You’re hitting snooze—repeatedly
Not sleeping deeply enough feels very similar in the morning as when you’re not logging enough overall hours of sleep, says Shelby Harris, PsyD, director of Behavioral Sleep Medicine at the Sleep-Wake Disorders Center at the Montefiore Health System. That means you’re tired and groggy, and wild horses couldn’t drag you out of bed. No one expects you to pop up immediately when your alarm goes off, but you should feel energized after a while if you're getting enough deep sleep. “Give yourself an hour after you wake up, since it can take time to fully awaken. If you’re still sleepy then, you might have an issue,” she says. Here are doctors' best secrets to a good night's sleep.
You want to snooze at random times
It’s normal if you want to take a siesta after lunch. (Especially if, um, you went for a big burrito or pasta meal.) But poor quality sleep may be the culprit if you notice that you’re sleepy during the morning and afternoon and are dozing off during inopportune times (like at your desk or on the train). In fact, consider that you may have sleep apnea. “Most people think they’re asleep at night but those with apnea are having very broke, disturbed sleep all night, which leads to excessive daytime sleepiness for many,” she says. Talk to your doctor who may want to set you up with a sleep evaluation.
You…wait what were you just doing?
Sure, you sat at your desk to get something done—but what the heck was it? Sleep is essential for your brain to fire on all cylinders, especially in your prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for attention and working (short-term) memory. “Poor sleep quality can lead to cognitive fogginess,” says Harris. One study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that looked at sleep in adults across six countries found that people who said they had better sleep quality performed superior on cognitive tests compared to those who logged poorer Z’s. Signs to watch out for: You’re not as sharp as usual, have more difficulty with motor skills, and have an impaired memory. These are other reasons you can't focus (and what to do about it).
You’re snipping at everyone
Yes, this is why you huffed at the woman at the grocery store, laid on the horn during your commute, or were short with your partner when he didn't clear the sink. Surprisingly, a recent Johns Hopkins study found that having broken sleep at night drags down your mood more than going to bed super late. It affects your ability to snag enough slow wave sleep, which is linked to depression. Because sleep and depression are so closely related, it’s important to address any sleep problems in order to improve your mood.
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You want to eat everything
If you find your hand practically reaching up into the vending machine to grab a bag of chips or candy bar, sleep quality may be to blame. “We tend to reach for high-sugar, high-fat foods for quick bursts of energy or fuel,” explains Harris. And then, she says, there’s the fact that when you’re sleepy, you don’t make the best decisions. Hence why the drive-thru on the way home happened. Try these energizing tips after a night of poor sleep.
You bailed on the gym
Some days, in order to fit in exercise you need all the motivation you can muster. If you’re suffering from subpar sleep, you’re going to be moodier and more fatigued the next day. That’s obvious. But what isn’t always is the toll those things take on your fitness goals. “Both factors make it harder to get out there and complete your workout,” says Harris.
You keep saying “not tonight”
If you’re tired, you’re just not going to be into it. Research shows that getting just an hour more of sleep per night can increase sexual desire by 14 percent. But it also may be the quality of your sleep that's a drag on your libido. Practically speaking, getting good sleep and feeling refreshed makes you more alert and physically active, and that can play out in the bedroom, a recent study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine suggests. Those same researchers find a another reason: sleep loss affects hormone levels that are key in sexual functioning and satisfaction (androgens, for instance). These are other medical reasons for a low sex drive.
You’re gaining weight
Maybe you aren’t even eating more, but you’re still packing on the pounds. One 2010 study in the journal SLEEP found that women who spent fewer minutes in restorative slow wave and REM sleep had wider waist circumferences compared to those who snoozed soundly, possibly by altering the secretion of hormones (like growth hormones and cortisol) that play a role in visceral fat, the dangerous type of fat that hugs your organs. Looks like it's time to rest up! On the other hand, here's how you can actually lose weight while you sleep.
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