Men (and the ladies that care for their man),
Want smaller testicles? Go ahead and sleep for 5 hours a night.
Want the testosterone levels of an older man, someone 10 years your senior? Sleep for 4-5 hours per night.
Congratulations! You now have smaller testicles, have less energy and drive, less confidence and less ability to burn fat. All by not prioritising your sleep.
Ladies, you don’t escape this. We see similar impairments in female reproductive health due to a lack of sleep.
Got your attention now?
These are just 2 of the scary effects of sleep deprivation, and be warned, it’s not going to get better from here on if you keep reading.
Sleep deprivation infiltrates every system of the body and it breeds poor health like you wouldn’t believe. You can’t escape it. You aren’t getting away with it. You aren’t “crushing it” and a “hustler” if you sleep 4 hours a night to get work done… and if you follow the “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” mentality, you’ll reach your eternal sleep a whole lot sooner than you’d probably like.
Shorter sleep predicts all causes of mortality. Shorter sleep = shorter life. Simple as that.
In this post I’m going to talk about how sleep affects:
After all the doom and gloom of the above, I’ll leave you with a little hope and give you some tips on how you can avoid the catastrophic effects of sleeping less and actually get a good nights sleep on a regular basis. I’ve been able to achieve it, and you can too.
Being able to learn is important for everyone, but especially so for kids as they are developing and growing in the early stages of their life. What they learn or do not learn early can have ramifications later in life.
I’ve been teaching in primary schools for years and it is staggering how little sleep some of these kids get. I get to teach lots of different classes and I often run a little quiz in the morning to start the day. I get the kids to stand up if they had 8+ hours of sleep last night… about 0 zero students on average stand up. I then continue to reduce the hours and it is very common to get a majority having less than 5-6 hours of sleep, sometimes a majority at 4 hours or less… it’s eye opening to say the least. The reasons behind the poor sleep are not the subject of this post but nutrition and screen time certainly play a big role.
So now you have all these sleep deprived kids, and perhaps some are off task, some aren’t getting their work done, some are playing up, or can’t concentrate… but you can’t blame them! Their body in it’s sleep deprived state can not act or function any other way.
Obviously, these effects are not just confined to children.
Let’s look at the data.
So in this experiment there were 2 groups.
One group got a full 8 hours of sleep, and the other group was kept awake for the night. This was just a one night experiment to see the effects of one night of not getting sleep. Participants from both groups were subjected to MRI scans whilst performing learning and memory tasks the following day.
What they found was that there was a 40% deficit in the ability to make new memories in the group that was kept awake when compared to the group that got a full 8 hours of sleep…40%. They could not commit new experiences to memory.
That potentially takes you (or your child) from getting 80% in exam or test of some kind, to getting 40% and failing. We’ve all been there, pulling an all nighter trying to get an assignment or project done that’s due the next day, cramming in all the study you should have done earlier for an exam. Well, this experiment shows you are clearly shooting yourself in the foot. You’d be more productive and better functioning had you just got the rest.
I’m just going to share one experiment with you here as I think it paints the picture pretty emphatically. This experiment is done twice a year, on approximately 1.6 billion people, in over 70 countries… so you could say it’s a got a pretty decent sample size.
We call this experiment… Daylight Savings.
Now the remarkable thing about daylight savings when it comes to sleep and cardiovascular health, is the effect that just this 1 HOUR difference can have THE VERY NEXT DAY. Not later in life, not long term cumulative effects… the very next day. Prepare to pick you jaw up off the ground.
When we lose that hour of sleep due to daylight savings, we see a 24% increase in heart attacks the very next day! Ok, so pretty incredible, but maybe it’s a coincidence or there’s some other factor at play, in isolation there could still be some debate about that stat. However, when we gain that hour of sleep due to daylight savings, we see a subsequent 21% decrease in heart attacks the very next day. This statistic was truly staggering to me. Just 1 hour of sleep, and the effect the very next day, unbelievable.
It doesn’t just stop at heart attacks either. We see very similar data for road accidents, suicide and other causes of mortality.
Don’t underestimate the effect 1 hour of sleep can have.
Let’s talk about Natural Killer Cells (NK Cells). Yes, that’s actually what they are called. When I first heard about them I thought someone was trying to dumb them down for me, calling them Natural Killer Cells so I would understand what they do. Turns out, it’s just a really apt name.
Now these NK Cells are our bodies’ front-line defense system, and play a major role in protecting us against tumours and fighting off infections. So they’re pretty important.
So this particular study had subjects restricted to 4 hours of sleep for just one night. This one night of just just 4 hours of sleep resulted in a 70% reduction in natural killer cell activity. That is huge. These NK cells that play a major role in protecting us from tumours (cancer), are 70% less active the day after a night of 4 hours of sleep.
Think about the potential ramifications of that. Think about how many people are in that bracket of 4 hours of sleep a night or less. Think of those people that you know that get sick all the time. These NK Cells also play a major role in fighting off viral infections. A constant 70% reduction in the activity of these cells could be what’s causing you or these people to get sick all the time.
For me though, that cancer risk posed from this reduction in NK Cell activity, that’s scary. There are already strong links between sleep deficiency and cancer, including: breast cancer, prostate cancer and bowel cancer. Sleep is so linked with cancer that shift working is now classified by the World Health Organisation as a PROBABLE CARCINOGEN.
As an Integrative Health Practitioner I don’t believe we should leave our health up to our genes. There’s a saying in our industry:
“Genes load the gun, but environment pulls the trigger.”
Just because you have a family history of a certain dis-ease, just because you have a genetic predisposition to a certain condition, does not mean you have to succumb to getting it. The gun is loaded yes, but your lifestyle and the environment pull the trigger. You are in control. If you give your body what it needs and detox effectively, that gun doesn’t ever have to be fired.
However, in saying all that, I would be emphatically wrong to say our genes are not important. They are after all what make us, us.
Apologies, I went off on a bit of a tangent there, so what does sleep have to do with our genes and how can it effect them?
Here we have another experiment. The subjects of this experiment had their sleep controlled over a period of a week this time. First they were restricted to 6 hours of sleep every night for a week, then the same group of people were given 8 hours of sleep every night for a week. What they found was that a total of 711 genes were distorted in their activity between the 2 levels of sleep. Approximately half of these 711 genes saw an increase in activity, while the other half saw a decrease.
Here’s the kicker…the genes that saw an increase in activity were those genes associated with the growth of tumours, long term inflammation, stress and cardiovascular disease. The genes that saw a decrease in activity were genes associated with the immune system. So here we have this double whammy effect.
Not only is less sleep signalling genes associated with cancer, inflammation and cardiovascular disease to increase their activity… we’re also seeing a decrease in the activity of genes associated with the immune system, the very thing supposed to protect us against these dis-eases.
I warned you at the start it wasn’t going to get any better. If it were just small testicles, I’d be OK with the sleep deprivation (maybe…). However, as you can see, it’s much more pervasive than that and sleep deprivation impacts our health negatively on a scary level.
What You Can Do
So enough of the doom and gloom, what can you actually do to get a sound sleep?
Whether you suffer from a restless mind and struggle getting to sleep, or you wake up in the middle of the night regularly, or you voluntarily sleep less hours like a crazy person in order to make the most of your day… these tips can help reset your sleep patterns and get you feeling well rested. What you’ll notice is that once you’re sleeping better, everything else becomes easier and better as a result. Sleep is THE pillar of health.
This in my mind is the number one most effective thing you can do. Set a regular sleep and wake time and stick to it for at least 3 weeks. Personally, I have an alert on my phone at 9:30pm every night that literally tells me with a label on my screen to get ready for bed. My morning alarm is set for 6am. The science shows that 10pm-6am is optimal and most in line with our natural hormonal profile and sleep cycle.
No matter if it’s weekday or weekend, I stick to my bed time and that way my body knows when to shut down energy and when to start producing it. Do NOT set loud, bleeping, beeping, ringing, alarms for your night time reminder or your morning alarm. Select some nature sounds or some calming music.
Stop eating 2-3 hours before bed. You simply do not want your body to have to deal with digestion while you’re trying to sleep. Digestion requires a lot of energy from the body and we are supposed to be resting and restoring energy. If you are digesting while sleeping you will likely feel more groggy due to the energy used up for digestion, and the inability of the body to properly rest.
Create a bed time routine. As I mentioned, my alert goes off at 9:30pm to GET READY for bed. That’s my signal to stop what I’m doing and begin winding down. I put my laptop on airplane mode, I floss, tongue scrape, brush my teeth, take my supps, lock the house, do my meditation, put my phone on airplane mode, read, then sleep. I’m out like a light within 10 mins.
When you develop a routine, your body then begins to associate those activities with sleep. So when I start my oral hygiene routine, my body knows it’s almost time for sleep and can begin shutting down.
Minimise bright lights and blue light in the hour or 2 leading up to sleep. Exposing your eyes to bright lights keeps the brain thinking it’s day time, not what you want for sleep. I’m almost always at my desk on my laptop the hour or 2 before bed, so I make sure that I only have my dull desk lamp on and no other lights. If you have a dimmer, even better. I make sure that my laptop has blue light reducing software running (f.lux), and similar with my phone. You can even purchase blue light blocking glasses and I know many people that use them and swear by them. I then avoid my screens as much as possible once that 9:30pm alert goes off.
Temperature. If you can, set your room temperature to around 18-19 degrees Celsius (approx 65 F). This is has been shown to be optimal for sleep.
Supplements and extras. Magnesium is a fantastic supplement for aiding in sleep. Simply check the label and make sure to avoid Magnesium Oxide. Magnesium citrate, glycinate, lysinate, and malate are all good forms of magnesium. Melatonin is another great natural supplement for sleep. Chamomile tea has been shown to aid in sleep, I have one just about every night and know others that highly recommend it too. If you have an essential oil diffuser (they’re quite inexpensive), Lavender is a great aroma for sleep support.
There’s certainly much more that can be done to help master your sleep cycle but these are the factors I have found to be most effective. Even just 1 of these implemented consistently can bring about a much more restful and easy sleep state.
So which is going to be for you? Don’t make this one of those blog posts you just read and say “oh that’s cool that I know all that now” and continue on not changing anything… actually USE the information. Implement!
Commit to your sleep and not only live longer, but live better. You deserve the energy a restful sleep gives you. It’s 4 Your Health.