The 10 Weirdest Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

See the surprising symptoms you may experience if you skimp on zzz'sBy Jane Bianchi

Be honest: How many hours did you sleep last night? If you're like 35% of Americans, then you probably got fewer than seven hours-in other words, not enough! You already know that a lack of rest can lead to exhaustion, and you may have heard it can raise your risk for serious health problems, such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes, because it's associated with insulin resistance, inflammation and the thickening of blood vessels. But there are even more unexpected, negative consequences. Here, what to watch out for, and how to hit the hay earlier. By Getty Images

1. Weight Gain

"Sleep deprivation slows your metabolism and increases your appetite. It also makes you crave high-fat and high-carb foods," says Michael Breus, PhD, a psychologist and sleep disorder specialist in Scottsdale, AZ. One trick: Cut out that evening glass of wine (sorry!), because although alcohol makes you want to snooze, it actually disrupts sleep later in the night. Plus, slashing calories prevents your waistline from widening.

Related: Discover 8 sexy ways to burn calories.

2. Moodiness

When you're tired, you might notice a temporary change in your emotions-maybe a sappy commercial you've seen dozens of times suddenly makes you cry. If you're chronically tired, though, you may have a more serious condition. "Research shows that at least 50% of people with depression have some type of sleep problem-usually insomnia," says Lisa Shives, MD, an internist and sleep medicine expert in Evanston, IL, and the medical expert for SleepBetter.org. "Neurotransmitters involved in our sleep/wake cycle are linked to feel-good hormones, like serotonin." If you're feeling off-kilter, see a psychologist who's also a sleep specialist-that way, whether your moodiness is causing a sleep problem or vice versa, you can get help.

3. Swollen, Dark Undereye Circles

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When you don't sleep, your body loses moisture, so your skin becomes dehydrated. This can lead to circles under your eyes," says Joel Schlessinger, MD, a dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon in Omaha, NE. Start a new bedtime ritual: First, drink a cup of chamomile tea an hour before you lie down. This herbal beverage doesn't contain caffeine, and it hydrates and relaxes you. Second, apply facial moisturizer and eye cream, which stops your skin from drying out.

4. Problems Driving

Fatigue causes one in five car crashes, according to an April 2013 study from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. How come? Driving drowsy slows reaction time, decreases awareness and damages judgment. In fact, one Australian study found that being up for 24 hours is equivalent, in terms of driving impairment, to having a blood alcohol content of .10 (.08 is legally drunk). If you'll be driving a long distance tomorrow, have an 8-oz glass of tart cherry juice an hour-and-a-half before bed tonight. The drink contains melatonin, and has been shown to help people sleep 39 minutes longer per night.

Related: Try 8 calming foods that ease stress.

5. Higher Stress Levels


Getting fewer than six hours of sleep per night disrupts the genes that regulate stress, according to a February 2013 study from the University of Surrey in Guildford, England. And that means you're likely to feel more anxious. Try de-stressing before bed each night so you can fall asleep faster. First, do five minutes of meditation by breathing deeply in a seated position with your eyes closed. Then, do five minutes of your favorite relaxing stretches or yoga moves, such as child's pose, legs up the wall or happy baby.

6. Lower Body Temperature


You might get the chills when you don't get enough zzz's. "Your body temperature falls to its lowest point in the middle of the night while you sleep. So if you're under-slept, your body temperature might be trying to drop," says Dr. Shives. When you're going to sleep, the National Sleep Foundation suggests keeping your bedroom cool-between 54 and 75°F-because a hot environment may cause disrupted or lighter sleep.

7. Brain Fog

Do you find that it's harder to think after a night of poor sleep, especially when you're on the job? "That's because sleep deprivation negatively affects your ability to learn and remember new information," says Janet Kennedy, PhD, a clinical psychologist and sleep specialist in New York City. Having a cup of caffeinated coffee in the morning helps you stay alert, but also try these two tips. First, go to bed at the exact same time each night and wake up at the exact same time each morning-even on weekends. Second, spend at least a few minutes in daylight in the A.M. Both strategies get your circadian rhythm on track.

Related: Check out 9 bad habits that are good for you.

8. Marital Strife

People who are chronically tired tend to be less interested in sex. "Scientists know that people who don't sleep well are usually more stressed. And there's a link between high stress levels and low libido," says Dr. Shives. Plus, as mentioned, lack of sleep can lead to mood swings-and snapping at your husband or holing up in your room to cry doesn't bring the two of you closer. Make sure you schedule a date night, whether it's once a week or once a month, to reconnect with your man and strengthen your relationship. And if TV time is how you bond, avoid watching it (or using a computer) an hour before bed, as bright screens may over-stimulate you.

9. Lower Immunity


Feeling exhausted? You're more likely to get sick. "Scientists gave fully rested and sleep-deprived people vaccinations, and found that people who don't get seven to eight hours of sleep produce fewer antibodies in response. This shows that your immune system isn't as strong when you're tired," says Dr. Shives. If you haven't gotten a good night's sleep, stay away from anyone who's coughing and sneezing and eat nutritious, immunity-boosting foods. Also, try dimming your home's lights an hour before bed, which signals to your body that it's time to wind down.

10. More Difficult Workouts


You may still be able to lift heavy weights and run fast after not resting well. But because your sleep-deprived mind isn't so sharp and you're likely to be stressed and moody, the workout may feel harder than usual, according to Dr. Breus. Plus, feeling sleepy may deter you from exercising in the first place. To sleep more soundly (especially the night before a race or other athletic event), finish eating at least two to three hours before turning in. If you feel too full or experience heartburn in bed, you may have trouble falling asleep.

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