Sleep deprivation is something that haunts most people today and yet most of us are not even aware of this fact.
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What is sleep?
Sleep is the gods’ gift to mankind. In Ancient Greek mythology, Morpheus was a god known for visiting mortals and giving them the gift of sleep. You can find such deities or even cult figures in every culture (such as mr.sandman) but let’s take a ‘physical’ look at what sleep really is.
Sleep is perhaps the most important function/action of the human body as it is responsible for the restoration of its physiological, neurological and hormonal functions.
Improper sleep does not allow skin and tissue to be rebuilt, causes brain degeneration, premature aging, low energy levels and hormonal problems such as low testosterone levels or insulin insensitivity which can lead to the onset of diabetes or other health problems.
If you are serious about your health, especially if you are over 40, getting some good quality sleep is a must. Sleeping enough will allow your system to restart, allow you to make muscle gains and aid with fat loss.
In our society we ‘practice’ what is referred to as monophasic sleep. That is defined as sleeping at night and waking up in the morning. That is the normal behavior of the human body since melatonin is secreted upon sun down and stops being secreted upon sun rise. When melatonin levels rise, we feel sleepy and the brain signals that it is time to sleep.
When the sun comes up, melatonin shuts down and cortisol (another hormone) sends the message to wake up.
Understanding sleep cycles
Another basic thing you should know about sleep is that it comes in 2 sleep cycles:
- Cycle A is from 22:00 until 2:00 where physical recuperation takes place (which does include G.H. secretion)
- Cycle B from 2:00-6:00 which is when your hormonal and nervous system is being rebuilt.
Why is that important?
The best quality sleep is the one that takes place before 22:00 (so that you can benefit from the physical recuperation phase) and lasts until 6:00 (the hormonal and nervous system repair window).
If you are not sleeping during this time frame (22:00-6:00) your body is not being repaired to an optimal level. This impacts your energy levels (you feel tired when you wake up and are drowsy during the day)
Are you sleep deprived?
A lot of my friends, students and clients are always complaining that they feel tired, can’t meet their personal, professional or fitness goals and have such a pessimistic view on life. The first thing I ask them is “are you getting enough quality sleep?”.
Most of them would answer ‘no’. But even those who answer ‘yes’, don’t always get quality sleep as they either fail to get into deep sleep mode or they tend to wake up several times during the night.
Being sleep deprived is like a disease. You are basically not giving your body enough sleeping time which means that your body cannot heal itself in order to perform at the optimal level like it’s intended to.
But how can you tell if you are sleep deprived or have some kind of sleep problem?
Just answer Yes or No to the following questions:
- I often fall asleep while watching TV.
- I often fall asleep in meetings or lectures.
- I often fall asleep in the bus or metro or in warm rooms.
- I often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner.
- I often fall asleep within five minutes after going to bed.
- I often feel my eyes closing while driving.
- I need an alarm clock to wake up at the right time.
- I struggle to get out of bed in the morning.
- I hit the snooze button several times to get more sleep.
- I often sleep extra hours on the weekends.
- I feel more tired, irritable and stressed out during the week compared to weekends.
- I have focus and memory problems (trouble concentrating and remembering).
- Sometimes I feel slow at critical thinking, problem solving and being creative.
- I often need to take a nap in order to make it through the day.
- I have dark circles under my eyes.
If You Answered “Yes” To 4 or more of The 15 Questions…
…then congratulations, you have officially tested positive for Sleep Deprivation!
What causes bad sleep hygiene and sleep deprivation?
Irregular sleeping patterns is one of the biggest plagues of the modern and hectic way of life.
The causes of bad sleep are all around us and so easy to spot:
1. Unbalanced and stressful lifestyles
Most of the people today live extremely busy lifestyles that require working hard and partying even harder to make up for lost time. How is that bad I hear you say?
Balance is key once again. If you work and party hard, you must allow adequate time to rest and recover. If you do not rest enough, you should NOT be working hard.
For people under 25, that is not a problem as they can handle everything. Once you reach 30 though, this superman ability is slowly lost and you start feeling weak, tired and end up being sick more often. And yet you still try to party and work like you are 25.
Stress is another important factor in this equation. It is the one thing that tends to sneak up on you and by the time you try to deal with it, it is already too late.
Managing stress effectively is a must and so is paying attention to your rest or your health if you want to sleep in peace again. Get your stress under control and you will see your sleep get better almost instantly.
2. Uncontrolled use of stimulants
The above demand from society (that we must be super-human) gave birth to a generation of stimulant-junkies.
Coffee, energy drinks, drugs like cocaine or amphetamines are often being used by people in their attempt to keep up with this crazy rhythm. The use of legal and illegal drugs will not only land you in jail but they can also cause adrenal fatigue, hormonal imbalances and several other health problems. Do I need to mention that one of those problems is impaired sleep?
3. Technology-addicted lives
Technological advancements have declared the use of social networks on mobile devices as a social must. Because of this, people totally ignore the importance of sleep as they are busy staying up all night gaming or chatting.
Even reading an ebook on your tablet is enough to lower melatonin levels (due to the light emitted from the device) which in turn impairs your ability to sleep.
4. Bad Nutrition
Bad nutritional habits cause health problems such as obesity, acid reflux, diabetes and more.
Also they give rise to several hormonal imbalances which have an impact on serotonin, dopamine and melatonin levels, therefore impacting sleep hygiene.
Another result of bad nutrition is sleep apnea, a condition where you are unable to get enough oxygen as you sleep, causing you to wake up tired (since you are not getting enough oxygen)
Understanding what sleep is and what causes sleep problems is the first step in achieving proper sleep hygiene. In a future post, I will share a few simple ways to improve your sleep and restore regular sleeping patterns.
I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share button below and show your support to this blog.
Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Until then, live your life: strong, healthy and free!
by Nick Sigma
C.W.C, E.H, YRT-200