The Damaging Effects of Sleep Deprivation Part 2

Here’s part 2 of my article on sleep deprivation. Be sure to read part 1 first. This time we’ll focus on your gut health, as well as address some natural treatment options.


The Brain-Gut Connection

Serotonin is our first player. This little guy not only affects your mood but makes you sleepy as well. However, your gut makes more Serotonin than your brain. In fact, it produces 85% of your total serotonin.

Consequently, you can literally ‘feel’ with your gut. Not only that, but your gut is made of the same stuff as your brain; as a result, there’s a strong connection between the two.

So, mood and emotions have a strong influence on your digestive system. Sleep deprivation and gut healthThat’s why you get that ‘butterflies in the stomach’ feeling when you’re nervous or anxious about something. In fact, your gut is considered your ‘second brain’.

Therefore, anxiety can cause intestinal distress, and intestinal distress can cause stress or anxiety. Not only that, but stress and anxiety can even make inflammation worse, and/or make you more susceptible to infection.

Interestingly, low levels of Serotonin can be the cause of Irritable Bowel Syndrome or IBS, and some studies showed women tend to have lower levels of serotonin than men.

Our second player is bacteria. And while we usually think of bacteria as causing disease, many are absolutely essential for your health.

Let’s take a look.

Gut Health and Sleep

There’s a whole lot of good bacteria in your gut called probiotics. These little guys help regulate hormones which not only improve your health but also help you sleep.

These good bacteria can also increase levels of melatonin, which is your brains’ natural sleep aide. They do this by increasing levels of an amino acid called tryptophan, which is also found in certain foods. I’ll address this under ‘Treatments’

Additionally, your gut, just like your brain has a daily cycle. But if that cycle is disrupted, it can cause heart disease or even cancer. So sleep deprivation can have some serious side effects.

And because women experience more variations in their digestive system throughout their life, they are more susceptible to IBS and other diseases, even without sleep deprivation.

With that in mind, here are some food items that can make irritable bowel syndrome worse:

  • Fried fatty foods, large meals.
  • Chocolate, alcohol, caffeine.
  • Fructose, sorbitol, carbonated drinks.
  • High fiber, especially the insoluble kind.
  • Dairy products, especially cheese.
Lifestyle and Sleep Deprivation

I’ve talked with many patients in my sleep lab, and I hear over and over again that they use t.v for ‘white noise’;  or “I can’t get to sleep without the t.v. because it’s too quiet”. They claim they sleep better with it.

However, light interferes with sleep by resetting your internal clock, even if your eyes are closed. So if you believe you can’t sleep without the t.v., think again.

While you need a certain amount of sleep, taking a nap will reduce the amount of sleep you’ll need for the coming night. This can ultimately lead to fragmented sleep and insomnia.

So if you’re laying in bed, and for some reason can’t get to sleep, get out of bed (and even the bedroom), and go sit in a chair or something. The bedroom should only be associated with sleep and sex. 


Some of the more common medications prescribed for insomnia are Ambien, Sonata, and  Lunesta. Also, the class of antidepressants that increase levels of Serotonin are proving beneficial in the treatment of IBS.

However, behavioral therapies have been proven as effective, if not more so, than medication for treating sleep deprivation. In fact, studies show that behavioral therapies remain effective even after treatments are stopped.

Let’s have a look at some of these treatments, shall we?

First up, Cognitive Behavior Therapy or CBT.

CBT is basically changing the patterns of thinking or behavior. First of all, you need to identify the underlying cause of your insomnia. This involves keeping a sleep journal for a couple weeks. Then techniques include:

  • stimulus control
  • sleep hygiene
  • sleep restriction
  • relaxation techniques
  • biofeedback

And while mild exercise before bedtime encourages sleep, rigorous exercise creates endorphins that can hinder sleep.

Foods that contain Tryptophan include:

  • Nuts, seeds, tofu cheese
  • Red meat, chicken, turkey, fish
  • Oats, beans, lentils, and eggs.

For Irritable Bowel Syndrome, there’s no standard treatment because symptoms of IBS have different causes. Knowing this, keep a food diary,  because what might not affect someone else may affect you.

In general, however, foods to eat include:

  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Starchy carbohydrates, such as pasta, potatoes, bread, and rice.
  • Some protein foods, like fish and eggs.
  • Drink plenty of water, including herbal teas.

So, it seems that good quality sleep is more important than good quality awake time. And while many people think that depression and anxiety cause insomnia, the reverse might actually be the case.

Also, what you eat can affect your sleep, for better, or worse, and this is especially true for women.

Therefore, if you find yourself going in and out of sleep, waking early and not being able to return to sleep; and also feeling tired throughout the day, there’s hope. However, it will mean a lifestyle, and possibly a diet change.

And change can be hard work, but well worth a healthier life.

The Damaging Effects of Sleep Deprivation Part 1

Do You Just Think you Need More Sleep?
Sleep deprivation

What causes sleep deprivation? Well, pain can be a contributor for one; but did you know that your belief system can play a role as well?

How much sleep you think you need actually influences the length of time you spend in bed. So if you believe that you need 8 hrs of sleep, but really only need 6, you might end up tossing and turning for up to 2 hrs.

You’ll think you’re dealing with sleep deprivation, but it’s really that you’re just in bed longer than you need to be. So if that’s true, what about the opposite?

In other words, can we trick our brain into thinking we had a good nights rest when we really didn’t? And if so, how? But if we make ourselves believe we slept well, will we still get the same benefits as if we really did?

So, how’s that for an intriguing train of thought?

And is that all there really is to it? Unfortunately no,  there are other causes for this crippling problem.

Next, we’ll take a closer look at these.

Good Sleep Bad Sleep

First of all, what exactly is the reason for sleep anyway? Well, simply put, sleep is our bodies way of renewing and replenishing itself. And too little sleep can be just as bad as too much.

There’s a healthy balance between wake time and sleep time, although this balance isn’t the same for everyone. However, we’ll be focusing on too little sleep here.

Incidentally, we talk about the lack of sleep, but not about too much wake time. The focus is on the amount of sleep, not the amount of wake. Apparently, sleep deprivation is more critical than being awake too much.

So, what happens to us when we don’t get enough sleep? Most importantly, it puts our body into stress mode. And good stress can turn bad.

However, your brain takes a direct hit.

Your Brain on Sleep

As we now know, our brains are quite actively performing various functions while we sleep. And there are four different sleep stages we go through.

To begin with, we all need a certain percent of sleep in each stage. Notice I didn’t say ‘amount’ of sleep; as there’s an important difference. Because while we all need highly individual lengths of sleep time; we all require the same percent of time in each stage of sleep.

For example, the following shows how much of each stage we need.

One 4-5%; Two 45-55%; Three 16-21%; REM 20-25%.

Now, there are 2 stages that play key roles in the maintenance of both memory and mood. Specifically, stage 3 (slow wave sleep), and REM (rapid eye movement).

So, let’s look a closer look at these.

In particular, slow wave sleep (SWS) is important for memory consolidation. Therefore, not getting enough SWS will cause memory problems.

Additionally, in a study of a group of men 65 yrs of age and older, an increased risk of high blood pressure was associated with a decrease in stage 3 (slow wave), and an increase in stages 1 & 2.

And in fact, the time spent in stage 3 was inversely proportional to the number of men with high blood pressure.

On the other hand, REM sleep is essential for mood management. But because emotions play a huge part in memory recall, REM sleep also improves memory.

So some of your moodiness and forgetfulness can be a result of lack of REM sleep as well.

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation increases blood pressure, impairs human functioning overall, but negatively affects mood most of all.

You might think that depression and/or anxiety are causing your sleep problem. When in reality poor quality sleep might be the cause of your depression and/or anxiety.

In fact, a study found that people with insomnia are more likely to become depressed than those who have better sleep.

Also, more women than men suffer insomnia.

Sleep deprivation also:

  • Reduces your ability to hold a meaningful conversation.
  • Changes your eating habits.
  • Can make you more apt to make bad choices.
  • Causes you to be more vulnerable to infections.

Therefore, it’s critical that we get enough sleep. But there’s more to the story. I’ve previously addressed the role Cortisol plays in stress. Next, I’ll introduce two new players to the field.

However, There’s so much information, and I don’t want to leave anything valuable out. So, I’ve decided to continue this next week.

At that time, I’ll talk more about your gut health; as well as some natural treatment options.

Till then, blessings…

And please add any comments or questions you might have.

P.S. I offer a sincere apology to those I told I would have this info published this week; I just didn’t realize the amount of information that needed to be added.

 To Be Continued…



Is There Bias in the Diagnosis of Sleep Disorders in Women?

Are Women Really Treated Fairly In Healthcare?

In our western culture, we tend to treat the disease, not the person; and this can lead to a lot of misdiagnoses. Whereas eastern medicine focuses on the person.

It happens like this: Gender Bias

In a western hospital, 10 different people could receive the same treatment for the same disease. While in an eastern hospital, 10 different people could receive 10 different treatments for the same disease.


Then there’s the gender bias that’s apparent, especially in sleep medicine. As noted in my article ‘Are you Safe From Heart Disease?’ , I described how men and women can receive different treatment for chest pain.

The guy might go through a whole series of tests, and be prescribed an appropriate heart medicine. The gal, on the other hand, might get a psychological evaluation and be prescribed an anti-anxiety medication.

So really, women might receive different treatment; but it’s because of a false perception. And this only makes things worse.

Still, both genders receive the same treatment for sleep apnea. This is because the same standards are used to diagnose both; although women experience some symptoms differently than men.


Let’s take a closer look at some things.

Gender Bias

Women are more likely to describe their sleep disorder symptoms as insomnia, and less likely to be aware of sleep apnea symptoms than men. Women also experience stress more profoundly than men, and depression in women is twice that of men.

Sleep disordered symptoms increase with age but are greater in women. And menopause and pregnancy also increase the risk of sleep apnea (OSA). However, women tend to have less severe OSA, with shorter pauses in breathing.

And while women tend to be more obese and have smaller airways, their airways are more stable than men’s.

But does all this mean women are less vulnerable to sleep apnea?

Some studies show women with less severe sleep apnea are just as vulnerable as men with more severe apnea. Although other studies show the opposite.

Then there are studies that show women have better sleep quality than men, but they have more sleep-related complaints. Another study showed women had a poorer quality of sleep than men.

And while those results may be inconclusive; the one thing that is consistent is, OSA symptoms tend to be less in women.

O.K., so maybe it’s no big deal then.

But women are also under diagnosed more than men. Or is this just be because women describe their symptoms differently, and have more mild symptoms than their male counterpart? Not to mention gender bias.

And in my last article titled ‘Reducing Stress Improves Women’s Health’, we saw how women experience stress more profoundly than men. This alone has a huge effect on women’s sleep and their health.

The real question is, do more men than women have sleep apnea just because we use the same criteria for both genders? And if so, should we use gender specific standards for diagnosing and treating sleep apnea?


Same Disease Different Treatments

At this point in time, there’s only one standard for measuring the severity of sleep apnea in both genders.

And while  some studies show that women with milder sleep apnea (OSA) can be just as much at risk as men with more severe OSA, the same standards apply to both. However, there are CPAP machines that do have different settings for women and men.

But again, is this difference significant enough to be a cause of undertreatment in women, especially with sleep apnea? And if so, this should be alarming, knowing that women can be more vulnerable to this disease.

Clearly, more research is needed. And while I didn’t really answer any questions, I hope I got you thinking about this potentially critical area of sleep medicine.


On the one hand, there’s a tendency to treat the disease, not the person. And yet, there’s a gender bias that results in treating women differently. Unfortunately, this difference is based on somewhat false assumptions and not reality.

As a result, women receive different treatment when they should be getting similar treatment. And they receive similar treatment when they should be getting different treatment.

But again, are women with mild sleep apnea just as much at risk for heart disease as men with more severe OSA? Which would mean, the only reason sleep apnea is greater in men than in women is because we use the same standards for both.

If that’s the case, then women should qualify for treatment with milder sleep apnea than men.

Maybe it’s time to re-think treatment options.



Reducing Stress Improves Women’s Health

stress and women's health

What do obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, poor sleep quality, and depression all have in common?

Let’s find out!!

But first of all, I’m a guy, so not an expert on women’s stress by any means. And even after 30 years of marriage (to the same women!!), you gals are still a bit of a mystery to me.

However, there are some excellent studies out there, and maybe even guys could benefit from reading this…


Stress could literally be killing you

Some days, this stress is almost too much to handle. Talking with someone helps. But that someone isn’t always there.

Then there’s prayer, ’cause you know God always hears you.

But what if you don’t have someone, or you don’t believe in God? Or maybe you’re angry at God for the situation you’re in?

What do you do when there’s no place to turn?

How do you change this? How do you get rid of this stress that so weighs you down?

Stress attacks your body in numerous ways. Let’s take a look at them:

How Your Body Responds To Stress

When a stressful event occurs, the body goes into overdrive and stimulates hormones that help prepare your body for action. This is known as the fight or flight response and is critical for your survival at that moment.

What happens is this…

A hormone called Cortisol is at work helping you function throughout the day. This little guy regulates glucose storage, blood pressure, and can even enhance your immune system.

Then, when something happens that causes stress, your body goes into overdrive;  increasing your heart rate and slowing down glucose absorption. Both of these result in increased energy, giving you the stamina to push through this situation.

Your body settles down after the stressful event passes, and life returns to normal, right?

But what if that stressful situation doesn’t end, but goes on…and on…and on? What if this stress is the new normal?

This is where things go from good to bad. Let’s take a closer look at this.


The Effect of Stress on Your Body

We’ll look specifically at 3 areas of the body that are damaged by long-term stress.


First of all, Cortisol increases your heart rate by narrowing your arteries.  But if these arteries remain narrow for too long, they become damaged and stiff; Making it easier for plaque to form, among other things.

And narrowed arteries increase your blood pressure, which over time, leads to heart disease.


Clinical studies have shown that long-term stress literally changes the structure of your brain. Specifically, the area involved in learning and memory literally shrinks; which also leads to depression.

And these ‘alterations’ are more pronounced in menopausal women.

The good news is there are medications that can be used to counter these changes so that you can lead a more normal life.


Your body produces insulin, which is what’s used to carry sugar out of your system. But sugar gives you energy (at least short term), so when you go into fight or flight mode, cortisol tells insulin to back off and let that sugar roam.

This is only meant as a temporary deal, however. If you remain stressed for days, months, or years, this can cause insulin resistance; and now you’re Diabetic.

 As if that’s not bad enough, your sleep is also interrupted. And without good quality sleep, your health will suffer.

Here’s how.


Effects of Lack of Sleep

Sleep rejuvenates your body and re-boots your mind. So over time, lack of sleep can fog your thinking, and cause mood swings.

However, it does much more than that.

Lack of sleep also:

  • Suppresses your immune system, making you more vulnerable to disease.
  • Creates a chemical imbalance leading to obesity.
  • Can be a cause of depression. (Which can cause you to eat more).


Gender Differences

Men and women both experience and respond to stress differently.

And studies show that women are more sensitive/susceptible to stressors. For example, when both men and women face similar stressors, women are more affected.

This doesn’t mean women are weaker than men; it actually means that women are more in tune with their emotions.

Actually, you gals tend to deal with stress in a more healthy way than us guys. Your coping style tends to be more emotion-focused; so you’ll want to connect with another person.

Where us guys tend to turn to other things, like alcohol or unhealthy foods, and maybe other self-destructive ways. And perhaps men are just not in tune? Do us guys really experience stress as much as you women, but just go into denial mode?

So what can you do?

There are medications that will alleviate your symptoms. But there are some excellent natural therapy options available as well, like:

  • Meditation
  • Prayer–Some clinical studies found a direct correlation between prayer and reduced stress.
  • Yoga.
  • Massage.
  • Just going for a walk.

And of course for you women, just connecting with another person, even your favorite pet, helps.

Here’s a simple little exercise you can also try.  Rate your stress on a scale from 0-10, with 10 being worst possible. What number would you give it?

Then, what would it take to reduce that by one number? Say you’re at an 8. What would it take to reduce it to a 7?



While a certain level of stress is not only good but beneficial; in the long term, it becomes very damaging to you both mentally and physically.

So if you’re depressed, overweight, Diabetic, have high blood pressure, and you’re not sleeping well, all is not lost. There are many treatment options, both conventional and alternative, to help you deal with stress.

If you have some healthy constructive way you deal with stress and would like to share it; or if you would like more information, please leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.

Till next time…Blessings.

Drowsy Drivers Kill People

Drowsy drivers

Don’t Drive Till You’ve Read This

If you’re a drowsy driver, you could be looking at a murder charge.

It’s been a long day, and you just want to get home. You’re really tired, but you’ve got less than 10 miles to go. You figure you’ll be home in just a few minutes, so you crank up the music; maybe roll down your window…


The sound of a THUD jars you out of a daze

You slam on the brakes and look in your rear view mirror; your heart sinks when you see a person laying there. You sit there in shock for a moment, as panic grips you when you realize what just happened.

Feeling numb and surreal, you get out of your car and go back to check on them. But they’re not moving, and there’s a heck of a lot of blood coming from somewhere.

To your utter horror, you realize they’re dead, and you just killed them. Now you’re looking at a possible involuntary manslaughter charge.

But you only had a couple miles to go.

And that’s just a story. In reality that only happens to the other guy, right? Well, to me, YOU are the other guy.


What Does A Typical Drowsy Driver Look Like?

Most of the signs of a drowsy driver aren’t going to be visible to other drivers. And while a drowsy driver can be on the road at any time; most drowsy driver accidents occur around 4-6 am, midnight and 2 am, and 2-4 pm.

If you’re on the road at those times, be especially aware of any of the following:

  • Male drivers in their 20’s
  • Semi drivers.
  • Cars pulling out of hospital parking lots (Hospital Staff working long and/or odd hours)
  • Cars that swerve excessively.

But what about the not obvious signs, like:

  • People with undiagnosed, or undertreated sleep apnea
  • Those taking certain prescription medications that cause drowsiness
  • Shift workers, and those who put in more than 60 hrs a week.
  • Sleeping less than 6 hours the night before

And maybe that wasn’t a jerky driver, they just might be a drowsy driver.


So even if you don’t have a problem with drowsy driving, many do; and they could be on the road the same time you are. It’s better to think defensively, and just give people space. Remember, safety first.



Legal And Moral Implications


There are laws in various states making drowsy driving a criminal offense. In some states, you can get a reckless driving charge.

But New Jersey, if your accident causes a death, you can be charged with vehicular homicide.


However, at this time, there are no tests that can prove drowsy driving; and in many instances, if the driver doesn’t admit to it, a conviction can be very hard to get.


It’s also been shown that drowsy driving is just as dangerous as driving while intoxicated. And just like been under the influence, drowsy drivers have impaired judgment; including underestimating how tired they really are.


So, should laws be enforced? And ultimately, how can you prove drowsy driving was the cause of the accident if the driver won’t confess to it?


Let’s get back to your story.


O.K., you killed that person in a state where drowsy drivers are charged with vehicular homicide. What would you do? There were no witnesses to your crime. And if you said that this person just ran out in front of you, and you didn’t even have time to react, you could avoid a prison sentence.


So, you can tell it like it is and face possible criminal charges, or you can lie and say this person ran out in front of you, and you couldn’t stop.


What’s it gonna be? Just an accident, or a criminal activity?  Remember, you, the driver, are the only witness.


Of course, we’d like to believe we’re very moral in all our conduct; and you hopefully do have a conscience. But this is a real issue, and without a confession, the law has a hard time actually determining drowsy driving as a cause.


I’m not implying or condoning lying in this case, but I hope you’re getting the magnitude of this issue. Because while getting in an accident is unfortunate; drowsy driving could (or should) be a criminal offense.




Effective Measures You Can Take To Avoid Being A Drowsy Driver


So, how do you avoid a possible prison term?


The most effective measure is a 20-30 minute nap; although most people use other options. Turning up the radio and/or rolling down the window are more common, though less effective, ways.


Other methods include:

  • Drinking caffeinated beverages.
  • Not staring at the division line
  • Slapping yourself
  • Screaming
  • Talking wth a passenger
  • Rotating drivers

Be safe, and be aware!!



Do you know anyone that’s fallen asleep at the wheel? Or have you fallen asleep at the wheel?

Drowsy driving is just as dangerous as drunk driving, and really should be treated as such; Because your judgement’s impaired when you’re drowsy.


So even if you take all the precautions making sure you’re not a drowsy driver, there are others who will be. And that someone could be on the road right next to you…or coming at you.


Don’t bet on your life, or someone else’s; a  20 -30 minute nap could save a life.




Keywords: Drowsy driving, drowsy driving accidents, drowsy driving laws


See for drowsy driving laws in various states.