As someone who’s basically 26 going on 80, the mere concept that someone can properly function on less than six hours of sleep completely baffles me. Personally, I’m just not one of those people who can hide my exhaustion well; you can tell I’m overtired by taking one look at the bags under my eyes (spoiler: they aren’t Prada), or by trying to have a meaningful conversation with me. I can’t hold a straight face — it’s either drooping, or awkwardly skewed to stifle an obnoxiously lengthy giggle fit. But there are other, more subtle signs of being overtired; you and I just aren’t great at catching them — which, BTW, is skill you might want to hone in on, seeing as how, according to experts, your sleep is one of the most important aspects of your health. And it's not exactly the kind of thing you can make up for after the fact, you know?
FYI, I fully acknowledge the fact that I sound downright elderly when I talk about the importance of sleep, or moan and groan about making evening plans on a weeknight. Do I care? Not really, and here's why: As the results of a 2015 study from the National Sleep Foundation show, the average adult needs about seven to nine hours of sleep every night. I’m not much of a rule breaker, so I try my best to abide by the sleep experts’ rule of thumb, and honestly, you should, too. Not because I said so, but because your body genuinely needs enough time to relax and recover after hours of nonstop activity — and when you don't have that time, that's when you can start to feel overtired.
According to Dr. Nerina Ramlakhan, a sleep psychologist and author of the book The Little Book of Sleep, there are multiple factors that go into why you might feel overtired, and one of them is probably inside your pocket at this very moment: your phone. The bottom line, Ramlakhan recently told The Guardian, is that, thanks to smartphones, many of us have become so restless that, when you're, say, standing in line to check out at the grocery store, or waiting out a commercial break while watching TV, you often don't let yourself just feel bored or, even daydream.
“Now, any window like that will be filled by looking at your phone, answering some emails, sorting out your Amazon account,” Ramlakhan told The Guardian, adding that it’s because of this restlessness that, when you’re trying to fall asleep at night, your mind is too busy and simply doesn’t know how to simmer itself down.
Think about it: When you get comfy under the covers, but you don’t exactly feel super tired just yet, what’s the first thing you do? I know myself, and I’m definitely guilty of reaching for my phone to scroll through Instagram or watch a video on YouTube to relax. Most of the time, it appears to be working, seeing as how I do fall asleep — eventually. It can take minutes, but sometimes it takes an entire hour or so once my mind gets wrapped up in whatever source of entertainment I’m absorbing. And this is because, Ramlakhan told The Guardian, these types of seemingly mindless activities actually cause your brain to pump adrenaline and keep you going. So you end up not being able to sleep as much as you need, resulting in your being overtired the next day.
Unfortunately, being overtired is something that you have to gradually push through over time. Translation: You can’t make up the hours you didn’t sleep because you were browsing through social media. “Sleeping in a few hours on the weekend to make up for missed sleep during the week may leave you feeling more rested on Monday morning, but will throw off your circadian rhythm and could lead to insomnia,” Malin Eriksson of Sleep Cycle tells Elite Daily.
With that in mind, here are some subtle signs that may reveal just how overtired you actually are.