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Signs Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You (And How to Improve It)

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Signs Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You (And How to Improve It)

You hear it over and over again like a broken record: get good sleep on a daily basis, or you’ll suffer the consequences. Genetically, there are the lucky few who can get away with a lack of sleep and still function at a high level. Let’s face it though—that probably isn’t you.

Getting great (or at least good) sleep requires a proactive approach, and most people aren’t wired to create a strategic approach to sleeping well.

Waking up tired isn’t just about a horrible feeling; it affects your health, your mood, and your cognitive functioning. It’s safe to say we aren’t at our peak performance under the influence of a lack of sleep. As much as we love coffee or any source of caffeine, the solution lies in your ability to change your patterns.

The good news is that it’s completely within your control. I’ll show you several strategies you can implement to gain the upper hand in your quest to obtain a proper night’s sleep.

Signs of a Lack of Sleep

The alarm yells, and you hit the snooze button, hoping for a small window of reprieve. It works until you’re jolted awake by the consistent efficiency of the alarm clock again. So much for hoping it suddenly breaks so you have an excuse to sleep in.

You begrudgingly get up after the third snooze cycle, haphazardly making your way into the kitchen to start brewing that cup of coffee you so desperately need. All the while you’re swearing at yourself, decrying that this is in fact the last time you’re going to go to bed this late.

With the liquid injection of caffeine taking effect, it’s smooth sailing in the morning, but before you know it, lunch is around the corner, and you’re downing some carb-heavy meal with your colleagues. With a belly full, you settle back in to focus, and like clockwork, your eyes shut and your head nods as you fight a losing battle with the nap gods.

You somehow weather this storm, wondering why companies don’t allow siestas that you always hear so many positive things about from your Spanish friends.

It’s now time to head home, and after fighting some traffic that routinely rears its ugly head, you’re back at your place. You’re exhausted mentally and physically. Besides playing with the kids and talking with your significant other, you’ve got just enough energy to eat dinner. But of course you conveniently forgot to pick up the dry cleaning on the way home[1].

Does this sound like you?

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common symptoms of sleep deprivation

    If you paid attention to the hypothetical and quite common situation above, you’ll notice a number of areas that sleep affects: your career, personal life, physical state, and mental state.

    Dark eye circles, wrinkles, brain fog, a lack of focus, and forgetting things are some examples of far-reaching effects a lack of sleep has in almost every area of your life.

    Lack of Sleep and the Brain

    In today’s fast-paced and highly stimulating society, it’s a full time job in itself trying to stay on track and keep your focus on the task at hand. We’re the masters of multi-tasking, and that’s not always a good thing.

    When you’re tired, your cognitive functioning decreases as a result of neurons (the basic building block cells of the brain) having trouble communicating properly. This leads to temporary mental lapses that affect both memory and your personal visual perception[2].

    In other words, you become more forgetful. You get distracted more easily and lose focus. You can’t think straight, better known as brain fog.

    How long does it take for all this to happen? Just one bad night of sleep.

    How Lack of Sleep Affects Your Health

    You’re at an increased risk of inviting in many health problems in the long-term if you can’t manage to get the right amount of sleep each night.

    Here are some of the effects you could experience:[3]

    Cardiovascular Disease

    You have a 48% increased chance of heart disease, including an elevated risk of a heart attack is you are experiencing a consistent lack of sleep.[4]

    High Blood Pressure

    Your blood pressure could skyrocket, induced by both stress and low sleep.

    Stroke

    With your brain constantly fatigued and not able to properly repair itself overnight, your chances of stroke increase.

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    Diabetes

    You’re at nearly three times the risk for Type II diabetes.

    Lower Sex Drive

    Your partner probably won’t be a fan of this, and neither will you. Your sex drive plummets when you’re groggy, and for good reason: you just don’t have the energy to accomplish simple tasks, let alone get frisky.

    Higher Chance of Depression

    Your energy levels go down, and your outlook on life can take a hit. In fact, getting too much or too little sleep is usually the first sign of mental health issues.[5]

    Weight Gain

    Weight gain is another side effect of a lack of sleep. Your glucose metabolism takes a beating, along with the hormones that regulate your overall metabolism, shown through decreased leptin levels and increased ghrelin levels.[6]

    Leptin acts as an appetite suppressant and is released when you’re full, while ghrelin is released from the stomach in response to fasting and promotes the feeling of hunger.

    Decreased Immune Function

    The immune system takes a big hit when you’re consistently running low on a good night’s rest. In fact, you’re three times more likely to catch a cold, according to John Hopkins Medicine.

    How to Get Enough Sleep

    With all the things that can potentially go wrong with a lack of sleep, it’s no surprise we struggle when we’re tired. Luckily, we can actively combat our fatigued ways through a variety of time-tested methods, hacks, and tips,

    Establish a (Short) Nightly Routine

    Our brain loves habits and routines. This is, actually, a good and a bad thing. The brain doesn’t know the difference between what’s considered productive and what’s a waste of time, so it’s up to you to establish the difference between the good and the bad.

    One excellent habit is to create a nighttime routine, which effectively tricks the brain into bedtime mode by starting a process of chemical reactions that signal you’re about to lay down soon.

    Don’t worry; this is nothing that requires some elaborate, long process. It ideally should be something short. You can include some of the following:

    • Meditating for a few minutes
    • Sitting down and reflecting on how the day went
    • Thinking about some things you’re grateful for, journaling, or writing
    • Reading for 15-30 minutes
    • Getting involved in a relaxing hobby

    By establishing a routine and following through on it consistently, you’ve successfully associated that routine with sleep. You can take a look at the night routine of Lifehack’s CEO as reference: The Ultimate Night Routine Guide: Sleep Better and Wake Up Productive

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    If you notice, none of the above habits involve technology. It’s been found in many research studies that blue light emitted by our screens can disrupt your sleep cycle[7].

    If you happen to find yourself on the computer in the evenings, do yourself a favor and install a program called Flux. As the night wears on, Flux continually erases the blue light more and more until it’s virtually eliminated from your screen, helping you avoid the sleep-blocking blue light.

    Don’t Go to Bed Hungry (And Do Eat Carbs)

    Most sources will agree that eating late lends itself to disaster — your body is allocating resources trying to digest a heavy meal, and you’ll have trouble falling asleep. That heavy, pressing feeling on your stomach as you try to turn out the lights just doesn’t work for many people.

    As a result, you’ll read about how staying away from food for a few hours before bed is the smart choice, especially when it involves carbs.

    But studies have shown that eating carbs at night (especially starchy carbs) can actually help you fall asleep faster.[8] Tryptophan and serotonin, two brain chemicals involved in sleep, are naturally boosted after eating carbs. Ever felt like taking a nap after a big, starchy meal? You get the idea behind it now.

    Now, that doesn’t mean you should eat a pepperoni pizza two hours before bed, but swearing off carbs after 3 PM isn’t the solution either. Don’t be afraid of them, and make sure you aren’t going to bed hungry. Be reasonable.

    Reserve Bed for Sleeping

    Your bed should only be used for sleeping and, aside from that, a little friskiness. Anything else has no place there.

    Trying to study or read in bed is bad news for your sleep cycle and may worsen your lack of sleep. When your head hits that pillow, your brain needs to know that it’s sleep time, not social media time, or reading time, or even studying time.

    Remember how earlier I suggested that executing a relaxed nighttime routine or habit tricks your brain into starting the process of releasing sleep-inducing hormones, as it expects to shut down soon for some slumber?

    One of those habits is getting the brain to believe that sleep is right around the corner once you lay in your bed. If you begin to associate your bed with activities such as reading or studying, your brain may fail to make the right association.

    Listen to a Podcast or Audiobook

    Not a fan of reading actual books? Soak it in through your ears, and there’s no better time before bed. It’s a chance to kick back, relax, and potentially even close your eyes as you listen to an audiobook of your choice.

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    If you’d prefer not to pay for the audio version of a book, there are also thousands of podcasts available for free. Ranging from storytelling to personal development and anything in between, there’s never been a better selection of tools at your disposal.

    Keep Your Schedule Consistent

    Whatever you do, stay consistent in order to get over a lack of sleep. Implementing a good routine or habit for a week and then falling off won’t do you much good. If you’re confused as to why something isn’t working, focus on your execution.

    Things like this take time — you can’t expect a 180-degree turnaround after a week or two. This is especially true when you’ve already tricked your brain into association with a bad habit that you’re trying to undo.

    Neuroplasticity, the ability for the brain cells to form connections based on repetition, is a real thing. Like anything, it can be good or bad — if you’ve implemented great habits, neuroplasticity is an awesome thing. If you’ve implemented bad habits, it’s a bad thing.

    Fortunately, it’s completely possible to undo bad connections and form good ones with a little bit of patience and grit. Here’s how you can learn to break a bad habit: How I Broke 3 Bad Habits in Less Than 2 Months

    The Bottom Line

    If you could start making changes today to help you get better sleep, what would you do? If you’re consistently experiencing a lack of sleep, it’s time to implement some great sleep habits to bring yourself to peak performance and improve your quality of life.

    Developing a routine, listening to audiobooks or podcasts, keeping a consistent schedule, and reserving the bed for sleeping only are just a few of the choices at your disposal.

    It’s time to go out and get the hours of sleep you deserve.

    More on Beating a Lack of Sleep

    Featured photo credit: Zohre Nemati via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Adam Bergen

    Adam Bergen is the founder of Monday Views, a movement dedicated to showing that with focus and self-discipline, your potential is limitless.

    5 Relaxation Meditation Techniques for When You’re Stressed Signs Your Lack of Sleep Is Killing You (And How to Improve It) The Causes of Lack of Energy (That Go Beyond Your Physical Health) 6 Simple Habits at Work That Will Instantly Boost Your Productivity

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    Last Updated on January 18, 2022

    How to Improve Digestion: 6 Ways For Stressful People

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    How to Improve Digestion: 6 Ways For Stressful People

    Does your digestive system seem off lately? Or has it been like that for a while? Have you been experiencing feelings of stress or burnout? If the answer to both these questions is yes, it could be the stress that’s driving your digestive system out of whack. You might also be wondering how you can improve your digestion.

    Studies show that your stress levels can wreak havoc on both your mind and body.[1] One of the biggest ways that stress can impair your body’s condition is by disrupting the performance of your digestive system, resulting in a variety of adverse health consequences.

    How Stress Affects Digestion

    Some of the most common digestive issues caused by stress include heartburn, acid reflux, ulcer, diarrhea, and indigestion. Stress can also indirectly trigger the development of irritable bowel syndrome by affecting your immune system.

    Researchers have also shown that individuals already suffering from IBS tend to have frequent flare-ups of systems when they are under considerable stress.[2] Conditions such as IBS and other gastrointestinal tract diseases are considered stress-sensitive disorders. Effective treatment usually entails the patient learning to cope with and manage their stress levels.[3]

    A scientific review also discovered that there could be a strong correlation between high levels of stress and eating disorders, such as overeating and obesity.[4] When an individual is experiencing stress, their adrenal glands release cortisol, which is also known as the stress hormone. This hormone is known to increase appetite, leading to overeating and other related eating disorders. People with high cortisol levels are more likely to consume foods with high fat and/or sugar content, resulting in more digestive issues and weight gain.

    Effectively reducing your stress levels can help reduce inflammation in your gastrointestinal tract and lower the sensitivity of your gut. Moreover, lower stress levels contribute to easing any gastrointestinal distress you may be experiencing, while at the same time optimizing nutritional uptake.

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    If you find that your stress levels are high affecting your digestion, here are some tips that can help heal your gut.

    1. Increase Your Level of Physical Activity

    One way to boost your digestion and, at the same time, lower your stress levels is by engaging in moderate physical activity regularly. Physical activity helps increase blood flow to the different parts of your digestive system, which makes it easier for food to move along the digestive tract while improving the efficiency of the digestive muscles.

    This movement of food along the digestive tract is known as peristalsis. Common signs that your peristalsis is not working optimally include constant constipation and diarrhea, and in some extreme situations, motility disorder.

    Movement and exercise are also important in triggering the release of endorphins, which help relieve tension and are considered natural pain relievers. Endorphins are also quite effective at boosting one’s sleep quality, which is essential in combatting high levels of stress.

    Physical activities that are known to improve digestion include regular running, walking, and biking. Yoga poses that focus on improving posture and alignment are also helpful in easing and eradicating gastrointestinal distress and act as a potent stress reliever.

    2. Consider Foods That Are Natural Stress Relievers

    Scientists have also discovered that some foods naturally contain mood-boosting properties. Consuming such foods can help relieve your stress symptoms while still providing your body with critical nutrients for optimal health.

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    Almonds, for instance, contain high levels of magnesium, a mineral that has been proven to help manage cortisol levels in the body. Almonds also contain high levels of vitamin B, which, together with magnesium, help in increasing the production of serotonin, a powerful mood stabilizer and feel-good hormone.

    Moreover, low levels of serotonin in the body have been linked to the development of irritable bowel syndrome, GERD, and duodenal ulcers, as well as episodes of bloating, cramping, constipation, and diarrhea.[5]

    Dark chocolate is another type of snack that can help boost your digestion and bring down your stress levels. It is considered a highly efficient mood booster, but it also has a direct impact on your body’s digestive system. For starters, dark chocolate has a high concentration of flavonoids, a major antioxidant agent.

    This chocolate also has high fiber content, mainly because of the cocoa used in production. When the gut bacteria ferment the antioxidants and fiber contained in the dark chocolate, anti-inflammatory compounds are released.[6] These compounds are not only essential in fighting inflammation within your digestive system, but they also play a crucial role in improving cardiovascular function and combatting inflammation-related disorders throughout your body.

    Cocoa has also been shown to trigger the production of more healthy microbes in the colon, a further boost to your digestive system. It is also highly recommended to eat foods that are rich in probiotics and prebiotics. These compounds are critical in the production of good gut bacteria.

    The abundance of good bacteria in the gut is essential for proper digestion of food and controlling inflammation within your digestive system and other parts of the body. Examples of foods rich in probiotics include yogurt, kombucha, kefir, tempeh, and natto.[7] Fruits and vegetables rich in prebiotics include the likes of onions, asparagus, garlic, and bananas. Consider making these gut-boosting foods part of your regular diet for enhanced digestive performance.

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    3. Try Probiotic Supplements

    Probiotics can also help improve your digestion. If you find that you don’t like probiotic foods or find them difficult to obtain, try a probiotic supplement instead. Research has shown probiotics to have remarkable effects on digestion, stress levels, immunity, and much more.[8]

    Look for a probiotic that uses time-release tablets as these are more likely to deliver the probiotic bacteria safely past your stomach acid. Most probiotics in capsules are damaged or destroyed before they reach your intestines.

    4. Avoid Foods That Can Impair Digestion

    Just as there are good foods that can help improve digestion and simultaneously provide stress relief, there are foods that can wreak havoc on your digestive system.

    Remember, when you are experiencing high levels of stress, your appetite increases, and you are more inclined to consume foods with a lot of (added) sugar and fats. Both these things are known to increase inflammation in people’s digestive systems, resulting in a variety of GI issues like constant bloating, diarrhea, and excessive gas.

    Other major food culprits that can disrupt your digestive function include processed bread, white chocolate, coffee, and highly acidic foods.

    5. Identify and Avoid Your Stress Triggers

    An examination into what triggers your high-stress levels can help you identify these factors, and allow you to mitigate their impact on your physical and mental well-being.

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    Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a form of therapy that helps you uncover the source of your negative thinking as well as the triggers that cause your stress levels to elevate. CBT has been shown to reduce stress in individuals with IBS. Consequently, these individuals suffered fewer IBS symptoms. This demonstrates the effectiveness of therapy in minimizing stress, which then directly boosts the digestive health of the individual.[9]

    Meditation and mindfulness are also powerful techniques that can help you ease your stress levels. Studies have also shown that these practices can also help ease inflammation across the body, including along your gastrointestinal tract. Meditating as well as doing some breathing exercises before eating can help relax you, which in turn allows your digestive system to function optimally.

    6. Quit Smoking and Excessive Consumption of Alcohol

    Our stress coping techniques can also significantly impair our digestive function. If you are using cigarettes and/or alcohol to cope with your stress, you are inadvertently introducing a host of dangerous chemicals that will affect your digestive health.

    Smoking and alcohol consumption have been linked to a variety of GI diseases including heartburn, gastroesophageal reflux disease, peptic ulcers, gallstones, pancreatitis, liver diseases, and Crohn’s disease.[10] It’s imperative that you look for healthier stress coping mechanisms, such as meditation and exercise to avoid exposing your digestive system to dangerous compounds.

    Final Thoughts

    If you’re wondering how to improve your digestion, the first thing you should know is that your stress levels actively impact how well your digestive system functions. Addressing your stress triggers, through exercise, therapy, and physical activity will help bring down your stress levels and allow your body’s digestive system to function optimally.

    Moreover, consume foods that are good for your digestion, including foods rich in magnesium, vitamin B, serotonin, fiber, and antioxidants. Lastly, avoid stress coping mechanisms that put your digestive system in jeopardy, like smoking or excessive consumption of alcohol.

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    More Tips on How to Improve Digestion

    Featured photo credit: Eugene Chystiakov via unsplash.com

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