10 Signs You’re Sleep Deprived (and What To Do About It!)

If you are getting less than seven hours of sleep on a regular basis, chances are you are experiencing signs of sleep deprivation. You have a busy life, your job is demanding, your family depends on you, and you donít have time to get the 8 to 9 hours you need.†So whatís the big deal over a little lost sleep?

It is a big deal. In fact, sleep deprivation could make you look old before your time, have a negative impact on your concentration and attention span, jeopardize your job or promotion, take a big toll on your immune system, make you irritable with your partner and coworkers, and even result in injury or death if you nod off while driving. Perhaps itís time to rethink your need for sleep!

Lack of sufficient sleep can actually pose a number of significant health and lifestyle hazards you may not have considered. So what are the signs you are not getting enough sleep and what can you do about them?

1. Youíre hungry all the time.

Your brain needs energy all the time to function properly, and much of that energy is generated while you sleep. However, if you donít get enough sleep, your brain searches for energy elsewhere, and what better place than food? Actually, people who are sleep deprived often experience hormone problems; namely, they produce more of the hunger hormone called ghrelin and less of the hormone that makes you feel full (leptin). The result is that you crave certain foods (and you can bet they donít include broccoli and carrots!) and your brain does not receive enough messages to stop eating. This combination can lead to another sign you are sleep deprived: weight gain.

2. Youíre packing on the pounds.

Weight gain associated with sleep deprivation can be associated with the increase in hunger (and food intake) as weíve already noted, plus a decline in metabolism rate that accompanies lack of sleep. Yet another contributor to weight gain among sleep deprived individuals is a careless approach to food choices. When youíre tired, youíre less likely to take the time to make wise menu selections. In addition,†sleep deprivation for four days†in a row can reduce the ability of your fat cells to respond to insulin by 30 percent

Read about lack of sleep and weight gain

3. Youíre having trouble thinking clearly.

Insufficient sleep has a negative impact on your ability to make decisions, solve problems, and respond quickly to situations. In a†study†of about 50 young adults, those who were sleep deprived showed a drop of 2.4 percent in accuracy testing while those who had adequate sleep improved accuracy by 4.3 percent.

4. Youíre moody, grouchy, and irritable.

If youíre much less fun to be around and youíre putting people off with your attitude, then youíre likely sleep deprived. This is true for people of all ages, including adolescents. An August 2015 study in†Sleep Medicine†reports that healthy adolescents who missed just one night of sleep showed significantly worsened depression, anger, anxiety, confusion, and fatigue when compared with nights of adequate sleep. Females were especially susceptible to these mood changes.

5. You approach risk differently.

A recent study found that men and women respond to risk and risk decisions differently when they are sleep deprived. One reason for this shift is that the prefrontal cortex is especially vulnerable to sleep loss, and risk-taking is located in that area of the brain. In the†study, researchers found that sleep loss caused males to make riskier decisions than when they were well rested, while females did the opposite.

6. You’re more impulsive.†

When youíre tired, youíre more likely to act without thinkingÖbecause your ability to think has been compromised. So youíre more likely to reach for that doughnut, make a callous remark, get into an argument with your spouse, cut someone off on the highway, or buy that overpriced sweater.

7. Your memory is fuzzy.

It makes perfect sense: sleep deprivation makes it more difficult for you to think clearly and your attention is less sharp. So if you experience memory problems associated with sleep lost, you havenít completely lost your mind! In a†study†of 50 young adults, participants were given memory and reasoning tasks before and after 24 hours of sleep deprivation. The authors found that sleep deprivation ďstrongly compromises time-based prospective memory complianceĒ as well as ďthe ability to perform an intended action after a few minutes.Ē

Read about better sleep for your health

8. Your emotions are out of control.

A University of California (UC), Berkeley,†study†reported that sleep deprivation can make it more difficult to keep your emotions under control. Thus you may find yourself crying, laughing, getting angry, or anxiety-ridden at the drop of a hat. It appears this is true because lack of sleep is associated with a disconnect in an area of the brain that regulates emotions. According to one of the studyís authors, Matthew Walker, director of the UC Berkeleyís Sleep and Neuroimaging Laboratory, ďItís almost as though, without sleep, the brain had reverted back to more primitive patterns of activity, in that it was unable to put emotional experiences into context and produce controlled, appropriate responses.Ē

9. You get sick more often.

One of the more common side effects of sleep deprivation is a compromised immune system and, as a result, less ability to ward off infections. For example, a†study†of 153 adults looked at sleep habits for 14 straight days and the likelihood of developing the common cold. The researchers found that participants who got less than seven hours of sleep were nearly three times more likely to develop a cold than those who got eight hours or more of sleep. Sleep is essential for a properly functioning immune system because thatís the time it makes substances called cytokines, which are proteins that fight inflammation and disease-causing organisms. A recent†study†has shed more light on this situation. While formerly it was believed cytokines were produced only by the immune system and were active there alone, now itís clear cytokines are also present and active in the brain, where they interact with other factors that control sleep.

10. You nod off.

Nod-off sessions, also known as micro-sleep, are your brainís way of saying you are sleep deprived. Itís not unusual to nod off during a boring meeting or when youíre a passenger in a car or plane. But itís quite another to do it frequently or when youíre behind the wheel of a car or operating dangerous equipment, when you place your life and others in danger. According to a study by the†Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 4.2 percent of adults said they had nodded off while driving within the last 30 days. Donít let that be you!

Read about fighting back against sleep deprivation

What to do about sleep deprivation

  • Establish a schedule. Go to bed and get up at the same time every day. Although there will be occasions when this schedule will not be possible, stick to it as much as possible.
  • Relax before bedtime. If you thoughts wonít shut off or you find it difficult to relax before going to bed, practice a routine that promotes relaxation, such as yoga, meditation, deep breathing, listening to soothing music, reading poetry, or taking a hot shower.
  • Take naps. According to the†National Sleep Foundation, taking a short nap (20-30 minutes) improves alertness. It also is the best length of time to help you feel refreshed when you get up and not interfere with your nighttime sleep. A nap is critical if you are drowsy when driving!
  • Turn off the electronics. The†blue light glow†from laptops, cell phones, TVs, and tablets trick your brain into thinking its daytime and disrupts the production of the sleep hormone, melatonin. Wean yourself off of the gadgets and donít even have them near you at night.
  • Limit or avoid alcohol. Although you may think having several drinks will help you sleep better, they actually can†disturb sleep quality. Alcohol can cause you to wake up multiple times throughout the night and prevents you from getting REM and deep sleep that you need.
  • Examine your drug use. Certain prescription and nonprescription drugs can cause sleep disturbances and cause you to be sleep deprived. Some of them include beta blockers, oral contraceptives, steroids, inhaled respiratory drugs, seizure medications, some antidepressants, pseudoephedrine, amphetamines, and caffeine.
  • Create a sleep-worthy environment. Itís difficult to get a good nightís sleep if youíre not comfortable. That includes everything from a suitable mattress, pillow, and coverings, as well as temperature (keep your room cool), light (keep it dark), and smell. David Cloud, CEO of the National Sleep Foundation, noted that ďHaving a pleasant scent†and a relaxing bedroom routine can contribute to a good nightís sleep.Ē
  • Eat light. A piece of fruit or a few whole grain crackers before bedtime can ward off hunger pangs. However, large meals will cause your digestive system to be working into the night and disrupt your ability to sleep.
  • Avoid sleeping pills. These pharmaceutical wonders may have a negative impact on†sleepís ability to consolidate memories. When you are in a deep, slow-wave sleep and REM sleep, your brain is actively consolidating and converting short-term to long-term memory. Sleeping pills can disrupt these critical functions. In addition, sleeping pills are associated with a long list of side effects, including daytime drowsiness, constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, unusual dreams, problems with balance, headaches, and more.
  • Check with your doctor. Itís possible your sleep deprivation is associated with a medical condition such as asthma, restless legs syndrome, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), chronic pain, or sleep apnea. If so, you can work with your physician to correct the problem and your sleep issues as well!

You can win the battle against sleep deprivation by making some modifications to your lifestyle. Once you do, the rewards will be remarkable in terms of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual health and wellness.

Written by Andrea Donsky. Reposted with permission from†Naturally Savvy.

Photo Credit: Krista Mangulsone/Unsplash


Lesa D
Past Member about a year ago

oh yeah~i definitely need a NAP!!!

Sonia Minwer Barakat Requ

Good article with useful tips.Thanks for sharing

Christine J
Christine J1 years ago

I've found since I've been getting better and more sleep, I get far less colds (touch wood!).

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill1 years ago


Melania P
Melania P1 years ago

So glad I sleep well, no problems there

Jerome S
Jerome S2 years ago


Jim Ven
Jim Ven2 years ago

thanks for sharing.

Julie P.
Julie Pham2 years ago

Thank you

Shirley S
Shirley S2 years ago

Will look into some causes mentioned.

Mike H
Mike H2 years ago

Thank you