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BIOHACK
YOUR
WAY TO
BLISSFUL
SLEEP

The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Although this number varies from person to person, what we do know is that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep: The average U.S. adult sleeps 6.8 hours per night, with 40% getting fewer than 7 hours. Among minority groups, these numbers are even worse, with significant portions of African-American and Hispanic adults reporting that they are getting fewer than 6 hours per night. Compare these numbers with 1942, when the average sleep time was 7.9 hours a night, and it becomes readily apparent that sleep—or rather, not sleeping enough—is a growing problem in America.


Not only are we not getting enough sleep, when we do plop into bed at night, we’re not sleeping particularly well. Almost half of Americans say that poor or inadequate sleep has affected their day-to-day activities at least once within the last week. To make up for poor sleep during the week, we sleep an average of 40 minutes longer on weekends or non-work days.


The problem is so bad that in 2014, the CDC declared sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. So, what is it about living in the modern age that’s causing us to sleep so poorly? Did someone flip a switch going into the ‘80s and eliminate our collective ability to get a good night’s rest?

contents

WHY WE ARE STARVED FOR SLEEP

It’s impossible to pin down one single factor that is causing our national sleep deprivation. That’s because there are many different factors. Here are some of the primary reasons you might not be sleeping well or long enough:

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL DISORDERS

It’s a no-brainer that anxiety can cause sleep deprivation. Anxiety causes your mind to become a hamster wheel, spinning the same thoughts around and around and leading to insomnia. But other mental health disorders can also cause issues sleeping, including phobias, panic attacks, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. In fact, poor sleep is a major symptom of mental health issues: as many as 90% of people with depression experience insomnia. In fact, insomnia can be the most obvious symptom of low-grade depression. Unfortunately, sleeping poorly can exacerbate other symptoms of these disorders, magnifying fear and tension and creating a cycle of worry and poor sleep. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, run-of-the-mill life anxieties can have a negative impact on your ability to sleep soundly.

STRESS

Speaking of run-of-the-mill anxieties, a poll taken right after the 2008 economic crisis showed even lower levels of sleep than during recovery years (6.7 hours per night). In fact, in another poll taken during that time, more than half of participants said stress had directly impacted their ability to sleep well. These numbers have held steady—even 10 years later, 48% of U.S. adults report lying awake at night due to stress. National problems may seem abstract, but recent polls show that they are having a direct impact on our sleep. According to the APA, the top five causes of stress are the future of our nation, money, work, the political climate, and violence/ crime. A rocky economy or unstable political situation can impact sleep just as much as issues at home, such as relationship problems or job loss.

PHYSICAL HEALTH ISSUES

There are several chronic physical conditions that can lead to sleep loss. These include heartburn, heart failure, arthritis, fibromyalgia, kidney disease, thyroid disease, asthma and other breathing difficulties, dementia, epilepsy, headaches, nocturia, and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, many medicines can cause disruptions to the sleep cycle, resulting in insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Managing health issues properly and following sleep hygiene protocol, in addition to working with your doctor to find the right medication combination, can help reduce how severely these conditions impact your sleep.

TECHNOLOGY

New types and uses for technology have proliferated more rapidly than ever before in human history over the past few decades Unfortunately, the constant stimuli provided by our phones, computers, and tablets isn’t actually great for our sleeping habits. One study showed that 90% of adults report some technology use in the hour before bed. But these gadgets keep us awake in three big ways. They emit blue light that suppresses melatonin, causing difficulty falling and staying asleep. They provide stimuli that can trick our brains into thinking we need to stay awake. And notifications and other sounds wake us up, making it much harder to maintain sleep. Even among adolescents, the multitasking that comes with technology use significantly impacts sleep.

Another obvious reason? We’re workaholics. Americans are working more hours than ever, and sacrificing sleep to fit everything in. We all miss a few hours of sleep now and then. But how does missing out on sleep affect our bodies—and what can we do to get a good night’s sleep, even in a stressful, tech-heavy world? In the next two sections, we’ll list the short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation and answer common questions about sleep, and in the last section, we offer 13 biohacks to help you rest soundly at night.

POOR SLEEP HABITS ARE KILLING US—LITERALLY

Missing out on sleep can cause a host of negative effects, both the day after a poor night’s sleep and in the long run. In the short term, sleep deprivation can result in:

NEGATIVE MOOD

Everyone knows that lack of sleep can cause your emotions to go awry, making you irritable, quick-tempered, and grumpy.

FATIGUE

Sleep deprivation can lead to a general sense of fatigue: feeling slower, less motivated, and less able to complete everyday tasks.

LOWERED IMMUNITY

Natural immunity boosters called killer cells are reduced, and your immune system isn’t able to properly protect you, making you three times more likely to catch a cold when you’re sleep deprived.

BALANCE ISSUES

A study of a group of farmers showed that when the farmers slept less than their average amount, they were 7.4 times more likely to have balance issues the next day. Reduced stability increases the risks of falls, accidents, and injurities.

IMPAIRED JUDGEMENT

Sleep-deprived people tend to think they are functioning normally, even when tests of mental performance show they’re not. Lack of sleep impairs our ability to judge how capable we actually are of performing daily tasks.

CAR ACCIDENTS

Sleep deprivation is a major cause of automobile accidents, with 6,000 car crashes occurring at the wheel each year in the U.S. One out of 25 adults say they have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month.

POOR CONCENTRATION AND PROBLEM SOLVING

Lack of sleep affects your brain’s ability to function, impairing attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.

MEMORY PROBLEMS

Sleep helps consolidate your memories. When you’re sleep deprived, it’s difficult to remember what you learned and experienced throughout the day.

MICROSLEEPS AND DELIRIUM

In cases of extreme sleep deprivation—you pulled an all-nighter to meet an important deadline, let’s say—you can start falling into mini-sleep sessions that last up to 30 seconds. Although your eyes may stay open, you’re not processing any information, making driving and other tasks extremely dangerous. Delirium, or complete disorientation, may also occur.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH SUSTAINED SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Over time, the cumulative effects of chronic sleep deprivation build up, wreaking havoc on our bodies in all sorts of ways. The long-term effects of poor sleep include:

IMPAIRED HORMONAL FUNCTIONING

Sleep plays an essential role in hormone regulation. Chronic sleep deprivation increases evening levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decrease production of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

WEIGHT GAIN

Ever noticed an incessant need to snack the day after sleeping poorly? Because your hormones are so out of whack when you’re not sleeping enough, appetite increases, making you more likely to eat more food, especially high-carb options, than you actually need.

REDUCED SEX DRIVE

Reduced testosterone levels from sleep deprivation can result in a lower libido in men. Sleep deprivation reduces sex drive in women, too.

HIGHER RISK OF CHRONIC ILLNESS

This includes diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation lowers glucose tolerance. One study showed that just one week of sleep deprivation can put young, healthy participants in a prediabetic state. Chronic sleep deprivation also raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease.

DEPRESSION

Insomnia is both a primary symptom and a major cause of depression. Unfortunately, this can result in a negative cycle, where depression causes insomnia, which exacerbates the depression, causing more sleeplessness, and so on. Treating insomnia can help treat the symptoms of depression.

RAPID SKIN AGING

Did you know sleep deprivation is bad for your skin? Increased cortisol from chronic sleep loss breaks down collagen in your skin, reducing elasticity and smoothness. Sleep is also the time when we release human growth hormone, which helps our muscles, skin, and bones stay strong and supple.

DEATH

Getting less than five hours of sleep per night on a regular basis makes you twice as likely to die from almost all causes, including chronic illness.

On the other hand, sleeping well, and long enough, has innumerable benefits, most of which can be seen as the inverse of the effects above. Sleep boosts our mood, increases our immunity, improves memory, increases creativity, heals and strengthens our skin and muscles, regulates our hormones, reduces risk of illness, and increases longevity.

DEBUNKING COMMON SLEEP MYTHS

IS IT OKAY TO MAKE UP FOR LOST SLEEP BY NAPPING?

It depends. For people with insomnia, napping during the day can reduce your ability to fall asleep, perpetuating the problem. But for those who don’t struggle from insomnia, the occasional nap can help make up for a poor night’s sleep. It’s probably best not to make an afternoon nap a habit, though.

CAN MY BODY ADAPT TO LESS SLEEP?

Some people argue that your body can get used to sleeping four hours per night. This is a myth. Although it might seem like a waste to spend 7 to 9 hours sleeping every night (and probably even more time in bed), those hours are actually quite productive, as your body spends every minute building new connections, healing, storing memories, and restoring itself for another day. Regularly getting too little sleep can lead to chronic, long-term health impacts.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO OVERSLEEP?

Although undersleeping has many known deleterious health effects, oversleeping is also problematic. Oversleeping is linked to health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression, and although scientists aren’t sure whether oversleeping is a cause or effect of these diseases, if you find yourself frequently sleeping more than 9 hours a night, you should talk with your doctor to see what’s going on.

Okay, but is sleep deprivation really that bad? Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about sleep loss.

WHEN SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT SLEEP LOSS?

Just a week of chronic sleep deprivation can put healthy young adults in a prediabetic state. Long-term effects can begin to kick in relatively quickly, after just a few days or a week of poor sleep. You should be concerned if sleep deprivation is a recurring trend, instead of an anomaly. If you experience sleep deprivation on a weekly basis, you’re already reaping the negative effects of poor sleep—consider taking steps to improve your sleep hygiene for better rest.

AT WHAT POINT SHOULD I DISCUSS SLEEP ISSUES WITH MY DOCTOR?

If you’re following good sleep hygiene practices (see the next section for tips) and still having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or if you suspect a medication or illness is causing sleep issues, you should talk with your doctor.

CAN I REVERSE YEARS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Luckily, settling your sleep debt doesn’t require a one-for-one repayment. For shortterm sleep deprivation—missing 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, for example—plan to sleep a few extra hours on the weekend and over the course of the next week until you wake up feeling rested.

For long-term sleep deprivation, it’s best if you can set aside a period of time—several weeks or a month—during which you sleep without an alarm, letting your body wake up when you’ve gotten enough sleep. Gradually, you’ll shift from long sleeping nights to the amount your body needs on a regular night.

 

OPTIMIZE YOUR SLEEP WITH THESE 13 SIMPLE STEPS

Over time, the cumulative effects of chronic sleep deprivation build up, wreaking havoc on our bodies in all sorts of ways. The long-term effects of poor sleep include:

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Your circadian rhythm is like a constantly cycling 24-hour internal clock. It regulates your energy lows and highs and determines whether you’re a night owl or a morning person (or neither!). Travel, electronics, bright lights, and daylight savings time can all disrupt your circadian rhythm, causing you to feel groggy and have difficulty falling asleep and waking up at your normal time. Listen to your body, and notice when you naturally get tired at night and wake up in the morning. Don’t try to be a morning person if the schedule you always fall back on is 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.! Although your body’s rhythm can change over time, following your unique cycle can help you sleep better.

2. GET MORE SUN

Tune into your circadian rhythm by spending time in the sun during daylight hours and cutting the daylight when it’s getting close to bedtime. Not only does sunlight offer vitamin D, it also helps boost happiness and regulate your sleep cycle.

3. CUT DOWN ON BLUE LIGHT

Blue light from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Put your phone away at least an hour or two before bedtime, and don’t use the TV to fall asleep. You can also try blue light-blocking glasses throughout the day and before bedtime for an extra boost.

4. SLEEP IN TOTAL DARKNESS

Cover any blinking lights, use light-blocking window shades, and make the room as dark as possible so your body knows it’s time to go to bed. You can also try wearing an eyemask.

5. LISTEN TO SOOTHING SOUNDS

Block out disruptive noises and lull yourself to sleep with soothing white noise. Free apps such as White Noise Lite offer an array of soothing sounds that make it easier to drift off to sleep.

6. DIFFUSE ESSENTIAL OILS

For insomnia, try diffusing lavender, cedarwood, or bergamot. You can also blend these oils with a carrier oil and apply them to an eye mask or a towel near your pillow.

7. ADJUST THE TEMPERATURE

Your body naturally reduces its temperature as you fall asleep. Making sure the room is cool enough (but not so cool you feel cold) can help aid this natural process. The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees—so if you like to crank the heat up in the winter, try turning it down at night.

8. TRY A HIGH-TECH SLEEP AID

Products and apps can help track your sleep cycle, sensing your movements and breathing and waking you up during your lightest sleep phase. Other apps offer bedtime stories for adults, soothing sounds, and nighttime meditation routines.

9. REDUCE CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION

Caffeine sensitivity is highly individual, but its half-life is the same for everyone: It takes six hours for half of the caffeine you ingested to be metabolized. Establish a caffeine cut-off, whether that’s noon or 2 p.m. (think back to days you weren’t able to fall asleep because you were too amped up with caffeine, and push the time of your last caffeinated drink earlier). And try limiting yourself to just one or two morning cups of coffee, instead of a whole potful.

10. WORKOUT STRATEGICALLY

Strength training at any time of day can help you sleep. High-intensity cardio, on the other hand, can amp you up—but for some people, vigorous exercise close to bedtime has no effect on sleep. Experiment with your workout times to see what works best for you

11. AVOID ALCOHOL AT NIGHT

Although many people treat alcohol as a sleep aid, it actually has a negative effect on sleep quality and longevity. It messes with your circadian rhythms and can wake you up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, while reducing your sleep quality.

12. TRY SLEEP SUPPLEMENTS

Melatonin is the most basic sleep supplement— and it has very few side effects. Essentially, this natural substance helps your body’s circadian rhythm to kick in. Try taking 3 to 5 mg an hour or two before it’s time to sleep. Other supplements can also produce a calming effect, including magnesium, chamomile, and L-theanine

13. CREATE A SLEEP ROUTINE

Wake up and go to bed around the same time every day, even on weekends. This takes away the pain of having to adjust to a new sleep schedule every Sunday night. Use routine to help your body know it’s time to go to sleep every night: set aside an hour before bedtime to read, drink a cup of chamomile tea, moisturize your face and brush your teeth, meditate or do calming yoga, review your day and write in your journal—whatever calms you down and helps you feel at peace.

Lakanto's mission is to bring chi to life and inspire people to reach their highest potential in health and wellness.

We create products with monk fruit that are innovative, delicious, natural, nutritious, sugar-free, and healthy. Want more research-backed health advice? We scour the news each week to bring our tribe the best health and wellness information around.

BIOHACK
YOUR
WAY TO
BLISSFUL
SLEEP

The average adult needs between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night. Although this number varies from person to person, what we do know is that Americans aren’t getting enough sleep: The average U.S. adult sleeps 6.8 hours per night, with 40% getting fewer than 7 hours. Among minority groups, these numbers are even worse, with significant portions of African-American and Hispanic adults reporting that they are getting fewer than 6 hours per night. Compare these numbers with 1942, when the average sleep time was 7.9 hours a night, and it becomes readily apparent that sleep—or rather, not sleeping enough—is a growing problem in America.

Not only are we not getting enough sleep, when we do plop into bed at night, we’re not sleeping particularly well. Almost half of Americans say that poor or inadequate sleep has affected their day-to-day activities at least once within the last week. To make up for poor sleep during the week, we sleep an average of 40 minutes longer on weekends or non-work days.


The problem is so bad that in 2014, the CDC declared sleep deprivation a public health epidemic. So, what is it about living in the modern age that’s causing us to sleep so poorly? Did someone flip a switch going into the ‘80s and eliminate our collective ability to get a good night’s rest?

contents

WHY WE ARE STARVED FOR SLEEP

It’s impossible to pin down one single factor that is causing our national sleep deprivation. That’s because there are many different factors. Here are some of the primary reasons you might not be sleeping well or long enough:

MENTAL AND EMOTIONAL DISORDERS

It’s a no-brainer that anxiety can cause sleep deprivation. Anxiety causes your mind to become a hamster wheel, spinning the same thoughts around and around and leading to insomnia. But other mental health disorders can also cause issues sleeping, including phobias, panic attacks, depression, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder. In fact, poor sleep is a major symptom of mental health issues: as many as 90% of people with depression experience insomnia. In fact, insomnia can be the most obvious symptom of low-grade depression. Unfortunately, sleeping poorly can exacerbate other symptoms of these disorders, magnifying fear and tension and creating a cycle of worry and poor sleep. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with a mental health disorder, run-of-the-mill life anxieties can have a negative impact on your ability to sleep soundly.

STRESS

Speaking of run-of-the-mill anxieties, a poll taken right after the 2008 economic crisis showed even lower levels of sleep than during recovery years (6.7 hours per night). In fact, in another poll taken during that time, more than half of participants said stress had directly impacted their ability to sleep well. These numbers have held steady—even 10 years later, 48% of U.S. adults report lying awake at night due to stress. National problems may seem abstract, but recent polls show that they are having a direct impact on our sleep. According to the APA, the top five causes of stress are the future of our nation, money, work, the political climate, and violence/ crime. A rocky economy or unstable political situation can impact sleep just as much as issues at home, such as relationship problems or job loss.

PHYSICAL HEALTH ISSUES

There are several chronic physical conditions that can lead to sleep loss. These include heartburn, heart failure, arthritis, fibromyalgia, kidney disease, thyroid disease, asthma and other breathing difficulties, dementia, epilepsy, headaches, nocturia, and Parkinson’s disease. In addition, many medicines can cause disruptions to the sleep cycle, resulting in insomnia or daytime sleepiness. Managing health issues properly and following sleep hygiene protocol, in addition to working with your doctor to find the right medication combination, can help reduce how severely these conditions impact your sleep.

TECHNOLOGY

New types and uses for technology have proliferated more rapidly than ever before in human history over the past few decades Unfortunately, the constant stimuli provided by our phones, computers, and tablets isn’t actually great for our sleeping habits. One study showed that 90% of adults report some technology use in the hour before bed. But these gadgets keep us awake in three big ways. They emit blue light that suppresses melatonin, causing difficulty falling and staying asleep. They provide stimuli that can trick our brains into thinking we need to stay awake. And notifications and other sounds wake us up, making it much harder to maintain sleep. Even among adolescents, the multitasking that comes with technology use significantly impacts sleep.

Another obvious reason? We’re workaholics. Americans are working more hours than ever, and sacrificing sleep to fit everything in. We all miss a few hours of sleep now and then. But how does missing out on sleep affect our bodies—and what can we do to get a good night’s sleep, even in a stressful, tech-heavy world? In the next two sections, we’ll list the short- and long-term effects of sleep deprivation and answer common questions about sleep, and in the last section, we offer 13 biohacks to help you rest soundly at night.

POOR SLEEP HABITS ARE KILLING US—LITERALLY

Missing out on sleep can cause a host of negative effects, both the day after a poor night’s sleep and in the long run. In the short term, sleep deprivation can result in:

NEGATIVE MOOD

Everyone knows that lack of sleep can cause your emotions to go awry, making you irritable, quick-tempered, and grumpy.

FATIGUE

Sleep deprivation can lead to a general sense of fatigue: feeling slower, less motivated, and less able to complete everyday tasks.

LOWERED IMMUNITY

Natural immunity boosters called killer cells are reduced, and your immune system isn’t able to properly protect you, making you three times more likely to catch a cold when you’re sleep deprived.

BALANCE ISSUES

A study of a group of farmers showed that when the farmers slept less than their average amount, they were 7.4 times more likely to have balance issues the next day. Reduced stability increases the risks of falls, accidents, and injurities.

IMPAIRED JUDGEMENT

Sleep-deprived people tend to think they are functioning normally, even when tests of mental performance show they’re not. Lack of sleep impairs our ability to judge how capable we actually are of performing daily tasks.

CAR ACCIDENTS

Sleep deprivation is a major cause of automobile accidents, with 6,000 car crashes occurring at the wheel each year in the U.S. One out of 25 adults say they have fallen asleep at the wheel in the past month.

POOR CONCENTRATION AND PROBLEM SOLVING

Lack of sleep affects your brain’s ability to function, impairing attention, alertness, concentration, reasoning, and problem solving.

MEMORY PROBLEMS

Sleep helps consolidate your memories. When you’re sleep deprived, it’s difficult to remember what you learned and experienced throughout the day.

MICROSLEEPS AND DELIRIUM

In cases of extreme sleep deprivation—you pulled an all-nighter to meet an important deadline, let’s say—you can start falling into mini-sleep sessions that last up to 30 seconds. Although your eyes may stay open, you’re not processing any information, making driving and other tasks extremely dangerous. Delirium, or complete disorientation, may also occur.

WHAT HAPPENS WITH SUSTAINED SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Over time, the cumulative effects of chronic sleep deprivation build up, wreaking havoc on our bodies in all sorts of ways. The long-term effects of poor sleep include:

IMPAIRED HORMONAL FUNCTIONING

Sleep plays an essential role in hormone regulation. Chronic sleep deprivation increases evening levels of the stress hormone cortisol and decrease production of the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH).

WEIGHT GAIN

Ever noticed an incessant need to snack the day after sleeping poorly? Because your hormones are so out of whack when you’re not sleeping enough, appetite increases, making you more likely to eat more food, especially high-carb options, than you actually need.

REDUCED SEX DRIVE

Reduced testosterone levels from sleep deprivation can result in a lower libido in men. Sleep deprivation reduces sex drive in women, too.

HIGHER RISK OF CHRONIC ILLNESS

This includes diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure. Sleep deprivation lowers glucose tolerance. One study showed that just one week of sleep deprivation can put young, healthy participants in a prediabetic state. Chronic sleep deprivation also raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart disease.

DEPRESSION

Insomnia is both a primary symptom and a major cause of depression. Unfortunately, this can result in a negative cycle, where depression causes insomnia, which exacerbates the depression, causing more sleeplessness, and so on. Treating insomnia can help treat the symptoms of depression.

RAPID SKIN AGING

Did you know sleep deprivation is bad for your skin? Increased cortisol from chronic sleep loss breaks down collagen in your skin, reducing elasticity and smoothness. Sleep is also the time when we release human growth hormone, which helps our muscles, skin, and bones stay strong and supple.

DEATH

Getting less than five hours of sleep per night on a regular basis makes you twice as likely to die from almost all causes, including chronic illness.

On the other hand, sleeping well, and long enough, has innumerable benefits, most of which can be seen as the inverse of the effects above. Sleep boosts our mood, increases our immunity, improves memory, increases creativity, heals and strengthens our skin and muscles, regulates our hormones, reduces risk of illness, and increases longevity.

DEBUNKING COMMON SLEEP MYTHS

IS IT OKAY TO MAKE UP FOR LOST SLEEP BY NAPPING?

It depends. For people with insomnia, napping during the day can reduce your ability to fall asleep, perpetuating the problem. But for those who don’t struggle from insomnia, the occasional nap can help make up for a poor night’s sleep. It’s probably best not to make an afternoon nap a habit, though.

CAN MY BODY ADAPT TO LESS SLEEP?

Some people argue that your body can get used to sleeping four hours per night. This is a myth. Although it might seem like a waste to spend 7 to 9 hours sleeping every night (and probably even more time in bed), those hours are actually quite productive, as your body spends every minute building new connections, healing, storing memories, and restoring itself for another day. Regularly getting too little sleep can lead to chronic, long-term health impacts.

IS IT POSSIBLE TO OVERSLEEP?

Although undersleeping has many known deleterious health effects, oversleeping is also problematic. Oversleeping is linked to health conditions including Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and depression, and although scientists aren’t sure whether oversleeping is a cause or effect of these diseases, if you find yourself frequently sleeping more than 9 hours a night, you should talk with your doctor to see what’s going on.

Okay, but is sleep deprivation really that bad? Let’s take a look at some of the most common questions about sleep loss.

WHEN SHOULD I BE CONCERNED ABOUT SLEEP LOSS?

Just a week of chronic sleep deprivation can put healthy young adults in a prediabetic state. Long-term effects can begin to kick in relatively quickly, after just a few days or a week of poor sleep. You should be concerned if sleep deprivation is a recurring trend, instead of an anomaly. If you experience sleep deprivation on a weekly basis, you’re already reaping the negative effects of poor sleep—consider taking steps to improve your sleep hygiene for better rest.

AT WHAT POINT SHOULD I DISCUSS SLEEP ISSUES WITH MY DOCTOR?

If you’re following good sleep hygiene practices (see the next section for tips) and still having difficulty falling or staying asleep, or if you suspect a medication or illness is causing sleep issues, you should talk with your doctor.

CAN I REVERSE YEARS OF SLEEP DEPRIVATION

Luckily, settling your sleep debt doesn’t require a one-for-one repayment. For shortterm sleep deprivation—missing 10 hours of sleep over the course of a week, for example—plan to sleep a few extra hours on the weekend and over the course of the next week until you wake up feeling rested.

For long-term sleep deprivation, it’s best if you can set aside a period of time—several weeks or a month—during which you sleep without an alarm, letting your body wake up when you’ve gotten enough sleep. Gradually, you’ll shift from long sleeping nights to the amount your body needs on a regular night.

 

OPTIMIZE YOUR SLEEP WITH THESE 13 SIMPLE STEPS

Over time, the cumulative effects of chronic sleep deprivation build up, wreaking havoc on our bodies in all sorts of ways. The long-term effects of poor sleep include:

1. LISTEN TO YOUR BODY

Your circadian rhythm is like a constantly cycling 24-hour internal clock. It regulates your energy lows and highs and determines whether you’re a night owl or a morning person (or neither!). Travel, electronics, bright lights, and daylight savings time can all disrupt your circadian rhythm, causing you to feel groggy and have difficulty falling asleep and waking up at your normal time. Listen to your body, and notice when you naturally get tired at night and wake up in the morning. Don’t try to be a morning person if the schedule you always fall back on is 1 a.m. to 9 a.m.! Although your body’s rhythm can change over time, following your unique cycle can help you sleep better.

2. GET MORE SUN

Tune into your circadian rhythm by spending time in the sun during daylight hours and cutting the daylight when it’s getting close to bedtime. Not only does sunlight offer vitamin D, it also helps boost happiness and regulate your sleep cycle.

3. CUT DOWN ON BLUE LIGHT

Blue light from screens can disrupt your circadian rhythm. Put your phone away at least an hour or two before bedtime, and don’t use the TV to fall asleep. You can also try blue light-blocking glasses throughout the day and before bedtime for an extra boost.

4. SLEEP IN TOTAL DARKNESS

Cover any blinking lights, use light-blocking window shades, and make the room as dark as possible so your body knows it’s time to go to bed. You can also try wearing an eyemask.

5. LISTEN TO SOOTHING SOUNDS

Block out disruptive noises and lull yourself to sleep with soothing white noise. Free apps such as White Noise Lite offer an array of soothing sounds that make it easier to drift off to sleep.

6. DIFFUSE ESSENTIAL OILS

For insomnia, try diffusing lavender, cedarwood, or bergamot. You can also blend these oils with a carrier oil and apply them to an eye mask or a towel near your pillow.

7. ADJUST THE TEMPERATURE

Your body naturally reduces its temperature as you fall asleep. Making sure the room is cool enough (but not so cool you feel cold) can help aid this natural process. The ideal temperature for sleeping is between 60 and 67 degrees—so if you like to crank the heat up in the winter, try turning it down at night.

8. TRY A HIGH-TECH SLEEP AID

Products and apps can help track your sleep cycle, sensing your movements and breathing and waking you up during your lightest sleep phase. Other apps offer bedtime stories for adults, soothing sounds, and nighttime meditation routines.

9. REDUCE CAFFEINE CONSUMPTION

Caffeine sensitivity is highly individual, but its half-life is the same for everyone: It takes six hours for half of the caffeine you ingested to be metabolized. Establish a caffeine cut-off, whether that’s noon or 2 p.m. (think back to days you weren’t able to fall asleep because you were too amped up with caffeine, and push the time of your last caffeinated drink earlier). And try limiting yourself to just one or two morning cups of coffee, instead of a whole potful.

10. WORKOUT STRATEGICALLY

Strength training at any time of day can help you sleep. High-intensity cardio, on the other hand, can amp you up—but for some people, vigorous exercise close to bedtime has no effect on sleep. Experiment with your workout times to see what works best for you

11. AVOID ALCOHOL AT NIGHT

Although many people treat alcohol as a sleep aid, it actually has a negative effect on sleep quality and longevity. It messes with your circadian rhythms and can wake you up in the middle of the night or too early in the morning, while reducing your sleep quality.

12. TRY SLEEP SUPPLEMENTS

Melatonin is the most basic sleep supplement— and it has very few side effects. Essentially, this natural substance helps your body’s circadian rhythm to kick in. Try taking 3 to 5 mg an hour or two before it’s time to sleep. Other supplements can also produce a calming effect, including magnesium, chamomile, and L-theanine

13. CREATE A SLEEP ROUTINE

Wake up and go to bed around the same time every day, even on weekends. This takes away the pain of having to adjust to a new sleep schedule every Sunday night. Use routine to help your body know it’s time to go to sleep every night: set aside an hour before bedtime to read, drink a cup of chamomile tea, moisturize your face and brush your teeth, meditate or do calming yoga, review your day and write in your journal—whatever calms you down and helps you feel at peace.

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