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You’re Sleep-Deprived When You Have These Signs

When you conk out too quickly, the moment your head lands on the pillow, that’s a warning sign that you need to get more sleep, Shelby Freedman Harris said. She is the sleep expert at YouBeauty and director of the Behavioral Sleep Medicine department at New York’s Montefiore Medical Center.

Can you tell if you are shortchanged on getting enough Zs every night? Here are some of the telltale signs that you need to make sleep your top priority:

Ms. Harris’ contention is right on the money. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, consistently falling asleep within five minutes of laying your head on the pillow is a sign of severe sleep deprivation. In fact, it is possible that this is even a sleep disorder.

Have you become impulsive lately? You can blame your lack of sleep on that. The prefrontal cortex is the area of the brain that regulates impulse control and judgment. When we are sleep-deprived, we tend to make poor judgments and act impulsively without much contemplation as to the consequences. Mood issues and irritability also abound.

Speech and constructive, creative thinking are also impaired when we’re sleep-deprived. When you find yourself experiencing difficulty formulating spontaneous, complicated speech or when you stutter or slur, it may be the perfect time to take a nap.

Forgetfulness is another telltale sign of a sleep-deprived episode. “Without proper rest, it’s harder to form memories,” Ms. Harris noted. “It is harder to put emotional memories into context, and thus, it is more difficult to act rationally and thoughtfully.”

Are you hungrier than usual? If you can’t stop yourself from chomping a bag of chips, it’s probably because you didn’t have enough shut-eye last night. Sleep deprivation disrupts the ideal balance of leptin and ghrelin in our bodies. “Leptin is the hormone that tells our body to stop eating, giving us the sensation that we are full,” Ms. Harris explained. “Ghrelin, on the other hand, is a hormone that gives us a hunger signal and tells us to eat. When we don’t get enough sleep, the leptin/ghrelin balance is shifted, with a drop in leptin and an increase in ghrelin.”