4 signs of sleep deprivation you never knew about

From a lack of sleep, you expect to feel fatigued. But our resident sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo has four other signs of sleep deprivation you may not expect.

Sleep: it’s free. And we all want more of it, so why is it so hard to get? Specifically – that consistent, restorative, uninterrupted, eight-hours-a-night kinda sleep. Which is why we’ve enlisted Sydney-based sleep expert Olivia Arezzolo to solve our myriad of sleep concerns with our new editorial series Sleep Well Wednesdays. Check back each week and you’ll be off to the land of nod before you know it.

Night after night, you’re waking up fatigued and foggy. Day after day, you’re attending appointments to remedy your health: gut issues, fertility, low libido and counselling. Little did you know that all four points have a central cause: inadequate sleep.

1. Poor gut health

Noticing your gut isn’t what it used to be? It could be your sleep, especially if it’s lacking.

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Research shows sleep loss leads to a decline in beneficial bacteria in the gut, the critters which usually keep your microbiome in tip-top shape.

Further to that, insufficient sleep has also been found to alter gut composition and reduce microbiome diversity.

As a result, you’re more likely to experience bloating, gas, pain and inflammation when eating.

2. Lowered sex drive

Poor sleep doesn’t just kill your workday, it kills your sex drive too.

Firstly, studies show testosterone levels—the hormone to make you horny—is higher if you have longer sleep.

Conversely, if you’re sleeping a meagre five hours, expect testosterone levels to drop by 15 percent. It’s been found in clinical trials.

Needless to say, if you’re wanting to spark up the bedroom, come to the party after a good night’s sleep and look forward to a supercharged sexy session.

3. Infertility

Studies show 34 percent of infertile women experience disturbed sleep, which can leave you sleep-deprived.

And while you may not be aware that you even are sleep deprived, if you’re struggling to conceive, this could be the missing piece of the puzzle for you.

This can be attributed to the changes to your endocrine system, such as lower levels of oestrogen and testosterone (see above), which naturally occurs after inadequate sleep.

As these hormones are vital for the development of an embryo, if you’re not producing them in sufficient amounts, chances are, you’ll find it harder to become pregnant.

4. Fighting with your partner, family and/or friends

Evidence shows sleep-deprived couples are more likely to fight and when they do, they are less likely to resolve it.

This is largely due to neurological changes which come with inadequate sleep: studies show the amygdala, the brain region to control emotions, is impaired.

As a result, you’re more likely to interpret a neutral situation as negative (e.g. take what your partner says as criticism).

The amygdala, post inadequate sleep, also has a weaker connection to the frontal lobe, which controls decision making.

This is exactly why you are unusually emotional and irrational and may fight more after a bad night’s sleep.

Olivia Arezzolo is a sleep expert who holds a Bachelor of Social Science (Psychology); Certificate of Sleep Psychology, Diploma of Health Science (Nutritional Medicine); Certificate of Fitness III + IV. You can find her online here.