Thursday, February 1, 2018

How Sleep Deprivation Affects You and Your Mental Health

Sleep deprivation can seriously affect all parts of your body - physically and mentally. You weaken your immune system. You can become more vulnerable to respiratory infections.

Sleep deprivation can cause digestive issues that result in weight gain, and possible diabetes issues. Along with weight gain, you are at risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke.

Sleep deprivation impairs you mentally with memory issues, cognitive function, moodiness, hallucinations, depression, that can make you more accident prone, and yes, it can even result in accidental death.

NOTE: If you drive or do anything else that can cause injury to you or someone else, it can be devastating. 

According to the Sleep Association Organization, Sleep Deprivation is defined as not getting adequate total sleep.

Even though relatively few studies have been done on total lack of sleep over a long period of time in humans, long term sleep deprivation in lab animals has resulted in death.

What is a Typical Night for You?
  • Fall asleep but wake an hour or so later, check the clock, roll over, try to sleep? Toss and turn, check the clock again? A never ending cycle until the morning alarm sounds?
  • Ready for bed, but when the lights are out, you can't sleep? You toss and turn, dozing fitfully until the morning alarm blares?
  • Working late into the night, ignoring your body's cries for sleep?
    Forcing yourself to stay awake with caffeine-laden beverages? Your body's desires for sleep overcome your desire to stay awake, yet you feel like you didn't sleep at all?
  • Your mind won't stop recycling the day's events, tomorrow's possibilities, or random racing thoughts that won't go away and keep you awake?

What are the Effects of Sleep Deprivation?

If you experience long term sleep deprivation you can begin to hallucinate or trigger a mania episode in those with Bipolar Disorder. Other psychological risks include: impulsive behavior, depression, paranoia and/or suicidal thoughts.

Other affects on your body can include:

  • Excessive Daytime Sleepiness
  • Accidents from Lack of Attention
  • Moodiness
  • Hunger
  • Other Health Dangers such as:
  • Diabetes
  • Cognitive Impairment
  • Suppressed Growth Hormones
  • Memory Lapses
  • Depression
  • Weight Gain or Loss

Read this article about how Sleep Deprivation affects your body.

For more information, read Effects of Sleep Deprivation on the Body

Read this article to learn the 11 Signs You're Sleep Deprived.

Have You Tried These to Help Fall Asleep?
  • Prescription sleep medication?
  • Over-the-Counter sleep medication?
  • A Sound Machine or Room Air Filtration System?
  • Something Herbal like Melatonin? Valerian? Chamomile?
  • Meditation?
  • A warm bath?
  • Reading a book?
  • Playing a game (or six) on your Smart Phone?
  • Tea or Warm Milk?
  • Self-Hypnosis?
  • Letting the TV stay on?
  • Listening to music?
  • Something else not listed here?
Did you know that overuse of some OTC Sleep Medications can actually cause you to get less sleep?

What Can Cause Sleep Deprivation?

  • Sleep Disorders that reduce Sleep Time such as Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, Restless Legs Syndrome, others
  • Poor Sleep Hygiene
  • Sleep Disorders that Interfere with Brain's ability to Stay Awake such as Narcolepsy or Primary Hypersomnia
  • Insufficient Total Sleep Time

Are there Some Positive Ways to Help Eliminate Sleepiness if You Suffer from Sleep Deprivation? From 10 Best Treatments and Cures for Sleep Deprivation

Sleep - Too obvious, right?

ActivityResearch studies have shown that a five-minute walk can improve excessive daytime sleepiness as measured by multiple sleep latency testing (MSLT). Unfortunately, this increased alertness may be a transient benefit that comes and goes rather quickly. 

Bright LightThe exposure to bright light has important effects on your body's circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm is a pattern of body functions, including sleep and wakefulness, that is timed to the day-night cycle. There are some conditions such as seasonal affective disorder (SAD)and circadian rhythm sleep disorders that are helped by appropriately timed exposure to bright light. In addition, bright light may help you become more alert if you are sleep deprived.

NoiseWhen we hear something, our brain responds by making us slightly more alert. This can be problematic when we have a noisy sleep environment, but it can be helpful if we are trying to stay awake.

TemperatureUnfortunately, there is little evidence to suggest that temperature changes do much to improve our alertness and decrease excessive sleepiness. Studies of extreme temperatures (either very hot or very cold) have an effect for only a few minutes. 

PostureSurely it is harder to fall asleep when you are standing up, so posture clearly can have some beneficial effects on sleep deprivation. 

CaffeineAside from simply getting more sleep, the best single treatment for sleep deprivation may be caffeine. This naturally occurring stimulant is found in many common foods and drinks, including coffee, tea, soda pop, energy drinks, and chocolate.

StimulantsAside from caffeine, there are other stimulants available as prescription and over-the-counter drugs that might be helpful in alleviating the symptoms of sleep deprivation.

MotivationYou might consider that you are more likely to stay alert and attentive if you actually care about the activities you are engaged in. A boring lecture or meeting at work may be just the thing to put you right to sleep. However, spending time with your loved ones or pursuing a favored hobby may keep you wide awake, at least in the short term. 

Group Effects - There is some belief among anthropologists that the effects of sleep deprivation may be lessened when they occur in the context of a group. You might imagine that a handful of sleep-deprived people are able to engage one another in ways to maintain alertness.

What are the Treatments for Sleep Deprivation?

Get more sleep!

Easier said than done, right?

The best answer is to treat the cause of the Sleep Deprivation. Is it a sleep disorder? You won't know unless you see a sleep specialist who can diagnose your sleep condition. I suggest if you are experiencing sleep deprivation, you see a sleep specialist immediately. They can rule out other medical issues, find the cause, and treat the real reason for sleep deprivation. Then, you can experience that benefits of adequate sleep and wake refreshed and ready to tackle your day.

Photos Courtesy of Storyblocks

Friday, December 15, 2017

Guest Post: Even Workaholics Need to Take their Travel Days, Science Tells Us So

The most successful professionals know the value of hard work. Often, workaholism and professional success go hand-in-hand. Unfortunately, workaholism and good mental health don’t go hand-in-hand. The facts tell us that travel provides fresh perspective and mental health benefits that everybody – especially those who never seem to take time off – could use. 

To keep stress levels low and to help mental well-being, spouses of workaholics, and the worker bees themselves, should engage in non-business related travel from time to time.


(Photo via Pixabay)

The Dangers of Overworking

The health consequences of overwork can’t be overstated. The dangers that come with long hours and shift work – such as the abnormal hours hospital employees face – are many, and they’re not to be taken lightly.

A milder consequence of pushing oneself too far at work is reduced job performance. Even when you think you’re doing a good job for your employer by staying longer or taking the graveyard shift, studies show that this is most often not the case. Running on fumes means a product or service that is worse in quality than if you were properly rested or were able to manage your workload more reasonably. But poor performance pales in comparison to the health risks associated with overworking.

The National Center for Biotechnology Information publishes many studies on health, and one in particular shows that overly long work hours carry the risk of obesity, on-the-job injury, and chronic disease. In Japan, approximately 30,000 suicides per year are thought to be related to economic and work-related pressures. This is not fear-mongering, it’s factual, and it should help inform why taking time off from work for vacation is so important.

The Flipside: Benefits of Travel on Mental Health

 (Photo via Pixabay)

PsychCentral has detailed the benefits of travel on our mental health. The neurological benefits of taking your mind completely off of work-related responsibilities are immense.Travel forces us to use different parts of our brain, especially when you’re in unfamiliar territory. For example, if you travel somewhere outside of the States where poverty or other factors mean a challenging quality of life, you’ll gain perspective on your own problems. Consider too the benefits of navigating a foreign language or city, tasting new food and experiencing different cultures.

Our biological functions are improved when we travel, too. The Perfect World Project references a study from the University of Surrey which showed that people experience more happiness when anticipating an upcoming vacation. New experience helps to sharpen the mind, and travel has also been proven to reduce stress, which increases our blood pressure and is common in the overworked population.

Traveling is also synonymous with a fortified immune system. According to CBS, your relationships may emerge stronger, too. The monotony of our daily routine is not always conducive to romance, and taking a trip with your partner has the opposite effect; it’s spice for your love life.

The best part is that when it comes to travel, your options are limitless. Not to mention that there are myriad ways to find the perfect vacation online. Some quick research will yield plenty of results and make booking your travel that much easier.

(Photo via Pixabay)

When you’re planning your trip, part of your travel arrangements should be securing your home and arranging care for your pet, especially if you’re a dog owner. Having these pieces of the puzzle in place will help keep worry and stress low during your absence. Even if it means hiring a pet sitter, it’s smart to shell out a little extra dough for your dog’s benefit.

It’s often more difficult for us to have fun than to remain stagnant. Breaking a routine, especially one that allows us to pay bills and provide a better life for our family, is not always easy. Understanding the dangers that overworking pose to our health and conversely the proven benefits that travel has on our mental and physical well-being is key. It helps us to understand that money pales in comparison to our health and happiness. So stop grinding your fingers to the bone, plan a vacation, and start enjoying the perks which begin even before you head to the airport.

Jennifer Scott has experienced anxiety and depression since she was a teenager. She shares stories about the ups and downs of her anxiety and depression at SpiritFinder. With, Ms. Scott offers a forum where those living with anxiety and depression can discuss their experiences.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Guest Post: Avoiding Relapse at Holiday Parties

The holidays can be a difficult and even lonely time for many of us, especially those who are living in recovery; either from alcoholism or needing to abstain due to psychotropic medications. Holiday parties almost always include temptation and pressure to drink. The holidays can especially be a struggle for those who are very early in their own recovery process. You’ve worked so hard for your sobriety; how can you make it through this season without slipping back into relapse? If this concern sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. According to, ten percent of Americans are in addiction recovery. So many more take medications that interfere with alcohol and alcohol infused treats.

However, it is possible to make it through the holidays without relapse. Here are a few tips...

Have a Plan
Never go to a holiday party without a plan for staying sober. Anticipate any pressures or temptations before they occur, and know how you plan to respond. For instance, ask yourself, “How will I stay sober on this day?” Whatever your sobriety plan might be, figure it out in advance; practice it; and don’t be afraid to stick to it.

Helping other people is one of the most meaningful and fulfilling activities you can do, regardless of the time of year. Of course, bringing joy to the lives of others has special meaning during the holidays. Activism and volunteer work puts things into perspective, gives us a sense of purpose, and builds self-esteem while helping us forget about our own problems. There are countless ways you can help others this holiday season, including serving food at a homeless shelter, mentoring a child in need, or even volunteer at an animal shelter - just to name a few.

Don’t Go
When all else fails, simply consider not going. This is especially recommended if you are early in your recovery process because that’s when the temptation is usually the strongest. Attending the party might sound like fun. However, more often than not, the temptation of attending a holiday party is simply not worth the risk of returning to addiction. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean you have to stay at home by yourself. Instead, you could spend time with a friend who isn’t going to the party. If possible, choose to go to an AA meeting or meet up with your sponsor, if you have one. Or go to the movies. Take a yoga class. Go ice skating with a loved one. If you’re single, take a chance by going on a date. Or, better yet, throw your own party…

Throw Your Own Party
Celebrate the holidays and sobriety, all in one party! This is a great way to avoid the loneliness and sadness that people often feel during the holiday season, while resisting the temptation of being around alcohol at parties. Hold your own party at your home or at your favorite event space. Invite your friends, loved ones, and even your sponsor. Of course, let everyone know in advance that it will be a drug- and alcohol-free event. Enforce those boundaries. Instead of wine, consider serving punch, apple cider or non-alcoholic homemade eggnog. Plan games, play music, and perhaps even hold a potluck or cookie swap. Regardless of what party theme you choose, you can show yourself - and your loved ones - that it is possible to ring in the holidays with plenty of fun and cheer… and without the need to drink or the chance of relapse.

As you can see, the holiday season doesn’t have to be all about parties, cocktails and hangovers. With some will power, a strategy plan and the support of those around you, you’ll find that it is very possible to eat and be merry this holiday season -- without having a single drink. Hopefully, this gives you a simple guideline for having a happy, healthy holiday season without slipping into relapse.

By Henry Moore

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Mr. Moore starts every day by looking at photographs of past travel, making plans for future travel, and committing to one new healthy goal. He enjoys travel, running, swimming and baking. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. The next place on his list to visit is: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Guest Post - Light Up Your Life with a Hobby and Improve Your Mental Health

We can all relate to the sinking feeling that comes from being broke. If you disagree, then you're either a millionaire with too much money or a mystic who has no need of it. Either way, you're out of the norm.

Other benefits are less tangible than money but just as worthwhile. Take the advantages of having a hobby. Believe it or not, a simple pastime can improve your physical dexterity, give you a sense of accomplishment, and enhance your ability to focus. That's a lot of payback for having fun, don't you think?

The key to getting the most rewards from a hobby is choosing one that matches your interests, skills, and, of course, your budget. Otherwise you may find yourself losing interest soon after getting started. So let's look at how to upgrade your down time with something you love doing.

Start by Finding Out Who You Are

One of the best ways to choose a hobby (or a career or college major, for that matter) is to take a personality test first. Knowing a little about what makes your mind tick can help you narrow down your options and pick the pastime you'll enjoy most. Here are some examples:

    Are you a creative person? If so, then consider painting, drawing, or sculpting.
    Are you an analytical person? If so, then you may find chess, sudoku, or jigsaw puzzles are right up your alley.
    Are you a hands-on person? If so, then look into woodworking or model building.
    Are you an active person? If so, then hiking, camping, or sports are all strong possibilities.
    Are you an outgoing person? If so, then look into acting or podcasting.

Work Out a Budget

Finding the right hobby is easy for those who are wealthy. They can always sail around the world or raise thoroughbred horses. Options are a bit more limited when it comes to the rest of us, however. We must balance our interests against our financial resources unless we want to end up in bankruptcy. Here's how to find an activity that will soothe your senses, not blow your budget:

    Consider what you already have. Many people already possess the tools needed to pursue their interests. Photography is a great example of what we mean, according to Expert Photography. Some shutterbugs own thousands of dollars worth of equipment and are always on the lookout for more. Others, however, make do with an entry-level DSLR or even the camera that comes with their smart phone. Both types of photographers can take great pictures, despite what certain salespeople may tell you. So take stock of your existing inventory before dropping a bundle on fancy equipment.
    Look for pre-owned or sale items. Going back to the example of photography, it's possible to find great cameras on sites like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon for bargain prices, according to Photography Life. Choosing a model that's a few years old may give you great results  while saving you big bucks.
    Ask established hobbyists for advice. Those who have spent a few years pursuing your interest will know their way around the necessary equipment and can help you to get the most bang for your buck. They may even have used items they're willing to sell for unbelievable prices. You never know until you ask.

Always Make Safety First

Some hobbies, such as woodworking, require access to power tools or other items that demand caution when in use. Here's how to stay safe when operating specialized equipment:

    Avoid wearing loose clothing or jewelry. If your hair is long, then pin it back.
    Stay alert. It's important to never use power-driven machinery when you're tired or taking medications that can make you drowsy.
    Take classes at your local community college or ask a seasoned hobbyist for help.

Hobbies are a great way to spend your leisure time. A hobby can even turn into a rewarding full-time career or profitable sideline. Use the tips in this post to choose the right pastime, then pursue it with all your passion and ability. Stay safe and happy lobbying.

By Henry Moore

Henry is the co-creator of FitWellTraveler. The site blends two of his favorite subjects (travel and health) to provide readers with information about how to get the most out of both. Mr. Moore starts every day by looking at photographs of past travel, making plans for future travel, and committing to one new healthy goal. He enjoys travel, running, swimming and baking. His favorite place in the world is Venice, Italy. The next place on his list to visit is: Fernando de Noronha in Brazil.

Image by Pixabay