Simply eating right and sleeping well will make you healthier. On the other side of this coin is the fact that if you DON’T get enough quality sleep your fitness, your brain, your memory, and your appetite ALL go for a toss.
I know because I’ve messed around with my sleep quite a bit, getting too little, or, sometimes, getting the right amount.
Getting inadequate sleep for even one night can affect your brain function. Getting inadequate sleep for many days together, turns your brain into a confused mess.
On this podcast, we tell you why you should get good sleep, how to get good sleep, why you may be feeling exhausted despite sleeping a lot, and how to sleep really little, and still wake up feeling refreshed.
Sleep Deprivation: A Great Way to Lose Your Memory
Because of the work I do, I used to have to wake up at odd hours. On some days I’d wake up at 4:30 am, and on others I’d wake up at 2 in the afternoon. This meant I never had a fixed sleep schedule. I powered through with the help of coffee and other things, but I knew I had a problem when I was starting to forget the smallest of things.
I’d pack a lunch, and forget to carry it with me. I’d make a plan with a friend, and completely forget about it in an hour or so. Many times I’d start working on one thing, and get distracted, and then completely forget what I was working on.
Even now, I have trouble getting enough sleep, and it shows. Not sleeping enough doesn’t just affect your memory, it affects your decision-making ability, your problem-solving skills, your patience and your overall mood.
Lessons on Sleep Deprivation From PM Modi, Tesla, Da Vinci & More
Don’t fall for the stories you hear about world leaders and industry big shots only sleeping 3-4 hours a night because they’re so dedicated to their work. Whether it’s Modiji, Tim Cook, Elon Musk, or even Leonardo Da Vinci, who according to stories, used to sleep for just 20 minutes every 4 hours, don’t buy into it – it’s just bad for your health.
For example, another famous sleep-hater, Nikola Tesla, claimed that he once worked for 84 hours straight without sleeping or getting any rest. He spoke of the thrill of being an inventor by saying that “such emotions make a man forget food, sleep, friends, love, everything.”
No, Tesla, it’s not the emotions that are making you forget things, it’s the SEVERE SLEEP DEPRIVATION!
Also Read: Less than 7 hours of sleep bad for your heart
Sleep Deprivation’s Effect on Your Hunger and Brain
So, back to my own story.
After a few days or a few weeks of sleep deprivation, I’d have trouble making basic decisions, like what I should eat, what I should spend my time on, etc., basically the most basic things ended up taking more time than ever.
Apart from this, it also made me more anxious, because physical stress equals mental stress. Apart from this, sleep deprivation also tends to mess with your appetite.
Sleep deprivation makes you hungrier for junk food and other comfort foods, for some reason. So, when I’d go for long hours without sleeping, for a few days, I’d start craving more sugar and other junk for some reason. And that’s where we come to the next part.
Sleep deprivation makes it hard for you to lose fat and stay healthy. Your body repairs and heals itself when you’re asleep. That’s when most of your recovery and weight loss actually happens. So, when I’d miss a lot of sleep, I’d also lose weight slower, and in some cases, not at all.
What’s Stopping You From Sleeping Well?
So what are some of the things that prevent you from getting good sleep?
Well, simply put – Caffeine, Food, Stress and your Sleeping Environment.
Let’s look at how you can tweak each one of these things to get better sleep.
Caffeine and Sleep Deprivation
Caffeine is the first and simplest thing you can change. Coffee wakes most of us up when we’re groggy and sleepy in the morning. But too much coffee won’t just wake you up, it’ll stop you from sleeping on time and sleeping well.
I used to drink 4-5 cups of black coffee every day, with my last cup usually around 6 in the evening. To literally no one’s surprise, I couldn’t get to sleep till at least 2-3 am every day, and even then my sleep would be very broken.
So, I cut down my coffee intake. Have your last cup of coffee no later than 2 in the afternoon.
Sleep and Food
Some foods help you sleep better, some tend to make you sleep deeper. Foods like chicken, turkey and some other meats have this amino acid called Tryptophan.
Tryptophan makes you feel sleepy and helps better quality sleep. If you have meat with some carbohydrates like bread or rice, that makes your body process Tryptophan better.
That’s why when you eat a heavy meal, like biryani, you get that food coma feeling, where you’re sleepy and drowsy. The combination of the carbs and the meat makes you nice and sleepy.
But some other foods, like say sugary snacks, pastries, cakes and things with a lot of sugar, won’t just make you sleepy, they’ll leave you exhausted. They make your blood sugar go up, then crash back down, leaving you tired.
This is one reason that you might go to sleep, and despite sleeping well, wake up feeling tired and drowsy. Because your body just went through a huge energy dump.
Try not having anything sweet or too sugar-heavy before you sleep. Eat something with some chicken or turkey, and you’ll wake up feeling much more energetic. If you want something sweet, opt for something lower in sugar, like berries or fruit.
Sleep Deprivation and Your Sleep Environment
I can’t stress this enough. You need to switch off all white lights and bright lights after sunset, and try and stick to using dim lights at night. Your body has a regular rhythm that works off of the light you’re exposed to. When you keep bright lights on at night your body thinks it’s still daytime and doesn’t let you feel sleepy properly.
Being exposed to laptop or mobile phone lights also disturbs your circadian rhythm. Your circadian rhythm is your body’s system that tells you when it’s time to sleep and when it’s time to wake up.
It’s almost impossible to avoid a screens – TV, computer, mobile phone screens. They’re everywhere. Install a blue light filter on all of these. Blue light from these screens is what disturbs your sleep rhythm and reduces the quality of sleep you get at night. A blue light filter removes the blue light wavelength from your screen at night (some of these need to be programmed), and this makes you sleep better and deeper.
Also with your sleep environment, you NEED to sleep in total and complete darkness. Your brain is super sensitive to light. Even a little bit of light tends to mess up your sleep quality.
Keep your room dark. Get blackout curtains if you have to, remove all the small lights and other distracting things. And try to keep the room’s temperature around 18 to 23 degrees Celsius, because for some reason that makes you sleep better and deeper.
Other Factors That Affect Your Sleep
Now some of you might be thinking, “I sleep for 7 hours. I sleep for 8 hours. But I’m still tired. Why is that?”
When you sleep, you aren’t actually asleep the whole night. Or rather, you aren’t asleep to the same level, through the night. Our bodies sleep in 90-minute cycles. At the beginning and end of the cycle, you’re relatively more awake. But in the middle of the cycle, say halfway, you’re at your deepest sleep possible.
Waking up in the middle of a sleep cycle is usually the reason you’re still groggy and exhausted. So, to fix this, if you wake up with an alarm, set the alarm in multiples of 90 minutes. Try and sleep for 7 and a half hours, or nine hours, or if you’re sleeping less, for six hours.
Because all of these times are divisible by 90 minutes. So if you sleep for 6 hours, that’s four sleep cycles, 7 and a half hours is five sleep cycles, and nine is six sleep cycles. Try and wake up at the end or the beginning of a sleep cycle, and you’ll wake up refreshed.
The other things that help facilitate better sleep are sex, exercise and a cold shower.
Having sex before bed is the best because right after orgasm, our bodies release oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes better, deeper sleep and it’ll also have you dozing off faster.
Exercise also promotes healthier, deeper sleep. Get your exercise an hour or two before bed (or if you’re having sex, then it’s most likely right before bed), and top it off with a cold shower.
Cold showers are great for two things. First they’ll make you sleep like you were shot with an elephant tranquiliser. And second, they help your muscles recover and heal from injury and exertion.
So, keep all of this in mind, and follow them, and you’ll be sleeping better, longer, faster and deeper before you know it.