By:Â Michele Wolfson
While it may seem like losing sleep isn't such a big deal, sleep deprivation has a wide range of negative effects that go way beyond daytime drowsiness. Sleep is as important as food, but in this crazy world that we live in, it is often taken for granted. A chronic lack of sleep can cause a host of problems including increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, obesity, irregular hormone production, high blood pressure, and other health problems.
If you want to feel your best, stay healthy, and perform up to your potential, sleep is a necessity- not a luxury. Learn how to determine if you get enough sleep and what you can do to bounce back from chronic sleep loss and get on a healthy sleep schedule. Here are 8 signs that you're sleep deprived:
- Â You can't remember where you put your cell phone, keys, or glasses: Your brain needs sleep to refresh and regenerate. Without it, your short-term memory may be impaired-which is why pulling an all-nighter rarely yields better results than getting quality shut-eye, according to Dr. Neil Kline, a sleep physician and representative of the American Sleep Association.
- You have difficulty getting up in the morning: Is it really difficult for you to fall asleep at night that you can't wake up in the morning? If so, you should move your bedtime back by 15 minutes every three to four days. On these days, also wake up 15 minutes earlier. Adhere to this plan seven days a week (not just weekdays) until you're falling asleep at, or close to, the desired hour.
- You're sleepy behind the wheel: If you ever alternate closing eyes when you are driving- this is very bad. It's one thing for your eyes to glaze over while staring at the computer screen or stuck in an endless meeting at work, but if you struggle to stay awake behind the wheel-or doing any task that puts you or someone else at risk-you're not just bored. You need more sleep.
- You can't concentrate during a conversation: It's Friday night and the weekend has finally begun! You make plans earlier in the week to go over to your friends house and party, but as long as you're sleep-deficient, coming up with conversation and following what your friends have to say becomes downright impossible.
- You feel sick: And you never, ever get sick. Your immune system repairs and strengthens while you sleep. So in addition to eating flu-fighting foods, log at least seven hours a night to stay healthy all season.
- You feel the need to sleep in on the weekends to make up for lost sleep: If you sleep more on the weekends than during the week - and many of us do - this indicates that you have a "sleep debt." A sleep debt accumulates when you don't get enough sleep. The only way to reduce the debt is to sleep as much as your body needs every night. Make sure you're getting the right quality of sleep as well. Sleep in a cool, dark, quiet room on a comfortable, supportive mattress to get your best night's sleep.
- You're not hungry at lunchtime: A lack of sleep can make you constantly want to eat more, or persistently feel like you're not hungry. It throws off your internal clock resulting in abnormal feelings-which is why so many people lose or gain weight during periods of sleeplessness.
- You are irritable: Does it seem as though your significant other is constantly getting on your nerves? Is every little thing your roommate does annoying you? If you notice a tendency to become easily agitated by small things, it may be a result of a lack of sleep. This can seriously jeopardize your most important relationships. It's easy to take out your frustration on someone you care about, but getting more sleep may salvage your relationships.
How much sleep do you need? According to the National Institutes of Health, the average adult sleeps less than 7 hours per night. In today's fast-paced society, 6 or 7 hours of sleep may sound pretty good. In reality, it's a recipe for chronic sleep deprivation.
While sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, most healthy adults need between 7.5 to 9 hours of sleep per night to function at their best. Children and teens need even more (see below). And despite the notion that our sleep needs decrease with age, older people still need at least 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Since older adults often have trouble sleeping this long at night, daytime naps can help fill in the gap.
Average Sleep Needs By Age:
Newborns (0-2 months): 12 - 18 hours
Infants (3 months to 1 year): 14 - 15 hours
Toddlers (1 to 3 years): 12 - 14 hours
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years): 11 - 13 hours
School-aged children (5 to 12 years): 10 - 11 hours
Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years): 8.5 - 10 hours
Adults (18+): 7.5 - 9 hours
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