“I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. If you follow this slogan you might find yourself asleep sooner than you think! I was guilty of depriving myself of sleep, thinking that I am wasting my time sleeping. Absolute nonsense! Our brain accumulates so much trash throughout the day and sleep is when it gets to clean it. The brain has a phenomenal “cleaning mechanism” called glymphatic system and if you’re depriving yourself of sleep, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Night shift work is currently classified as a class 2A carcinogen, meaning that you are more prone to cancer if you work at night and some of the studies showed up to a 50% increase of risk for certain cancers!
What happens when you deprive yourself of sleep? First of all, your immune system gets negatively affected, so you become more prone to disease. Just like that! One night of sleep deprivation. Secondly, you become more insulin resistant, meaning that your body is not efficiently transferring energy from food. In addition to that, the hunger hormone ghrelin increases and the satiety hormone leptin decreases. Next thing you know, you end up going through the whole bag of chips even though you weren’t even hungry Sounds too familiar? You’re not alone! Those are just a couple of negative effects on sleep deprivation.
Let’s talk about how you can deal with it! I’d like to share a couple of tips for being able to fall asleep quickly and get a good quality sleep:
1. Manage your screen time. Blue light from the electronic devices withhold the production of melatonin that is responsible for regulating sleep cycles. In the perfect world you would put all the electronics away 1 hour+ before bed. However, sometimes we have to use our electronics late at night. In that case, use “night light” function on your phone (most smartphones have it) and install f.lux software on your computer.
2. Avoid working out late and get sunlight in the morning. The so called “stress hormone” cortisol is not inherently bad. Cortisol is key to regulating our “awake” phase, it’s supposed to be spiked up in the morning and slowly dissipate throughout the day. If you end up working out late at night, your cortisol level increases and you might have trouble falling asleep. It is important to get some sunlight when you wake up, because sun exposure hints your body to produce cortisol on time.
3. Use your bedroom for two things only – sleep and sex. Get all the electronic devices out of your bedroom, get blackout curtains and keep it cool. Your bedroom should be your sacred space that is associated with rest and nothing else.
4. Take it easy with alcohol. Alcohol has sedative effects and might help you fall asleep faster, but you will not get a good quality of sleep, because alcohol affects deep sleep, that is the most restful state of sleep. Have at least a 3 hour alcohol curfew if you want to feel fresh in the morning!
5. Take natural supplements before bed. Reishi is my personal favorite. It’s a Chinese medicinal mushroom, it can be found pretty much anywhere over the counter. Its natural soothing properties decrease sleep latency and help you get a good night rest. Other common sleep supplements are GABA and chamomile.
Quantity has been emphasized more than quality without backing of data. Meta analysis with 3+ million data points concluded that individuals who sleep over 8 hours have increased risk of all-cause mortality. 8 hours might not be the answer after all…
Sleep is a crucial part of our lives and we can’t go without it. Might as well get most out of it!