the day, especially during calm activities like sitting in a movie theater or driving

  • Falling asleep within 5 minutes of lying down

  • Short periods of sleep during waking hours (microsleeps)

  • Needing an alarm clock to wake up on time every day

  • Feeling groggy when you wake up in the morning or throughout the day (sleep inertia)

  • Having a hard time getting out of bed every day

  • Mood changes

  • Forgetfulness

  • Trouble focusing on a task

  • Sleeping more on days when you don’t have to get up at a certain time

How to Know if You’re Getting Enough Sleep

To find out whether you’re getting enough sleep at night, ask yourself:

  • Do you feel healthy and happy with your current sleep schedule?

  • Do you feel like you get enough sleep to be productive?

  • Do you ever feel sleepy when going about your day?

  • Do you rely on caffeine to get through the day?

  • Is your sleep schedule fairly regular, even on weekends?

The Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Too little sleep can cause:

  • Memory problems

  • Feelings of depression

  • Lack of motivation

  • Irritability

  • Slower reaction times

  • A weakened immune system raises your chances of getting sick

  • Stronger feelings of pain

  • Higher chances of conditions like high blood pressure, diabetes, heart attack, or obesity

  • A lower sex drive

  • Wrinkled skin and dark circles under your eyes

  • Overeating and weight gain

  • Trouble solving problems and making decisions

  • Bad decision-making

  • Hallucinations

Studies make it clear that sleep deprivation is dangerous. People who missed some sleep before getting into a driving simulator or doing a hand-eye coordination task perform as badly as or worse than people who had been given alcohol.

Sleep deprivation also changes how alcohol affects your body. If you drink while you’re tired, you’ll be more impaired than somebody who got enough rest.

Driver fatigue caused about 83,000 car accidents between 2005 and 2009 and 803 deaths in 2016, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Some researchers say the numbers are actually much higher. Since drowsiness is the brain's last step before falling asleep, driving while drowsy can -- and often does -- lead to disaster. Stimulants like caffeine can’t stop the effects of severe sleep deprivation.

The National Sleep Foundation says you’re probably too drowsy to drive safely if you:

  • Have trouble keeping your eyes focused

  • Can't stop yawning

  • Can't remember driving the past few miles

  • Are daydreaming and have wandering thoughts

  • Have trouble holding your head up

  • Are drifting in and out of lanes

How to Get the Sleep You Need

Healthy habits can help you sleep better and longer.

  • Give yourself time to sleep. A busy schedule can make it hard to get a good night’s sleep.

  • Keep a sleep schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day, even on weekends.

  • Create a sleep sanctuary. Keep your bedroom dark, quiet, and at a comfortable temperature. Use it only for sleep, sex, and quiet activities like reading. Don’t bring in electronic screens like TVs or cell phones.

  • Have a bedtime routine. Avoid bright lights, large meals, caffeine, and alcohol before bed. Try things to help you relax, like a hot bath.

  • Exercise. Get about 30 minutes a day, at least 5 hours before bed.

  • Nap if you must. Aim for no more than 30 minutes so you don’t wake up groggy or mess up your sleep schedule.

  • Don’t force it. If you find yourself lying awake, get up and do something quiet, like reading, until you feel sleepy. Journaling may put nagging thoughts to bed.

  • Talk to your doctor. A medical condition might be causing your sleep problems.

Credit: WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

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