Are You Sleep-Deprived?

“I do fine on five hours a night,” insists Maureen S., a high school English teacher who stays up until the wee hours grading papers and planning the next day’s lessons. “Yeah, I do work long hours, but I make up for it on the weekends,” says Josh G., who works a full-time and a part-time job to make ends meet. To make matters worse, both Maureen and Josh have trouble winding down and finally going to sleep after their marathon workdays. While neither would describe themselves as “sleep-deprived,” Maureen has blurred vision that her eye doctor can’t explain, and Josh has the feeling that his formerly sharp mind isn’t as quick as it used to be.

We all know what it feels like to be dog-tired—so tired you could fall asleep almost anywhere. But did you know that the following are also symptoms that you’re not getting enough sleep?

• A feeling of irritability and being “on edge,” as if you’re about to blow your top at the next small thing that gets on your nerves, is a sign that you may not be getting the sleep you need. Being irritated by those around you will also cause social problems. Maybe your performance report at work says that you need to learn to get along better with coworkers, when the truth is that you simply need to get more good-quality sleep.

• If something truly stressful happens—a big sale falls through or your credit card is stolen—you might feel as if you “just can’t take it” and spend more time on a rant about the situation than you do trying to find a solution

• You are having problems with concentration and memory. You have to repeat tasks because you are afraid you’ve done them incorrectly, or you can’t remember doing them at all. Along with this symptom goes difficulty learning new things.

• You are frequently ill. It seems that you have little resistance to colds and flu. Your sleep-deprived body just hasn’t had time to build the reserves that could protect you. This may even be your body’s way of making you slow down and rest.

• When friends suggest a game of racquetball or even a walk around the block, you find excuses because as far as you’re concerned they might as well have suggested climbing Mount Everest. You just don’t have the energy.

• You feel a frequent need to prop yourself up with food and drinks that contain caffeine and sugar, especially in mid-afternoon.

If you identify with even a few of these symptoms of sleep deprivation, you may want to consider taking a serious look at your sleep habits. For most people, simple changes in their sleep routines and environments can greatly improve the quantity and quality of restful, restorative sleep. And reversing the ill effects of sleep deprivation can literally give you a new lease on life and improve everything from your work performance to your relationships with others. Make good sleep a priority and see the difference for yourself.

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