“I need an alarm clock in order to wake up at the appropriate time.”
People who are not sleep deprived wake up refreshed without an alarm, based on their regular sleep schedule. If you need an alarm clock to wake up, it means that you are not getting enough sleep.
“Weekday mornings I hit the snooze button several times to get more sleep.”
Hitting the snooze button will not actually reduce your sleep debt and may indicate that you are sleep deprived, and your body will not have a chance to move through the appropriate sleep cycle in the limited time until your alarm rings again.
“It’s a struggle for me to get out of bed in the morning.”
It should not be a struggle to get out of bed in the morning unless you are significantly sleep deprived.
Going to Sleep
“I often fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed.”
It takes at least twenty minutes for a person who gets adequate sleep to fall asleep. Tests have shown that a fully alert person cannot go to sleep on demand, but people who are even moderately sleep deprived easily fall asleep within five to fifteen minutes.
“I often fall asleep in boring meetings or lectures in warm rooms.”
External factors such as room temperature and dull lectures do not in themselves induce sleep in an otherwise alert person. Sleep deprivation is indicated if you fall asleep in the absence of stimulating activity.
“I feel tired, irritable, and stressed-out during the week.”
Mood is one of the first areas affected by sleep loss. Feelings of irritation, stress, and exhaustion without another obvious cause are signs of sleep deprivation.
“I often feel drowsy while driving.”
If you are sleep deprived, you may feel alert when you get into the car because your previous activity will have masked your sleepiness. However, the monotony and forced inactivity of the car will soon reveal your sleep deprivation. Drowsy driving and microsleeps while driving are dangerous consequences of a sleep debt. One in twenty Americans has caused an accident by falling asleep at the wheel.
In the Afternoon
“I often need a nap to get through the day.”
Everyone has decreased alertness in the early afternoon hours, but unless you nap every day as part of your regular sleep schedule, the need to nap may indicate sleep deprivation. If you nap too long, or if you don’t nap regularly, you may interrupt your sleep schedule and get less sleep that night.
“I often fall asleep after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol.”
Contrary to conventional wisdom, heavy meals or low doses of alcohol do not cause you to become sleepy. They only relax you and reveal the underlying physiological need for more sleep.
During the Evenings
“I often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner.”
Relaxation does not induce sleep; it only reduces stimulation. Sleep deprived people need stimulation to stay awake, so their sleep debt is often revealed when they relax.
“I often fall asleep watching TV.”
A fully alert person who is not sleep deprived does not fall asleep “accidentally”, but only after deliberately going to bed. Watching TV does not induce sleep unless you are already sleep deprived.
“I often sleep extra hours on weekend mornings.”
Needing extra hours of sleep on the weekend indicates you are not getting enough sleep. However, sleeping more on the weekends will not take care of your sleep debt, because your sleep/wake cycle and your biological sleep clock are already programmed and “extra” weekend sleep can disrupt these cycles. It is best to have a regular sleep schedule every day, and if you must catch up, go to bed earlier the next night rather than waiting to “catch up” on the weekend.
“I feel slow with critical thinking, problem solving, and being creative.”
Creativity, critical thinking, and problem solving are all part of the cognitive functions deeply affected by the amount of sleep you get each night. Sleep deprived people are significantly less productive in these areas.
“I have trouble concentrating and remembering.”
The ability to concentrate and remember are greatly affected by sleep deprivation. Memory, in particular, requires enough REM sleep, which is significantly reduced if you do not get enough sleep in general.
Appearance and Health
“I have dark circles around my eyes.”
Dark circles are a physiological manifestation of sleep deprivation, and should be a warning sign to you to get more sleep.