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…