Insomnia and sleep deprivation are nearing epidemic proportions. According to Matthew Walker, a sleep specialist at the University of California, only 8% of the population in 1942 was surviving on six hours of sleep or less. Today, almost one in every two people are.
We’re the generation of “on-the-go,” and there never seems to be enough hours in the day. We’re always jumping from one project to another, switching jobs constantly, and stimulated for most of our waking hours.
We think that the busier we are, the more we’re getting done. And sadly, sleep has become associated with weakness and laziness. We brag to our friends about how little sleep we got the night before. We believe we’re invincible and that we can keep going on like this forever. Little do we know we’re heading for a burnout.
A burnout doesn’t just happen overnight. It is weeks or months of accumulated stress and sleep deprivation. If you’re experiencing any of the signs below, you may be sleep deprived.
1. Your Brain Feels Fuzzy
Chronic sleep deprivation and stress puts tremendous strain on your nervous system. Your nerve receptors have a hard time relaying information to your brain because they are overworked. Sleep deprivation also has a huge effect on your prefrontal cortex. This part of the brain is responsible for decision making, emotional control, memory, and focus.
If you feel yourself unable to express yourself, at a loss for creativity, or unable to concentrate, you may be mentally exhausted.
2. There’s Strain On Personal Relationships
When you’re sleep deprived, you feel like you’re on the edge of a mental breakdown. You may begin to take out your pent-up emotions on coworkers or loved ones. You soon find yourself complaining about your workload and lack of sleep to anyone who may listen. With time, this can make you draining to be around and weigh heavy on personal relationships.
3. You’re Constantly Sick
This is a huge sign of sleep deprivation. When we sleep, our immune system builds itself back up again. If you aren’t getting at least 7-8 hours of sleep a night, your immune system doesn’t have the energy to recharge. When you’re close to a burnout, you may find yourself always getting sick and it taking longer for you to recover.
4. Poor Self-Care
When you’re sleep deprived, it suddenly becomes a whole lot harder to plan ahead. You think about what will make you feel good in the moment, and you have no energy for self-control. Ordering Domino’s is faster and way tastier than making a salad. You may also find yourself neglecting your workouts and even personal hygiene. All you seem to have time for is work and sleep.
5. Taking Your Work Home
It’s normal to think about work while you’re at home. But if you find yourself constantly thinking about unanswered emails and upcoming meetings, there may be a problem. Work should not be consuming your life. You need to take that precious mental energy and focus on relaxing. If you don’t, you may start to feel overwhelmed, further fueling your exhausted state.
When you’re exhausted and sleep deprived, you react as if things are a 14, when they really are a 3. Your significant other took too long to respond to a text and all of a sudden it’s the end of the world. Maybe you have constant road rage, or you fight with coworkers over little things. When you’re burned out, the littlest things will set you off.
7. You’re Not Productive
A major sign of a sleep deprivation is a loss of motivation. You feel like no matter how much you get done, you never seem to catch up. And crossing one thing off your list means adding another five more things. Even the smallest tasks, like answering an email, can take up to an hour. This feeling of unproductivity can weigh heavy, and causes you to procrastinate even more.
8. Chronic Insomnia
When your overly stressed, your cortisol levels are high. This natural stress hormone blocks melatonin levels, making it nearly impossible to fall asleep. It also doesn’t help when your mind is racing and won’t turn off long enough to let you sleep. Getting fewer than 8 hours of sleep a night makes it very difficult to deal with daily problems that arise at work and home. Sleep deprivation makes everything seem worse than it really is.
9. You Forget to Eat
All of a sudden it’s 4 pm and you don’t understand why you’re so irritable and you can’t concentrate. Then you remember you haven’t had anything to eat since the night before. Sometimes we get so busy that we forget to set time aside to eat. Forgetting to eat denies your body of the nutrients it needs, further fueling your mental exhaustion.
10. Zero Motivation
Another major sign of a sleep deprivation is zero motivation. You feel stuck. You’re procrastinating and the stress of everything is building up. Instead of being productive, you have no motivation to get out of bed in the morning.
11. Decreased Satisfaction
Nothing seems to make you happy anymore. Not yoga, not your friends, not even a day off. The overabundance of stress weighs heavy and creeps into every area of your life. You may even feel less satisfied with your career choice or even your home life. This is a sign of depression, and a burnout.
12. Extra Cynical
You seem to always look at situations through grey-tinted glasses. You don’t even bother trying at work because you know you won’t appreciated. This way of thinking can be dangerous, and a major sign that something needs to change in your life.
13. You’re Self-Medicating with Caffeine and Alcohol
It’s okay to have a cup of coffee in the morning, or to meet your friends for happy hour after work. But if you notice that you can’t function without 4 cups of coffee a day, or you can’t unwind without a glass of wine (or two), there may be a problem. When you’re overly exhausted, caffeine isn’t enough to override your body’s need for sleep. Alcohol also prevents you from getting the quality sleep you need to fight a burnout.
What to Do If You Are Sleep Deprived?
If you recognize any of the symptoms above, don’t worry. By making some adjustments in your life, you can recharge and come out a burn out.
Make Sure Your Getting Enough Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep is vital for healthy living. As you doze off, your body begins to recover from the day’s activities by healing damaged cells and boosting your immune system.
Make sure that you are getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night. Keep your bedroom dark while you sleep and think about investing in a weighted blanket. Weighted blankets put pressure on the body’s sensory receptors, soothing the nervous system and regulating hormone production.
Researchers found that after using a weighted blanket, serotonin levels increased by 28%, and dopamine by 31%. Not only do these “happy hormones” have a positive effect on your mood, but serotonin is directly linked to melatonin production.
Deal with Stress
When you’re stressed, cortisol levels remain high and melatonin production cannot start until those levels begin to decrease again. These two hormones become misaligned and your sleep schedule gets thrown off. High cortisol levels also trigger your body’s “fight or flight” response, putting you on edge.
Try incorporating meditation, yoga, exercise, or journaling into your daily routine. This will help keep your stress levels under control, which will decrease cortisol levels.
Making yourself available 24/7 prevents you from recharging. Try setting time aside for answering work calls and emails. After that time is up, turn off your phone. Enjoy time spent with family and friends, without the added stressors from work following you around.
It may also be helpful to set aside time to be by yourself. Go take a walk, read a book, or go to the beach. This will give you the chance to recharge and refocus.
If you experience any of these signs of sleep deprivation, it may be time to make a few adjustments in your daily routine. Life’s too short to be exhausted all the time.
If there are other ways that help you deal with stress, sleep deprivation, and burnout, let us know in the comment section below!