Signs of sleepiness can include more than yawning or just feeling tired. Most people know that it’s common to be irritable and moody when they are sleepy, but disinhibition (losing good judgment) is also one of the first signs a person will show when sleepy.
Yes, being sleepy is a lot like being impaired by alcohol.
If you still insist on remaining awake despite those signs, you might begin feeling apathetic, as if you just don’t care about things that you used to care about. Your emotional reactivity “flattens,” meaning that you don’t have the usual vividness to your emotional responses. Your speech can slow down, you’ll forget things, creativity is a problem and it becomes really hard to do more than one thing at once.
When the fatigue gets quite bad, you start having microsleeps, small periods of sleeping that last for 5-10 seconds. This can happen while driving, listening, reading, etc. Grimly enough, what comes next—if you don’t simply fall asleep—is hallucinations.
The similarity to alcohol abuse is sobering, isn’t it? (I couldn’t help myself.)
Relationship between poor sleep and alcohol abuse
And there actually is a relationship between alcohol abuse and poor sleep. Teen boys who had poor preschool sleep habits were twice as likely to use drugs and alcohol and tobacco as compared to teens with healthy preschool sleep habits, even when researchers controlled this study for issues such as depression, aggression, attention problems and parental alcoholism. We’re talking about the consequences of sleep patterns your parents helped create for you when you were three and four years old! We know there’s a relationship between poor sleep and alcohol abuse in adults, but for some reason that seems less surprising than the sleep-drug connection between toddlers and teens.