We all know sleep is important, but does it really matter if you get 8 hours of sleep every night? Isn’t 7 enough, or 6?
Maybe you’re someone who “doesn’t need” that much sleep. Well I can tell you this, I’ve never met someone who “doesn’t need” sleep who is thriving.
Yes, you can SURVIVE on 6 hours of sleep, but your mental and physical health will deteriorate over time...and unfortunately, you probably won’t even recognize it.
So here are 10 signs that you are not getting enough sleep:
1) Your gut is getting bigger.
There is a direct connection between lack of sleep and weight gain, and in particular, weight gain around the waist. Less sleep = more cortisol, the stress hormone, and when you are stressed all the time, your body goes into fat storage mode. That means you can exercise and eat pretty well and still not see results...and even go in the wrong direction!
2)You need coffee to get going.
Caffeine should not be an essential nutrient for you to function. There are some health benefits to coffee, sure, but don’t fool yourself into thinking that your double espresso in the morning is for your health. Caffeine temporarily masks the effects of poor sleep, but it just puts a Band-aid on the issue and can actually worsen the problem as you become more and more dependent.
3)You have anxiety.
I know a lot of people in a constant state of low (or high) level anxiety, and when I see this, the first thing I think of is sleep. Do life factors play in? Of course, but your ability to HANDLE life stressors is so greatly diminished when you are not sleeping well that until you fix that, even the smallest of stressors can make you come undone.
4)You are pre-diabetic.
Sleep LITERALLY can make you diabetic. If you sleep for less than 6 hours a night for one week and get your blood tested, your sugar tolerance will be that of a diabetic. And there are a lot of people out there in that mid-range of diabetes that have only one issue...not enough sleep. Of course diet plays a role too, but diet can only do so much if you are sleepless.
5)You fall asleep on the couch.
It is not normal to just pass out mid-day. If you like taking a nap during the day and it is part of your routine, that is one thing. But falling asleep just because you’re sitting somewhere comfortable is not a good sign.
6)You are moody.
How often do you look back at your actions and think, what the hell was that about? Mood is funny because when we are cranky, we can do some really stupid things. And sleep, more than anything, can really mess with your mood. Little things become big things. We lash out at the wrong people and say nothing to the right people for fear of blowing up.
And this is probably the sneakiest way sleep degrades our lives...because we don’t often think of mood and sleep being connected. We live in our own heads and forget that how we think and how we feel are very much tied to our physiology.
So if you are not sleeping, not exercising, and eating poorly, your outlook on life will be 180 degrees from when you ARE doing those things. Same brain, same person, just different chemistry.
7) The only time you are NOT tired is at night.
When you struggle to FALL asleep, you know you have really hit your stride in the sleep deprivation game. Your body is meant to have natural hormonal rhythms that wake you up in the morning and make you sleepy at night.
But when you have been sleeping poorly for so long, and usually when you drink a lot of coffee, work a ton, and don’t exercise regularly, your sleep pattern will get turned upside down.
8) You struggle to stay focused.
What is so ironic about sleep is that the less you get (therefore, the more time you have to do stuff), the less you get done. Your efficiency, clarity of thought, and quality of work all go down when you are not sleeping.
And it’s not by just a little. Think about the most productive hour you have had in the last month. Now think of the least productive hour (when you were TRYING to get something done, not on the couch watching TV). If you compare those two hours the amount of work and quality of work is exponentially better.
So, the goal then is not to work MORE, but work BETTER, and that is what sleep allows you to do.
9) You are always hungry.
Sleep is all about hormones, and when you don’t get it, your hunger hormone gets kicked into full gear. That is why you are not only hungry, but you always want sugar. This is a related sign that you are not getting enough sleep.
Constant sugar cravings do not come to the well-rested. Sugar is a quick fix, just like caffeine, for your low energy problem, but it is not sustainable and just plays into weight gain and increased risk for diabetes.
10) You have bags under your eyes.
If you LOOK tired, you are tired. That is not what happens as you get older...that is what happens when you have not slept well in years.
If you have just one or all ten of these signs, it’s time to start considering that you do NOT get enough sleep and put an action plan together to make a change.
Sometimes you need to enlist the help of others, but if you can set yourself up for 8+ hours of sleep a night, I guarantee you will not regret it.
The amount of joy, productivity, and engagement in life that is lost due to lack of sleep is not worth the extra hour or five of wakefulness you currently get.