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The Secret Benefits of Sleep Deprivation You Didn’t Know About

The Secret Benefits of Sleep Deprivation You Didn’t Know About

Sleep deprivation is pretty common these days—it’s a major attribute of achievement-oriented societies—but why would anyone have a love-hate relationship with it? Usually, one would say, sleep deprivation and all the accompanying symptoms are the definition of a love-hate relationship, to the core.

Let me tell you something: you can use sleep deprivation for your own benefit. We’ll get into how this works, but first, let’s discuss the phenomenon of sleep, sleep deprivation and its symptoms, and finally design a “how to” experiment about sleep deprivation (commonly known as self-torture), and ask ourselves, more importantly, why?

Sleep: Functionality

“Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, […] and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles.” (Macmillan, 1981). This is a short and clear explanation:

  • sleep is characterized by sleep stages/cycles (five cycles, differing in depth)
  • the deeper your sleep, the better the quality of sleep
  • More Sleep ≠ Better (healthy avg. 7.5-9 hours)

The functions of sleep are very multifaceted and majorly unexplored, but these (validated, and commonly accepted) aspects interest us the most right now. Sleep has a major impact:

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  • on our memory and the ability to re-organize thoughts, experiences and to learn new things (neuroplasticity)
  • on the regulation of necessary hormones and the ability of our body to regenerate physically

What is Sleep Deprivation?

Sleep deprivation is the lack of sleep: either it was caused by a very superficial and short sleep (over a period of some days) or by no sleep at all. The functionality and benefits of sleep are limited as a result (see above), and we might face some serious problems, if we stay sleep-deprived for a prolonged period of time.

The effects of sleep deprivation are various; some occur instantly after acute deprivation, other occur only after chronic deprivation:

Sleep deprivation

    (by Mikael Häggström, Wikimedia Commons, 2009)

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    After acute deprivation:

    • irritability
    • cognitive impairment
    • memory lapses
    • restricted judgement
    • severe yawning
    • increased heart-rate variability, increased reaction time and decreased accuracy
    • temporary emotional instability

    After chronic deprivation:

    The effects of chronic deprivation boil down to the development of various diseases, such as:

    • Diabetes
    • heart disease
    • growth suppression
    • restricted immune system functionality
    • weight gain/loss
    • depression

    Due to the diversity of acute deficits, sleep deprivation has been used as a successful interrogation technique. In fact, the U.S. military authorised sleep deprivation as an interrogation method (Leave no Marks: Enhanced Interrogation Techniques and the Risk of Criminality, August 2007).

    But hey, why would there be a love-hate relationship here? What’s the benefit for us?!

    How To (..and the benefits of sleep deprivation?!)

    The effects of sleep deprivation on the human body were observed and analyzed in the 70s: the methodological monitoring involved blood analysis, but also neuropsychological instruments to capture the brain activity during sleep-deprivation and during recovery sleep after deprivation.

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    The results: “There’s evidence of antidepressive effect after sleep deprivation.”As a matter of fact, subjects experienced a 37.2 % improvement in their mood!

    The background of these results are diverse—the reasons behind the remarkable mood improvement are, amongst others:

    • biochemical investigations proved an increase of different hormones, including serotonin and noradrenaline, which are also known to function as a happiness hormone (serotonin) and stimulating hormone (noradrenaline)
    • improved sleep continuity and depth in the night after sleep deprivation

    These mentioned effects take action in depressed but also non-depressed people, meaning that you can stay awake for a night, begin the next day as you usually do and try to keep yourself awake (that’s not very easy!) and go to bed quite early → sleep like a baby → wake up the next morning with more power and energy.

    By depriving yourself of sleep, you set your biological clock to zero— in case your time management is messed up and running out of fuel, this can very helpful (a love-hate relationship). You can call sleep deprivation sleep hacking: at first we abstain from sleep, and later (during the recovery night) we slip into a very deep state of sleep, which will regenerate us.

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    Admittedly, sleep deprivation amongst healthy people is often met with skepticism, mainly because healthy subjects can regulate their sleep pattern in other ways (through nutrition, sleep hygiene and sleep rituals). On the other hand, sleep deprivation is free of any serious side effects and can serve as a quick fix. Here’s a short how-to:

    • Perform your sleep deprivation “experiment” on the weekend (working in a sleep deprived state can be difficult)
    • Keep yourself awake during your sleep deprivation night (and the following day) with the help of tea or coffee, but please don’t overdo it
    • Go to bed early on your sleep-deprived day, and enjoy your deep recovery night (7.5 – 9 hours)
    • Wake up powerful and energized, feeling like a million dollars

    After your sleep deprivation experiment you should take care of a well-balanced diet and good sleeping habits—do not regress to old, negative tendencies. Sleep deprivation for a night can be applied easily, is highly effective and free of serious side effects. Have you already tried it? Share your experience with us!

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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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