Sleep deprivation is a condition that affects tens of millions of people in the United States today.
People who only get four to six hours of sleep a night (or, gulp, less!) compared to people who get the typical seven to nine hours can suffer consequences that they never could have dreamed of (literally).
If you have been falling behind on sleep, you may suspect yourself of being sleep deprived, but the truth is there is no way for you to fully know (at least on your own) without first realizing what the symptoms are:
Symptom #1 – Feeling Sleepy and Fatigue
This may seem obvious, but it’s also true. The most common and perhaps the most noticeable symptom of being deprived of enough sleep is feeling sleepy.
Throughout the day, you’ll feel a strong urge to fall asleep, and if you persist without getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night, it can eventually lead to fatigue.
Fatigue is condition of feeling exhaustion and discomfort in your muscles and body as a result of sleep deprivation.
Feeling sleepy is without a doubt the number one symptom of sleep deprivation, and if it gets to the point that you are feeling fatigued, you definitely will know what you are sleep deprived.
Symptom #2 – Mood Swings
The sad reality is that not only do we feel excessively tired when we are sleep deprived, but we can have a greater tendency to feel angry and take it out on others a well.
Typically, a good night’s sleep will put you in a great mood as you start out the day, but tossing and turning all night makes no guarantee of having a positive mood throughout the day (to say the least).
Eventually, as your mood swings become more constant, you could eventually shift from having an increasingly negative attitude to displaying signs of anxiety and depression.
Many of the symptoms of depression have to do with not getting enough sleep, as do anxiety.
Getting enough sleep is extremely important, not just for our physical health but for our mental as well.
Symptom #3 – Slowed Reaction Time
Not getting enough sleep means that you reaction time to nearly anything will be slowed and it will much more difficult for you to focus on your surroundings.
This will most greatly affect our ability to drive on the road and our performance at work, and can lead to silly accidents that were entirely due to our decreased alertness.
What’s more is that the well being and even the lives of the other people around you can be affected by this as well.
Study after study has shown a strong correlation between sleep deprivation and decreased work performance.
Even if you don’t get enough sleep for just one night, it can affect your overall performance and reaction times for that entire week.
Many infamous man-made disasters have been thought to be due to a lack of sleep by those involved (although there were other factors involved to, of course).
The unfortunate thing is that you might not even know that your reaction time has been slowed or impaired.
Scientific studies have shown that it is heavily unlikely for a person to adapt to their sleep deprivation.
So once your sleep deprivation does impair your reaction time, you might not even realize it, and furthermore, you might believe that it is normal.
Symptom #4 – Disorientations and Illusions
This symptom is the next step following having a slowed reaction time. The more and more you go without sleep, and the more and more your reaction time your ability to focus on your surroundings is impaired, you’ll begin to experience some much more serious symptoms such as feeling immensely disoriented and on extreme occasions, having illusions.
What’s the difference between feeling disoriented and experiencing illusions? If you feel disoriented, it means that you won’t be able to keep as good of track of time (ex. “is it April 14 or 15…”), and you may become confused about the location you are in.
Illusions are even more extreme, and in the case of sleep deprivation, they are referred to as hallucinations.
With hallucinations, you’ll think you see something in front of you when in reality it isn’t there.
Scientific studies have shown that an overwhelming majority of people who suffer from sleep deprivation too long will eventually hallucinate one time or another, but only if they go for weeks without good, quality sleep.
Once you start feeling immensely disoriented and see illusions that aren’t really there, you’ll begin to convince yourself that things or occurrences exist that really don’t.
For example, you might think that your boss is trying to get you fired, even if your boss isn’t. Sleep deprivation is dangerous in this way, in that your thoughts may not be fully grounded in reality.
There are many more symptoms of sleep deprivation, but this is just a short list and explanation of the most important ones.
In extreme cases, these symptoms can ultimately lead to death. You’ll definitely feel daytime sleepiness and have mood swings and feel anxious and stressed out at the very least.
This will impair your ability to check your surroundings or to concentrate on one task at hand, affecting your safety on the road (and the safety of others), as well as your work performance.
If the sleep deprivation continues, it will greatly impact the decisions you make as you gradually feel more and more fatigued, and in some cases even pain.
Your entire life will essentially be impacted by how well you sleep. Many people think that they can get by with just four hours of sleep a night in order to spend more time on other things, but the reality is that the consequences will already start to develop in the symptoms.
That’s why it is important that you take action if the symptoms start to develop in you.