Are you frequently cranky and emotional or just feel off kilter? Do you feel lonely and isolated from your friends and family? The answer may not be what you think. Many people suffer from a lack of good, quality sleep, and according to new research out of UC Berkley, lack of sleep makes you feel lonely and socially less attractive. They also found that you can pass these feelings on to others in less than 60 seconds, causing others to avoid being around you. Lack of sleep has been linked to a wide array of health issues including obesity, high blood pressure, and heart problems. Sleep deprivation also alters the production of hormones, lowering the secretion of thyroid stimulating hormone and increasing levels of cortisol. Now scientists are learning that sleep deprivation can cause many more problems than previously thought. The study at UC Berkley suggests that when we haven’t had good restful sleep, we tend to isolate ourselves because we don’t feel up to being social. This is linked to increased feelings of loneliness. We don’t do this consciously; it happens at an unconscious level. When we’re tired and feeling lonely, the brains of the people we come in contact with tend to pick up on these signals and it warns them to stay away, increasing our feelings of isolation even more. We are literally giving off a stay-away signal to the people around us. According to Matthew Walker, the senior author of the study, “sleep deprivation can turn us into social lepers.” The more sleep deprived you are, the less social you become, and others pick up on this cue that you want to be alone. It becomes a vicious cycle because people who struggle with loneliness tend to have trouble sleeping as well, so the two problems feed on each other. What can we do to change the cycle and improve not only the quality of sleep, but our social lives as well? Your chief goal should be to get more pillow time. Set a consistent sleep schedule that has you in bed at the same time each night and consistently waking up at the same time each morning. If you can wake up each morning before your alarm goes off, you’re probably getting enough sleep. The amount of sleep you need varies per individual, but in general as adults we need seven to nine hours of sleep each night. If you’re not getting enough sleep and you find you can’t get up in the morning without at least one alarm—or two or three!—you may want to remediate your sleep habits by:
- Checking your room temperature. Studies have shown the ideal temperature for sleep is between 60 and 67 degrees.
- Turn off all the lights! It seems elementary to point this out, but many of us fall asleep with a TV or light on. We need to be in total darkness, so our bodies can fall into the correct circadian rhythm.
- One of the most important things you should be doing is cutting off access to EMF radiation. If you use your cell phone as an alarm clock, you may want to invest in a battery-operated alarm clock or at least put your cell phone on a desk or table far away from your bed. Alternatively put the phone in airplane mode and put it in a faraday bag. Never sleep with your cell phone under your pillow or near your body. It’s also ideal to turn your Wi-Fi off at night.
- Try a natural sleep remedy such as melatonin, valerian root, CBD oil, or 5-HTP with a combination of GABA included. These remedies help your body slip naturally into sleep and help you remain asleep longer.