How to Save Yourself From Early Death

Woman sleeping
Woman sleeping

A major health epidemic is afflicting 70 million Americans… and your doctor is completely ignoring it (as usual).

It’s…

  • Killing your sex drive

  • Causing memory loss

  • Causing cancer

  • Causing hips and necks to break

  • Damaging your heart

  • Increasing the likelihood you’ll die in the next decade

Economists think it costs businesses more than $60 billion per year in lost productivity. Studies show it leads to more than 1,500 deaths annually on the road. That’s four deaths a day just from driving.

You might have it and, like most people, not even recognize it. I’m talking aboutsleep deprivation.

But you can take an easy test tonight to see if you’re not getting the sleep you need… Longtime subscribers may remember this one. I’ve written before about using a “spoon test” to see if you have it. Try it tonight alone or with your spouse.

This test will change your life. I guarantee it.

In the mid-to-late afternoon, get in your sleep clothes (or whatever you normally wear to bed) and turn down the lights in your room. Be sure to do this in the afternoon and not too close to bedtime. You can try this either lying down in bed, relaxed on the couch, or in a comfortable armchair.

Place a metal cooking sheet or a pan on the floor beside you. Get comfortable and hold a metal spoon in your hand just above the pan. Take note of the time, close your eyes, and let yourself fall asleep. Once you’re fully asleep, your hand will release the spoon. The noise of the spoon hitting the sheet/pan should awaken you… Record the time at that moment. (If you are a heavy sleeper or have trouble hearing, get your spouse or a friend to sit with you and record the time instead.)

Well-rested people should take about 15-20 minutes before the spoon hits the plate/pan. If you fall asleep quickly, especially in five minutes or less, you are sleep deprived and we can help.

It sounds silly to say it, but sleep deprivation occurs when you’re not getting enough sleep. It’s as simple as that.

Retirement Millionaire subscribers are familiar with the importance of sleep. I’ve included it as my No. 1 health challenge in seven out of the nine years I’ve published my annual health list – the scientifically backed list of the top ways to improve your health.

First off, the benefits of getting enough sleep (about seven to eight hours) are numerous… Sleep is essential for proper brain function, cold prevention, and decreasing your risk of several chronic health issues, including heart disease.

And the harms of sleep deprivation are numerous, too. It decreases sex drive and increases your risk of cancer, among many other maladies.

But in today’s fast-paced world with constant lit-up technology, people are sleepier than ever. According to a 2014 U.K. study, people are sleeping up to two hours less than they did in the 1960s.

There are lots of reasons…

One that I’ve written about before: Electronics like laptops and smartphones disrupt our circadian rhythms via their screen’s blue-light emissions.

Another reason is how and when you eat.

If you are like me, you might lose focus during the week… Late at night, the fridge opens, the microwave pops on. The food makes its way into my mouth hours past dinnertime. Last weekend, I reheated pizza at 10 p.m. Ugh.

Eating late adds fat to our bodies, and research is clear that we shouldn’t consume food within three hours of going to sleep.

Part of the problem is that low amounts of sleep each night directly affect our “appetite hormones.” If you get less than optimal sleep, your appetite increases despite how many calories you’ve eaten or even when.

On the other hand, if you don’t eat enough, your brain dysfunctions and you suffer poor sleep because of these hormones. The main culprit is called leptin, known as our starvation hormone. Fat cells send this hormone to signal your brain. When you have enough leptin, your body knows you have enough energy from food. If leptin levels are low, your appetite kicks in and you want to eat. This physiologic hunger can lead to tossing and turning… or worse, it can wake you up in the middle of the night directing your brain to a midnight snack.

If you are hungry before bed, do what I do and consider a healthy snack like half a banana or a few almonds. Snacks with less than 150 calories – that don’t contain caffeine – can help you feel full and coax your food hormones to better sleep.

So what if you’re turning off your electronics and eating early and balanced meals at night? Does that mean you’re getting adequate sleep? Not so fast.

We are so accepting of poor sleep habits, most of us don’t recognize the signs and symptoms of sleep deprivation.

Common symptoms include irregular breathing, decreased concentration, and decreased alertness.

If you have any of these or if you failed our simple sleep test above, the first thing to do is consider the list of things to improve your sleep hygiene. When it comes to sleep… do what I do to maintain great sleep hygiene in the bedroom…

  • Remove fluorescent lights – I use a low-wattage incandescent bulb to read by.

  • Reduce light – I tape a black towel over the window closest to my head in bed.

  • Remove electronics or keep them as far away from your bed as possible.

  • Read hard-copy books instead of on a phone or tablet.

  • Splash and rub cold water on your arms, face, neck, and forehead before bed – cooling triggers sleep chemicals.

  • Use fans (or a window air conditioner) to keep you room cool – a pan with ice in front of a fan can create super-cool air blowing on you (my assistant does this).

The trick to getting a good night’s sleep is using your bedroom for only sleep, sex, and maybe some light reading. Keep the electronics out – including the TV – and keep the room cool and dark. You’ll be amazed at how great sleep changes your life. I can almost guarantee a change in your health and happiness.

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