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8 Clear Signs You’re Not Sleeping Deeply Enough

You know if you haven’t gotten enough sleep—but quality matters, too.

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You’re hitting snooze—repeatedly

When you wake up in the morning, having not slept deeply enough feels very similar to not logging enough overall hours of sleep, says Shelby Harris, a doctor of psychology and clinical associate professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York City. 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, if you're getting enough deep sleep, you should soon feel energized. “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.

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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 not enough shut-eye or poor quality sleep may be the culprit if you notice that you’re sleepy during the morning and afternoon and are dozing off at inopportune times (like at your desk or on the train). These may be signs that you 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.

graphic of woman in bed with hands over eyes and "you're not as sharp as usual."iStock/g-stockstudio

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 your prefrontal cortex, the area responsible for attention and working (short-term) memory. “Poor sleep quality can lead to cognitive fogginess,” says Harris. In fact, a study in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience found that sleep disturbances are common among people with mild cognitive impairment. 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 you can do about it).

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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 when your partner didn't clear the sink. Surprisingly, the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School found that having broken sleep at night drags down your mood. 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. Depression can also affect your sleep, so it's important to address your mental health, too.

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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 the drive-thru on the way home... Now try these healthier energizing tips after a night of poor sleep.

graphic of woman in bed with hands over eyes and "skipped gym day"iStock/g-stockstudio

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.

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You keep saying “not tonight”

If you’re tired, you’re just not going to be into it. Research shows that less or poor quality sleep can lower your libido: that's because, among other reasons,  sleep loss affects hormone levels that are key in sexual functioning and satisfaction. Of course, these are other medical reasons for a low sex drive. Practically speaking, getting good sleep and feeling refreshed makes you more alert and physically active, and that can play out in the bedroom.

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You’re gaining weight

Maybe you aren’t even eating more, but you’re still packing on the pounds. One study in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who had less restorative sleep due to light pollution had higher BMIs compared to those who snoozed soundly. Looks like it's time to rest up! On the other hand, here's how you can actually lose weight while you sleep.

Sources
  • Shelby Harris, doctor of psychology and clinical associate professor, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York City.
  • JAMA Internal Medicine: "Association of Exposure to Artificial Light at Night While Sleeping With Risk of Obesity in Women."
  • Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience: "Sleep Disturbance in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Association With Cognitive Functioning. A Case-Control Study."
  • Menopause: "Association of Sleep Disturbance and Sexual Function in Postmenopausal Women."
Medically reviewed by Ashley Matskevich, MD, on November 05, 2019