What Is Too Little Sleep Really Costing You?

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Do You Recognize Any of These Statements?

  • “I don’t need much sleep. I’m just wired that way.” 
  • “When I sleep doesn’t matter. Sleeping in the daytime is as good as sleeping at night.” 
  • “If I miss sleep during the week, I can always catch up on the weekends.” 

You might be surprised to learn that none of these are true. They are all common misconceptions about sleep. I am on a mission to help people understand just how crucial sleep is to overall health. I created this blog in the hopes you can finally achieve the restorative sleep your body and mind so desperately crave.

Side Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Just how important is getting a good night’s sleep? If you want to keep your brain healthy and sharp, then the answer is absolutely everything.

New research from the Journal of Neuroscience show that too little sleep isn’t just a mood killer — it can actually increase your brain’s age. And previous studies link sleep deprivation with an increased risk of dementia.

Some of the top health consequences of ongoing sleep deprivation include:  

  • Depression, anxiety, and other mood-related issues  
  • Problems with memory, concentration, and focus 
  • Poor immune function (e.g., frequent colds and infections, slow wound healing, digestive distress, constant fatigue) 
  • Inflammation, a major driver of cancer and other illnesses  
  • Obesity and difficulty losing weight  
  • Heart disease — a new study published in Clinical Cardiology showed that people with insomnia may be 69% more likely to have a heart attack compared to those who get good quality and quantity sleep every night.3,4

Simple Habits That Promote Good Sleep Hygiene

These foundational suggestions help put you in the best position to sleep well.

  • Avoid foods and beverages that interfere with sleep. Top offenders: caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and foods high in sugar, fat, and/or fiber (these can mess with your blood sugar and digestive process).
  • Take a hot shower or bath — research shows this helps prepare your body for sleep.
  • During the day: Get regular exercise, water, and sunlight. Also, consider splurging in a daytime snooze — a new study from Sleep Health reveals that napping helps lessen brain shrinkage with age.
  • Wind down 30 minutes before bed with light reading, journaling, meditation, soothing music, etc. 
  • Get off your phone, tablet, and laptop — blue light exposure has been proven to interfere with sleep. To counteract this, try wearing blue light glass, which are thought to help enhance melatonin production.

Practicing Tai Chi helps people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, according to research.

Four Proven Tips to Sleep Better

Go to bed between 10–11 p.m. — according to The Sleep Council, this is when your body temperature and cortisol level (stress hormone) begin to drop. Also, studies show this time window reduces heart disease risk.  

Keep it cool: A warm bedroom disrupts sleep patterns, inhibits deep sleep, and causes fatigue and dehydration.  

Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day — this helps regulate your circadian rhythm, your body’s 24-hour cycle. In general, the optimal range for sleep is 7–9 hours. You can figure out your optimal sleep/wake times with this free sleep calculator

Turn off all the lights — even the slightest amount of ambient light affects your sleep and health, particularly metabolic health according to one study.5

Strategies for When You Can’t Stay Asleep 

If you find yourself suddenly wide awake at 3 a.m., try implementing these sleep solutions. 

It might seem counterintuitive, but getting up and going into another room can sometimes help. Lying in bed and obsessively watching the clock can create anxiety, making sleep less likely. 

Avoid looking at your phone or turning on any electronics that will stimulate your brain. Try light reading, soothing music, or even a sleep app such as Sleep Cycle, Calm, or Relax Melodies (available on the Mac App Store). Also, Spotify has a wide selection of relaxation and sleep music playlists, including Night Rain and Deep Sleep. 

Try 4-second Box Breathing: Inhale deeply through your nose and hold for 4 seconds. Exhale through your mouth to the count of 4 seconds. Hold your breath for 4 seconds. Repeat the cycle 4 times. 

How to Wake Up Without Feeling Groggy 

Start your day off right with these energizing, stress-busting secrets: 

Stop hitting the snooze button multiple times! It confuses your body — as you fall in and out of sleep, you disrupt REM, one of the deepest sleep stages. This can lead to feeling lethargic and groggy all day. 

Enjoy a cup of green tea. Studies show drinking it can improve sleep quality, thanks to the relaxing amino acid, L-theanine. Because green tea has caffeine, avoid drinking it after noon.6 

Make time to meditate. Studies show that even 13 minutes of meditation daily can help lift your mood and alleviate stress. 

For breakfast, go with energizing and blood sugar-balancing foods: 

  • Greek yogurt or cottage cheese with fruit (or dairy-free versions) 
  • Eggs or an omelet with veggies (eggs have been shown to keep you full longer) 
  • Protein shakes 
  • Oatmeal with nuts and seeds 
  • Sprouted grain bread with nut butter or avocado 
  • Lean turkey or chicken sausage with eggs and fruit  

What About Melatonin?  

Melatonin is like the winding mechanism for your biological clock. As darkness falls, levels of this hormone increase, and you start to feel drowsy. That is because we are built to sleep around the same time every night. Even sleeping during daylight hours inhibits melatonin production.  

Melatonin plays a crucial role in regulating the body’s circadian rhythm and synchronizing our sleep-wake cycles. Circadian rhythms relate to the 24-hour solar cycle and can be found in plants, animals, and even fungi and bacteria. Body temperature, blood pressure, muscular strength, optimal collagen production, levels of circulating hormones, neurotransmitters, and numerous other metabolic compounds and physiological processes follow the tides of circadian rhythm.7,8  

Your melatonin production is influenced by:  

  • Drinking excessive caffeinated beverages  
  • Fasting 
  • Attending social engagements that go late into the night 
  • Taking prescription meds such as beta-blockers and NSAIDs (including aspirin) 
  • Having nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium and vitamin B6 
  • Being exposed to blue light at night 
  • Aging — melatonin production declines as we get older  

There are several ways to enhance and optimize your melatonin production, including combining melatonin with other antioxidants (in a supplement) and eating melatonin-containing foods (examples: cherries, walnuts, barley, rye, beer, and olive oil).  

Be aware that melatonin is not enough if you want to start taking a sleep supplement. As a natural sleep aid, melatonin can be quite helpful — but only in tiny amounts (e.g., 0.5–1 mg). Higher doses of melatonin contribute to next-day drowsiness and can become habit-forming. To achieve the deep, restorative ‘beauty sleep,’ melatonin needs to be balanced with other natural ingredients shown to actively support nighttime repair processes within the body and brain. 

Still Can’t Sleep? A Sleep Supplement Can Help 

The tricky thing about solving sleep issues is that it is never one size fits all. You may benefit greatly from some of the methods above — or you may find that on some nights, you need more help. That is why I recommend a rejuvenating sleep repair formula, one that is based on years of research and clinical experience. This formula contains a small dose of melatonin, combined with mood- and relaxation-boosting GABA support and herbs such as honokiol extracted from magnolia bark for optimal mood and neurological health.

GABA is one of the primary neurotransmitters associated with healthy relaxation, mood, and sleep.

The health benefits of a high-quality sleep supplement include:  

  • A clearer, calmer mind 
  • Optimal energy and metabolism 
  • Strengthened immunity 
  • Liver and kidney support 
  • Better digestion 
  • Supports nighttime repair processes of damaged cells, tissues, and organs 
  • Enhanced detox pathways to cleanse your body and remove toxins from your brain

Rejuvenating nighttime sleep is one of our most valuable assets for optimal health and healing. By taking these measures, we can help the body manage circadian rhythms and regulate our biological clocks, ensuring optimal sleep cycles and overall energy during the winter, and year-round.

Sources:

  1. Mukherjee S, Patel SR, Kales SN, Ayas NT, Strohl KP, Gozal D, Malhotra A; American Thoracic Society Ad hoc Committee on Healthy Sleep. An Official American Thoracic Society Statement: The Importance of Healthy Sleep. Recommendations and Future Priorities. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2015 Jun. 15;191(12):1450-8. 
  2. Sleep and Sleep Disorders. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. April 25, 2020. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/index.html.  
  3. Dean, Y., Shebi, M., Rouzan, S., et al. Association between insomnia and the incidence of myocardial infarction: A systemic review and meta-analysis. Clin Cardiol. 2023 Feb. 25 (10.1002/clc.23984) 
  4. Worley SL. The Extraordinary Importance of Sleep: The Detrimental Effects of Inadequate Sleep on Health and Public Safety Drive an Explosion of Sleep Research. P T. 2018;43(12):758-763. 
  5. Ivy C. Mason, Daniela Grimaldi, Kathryn J. Reid, Chloe D. Warlick, Roneil G. Malkani, Sabra M. Abbott, Phyllis C. Zee. Light exposure during sleep impairs cardiometabolic function. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2022; 119 (12) DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2113290119 
  6. Unno K, Noda S, Kawasaki Y, et al. Reduced Stress and Improved Sleep Quality Caused by Green Tea Are Associated with a Reduced Caffeine Content. Nutrients. 2017 Jul 19;9(7):777. 
  7. Chang J, Garva R, Pickard A, et al. Circadian control of the secretory pathway maintains collagen homeostasis. Nat Cell Biol. 2020 Jan;22(1):74-86. 
  8. Fultz NE, Bonmassar G, Setsompop K, Stickgold RA, Rosen BR, Polimeni JR, Lewis LD. Coupled electrophysiological, hemodynamic, and cerebrospinal fluid oscillations in human sleep. Science. 2019 Nov 1;366(6465):628-631.  

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