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Last Updated on January 14, 2021

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

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

    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.

    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 May 14, 2021

    3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

    3 Simple Steps to Reduce Your Gut Inflammation

    One of the most serious – and common – causes of chronic disease is inflammation.

    High levels of inflammation in the body cause your cells to deteriorate and lose their ability to function properly. In turn, this leads to the development of diseases such as cancer, autoimmune dysfunction, and other disorders.

    Inflammation is a necessary biological process that kickstarts your immune system. Chemical mediators alert the body to the areas that need defending or repairing. Unfortunately, when inflammation continues for too long, it can have serious consequences.

    The level of inflammation in your body is influenced by a number of factors, including diet, lifestyle, and environment.[1]

    In the gut, inflammation can also be caused by an imbalance of microorganisms in the gastrointestinal tract. When harmful microbes or yeast such as Candida grow and spread, they can severely damage the lining of the gut. The resulting immune response can cause further inflammation and damage.

    Fortunately, reducing gut inflammation can be a matter of altering the choices you make in everyday life. In fact, there are three simple steps you can take today to reduce inflammation in your gut. Let’s take a look!

    1. Drink More Water to Get Rid of Toxins

    Every single day, we are exposed to toxins. Air pollutants, heavy metals, mold, and airborne pathogens are around us all the time – without us even knowing it.

    Many of our foods are full of toxins too, like pesticides, antibiotics, and even added sugars.

    These toxins are serious contributors to inflammation. They ‘turn on’ genes that promote inflammation causing cancer, heart disease. In the gut, these toxins can cause imbalances in your gut flora that allow inflammatory chemicals to be released. This inflammation promotes changes elsewhere in the body that can lead to chronic diseases.

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    One of the best ways to flush toxins from the body is also one of the simplest. Drink more water! Drinking plenty of water each day is an effective and essential way to help your gut and body detoxify:

    • Your intestinal tract needs water to function optimally, moving waste efficiently through the gut and out of the bowels.
    • Your liver and kidneys are two of your body’s most important detoxification organs. Both of these require a constant supply of water in order to function properly.
    • Your sweat also flushes toxins out of your body. Sweat is largely made up of water.

    Just as importantly, each of your cells requires adequate hydration to carry out its proper functions. Studies have shown that inadequate cellular hydration can contribute to the release of pro-inflammatory chemicals and even lead to inflammatory disorders.[2]

    In general, the more hydrated you are, the less inflammation will be present in your body.

    What to Do:

    Try to drink 2-3L of water each day, or six to eight glasses. Make sure your water is fresh and filtered, or at least free of contaminants such as chlorine, fluoride and heavy metals.

    It may be helpful to carry a bottle of water with you throughout the day, so you can keep sipping it instead of guzzling a large amount of water at once.

    One of the healthiest ways to drink water is with a squeeze of lemon juice. Lemon juice is rich in vitamin C and can boost your immunity.

    Not sure if you’re properly dehydrated? There’s an easy way to find out! Check the color of your urine when you’re next in the bathroom. If it’s yellow, your body likely needs more water. If it’s clear, you’re properly hydrated.

    2. Exercise Regularly to Keep Your Detoxification Organs Active

    Daily exercise is absolutely essential for keeping your whole body in good working order, including your gut.

    Physical activity stimulates your body’s major detoxification organs, including your intestines, urinary tract, sweat glands, circulatory system, and lymphatics.

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    When these systems are able to move toxins and waste out of the body, inflammation is kept to a minimum.

    New research shows that as little as 20 minutes of exercise could have anti-inflammatory effects on the gut and the entire body.

    Exercise improves the body’s anti-inflammatory response by activating the sympathetic nervous system. This boosts your heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing rate. As a result, your body releases hormones including epinephrine and norepinephrine into the bloodstream, which have the job of activating the adrenal receptors of immune cells.

    In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of a single 20-minute session of exercise on immune system activation. They found that even this small amount of exercise was enough to suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines by 5%.[3]

    Inflammation is a necessary part of the body’s immune response, but too much inflammation can lead to disease. Chronic inflammation may contribute to diabetes, obesity, celiac disease, arthritis, fibromyalgia, or bowel diseases such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

    It seems that even short periods of exercise can reduce the body’s inflammatory response, which may lead to exercise being recommended as a part of future treatment plans for inflammatory conditions.

    Exercise also forces fresh blood to your tissues, which reduces inflammation by helping flush away metabolic debris. It provides nutrients to inflamed or damaged tissues, which facilitates repair and restoration.

    Just like hydration, exercise also keeps your digestive system moving and promotes good digestive health, further reducing inflammation in your gut.

    What to Do:

    If you lead a sedentary lifestyle, it’s vital that you make a plan to walk, jog, swim, or stretch for at least 30 minutes every day.

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    Most modern phones now come with some kind of activity tracker. For example, if you own an iPhone then you might already be familiar with the iOS Health app. This handy app will track the steps that you take each day. Many people aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is a very healthy goal to have.

    Equally, try to avoid sitting for extended periods of time. If you work long hours, set a timer to get yourself up and moving on a regular basis, at least every hour.

    And, as I mentioned earlier, be sure to follow your exercise with plenty of water!

    3. Take Curcumin — a Natural Anti-Inflammatory Remedy

    Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric, a bright orange spice. It’s one of the most powerful, natural, anti-inflammatory remedies on earth, especially for the gut.

    Curcumin aids digestion by relaxing the smooth muscles on the walls and helping with the movement of food through the intestines. It also helps to relieve the buildup of gas and bloating as food is being broken down.

    In the colon, curcumin promotes a healthy balance of gut bacteria, which is essential for your immune system to function optimally.  It also encourages cells of the intestinal lining to regenerate and heal following damage caused by pathogenic bacteria or yeast overgrowth such as Candida.

    Recent studies have even shown that curcumin may an effective means of inhibiting intestinal fungal infections. Clinical trials have reported that high concentrations of curcumin have a powerful antifungal effect against this harmful yeast, as well as other fungal infections. There is evidence that curcumin can inhibit the growth of Candida albicans more effectively than common antifungal drugs.[4]

    Research has shown that curcumin’s medicinal activity is largely due to its phytochemicals. These are plant chemicals that harbor antioxidative and antibacterial properties. These phytochemicals may also help to ease nausea caused by mental issues such as anxiety and stress.

    The anti-inflammatory and antibacterial activity in curcumin may also help reduce gut pain caused by spicy foods, alcohol, or pathogenic bacteria. The incredible compounds in curcumin support your natural digestive processes, which can mean that your gut doesn’t have to work as hard to break down food. 

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    What to Do:

    Taking curcumin is as simple as finding a quality supplement from a good health store.

    You can also blend turmeric powder into smoothies, meals or a turmeric latte. Be sure to add a healthy fat such as coconut oil, as well as black pepper. This helps your body to absorb the active constituents of the curcumin.

    The Bottom Line

    When reducing inflammation in your gut, your first priority should be to reduce the amount of pro-inflammatory factors in your diet and lifestyle.

    The three steps mentioned above are very easy to incorporate into your daily routines, and will help to minimize the inflammatory processes happening inside your body.

    By supporting your body’s detoxification functions with adequate exercise and hydration, you’ll be dramatically reducing the amount of harmful toxins that your immune system has to fight every day. Fewer toxins means your body can focus more on healing!

    This is significantly improved by adding curcumin to your daily diet, whether as a supplement or in your meals. Curcumin is a remarkable ingredient for an inflamed gut: it will help soothe those irritated membranes, fight off yeasts such as Candida, and support the healing of the intestinal lining.

    Take these simple steps and start to reduce your inflammation today. Your gut will thank you!

    More Resources About Gut Health

    Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

    Reference

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