10 Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep
Would you say most of your days are good days or overwhelmingly bad days? If you’re like many busy executives, you’re struggling to maintain a healthy work-life balance on top of an increasingly stressful work environment. If you’re close to throwing your hands up and declaring work-life balance a nice dream for those still wearing rose-colored glasses, you aren’t alone.
Even with your fast-paced lifestyle and the battling lists of things you need to do, want to do, and have daydreams of doing, you should aim for most of your days leaning more toward the good side. If that makes you laugh because you’re struggling to maintain your focus and energy levels as the stress mounts, you could probably use a bit more sleep or perhaps higher quality sleep.
“What? I just told you I’m stressed out and have no time left! Now you want me to sleep more?”
Before you shrug off the idea as just another thing you would love to do but can’t, consider this list of scientifically proven consequences of sleep deprivation and low-quality sleep:
- Memory issues
- Reduced concentration/focus
- Mood swings
- Elevated risk for high blood pressure
- Impulsive behavior
- Weakened immune system
- Increased risk of chronic illness (diabetes, heart disease, etc.)
- Increased risk of obesity
How many of these consequences do you face at least a few days a week? The more you relate to this list, the more you need to understand the consequences of not getting adequate sleep. We’re going to make it easy by pointing out 10 of the most common signs of inadequate sleep habits. We’ll provide some practical tips for overcoming each of them as well.
Even with your busy schedule and stressful work environment, you can improve your sleep habits and make your daily life more comfortable and productive.
1. You consider daytime sleepiness a part of adult life
The simplest sign that you aren’t getting enough rest is often the easiest to overlook and dismiss. You simply feel tired a lot. You spend a lot of time yawning and stretching your arms and back in an attempt to stay alert and focused. You always thought daytime sleepiness or the afternoon slump was just a part of adult life because everyone around you seems to have the same issue.
If that resonates with you, you’re encouraged to read the rest of this list carefully. Chances are high that you also have other signs of sleep deprivation and could improve your life substantially by getting a bit more shut-eye each week.
2. You experience microsleep or micro-napping at least occasionally
After even one night of restless sleep, it’s possible to experience microsleep or micro-napping. The more consistent your lack of sleep becomes, the more likely you are to have these experiences.
Microsleep happens when your conscious mind lapses for up to 15 seconds. You may keep your eyes open and appear alert during an episode, but you aren’t collecting or processing information because your mind is momentarily asleep.
The most common symptoms of microsleep are difficult to detect yourself or by someone else:
- Partially or fully closed eyes
- Head nodding
- Mentally spacing out for a moment
- Brief, sudden sensation of waking up
- Eyes moving slowly
These symptoms occur in just seconds. Now that you’re aware, you can pay more attention to those brief seconds where you just aren’t alert and in tune with your surroundings. Those are signs that you aren’t getting the sleep your body needs to function.
3. You often have dark bags, swelling, lines, and wrinkles under and/or around your eyes
Your eyes will tell on you. If you routinely apply makeup or use over-the-counter products to hide swollen, red, or drooping eye bags, it’s time to reconsider your sleeping habits. Covering the evidence leaves you vulnerable to all of the consequences of sleep deprivation that we listed above.
4. You depend on coffee, energy drinks, sugar, or other stimulants to make it through the day
Do they know your name down at the local coffee shop? Maybe you keep a stash of energy drinks in your office or have a desk drawer loaded with sugary treats. Sleep is the healthiest and most natural energy enhancer available, and you don’t have to pay for it by cup or bottle.
5. You have a routine battle with acne or other skin issues
Would it shock you if your sleeping habits contribute to the clarity of your facial skin? At least one study has found a potential connection between sleep quality and acne. This is another way that your face can tell on you. Even if sleep deprivation isn’t the primary cause of your acne, it is potentially a contributing factor that makes it more difficult to treat effectively.
6. You’re gaining weight or have to work harder than others to maintain healthy body weight
There’s so much happening inside your body when you don’t sleep well, and it can impact your weight over time. There are hormone fluctuations that lead your body to hold onto more fat. You may reach for more comfort foods to deal with your stressful work environment and personal issues. Junk food cravings also intensify when your body doesn’t get adequate rest.
No wonder there’s a direct link between weight gain and inadequate sleep.
7. You feel irritable for seemingly no reason or experience frequent mood swings
Is it difficult to deal with even the mildest inconvenience some days? Maybe you feel your patience stretching thin like a wire on the verge of snapping some days. Your tone of voice may get shorter and tenser as you struggle to hide your annoyance at someone else’s incompetence. You may even find your moods changing throughout the day as you get more and more tired.
As your moods swing or grow more negative, you may also find it more and more difficult to sleep. We have a journaling suggestion that may help you release negativity before you climb in bed. We’ll talk about that in just a moment.
8. It seems like you can perform well at work or remain alert and present for your loved ones, but not both
We’re back to work-life balance. Does it seem like you never have enough energy to properly handle your professional and personal lives? Does someone always get the crummy or watered-down side of you because your energy doesn’t last long enough? You may even notice changes in your sexual interest and physical stamina when you exercise.
The more this happens, the more likely you need to readjust your sleep schedule. You can also try re-evaluating your responsibilities so that you’re fully present for the people who matter most and have time to get more rest.
9. You’re known for making at least the occasional reckless or poor decision
The less sleep you get, the more vulnerable you are to poor decision-making. When lack of sleep becomes the daily routine, you may find yourself binge eating, drinking, or simply putting off work that you know needs finished right away. If you don’t know why you make some of your worst decisions or just can’t get unhealthy habits under control, sleep may explain at least part of the problem.
10. In general, you don’t feel well in the mornings and/or often go to bed feeling ill in some way
How often do you go to bed because your body is simply giving up or you don’t feel well in some way? Maybe you think you’re coming down with a cold only to wake up in the morning feeling better. This also works in reverse when you wake up feeling run down and sick even though there is nothing specifically wrong with you. In many cases, the problem is your body is simply demanding more restful sleep.
I’m Not Getting Enough Sleep – So What?
Acknowledging that you don’t get enough sleep is one thing. Doing something about it is another thing entirely, right?
Executives are among the busiest workers in every industry. In addition to work obligations, you have personal responsibilities, hobbies, and friends you don’t see nearly enough. Adjusting your schedule to include more sleep each night may seem impossible, but there are some simple steps you can take to alleviate the problem at least a little.
Start with one or two of these tips:
- Remove electronics from your bedroom. Watching television, responding to messages on your phone, or the soft glow of a tablet screen can make it more difficult to fall asleep. They can also interrupt your sleep or wake you up before the alarm sounds. Create a cozy oasis away from those distractions to maximize the quality of sleep when you do have time to rest.
- Give yourself just one extra hour. How many times have you heard someone talk about getting up an hour early to make time for something that always gets pushed out of your daytime schedule? If you aren’t getting adequate sleep and need more energy and focus to handle a stressful work environment, you need to practice that tip in reverse. Maybe you can’t get a solid seven or eight hours every night, but can you go to bed just one hour early most days of the week? It’s a starting point.
- Upgrade your bedroom. How comfortable is your bedroom once you get there? How long has it been since you invested in new pillows or reconsidered your mattress? Maybe it’s time for more comforting sheets or a blanket that is just the right weight for your comfort. Look at everything from the color scheme to the flooring and the window covers. Try to make your bedroom feel like a luxurious reward that you get to enjoy at the end of each day. Get all of your senses into this project. What do you want your sleeping area to smell like, feel like, and even hear like? Background noise machines, essential oil diffusers, fans, and air purifiers can make a dramatic difference in how you sleep.
- Get honest about peak performance hours. You’re burning the midnight oil and putting in crazy hours to stay on top of a busy workload, but how many of those working hours are truly productive? If you write down what you accomplished every hour you spent working for the next week or two, you would likely find some hours that you just aren’t as productive as others. What if you could rearrange your work schedule to maximize productivity in your peak performance hours? It’s an idea that could lead to new work habits that allow you to get more done in fewer hours, freeing up some time for sleep.
- Journal before climbing between the sheets. If you rest in bed with your mind jumping between problems, new ideas, regrets, and frustrations, it may help to release that energy before trying to sleep. You can put a pen and notebook beside your bed and jot down whatever is on your mind before tucking it into the blanket. Another option is to write in your journal in another room, releasing that pent-up energy and not bringing it to bed with you. Consciously tell yourself that you’re leaving that out of the bedroom as you go to bed. This may seem like a waste of time, but it can work if you embrace journaling on a consistent basis.
Whatever you do, don’t beat yourself up over the amount of sleep you do get. Making sleep your next thing to worry about or obsess over won’t help. Now that you’re aware of the importance of high-quality sleep to manage your stressful work environment and support a healthy work-life balance, you can take small, gradual steps to prioritize sleep and improve the quality of the sleep you do get each night.
If you want to explore how your sleep habits are impacting your personal health and wellness, The Executive Health Doc™ can help. As an experienced personal doctor to busy executives, we have resources to help you take control of your health and wellness in practical ways that drive results.