Does Caffeine Really Help You Focus?

Have you ever noticed that an awful lot of stressed-out, tired, over-worked people rely heavily on their caffeine fixes to get them through the day?

Maybe you are one of them.

Caffeine helps you focus, and helps you deal with tiredness, right?

But what if it’s actually not that way around, at all?

What if those lattes, double espressos etc are actually making you tired? What if they’re even responsible for some of your stress? Perhaps they diminish your focus, making you less productive, and ultimately create that overworked feeling?

I read this article by Dr Travis Bradberry (Author of “Emotional Intelligence 2.0”) and was intrigued.

Because it turns out that there’s one big flaw in all of the studies that show how caffeine increases performance and focus – you need to be a caffeine-user to experience the benefit.

If this is truly the case, it’s like claiming that smoking cigarettes is relaxing, when in reality the relaxing aspect is just satisfying a craving for nicotine. Or like suggesting that alcohol stops you from getting the “shakes”, instead of relieving withdrawal symptoms.

This flaw in the studies was probably not picked up because most people do consume caffeine. Some much more than others, admittedly. But as Jack E. James and Michael A. Keane, researchers at the National University of Ireland, pointed out in their 2007 study of caffeine-extract testing, caffeine is “the most widely consumed psychoactive substance in history”. And because of this, finding test subjects who aren’t normally caffeine-users is obviously going to pose a problem.

Anyway, some documented side-effects that show caffeine’s not necessarily helpful if you want to improve your focus (and an epic study here if you want to learn more)

Anxiety, Panic Attacks, Irritability

In high doses, or normal doses for people with a high sensitivity to caffeine, general anxiety is increased.

You’ve probably experienced “jittery” feelings when you’ve drunk too much coffee. Your adrenaline production has been stepped-up.

You’re now in “fight-or-flight” mode. Now your emotions are taking over from reason. Bad decisions ensue.

Reduced Sleep Quality

No surprise here.

Caffeine stays in your system for a long while. 25% of the caffeine you took at 8 am will still be in your system at 8 pm. Any coffee you drink after midday will still be in your system when it’s time to sleep. So problems sleeping are likely.

Once you do actually get to sleep, the complex rhythms that your brain relies on to maintain itself and work at its best are disrupted.

Your REM sleep, when your brain processes memories and emotions, is reduced. If you’re trying to learn anything new, or focus on complicated tasks, this is not helpful. You’ll also see your people skills suffer.

In fact, on the subject of sleep, here’s a whole bunch of different ways not getting sufficient sleep can screw you up.


This is a little controversial. There is certainly a correlation between caffeine intake and depression. But it is likely that depression is related to the sleep problems that caffeine causes. Poor sleep quality and quantity frequently go hand-in-hand with depression.

Increased Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

Although it’s not conclusive that caffeine consumption has a long-term effect on heart rate and blood pressure, in the short-term it is fact.

The related shallow breathing then serves to deprive your brain of oxygen, making considered thought-processes even less likely than they already are with this cocktail of adrenaline, poor quality sleep and limited control over your emotions.

Addictive Properties

Obviously, anything that leaves you craving for a fix is not good for your focus.

Withdrawal has varying symptoms, which make going “cold turkey” ill-advised.

Headaches, fatigue, flu-like symptoms, depression, and irritability are all quite common side-effects of withdrawal, but a slower reduction instead does minimize problems. Beating Addictions has a good post about how to quit caffeine if you’re concerned that it’s affecting you.

Do You Make These Mistakes With Your Writing?

“Whether you like it or not, life is one long sales pitch – and most of that selling is done in writing.” – Drayton Bird, legendary direct marketer

Would you like your writing to be more persuasive and inspiring?

Are visitors to your website stubbornly refusing to read your content?

Do you worry that people ignore your memos?

If so, you’re not alone.

Many people struggle to write in a way that speaks to the reader, and this goes double for those most educated. And honestly, I blame school and the higher education system.

At the end of this post, I’ll show you a tool that’s completely free, and can be a God-Send when your writing is seeming stodgy and boring.

But first, ask yourself this:

During your education, did you ever feel that the best, most worthy writing was “more impenetrable”? That the education system rewards those whose writing is more “wordy”, or more difficult? Perhaps you learned to imitate it. And if you did, you probably got better marks.

An example:

110 Stanford undergraduates were polled about their writing habits. Here’s what was learned

  • 86.4% admitted using complicated words in an academic essay to make the essay seem more valid and intelligent.
  • Nearly Two-Thirds of the sample group admitted to using a thesaurus to find more complicated words.

No wonder then, that these habits follow professional people into business, into medicine, into law and finance.

But unfortunately, in the real world, you want people to read what you write. Not grade it.

One single blog post clearly can’t teach you to sell. But it can show you some things you may be doing wrong if you want people to read what you have to say.

Why academic writing is where to learn what habits to avoid like the plague

Here are some common features of academic writing:

1. Gray walls of type

David Ogilvy, one of the true geniuses of marketing, coined this phrase, I think.

(Image from Denny Hatch’s You’ll see the right-hand image, a full page advert by Ogilvy, leads the eye around the page much better than the article on the left.)

Your eyes tire quickly – if you’re like most people, you prefer to scan documents.

Who has the patience to read through pages of small print, with no variations of sentence size or paragraph length?

Use subheadings, bold and italic fonts, images, bullet-points. These are all elements that help another human to understand what you’re trying to say.

Incidentally, you know who does use Gray Walls of Type?

The devious bastards who write Terms and Conditions for banks, insurance companies etc.

This is not an accident.

They’ve studied the evidence. So they know that you won’t bother to read the important legal information if they make it look daunting enough.

You, presumably, are not trying to actively discourage reading.

2. Long paragraphs and long sentences

This is often combined with the “gray-walls-of-type” syndrome.

If text is not easy to read, people won’t read it.

A sentence of 29 words or more is very difficult to read. A good guideline is to keep to between 9 and 12 words. And certainly no more than 20.

Paragraphs longer than seven lines discourage reading.

3. Long, difficult or obscure words

Most industries has its words that are unique to them. Words that have a very specific meaning that can’t be dumbed-down. And that’s okay.

What’s not okay is using words to make yourself sound more intelligent than the reader.

From, here’s a list of the word people most commonly check in the dictionary:

(You’ll notice that there are a couple of odd ones there – but let’s assume that the people looking for the definition of love are wanting to put it as a quote in a Valentine’s card…)

The New York Times also has tons of data that they mine from users of their online newspaper – there’s a good article about this at Nieman Lab

If you want to communicate – and there’s no other reason why you’d be writing – why put up a barrier between you and the reader?

There’s another problem, too. A study at Princeton suggests that using complex words when not necessary actually makes you seem less intelligent. [Consequences of Erudite Vernacular Utilized Irrespective of Necessity: Problems with Using Long Words Needlessly]

4. Overusing the Passive Tense

Okay, here’s an example of the passive tense, in case you’re not sure what it is:

(Example from William Strunk’s Elements of Style)

My first visit to Boston will always be remembered by me. (Active version would be “I’ll always remember my first visit to Boston”)


There were a great number of dead leaves lying on the ground. (Active version would be “Dead leaves covered the ground”)

The academic world loves the passive tense! It feels less bold, and maybe because of this, it also seems more impartial.

It’s not anymore impartial, of course. It just removes your sentence’s vigor. And as a side-effect, usually makes your sentence longer than it needs to be.

You probably won’t be able to completely get rid of it, but limiting it is good practice, because it just makes your writing better.

When you find that your writing could be tightened-up, or lacks energy, there’s a high chance you’re overusing the passive tense.

Anyway, the free tool I mentioned earlier. It’s called the Hemingway App, and it’s a great tool to improve lots of aspects of your writing. You could find out the reading level of your writing in Microsoft Word, but the advantage of this App is that it checks your text for use of the passive tense, and also for overuse of adverbs. Check it out here

Did you like this post? Did you try the Hemingway App and find it useful? Disagree with this post? Let me know in the comments…

3 Ways to Improve Your Motivation


We’re all guilty of procrastination, sometimes.

Occasionally, it’s just our minds telling us to take it easy.

But I suspect that a lot of the time, we’re not doing anything relaxing or pleasant with the time that we feel we should be using constructively.

We find ourselves spinning our wheels with pointless work, or “multi-task”, that great enemy of productivity.

For instance, when I should be researching or writing, I find myself checking emails – without batching them…

Or I find myself half-heartedly watching videos of sneezing kittens on Facebook…

Procrastination’s nothing new – One hundred years ago, Napoleon Hill wrote extensively on the subject in “Think & Grow Rich“.

But the modern age makes it far more easy to get distracted.

Here are some of the best tips to combat procrastination that I’ve found:

1. The Procrastination Advantage: How Procrastinating Can Help You Achieve Your Goals

(From Smashing the Brain Blocks)

Here, Theo Tsaousides makes the point that with many tasks, procrastination’s not a problem. Although we may leave a task to the last minute, it still gets done, usually on time.

The problem is when the task, the deadline for completion, and the punishment for failure are not clear.

An example of a task you could effectively procrastinate over he gives is filing your tax return.

Here, you understand:

  • The task required
  • When exactly it must be completed
  • What form punishment for failure will take

The really harmful type of procrastination is when we don’t understand these three key pieces of information – because then we’re very unlikely ever to finish.

Unfortunately, your life goals, whatever they may be, fall into this category, and become easy targets for failure.

Life goals are not tasks. They are visions, desires, all-encompassing statements about a future state of being. A life goal is made up of hundreds, if not thousands, of tasks.

For example, eating healthy is a goal but not a task. A task related to the goal of eating healthy is buying more vegetables during your weekly grocery store run. Another task related to the same goal is finding a way to store the vegetables properly to keep them fresh.

What to do about it?

Identify the tasks.

Make a list of all the different tasks that you have to carry out on a daily basis in order to keep moving things forward with your goal.

Likewise, life goals don’t have deadlines, or if they do they are unrealistic because there are no set behaviors and actions to make them happen. And without deadlines there is no pressure. If IRS didn’t give a deadline for filing your tax return, how many people would get around to it?

And finally, there is no clear punishment.

There’s no penalty, no prison sentence, no real disapproval – which is why you need to consider the losses, to create your own punishment.

Consider how you will feel, what you will have lost out on, if you don’t achieve your goal.

Breaking your goals into the various tasks, creating deadlines, and understanding your punishment for failure to act will massively improve the odds of success – EVEN IF you continue to procrastinate. [Read the full article here]

2. Use Visualization

But use it properly…

The self-help industry has promoted visualization for years, suggesting that it can be used to lose weight, find the perfect partner, quit smoking and find untold riches beyond your wildest dreams.

Unfortunately, studies have shown that this is not quite the case. (Who’d a thought it?)

Richard Wiseman, author of 59 Seconds, says that the problem with visualization is that visualizing the end goal may make a pleasant daydream, but the results can actually be harmful to your success in achieving your goals.

This is because it doesn’t help you to create the strength you need to persevere when the going gets tough, and you face the inevitable set-backs.

By visualizing yourself doing the things that are required to reach you goals, you make it that much more likely you will stick with your plans.

As an example, rather than imagining yourself passing that exam with flying colors, try imagining yourself studying, visiting the library, and asking questions in class!

This way, you are giving yourself concrete actions that you can do in order to reach your end goal.

3. Be More Productive: The 15-Minute Routine Anthony Trollope Used to Write 40+ Books

(From James Clear)

Anthony Trollope

Writers are an excellent source of ideas for motivation.

It’s often said that everyone has one novel inside them, but let’s face it, most of us don’t manage to write a prologue.

What seems to me most challenging about writing a novel is that the author must hammer away for months or more, trying to form a compelling plot and convincing characters… and yet will not even be in the position of getting another human’s opinion on their efforts until the first draft is complete.

Not to mention the fact that while businesses have a depressingly low chance of success if you think about it too much, the chances of a first-time author getting published (unless on Kindle) are so low as to make me wonder how anyone even gets started.

It’s HIGH risk.

Yet writers like Anthony Trollope were ridiculously prolific, and his routine was one that everyone can learn something from, whether they are a writer, an athlete, a business owner or any other field that doesn’t necessarily involve a boss standing over you, cracking a whip.

This was Trollope’s deceptively simple approach:

“It had at this time become my custom,—and is still my custom, though of late I have become a little lenient of myself—to write with my watch before me, and to require of myself 250 words every quarter of an hour…

This division of time allowed me to produce over ten pages of an ordinary novel volume a day, and if kept up through ten months, would have given as its results three novels of three volumes each in the year…”



After ranking your priorities for the day, if the number one task is a really big project then it can leave you feeling frustrated because it takes a long time to finish…
…it can still be disheartening to be stuck on Task #1 when you’ve been working all day. These feelings of frustration are a possible downside of the prioritized to-do list…

Tiny Milestones, More Momentum

Trollope was in the business of writing books and writing a book is a big project. It is not the type of task that you can complete in a day. In some cases, merely writing a chapter is too big a task for a single day.

However, instead of measuring his progress based on the completion of chapters or books, Trollope measured his progress in 15-minute increments. This approach allowed him to enjoy feelings of satisfaction and accomplishment very quickly while continuing to work on the large task of writing a book.

How You Can Benefit From This Approach

The key to this approach is that we crave a feeling of accomplishment, and a big project doesn’t always give us that.

By breaking tasks up into manageable chunks, a feeling of progress happens naturally, making it that much more likely that your goal will be reached.

Fake It Until You Become It

Did you ever ask yourself whether you might be personally responsible for a lack of confidence, charisma, authority, leadership or warmth?

What if these wonderful qualities that the greatest among us have in spades…

…are not “gifts”, but are in fact “tools” that anyone can acquire?

What if it is possible to access these parts of your personality, even if they’ve been disused for years?

There is a growing body of evidence to suggest just this – that we have a much greater influence over our moods and personality than you may have thought.

A superb TED Talk by Amy Cuddy explains how this can be the case:

Your Body Language Shapes Who You Are

Picture for a moment how valuable this knowledge actually is.

Instead of feeling nervous before an interview or meeting, you can hack your mind using conscious body language, to not just look more confident and magnetic, but to actually feel it, too.

For me, it’s also relieving to find out that by following these techniques to increase confidence don’t involve being inauthentic.

It turns out that some really small tweaks in your behaviors could make a big difference to how your life turns out.

You may have read elsewhere that the act of smiling, in addition to being a result of happiness or pleasure, can also increase your happiness.

Your choice of poses has a similar effect – you can choose “high-power” or “low-power” posture, and your choice really can determine how you will feel.

body language

It seems that changing your body language can change your mind, so choosing a high-power pose will increase testosterone, the dominance hormone, while decreasing cortisol, the stress hormone.

In exactly the same way, your choice of a low-power pose will reduce testosterone, and increase production of cortisol.

It stands to reason we react well to people who have some degree of power, but lower levels of re-activeness to stress. In earlier days of our evolution, as now, people with power can help us, which is attractive to us, but we don’t want them to fold, or act erratically under stress. Imagine a US President who doesn’t perform well under stress!

An experiment was conducted, to see how strong was the change in hormone levels in people adopting either a high-power or low-power pose for just two minutes.

High-power people had on average a 20% increase in testosterone, and a 25% decrease in cortisol.

Low-power people experienced a 10% decrease in testosterone, and a 15% increase in cortisol.

The participants were also given an opportunity to gamble, after their poses.

86% of the participants who have adopted the high-power poses were willing to gamble, compared to 60% of the low-power participants – a whopping difference of 26%.

The most obvious application of this knowledge is in the period before a job interview.

Cuddy points out that the most likely pose we strike while waiting for an interview is pretty much exactly a low-power one. We are likely to hunch-up, and take up as little space as possible.

Yet. if two minutes of adopting a low-power pose increases stress and reduces confidence, this is the worst thing you can do before an interview.

In fact, Cuddy then took the experiment one stage further, and staged interviews where participants were asked to imagine that they were about to interview for their dream job and then to prepare and perform a five-minute speech detailing their strengths, qualifications, and why they should be chosen for the job to two experienced evaluators. In this instance, they had a total of seven minutes adopting either high or low-power poses.

The methodology of the experiment is rather long-winded to describe, but you can access it here.

The conclusion of the experiment was interesting, in that now only were the high-power participants more confident, enthusiastic and captivating, and more “hire-able”, but also, their speeches were better-structured, more straightforward, and they succeeded better at explaining their qualifications.

In other words, rather than being “fake”, what they actually achieved was to present themselves better.

I’m not going to suggest that body language is the be-all-and-end-all.

It’s a two-way street, and your mind controls your body, as well as vice versa.

You’ll may even be wondering why if this is so effective, then why have method actors like Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro and Meryl Streep worked so hard to get themselves “into character”?

And I’d suggest that they do this because once they’ve become the character they are playing, the body language, the breathing, the tone of voice, the facial expressions, almost take care of themselves, and they don’t have to worry about giveaways like micro-expressions.

Because there is no way they that you can consciously modify all aspects of your non-verbal communication, there’s simply too much to be able to control it all.

Nonetheless, what strikes me as particularly valuable in this study is that this is stuff that anyone can use.

Regardless of income or situation, anyone who wants to try this now has a simple, free, two-minute short-cut that will improve confidence and presence, while reducing stress.


Body Language “Hacks” You Can Use to Project More Confidence

You know that you can pick-up cues about the people around you from their body language.

So it stands to reason that they can do the same with you.

Obviously, you don’t want to come across “fake”, but chances are you probably don’t always put your best foot forward when it comes to body language.

It’s not just about projecting positive signs, and avoiding projecting negative signs, to the people you interact with.

There’s increasing evidence that by adopting positive body language, you also hard-wire your brain to believe in the impression you’re trying to project.

By acting more confident you become more confident.

As Nietzsche said “There are no actors, only actions.”

Many books about body language have been written by people who know much more about this than myself, and I recommend that you buy/borrow a few. Some of these tips come from What Every BODY is Saying: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Speed-Reading People by Joe Navarro, which is an excellent place to start.

Nonetheless, here are some tricks to increase trust and rapport, along with some “common sense” advice that you may already know, but not actually be using. (That’s often the problem with common sense…)


Before eye contact’s even possible, a smile is noticed. Studies even show that a smile is recognizable from a distance of 300 feet.

Your smile gives the impression of confidence, as well as being friendly and attractive.

It also shows that you have social skills, which has got to be positive!

Smiling is truly contagious – a genuine smile (By genuine smile, I mean one where the corners of your eyes crinkle-up) is a force to be reckoned with. A study in Sweden showed that people have difficulty frowning when faced with a smile.

And in door-to-door sales, nodding while smiling is a well-known compliance technique.

Smiling also has the power to boost your own mood.

Since we’re seldom happy when we’re nervous, angry or stressed, smiling “tricks” your brain into believing you are happy and confident in the situation you’ve found yourself in.

In his book “59 Seconds”, Professor Richard Wiseman quotes a slightly bizarre study from the 1980s where participants held a pencil between their teeth in such a way as to force their faces into a smile. The results of the study showed that participants tended to experience the emotion associated with their expressions.

For the strongest effect,  holding the smile for 15 to 30 seconds is better.

Dale Carnegie’s Self-Improvement classic speaks much of the power of a smile…

Eye Contact

Confident people are not afraid to look directly into people’s eyes.

Submissive people avoid eye contact.

Lots of people, and men particularly, avoid eye contact with people they believe are dominant.

It’s not just confidence that strong eye contact indicates – lack of eye contact suggests you are not interested, or still worse, implies shiftiness.

This takes a little practice if you are not used to it. So try it every opportunity you get, not just when you’re at an important job interview.

If you make a point of making strong eye contact (I hope it goes to say, without staring…) with absolutely everyone you meet, you’ll be amazed at the increase in rapport you feel with people in general. And you’ll start to notice the effects almost immediately.

Standing Tall

Your posture gives away a lot.

Good posture projects confidence, and even charisma.

Whereas stooped posture indicates a lack of confidence, a lack of energy, and a lack of effort.

If your ambitions lie in any sort of leadership role, those are clearly not the impressions you want to project.

It’s not the case that you need to be tall to “stand tall”, in fact the world is full of people who are short on stature, but who successfully project confidence due to how they carry themselves.

Hollywood, the music industry and politics are all great places to look if you want proof that you don’t need to be tall to have “presence”.

A good confident posture is about standing with your legs shoulder-width apart, standing upright with a straight back, and shoulders pulled-back somewhat – but not too much unless you’re looking for a career in the military.

Sitting Posture

Just as important as your standing posture, the way you sit creates an impression, and has a extra mine-field to negotiate.

We find ourselves sitting down in job interviews, negotiations and dates, and your success in all of these will often be partly-determined by your posture when seated.

Here’s there problem – if you appear too “compact” in your space, it projects insecurity.

But if you take up too much space, it can appear as arrogance.

Particularly for men, keeping your feet apart by several inches shows you are comfortable with yourself.

In men, it’s been found that sitting-up straight with both shoulders back boosts happiness and confidence, and also projects these feelings. (Less so with women, presumably due to an increased self-consciousness when pushing-out the chest.)

Open body language is important – instinct drives us to protect our vital organs when we are nervous, making it one of your “tells” if you are not feeling at your most confident.

Make sure you don’t fold your arms – classic “closed” body language – and always turn your abdomen to the person you’re speaking with.

Hands and Arms

Your hands are speaking, even when you aren’t.

Fidgeting appears nervous, so must be avoided at all costs.

Closed body language is also a no-no, as we’ve discussed.

Waving your hands around enthusiastically is not always appropriate.

And touching the face, hair or legs are also quoted as negative body language.

So naturally, many people struggle to know what to do with their hands when they need to impress.

After all, virtually everything has already been ruled-out.

Planning other things you can do with your hands when they are not being used to help communicate what you are saying can be very helpful.

Here’s a couple of ideas:

  • If seated, rest one arm on another nearby seat. This gives the impression that you are confident in your space, and not nervous. (In the majority of situations, it’s probably best if that seat is vacant.)
  • Mimicking the body language of people who do use body language to their advantage.


Donald Trump, for example, often uses a “steepling” hand gesture.

10 Ways Sleep Deprivation is Seriously Damaging You

Are you getting enough sleep?

I seriously doubt you are.

Most people in industrialized countries do not sleep enough – and this is even more the case for “productivity junkies”, entrepreneurs and most professional people, especially in competitive fields.

If you want to be more effective and more successful, there’s a high chance that you’ve found it “necessary” to cut back on the amount of sleep you get per night!

After all, to succeed, you’ve got to squeeze the most you can out of the day.


And you’ve read that almost every successful person gets up at the crack of dawn.

Couple that with the fact that the electronic devices you can’t help checking right before trying to sleep are perfect for disrupting your sleep, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Your body clock evolved over thousands of years – who are you kidding that you can ignore your body’s need for sleep?

So, What are the Risks of Insufficient Sleep?

1. Memory Loss

Although you might be telling yourself that you can function on five hours sleep per night, fact is that you won’t be performing at your best. Your focus is going to affected, and you’ll find yourself unable to remember things. This article in WebMD explains what you can expect – basically, there are two ways that lack of sleep can affect learning an memory:

  • Lack of sleep impairs your ability to focus and learn
  • Sleep is also necessary to “consolidate” learning – meaning that learning doesn’t stick, and becomes difficult or impossible to recall.

This is why pulling an all-nighter to revise for exams is usually less than successful – facts that you may have “learned” at 4am don’t stick!

It’s not fully-known why this is – but it is thought that during sleep, the brain’s hippocampus replays the events of the day for the neocortex (the part of the brain where memories are stored). Here, memories are reviewed and processed , helping them to last for the long term. Current research suggests that different types of memories are consolidated during different stages of your sleep – some during REM (dreaming) and some during deep sleep.

2. Mood Dysfunction

Obviously, you feel better after a good night’s sleep, but do you know how far the negative effects of sleep debt go?

Clue – it’s not just lack of energy, irritability, brain fog and poor motor response.

According to, sleep debt is strongly associated with emotional instability, anxiety and confusion. It appears that with sleep deprivation comes the inability to react normally to negative emotional stimuli.

As a result, depression, anxiety, anger and stress can all become common-place.

You can see picture of how sleep debt warps emotional response in these images of the brain.

3. Reduced Cognitive Performance

This paper from Pubmed – a compilation of many studies – describes many ways in which mental performance reduces when you are deprived of sleep.

Attention and vigilance are reduced. Don’t expect compliments on your attention to detail! This is partly due to microsleeps – as they sound, these are tiny naps, where your brain momentarily has the same activity as it does when you sleep.

Creative thinking and decision-making are affected after just one night of sleep deprivation.

Sleep deprivation is also found to affect language tasks and the ability to suppress answers that you may not want to give. This is why you don’t want to be tired in an interview or negotiation – and why sleep deprivation is so effective a part of interrogation.

4. Build-up of Toxins in the Brain

It seems that part of the purpose of sleep is for your brain to do its housework.

Sleep helps the brain to cleanse itself of toxins. It seems that the clearing-out out of potentially neurotoxic waste products is greatly increased when the brain is sleeping, compared to in the waking brain.

Many cells in the brain shrink, during sleep, thus enlarging the spaces between them – and enabling fluids to be pumped around the brain clearing it of waste.

In mice, it has been discovered that this vital “house-keeping” process is ten times more active than when they are awake. A similar study hasn’t yet been commissioned on humans, but the evidence strongly suggests that this is one of the main purposes of sleep.

Diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s  are both characterized by a build-up of damaged proteins in the brain, so this could be a potential new avenue for research on these condition.

Which brings us to:

5. Alzheimer’s Disease

Although no categorical link has been made between sleep deprivation and the onset of Alzheimer’s, there have been genetic links discovered between sleep apnea and Alzheimer’s. Furthermore, a great deal of the treatment of Alzheimer’s involves improving sleep of the sufferer, while a large proportion of the symptoms may be connected with sleep.

Enough so that says “Early evidence tentatively suggests the connection may work in both directions: Alzheimer’s plaques disrupt sleep, and lack of sleep promotes Alzheimer’s plaques.”

6. Sleep Deprivation Makes You Less Attractive

With so many different reasons to make sure you’re getting enough shut-eye, do you really need more?

Well here’s a study titled Beauty sleep: An experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived individuals

The gist of it is this: 25 individuals are photographed in a controlled-setting (eg no changes in lighting photographic equipment, make-up etc), each on two separate occasions – after an eight-hour sleep, and after a sleep of just four hours.

The resulting photographs were then shown to 40 raters, whose task it was to rate, on a scale of 1 to 7,  the 25 individuals on the basis of attractiveness, and also how much they would like to socialize with each of the participants.

The sleep-deprived were rated as less-attractive, and also were less popular for potential socializing.

Not surprising,really, that the sleep-deprived were seen as less popular. One thing we know about attractiveness is that we have a strong tendency to confer positive character traits to attractive people, and negative personality traits to less-attractive people. (Attractive people tend to be automatically considered more intelligent, more honest and more likable.)

7. Lack of Sleep Has Been Linked to Obesity

The reasons for this are complex – but according to the Harvard School of Public Health, there’s a growing body of evidence to link the two.

A study tracked 60,000 women for 16 years, and found that sleeping 5 or less hours a night lead to a 15% higher chance of obesity, compared to women who slept 7 hours a night.

It was also found that the chance of gaining 30 pounds over the course of the study increased by 30%.

Possible reasons for this are:

  • Longer waking hours increase opportunities for snacking.
  • Tiredness reduces energy and motivation for exercise, so any extra calories won’t get burned.
  • Disruption of hormones that regulate appetite.

8. Reduced Libido

It’s not just that you are too tired for sex – it’s the effect that sleep deprivation can have on your hormones.

Lack of sleep has been linked to a drop in testosterone.

To many women with workaholic husbands, this won’t come as much surprise at all.

In normal circumstances, testosterone typically drops by 1 or 2% each year.

But men who have five or less hours sleep per night for just one week can expect to have testosterone levels of a man 15 years older!

You can find details of the study here at JAMA – the Journal of the American Medical Association…

It’s not just sex-drive that will suffer from these reduced levels of testosterone – sense of well-being and mood will be affected, along with reduction of muscle mass and bone density.

Low testosterone levels are also linked to the metabolism – and low testosterone has also been linked to an increase in the chances of developing heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes.

Bringing me neatly to:

9. Increased Chance of Heart Disease, Strokes and Type 2 Diabetes

Long-term lack of sleep is quite conclusively linked with heart disease.

In 2011, the European Heart Journal (details here) reviewed 15 studies, with a total of nearly 1/2 million people studied, and found that short sleepers had a 48% higher chance of developing or dying from coronary heart disease, during a 7 to 25 year follow-up period.

This is accompanied by a 15% higher chance of developing or dying from a stroke.

(It should be mentioned that they also found that sleeping nine or more hours a night produced a similar chance of heart disease, along with an even higher chance of developing or dying from a stroke.)

Insulin resistance is induced after one single night of partial sleep deprivation according to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

In Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes, another study suggests that something as simple as getting enough sleep could help counteract the current epidemics of diabetes and obesity.

“It definitely looks like a packaged deal,” said the study’s lead author, Josiane Broussard, PhD, a former graduate student at the University of Chicago who is now a post-doctoral research scientist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center’s Diabetes and Obesity Research Institute in Los Angeles.

“Curtailed sleep produced marked changes in the secretion of growth hormone and levels of noradrenaline—which can increase circulating fatty acids,” Broussard said. “The result was a significant loss of the benefits of insulin. This crucial hormone was less able to do its job. Insulin action in these healthy young men resembled what we typically see in early stages of diabetes.” [More details here, at  the newsroom for the University of Chicago Medicine]

10. A Higher Chance of Some Forms of Cancer

Lack of sleep is also linked to an increase in the chance of some types of cancer, notably breast cancer and cancer of the prostate.

This has been observed enough that for shift workers who are particularly prone to disrupted sleep patterns, regular health checks are highly recommended, and many countries have specific regulations to cover employers who require their staff to work anti-social hours.

One of the reasons cited for this increase of likelihood of developing cancer is due to a lower production of melatonin. A very detailed explanation of the relationship can be found here.

Hopefully, That Should Be Enough Reasons to Make Sure You Are Getting Enough Sleep…

It sometimes seems easier to find examples of individuals who wear their sleep deprivation as a “badge of honor“, a sign of their commitment to the job. But next time you feel tempted to join-in with this competitive sleeplessness, remember all of the side-effects you risk.

And bear in mind that high-performing individuals who value sleep do exist – Albert Einstein famously slept 10 hours per night – PLUS naps.

And Bill Clinton admitted that his mistakes during his presidency were largely made when he was tired.