- Overheating or risky decisions can be signs that you’re not getting enough sleep
- Other signs that you’re sleep deprived could include cravings for takeout or poor memory
Balancing work, a social life and staying fit and healthy can mean that a good night’s sleep is often sacrificed.
But a lack of shut-eye can cause wide-ranging and serious health problems beyond just feeling a little tired.
This is because napping is essential for heart and blood vessel healing, while those who are extremely sleep deprived even risk damaging their organs.
Here, MailOnline reveals the five signs you’re not getting enough sleep, according to retailer Bed Kingdom.
Craving for a takeaway
If you suddenly feel the urge to grab a takeout or eat junk food, it could be a sign that you’re sleep deprived.
According to scientists at the University of California, a lack of sleep alters appetite-regulating hormones.
The small 2014 study tracked the food cravings of 23 healthy participants on nights of normal sleep and nights of total sleep deprivation.
They found that when volunteers didn’t get enough sleep, participants were more likely to turn to junk food. The researchers think this was due to their cravings for high-calorie, high-sugar, and fat snacks as a way to boost energy levels.
But researchers at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found in 2019 that the cravings for unhealthy foods among those who don’t get enough sleep may be due to your nose or olfactory system — the sense of smell.
Experts suggest that when you’re sleep-deprived, your nose is too tired to send enough information to the brain about different food smells.
This can lead you to reach for richer foods with a stronger smell, often junk food.
READ MORE: Getting up early for work? Here’s why it can be bad for you
Many people can feel more forgetful when they are tired.
This is because sleep deprivation affects the brain’s ability to learn and recall information.
During rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is known for dreaming, the brain is active, building and retaining memories from the previous day, according to the Sleep Foundation.
Less sleep disrupts this process and interrupts the formation of memories and the recording of information.
And people who are sleep-deprived are even at risk of forming false memories, according to a study of 60 people by medical professionals in Singapore, published in the Journal of Sleep Research in 2016.
Not only is your ability to remember affected by a lack of closed eyes, sleep is also essential for strengthening learning and absorption of motor skills and physical reflexes – hence the term muscle memory.
This is another reason why a high percentage of car accidents occur due to sleep deprivation, as experts say sleep-deprived drivers have slower reaction times.
A lack of sleep can even get in the way of weight loss efforts.
According to Harvard University researchers, sleep duration has long been linked to the body’s production of appetite-regulating hormones.
They say insufficient sleep is associated with higher levels of the hormone ghrelin, which increases appetite and signals hunger.
Sleep deprivation has also been linked to lower levels of the hormone leptin, which is needed to feel full.
As a result, higher levels of ghrelin combined with less leptin will make you feel hungrier and your body will react more slowly when you are full – increasing the risk of overeating.
Sleep deprivation also increases stress, which causes an increase in cortisol levels.
Cortisol is a stress hormone responsible for storing energy (sugars and fat) for later use. So higher levels of this hormone means your body is holding on to more fat.
How much sleep do people need?
How much sleep you need each night to avoid sleep deprivation depends on how old you are.
Newborns (0 to 3 months) need between 14 and 17 hours of sleep.
Infants (4 to 11 months) need between 12 and 15 hours of sleep.
Toddlers (1 to 2 years) needed in between 11 to 14 hours of sleep.
Children from 3 to 5 years Need 10 to 13 hours of sleep.
Children from 6 to 12 years Need 9 to 12 hours of sleep.
Teenagers (13 to 18 years old) Need 8 to 10 hours of sleep.
Adults from 18 to 60 years Need 7 hours or more of sleep.
Adults aged 61 to 64 years Need 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
Adults aged 65 or older Need 7 to 8 hours of sleep.
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Experts say insulin levels are also affected by too little sleep, as higher levels of cortisol make the body less sensitive to insulin.
Insulin is a hormone that converts food into energy. The body has a harder time processing fats from the bloodstream when it becomes less sensitive to insulin.
Over time, this leads to fat storage in the body and weight gain.
Bad decision making
Studies show that sleep loss is associated with making risky decisions.
In 2020, scientists in Italy looked at the effects of complete and partial sleep deprivation on a person’s risk-taking and impulsiveness.
They studied 74 people – 32 of whom had one night of whatever hours of sleep they regularly got (they all said they usually get 7-8 hours), followed by a night of no sleep at all, arriving at 9 p.m. laboratory and staying fully awake all night.
The rest of the people, 42, had five nights of regular sleep, according to their own sleep habits, followed by five nights of partial sleep deprivation — where they had to go to sleep at 2 a.m. and wake up at 7 a.m.
They found that those who were sleep-deprived for a long time, albeit partially, had more adverse effects.
For the study published in the journal Nature of Science and Sleep, the authors wrote, “Among the consequences of sleep loss, people [who are] usually more reflective and cautious become more impulsive and prone to risk-taking when making decisions based on well-considered reasoning.”
Experts have suggested that this increase in risk-taking in sleep deprivation is due to impaired function of the prefrontal cortex – the part of the brain that regulates thoughts, actions and emotions.
Sleep is essential for the body to regulate our internal temperature, experts say.
Without sleep, it struggles to maintain its normal temperature of 37°C (98.6F).
This means that as people get more tired, their brains could get hotter, according to Boston University scientists.
Yawning — a telltale sign of fatigue — is one method of compensating for this thermoregulatory malfunction and helps cool the brain, they say.
So the next time you feel hot and bothered, it could be a sign that you need a little more sleep.