The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life. Only 1% of people on the planet who share the gene (BHLHE41) can exist safely on less than six hours of sleep per night.
Elon Musk might be able to run four companies on little or no sleep – temporarily – but he’s slowly killing himself, and he’s even admitted his sleeping pills aren’t working anymore. Sleep is imperative for human beings to function, no matter how highly active you are. If you are a mover and shaker, or you just want to sleep better, keep reading to learn how to hack better sleep.
Sleep just might be the most overlooked aspect of your mental and physical health. We constantly look for ways to make life better with different hacks and tricks, but it turns out that as little as one night of lost sleep can cause havoc on our bodies and minds.
Many of us turn to caffeine and sugar to make up for our sleepless nights and fitful bouts of insomnia, but when we relegate sleep to the bottom of our to-do list we’re setting ourselves up for daily failure, as well as long-term damage to our health.
Here’s why sleeplessness is so bad for you, and what you can do about it, right now – as in tonight!
1. One Night of Bad Sleep Hurts Your Immune System
Loss of sleep is not only horrible for our immune system, but it also can make us get sick more often – and when we really need sleep, immune signaling is weakened. The signaling systems of the immune system including specific cytokines become dampened when we don’t get enough sleep, so we are not only prone to getting sick more often but our bodies will have a harder time healing us once we do.
Remedy: Give up smoking and alcohol. Smoking and alcohol are both linked to poor sleep. Nicotine is a stimulant and the thousands of other chemicals in cigarettes also cause chronic inflammation which can contribute to sleeplessness. Alcohol may seem like a short-term way to calm your mind and fall asleep, but your nightcap isn’t really helping with your insomnia. Alcohol causes disruptions in REM sleep, considered one of the most healing and restorative phases of the sleep cycle.
2. If You’re a Dude, Waking Too Much Can Lower Your Testosterone Levels (Lower Libido and Sexual Drive)
If you aren’t the hero in the bedroom that you used to be you might be able to blame it on lack of sleep. It turns out that chronic sleeplessness can lower your testosterone levels, causing a lackluster sex life and lowered libido. People with sleep apnea are especially at risk.
Remedy: To cure frequent waking in the night, make sure to move your workout to the morning hours so that you can use that energy to propel you throughout the day, and it won’t give you a boost of energy right when you need to retire for the evening. Exercise also happens to help with insomnia. Also, keep your caffeine to a minimum and go for just one cup of Joe so that you aren’t stimulated at night. Caffeine is full of antioxidants and can be health-boosting but it is also a stimulant, so steer clear of caffeine past around 2:00 PM.
3. Chronic Insomnia Can Cause Depression
Bad sleep can increase the symptoms of anxiety and depression even in someone who is normally full of good cheer. The National Sleep Foundation says that even small losses of sleep can chip away at your happiness.
Remedy: Boost serotonin, melatonin, tryptophan, and dopamine which are all neurotransmitters which help to regulate your circadian rhythms – with your diet. Plant-based foods are the best. Try to incorporate more nuts, pumpkin seeds, sprouts, avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, hemp seed, leafy greens, and fruit and vegetables. Limit refined and highly processed foods because they can inhibit your production of these important neurochemicals that improve sleep.
4. Poor Sleep Increases Your Risk for Cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, Obesity, Heart Disease, and Other Serious Diseases
People who work in shifts are particularly prone to poor sleep quality, but there are many reasons we can’t sleep as well as we’d like to. Every night of sleep we don’t get increases our chances of certain types of cancer (particularly prostate and breast cancers) as well as heart disease, inflammation-related disorders, and more.
Remedy: To stay asleep and fall asleep more easily, use blackout curtains or a sleep mask to keep all light from entering your eyes. Our bodies only make melatonin when we are in complete darkness, and this hormone is required for quality sleep. If you need to sleep during the day, invest in high-quality blackout shades or curtains that can mimic darkness, and make sure to get as much natural daylight in your awake hours as possible to help balance your circadian rhythms.
5. Insomnia Causes You to Have Poor Memory and Bad Cognitive Skills
When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, your brain suffers. Multiple areas of the brain are affected by poor sleep, including those that help you learn new things and store memories. Your creativity also takes a back seat when you are sleep deprived because your body goes into “subside” mode instead of “thrive” mode.
Remedy: Put away your cell phone. The blue light and electromagnetic frequencies from your cell phone may be disturbing your sleep. That light communicates to your brain that it is morning – time to wake up, instead of time to sleep. Try to turn off your cell phone at least one hour before retiring.
6. A Lack of Sleep Makes You Eat Junk Food
Sleeplessness may be contributing to the extra pounds around your middle. Without enough sleep, your body doesn’t make enough serotonin so it goes looking for a quick (and unhealthy fix) in simple carbs and sugars. This then creates insulin resistance and causes you to put on extra weight because you are consuming more calories and not getting the nutrients you need.
Remedy: Take adaptogenic herbs that help promote energy while you are awake and sound sleep at night. Ashwagandha and Kava Kava, as well as Valerian root, can help you sleep better naturally.
7. Sleep Deprivation Makes You More Prone to Accidents
When you don’t get ample sleep you are more likely to get into a car accident, trip and fall, or even make rash decisions that lead to personal injury or accident.
Remedy: Practice yoga nidra. This ancient practice known as “yogic sleep” can help to restore the body in 30-120 minutes to the same degree that a full night of sleep can. Yoga nidra is like a combination of self-hypnosis, meditation, and a guided relaxation exercise. It can be even more effective than just a “nap.” If you have to make a car trip and you’ve not gotten sufficient sleep, try this. It will save your life and possibly other people’s too.