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Last Updated on June 10, 2018

Signs Your Lack of Sleep Is Slowly Killing You (And How to Turn Around)

Signs Your Lack of Sleep Is Slowly Killing You (And How to Turn Around)

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 isn’t you.

Getting great (or at least good) sleep requires a proactive approach and naturally, we’re not exactly the best at this whole strategized approach to sleeping well.

Waking up tired isn’t just about a crappy feeling; it affects your health, your mood and your cognitive function. It’s safe to say we aren’t at our peak performance under the influence of 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 you’re sleep deprived

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 can get 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 late this late and wake up.

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.

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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.

Does this sound like you?

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 low sleep has in almost every area of your life.

How lack of sleep affects your brain performance

In today’s fast-paced and overly-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 function 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.

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

While battling the brain, you’re also at severe risk of affecting your overall health if you can’t manage enough sleep.

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Here are some of the effects you could experience:[1]

  • Heart disease – You have a 48% increased chance of heart disease, including an elevated risk of a heart attack.[2]
  • 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.
  • 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 in turn 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.[3]
  • Weight gain – Weight gain is another side effect of 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.[4] 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.

And the list goes on.

How to get sufficient sleep (The essential tips)

With all the things that can potentially go wrong with a lack of sleep, it’s no surprise we struggle when we’re tired. Lucky 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. In fact, our brain loves them so much it’s 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 sort of 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.

What do you include in this routine then?

Your options are fairly vast, anything from:

  • meditating for a few minutes
  • sitting down and thinking about 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
  • countless other things.

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 studied extensively that blue light emitted by our screens can potentially disrupt your sleep cycle.

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 super late lends itself to a 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.[5] 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 and sex only

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 a disaster for your sleep cycle. 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 on a relaxed nighttime routine or habit tricks your brain into starting the process of releasing sleep inducing hormones and chemicals since it expects to shut down soon for some slumber?

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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. It’s only science.

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.

If you’d prefer not to pay for the audio version of a book, there’s 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, keep consistency. Implementing a good routine or habit for a week and then falling off won’t do you much good. If you’re confused why something isn’t working, focus on your execution.

Things like this take time — you can’t expect a 180 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.

But lucky for you, 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

Don’t wait to start

If you could start making changes today to help you get better sleep, what would you do? If you’re consistently not getting enough sleep, it’s time to implement some great habits into your lifestyle to bring yourself to peak performance.

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

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

Featured photo credit: Sarah Diniz Outeiro on Unsplash via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

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.

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Last Updated on March 13, 2019

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

How to Get out of a Rut: 12 Useful Ways to Get Unstuck

Have you gotten into a rut before? Or are you in a rut right now?

You know you’re in a rut when you run out of ideas and inspiration. I personally see a rut as a productivity vacuum. It might very well be a reason why you aren’t getting results. Even as you spend more time on your work, you can’t seem to get anything constructive done. While I’m normally productive, I get into occasional ruts (especially when I’ve been working back-to-back without rest). During those times, I can spend an entire day in front of the computer and get nothing done. It can be quite frustrating.

Over time, I have tried and found several methods that are helpful to pull me out of a rut. If you experience ruts too, whether as a working professional, a writer, a blogger, a student or other work, you will find these useful. Here are 12 of my personal tips to get out of ruts:

1. Work on the small tasks.

When you are in a rut, tackle it by starting small. Clear away your smaller tasks which have been piling up. Reply to your emails, organize your documents, declutter your work space, and reply to private messages.

Whenever I finish doing that, I generate a positive momentum which I bring forward to my work.

2. Take a break from your work desk.

Get yourself away from your desk and go take a walk. Go to the washroom, walk around the office, go out and get a snack.

Your mind is too bogged down and needs some airing. Sometimes I get new ideas right after I walk away from my computer.

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3. Upgrade yourself

Take the down time to upgrade yourself. Go to a seminar. Read up on new materials (#7). Pick up a new language. Or any of the 42 ways here to improve yourself.

The modern computer uses different typefaces because Steve Jobs dropped in on a calligraphy class back in college. How’s that for inspiration?

4. Talk to a friend.

Talk to someone and get your mind off work for a while.

Talk about anything, from casual chatting to a deep conversation about something you really care about. You will be surprised at how the short encounter can be rejuvenating in its own way.

5. Forget about trying to be perfect.

If you are in a rut, the last thing you want to do is step on your own toes with perfectionist tendencies.

Just start small. Do what you can, at your own pace. Let yourself make mistakes.

Soon, a little trickle of inspiration will come. And then it’ll build up with more trickles. Before you know it, you have a whole stream of ideas.

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6. Paint a vision to work towards.

If you are continuously getting in a rut with your work, maybe there’s no vision inspiring you to move forward.

Think about why you are doing this, and what you are doing it for. What is the end vision in mind?

Make it as vivid as possible. Make sure it’s a vision that inspires you and use that to trigger you to action.

7. Read a book (or blog).

The things we read are like food to our brain. If you are out of ideas, it’s time to feed your brain with great materials.

Here’s a list of 40 books you can start off with. Stock your browser with only the feeds of high quality blogs, such as Lifehack.org, DumbLittleMan, Seth Godin’s Blog, Tim Ferris’ Blog, Zen Habits or The Personal Excellence Blog.

Check out the best selling books; those are generally packed with great wisdom.

8. Have a quick nap.

If you are at home, take a quick nap for about 20-30 minutes. This clears up your mind and gives you a quick boost. Nothing quite like starting off on a fresh start after catching up on sleep.

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9. Remember why you are doing this.

Sometimes we lose sight of why we do what we do, and after a while we become jaded. A quick refresher on why you even started on this project will help.

What were you thinking when you thought of doing this? Retrace your thoughts back to that moment. Recall why you are doing this. Then reconnect with your muse.

10. Find some competition.

Nothing quite like healthy competition to spur us forward. If you are out of ideas, then check up on what people are doing in your space.

Colleagues at work, competitors in the industry, competitors’ products and websites, networking conventions.. you get the drill.

11. Go exercise.

Since you are not making headway at work, might as well spend the time shaping yourself up.

Sometimes we work so much that we neglect our health and fitness. Go jog, swim, cycle, whichever exercise you prefer.

As you improve your physical health, your mental health will improve, too. The different facets of ourselves are all interlinked.

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Here’re 15 Tips to Restart the Exercise Habit (and How to Keep It).

12. Take a good break.

Ruts are usually signs that you have been working too long and too hard. It’s time to get a break.

Beyond the quick tips above, arrange for a 1-day or 2-days of break from your work. Don’t check your (work) emails or do anything work-related. Relax and do your favorite activities. You will return to your work recharged and ready to start.

Contrary to popular belief, the world will not end from taking a break from your work. In fact, you will be much more ready to make an impact after proper rest. My best ideas and inspiration always hit me whenever I’m away from my work.

Take a look at this to learn the importance of rest: The Importance of Scheduling Downtime

More Resources About Getting out of a Rut

Featured photo credit: Joshua Earle via unsplash.com

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