The 10 Weirdest Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

By , Jane Bianchi, Woman's Day
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. 

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. 

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 "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

"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. 

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