Do you frequently find yourself saying that you’ll catch up on sleep later? Does your alarm seem to go off earlier and earlier every morning?
Is it hard to keep your eyes open in the middle of the day?
Unfortunately, busy schedules, commitments, and the general stress of life can often make it hard to get enough sleep. If that sounds familiar, you’re not alone. According to the CDC, 1 in 3 adults don’t get the sleep they need each night.
While tossing and turning once in a while won’t do any real harm (other than annoy you the next day), a lack of sufficient sleep for a longer period of time can leave you feeling overtired. That’s not just annoying – it’s dangerous.
Some people can deal with being overtired without experiencing any symptoms. Others, however, can experience a whole host of problems.
If you’re continuously not getting enough sleep – and you know it – it’s important to understand what could happen to your mind and body when you’re overtired. By knowing some of the problems, you’ll be more motivated to make sleep a priority.
1. You’re Too Tired to Sleep
If you have kids or you’ve been around someone with a baby, you’ve probably heard or used the term “overtired” before. When babies and kids are overtired, they tend to get cranky and restless, but instead of just crashing and falling asleep, it seems to be impossible to get them to close their eyes and rest.
While being overtired might not cause you to throw a tantrum, it can make it hard to sleep. It doesn’t seem to make much sense on paper, right?
When you recognize how being overtired impacts your brain, it’s easy to see why sleep doesn’t come easily. When you’re overtired, your body and brain aren’t functioning properly. When you’re exhausted, more of the stress hormone cortisol is also released. So, you might feel tense, anxious, or restless when it’s time for bed.
You can overcome this particular problem by forming better sleep hygiene habits. Try to go to bed at the same time each night and wake up at the same time each morning.
2. Impaired Ability to Think Clearly
Have you ever found yourself sitting at your desk at work, staring off into space? Or, maybe someone asked you a question and you weren’t exactly sure what they said because you were daydreaming?
Being overtired hurts your ability to think clearly. It slows down your processing times, leaving your brain feeling fuzzy. Spending even one night without sleep can make you feel “drunk,” and cause problems like
- An inability to focus
- Memory issues
- Concentration problems
- Lack of productivity
- Communication issues
Because overtiredness can impair your ability to think clearly, you could also put others at risk, especially if you get behind the wheel of a car, you’re watching children, or handling dangerous equipment at your job.
3. Restlessness and Anxiety
Mental health conditions and sleep problems often go hand-in-hand. Research has shown that anxiety can cause sleeping problems, and sleep deprivation can lead to anxiety. The less you sleep, the easier it is for your brain to start spinning out of control and for your anxious thoughts to take over. Unfortunately, the more anxious you are, the harder it is to rest.
When you’re overtired, that restlessness can carry over into all hours of the day. You might find yourself feeling on edge or nervous and unsure about things you’re typically comfortable with. You might also start over-thinking any problems in your life and looking at worst-case scenarios.
For example, one trigger many people are facing right now is stress from the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has disrupted almost everyone’s lives in some way, and you’re not alone if you’ve lost sleep over it. So many people are having trouble sleeping because of the pandemic, the term “Coronasomnia” has taken hold.
Being overtired due to pandemic stress will lead to more restlessness and anxiety during the day. It will feel nearly impossible to turn your brain “off,” contributing once again to that vicious cycle of mental health issues.
4. Restless Leg Syndrome
Have you ever been exhausted, but some kind of physical issue or ailment is keeping you up? It’s not uncommon to experience illnesses or pain at night, including
- Stomach problems
- Muscle, and joint pain
One of the biggest physical culprits of sleep deprivation, however, is Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS). RLS can be triggered by not getting enough sleep, and like many of the other issues listed here, it can also keep you from getting enough sleep.
Thankfully, there are a few lifestyle changes that can help you manage your Restless Leg Syndrome so your legs will stop “crawling” at night, and you can develop better sleep habits. Some of the best ways to combat RLS are
- Exercising regularly
- Limiting caffeine, nicotine, and alcohol
- Using heating pads
- Applying a cold compress
- Soaking in a warm tub
- Reducing your stress levels
While these habits are good for RLS, many of them can make other nighttime ailments more manageable, too, so your body is more likely to be in a relaxed state when you climb into bed.
5. Mood Swings
Have you ever heard someone suggest that they can’t talk to people before they’ve had their morning coffee? Maybe you’ve even said something similar before. There’s a difference between playful coffee talk and the extreme mood swings that can occur when you regularly don’t get enough sleep.
There may not be enough caffeine in the world to combat how easy it is to “snap” at someone when you’re overtired. Of course, the next minute you might feel so guilty about it that you’re in a puddle of tears. An hour later, you might be laughing and feeling a bit “punchy”.
Mood swings might not seem like a big deal at first. However, they can interfere with your relationships, cause problems at work, and lower your quality of life. Mood swings don’t only affect you. They can impact anyone you’re with.
No one wants to go from one extreme to another with their feelings. It’s like causing an emotional whiplash for yourself every day. Not only will that contribute to more exhaustion but it can also lead to mental health conditions – including depression.
We live in a busy, stressful world. It’s not unusual to experience a poor night of sleep now and then. But, if it’s a consistent problem and you become overtired, understand the potential consequences. Changing your sleep habits will usually make a big difference. If you’re still having trouble getting the rest you need on your own, consider talking to a healthcare professional about other solutions that can help.
At The Alaska Sleep Clinic, we help thousands of patients every year in treating sleep disorders. One of the most frequent complaints from sufferers of sleep disorders is excessive daytime sleepiness caused by a shortage of quality sleep on a regular basis. Getting regular quality sleep is one of the most important aspects of a healthy life, and we strive to provide our patients with the best care possible to alleviate their sleep disorders so they can experience life to the fullest. If you are experiencing excessive daytime sleepiness contact the Alaska Sleep Clinic for a free consultation. It's time to start getting the sleep you need for the quality of life you deserve.