3 Things You Might Not Know Are Signs of Sleep Deprivation

3 Things You Might Not Know Are Signs of Sleep Deprivation
December 5, 2020 welleum


You Didn’t Know About Before Now

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Eastern Medicine

Pop quiz–how many hours of sleep are you supposed to get a night?

If you said 7 or 8, you might be right. But, you also might be wrong. Even though that sounds ridiculous, it’s true. Scientists have found that how many hours of sleep you need a night depends on a lot of things, including your age, health, activity level, and more. So even adults might not be getting enough rest from 7 hours a night. 

Where did the 7 hour recommendation come from? It is hard to pin down.  But sleep studies in the early 1900s indicated that the average American slept 10 hours a night, and a century is not enough time to physically evolve for less.  While people may have worked harder physically, they also had fewer distractions like electricity, screens and television.  

If you’re not getting enough rest, you’re not going to be feeling your best–mentally or physically.

TCM Signs You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep

Clearly, sleeping enough is important if you want to feel your best. But how can you know if you’re one of these people who needs to catch a few more Zs or just get an extra shot of espresso in your morning Starbucks order?

Well, sleep deprivation shows up in lots of different ways. There’s the obvious signs, like irritability, dark circles, sleepiness during the day, and packing on a few extra pounds. But because having enough time to rest and recharge is so important to our body, sleep deprivation can show up in ways you may never have expected. 

So if you’re not sure if the weight gain or the breakout is because of lack of sleep or eating too much junk food, keep an eye out for these lesser-known signs that you’re not getting enough rest.

Nervous Sweating

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Eastern Medicine- Nervous SweatingDo you ever get a little anxious and start to work up a sweat, even though you’re not working out or exerting yourself? Nervous sweating can be a sign of heart qi deficiency, which can also prevent you from getting enough rest.

According to traditional Chinese medicine, heart qi deficiency is caused by emotional distress. That’s right, you just might literally have a broken heart! Negative emotions like sadness put pressure on our heart area, which can cut off the flow of qi.

So if your heart qi is running low, you might notice feelings of anxiety and nervous sweating, plus feeling out of breath or being unusually pale. To rebalance your heart qi, try working more red foods and herbs like liver, beets, cherries, and cranberries into your diet.

Vivid Dreams and Nightmares

Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Eastern Medicine- NightmaresHaving dreams is totally normal. In fact, most people dream every night, multiple times. But when your dreams are weirdly easy to remember or turn into nightmares, then you’ve got a symptom of sleep deprivation on your hands.

In TCM, vivid dreams and nightmares can be caused by a condition called “Heart fire.” This all starts in our Liver, surprisingly. When we worry too much and hold in our stress, our Liver yang qi gets built up and creates a heat that rises into our hearts. And when we get really angry or frustrated, we create Liver fire which can also send heat up into our heart areas. The Chinese call this Liver yang rising and harassing the Heart

If Heart fire is causing your sleep deprivation and nightmares, you might also notice symptoms like:

  • Canker sores and mouth ulcers
  • Dark colored urine
  • Feeling more thirsty than usual
  • Overheating
  • Agitation and restlessness

If all signs point to Heart fire, try to incorporate calming and cooling foods into your daily life. Avoid alcohol, pizza, and spicy food and opt for avocado, apples, or yogurt instead. And try eating almonds, walnuts, bananas, or cherries before bed to help you have a good night’s rest.


Signs of Sleep Deprivation in Eastern Medicine- IndigestionPacking on a few pounds is a common sign that you’re not getting enough rest, but that’s not the only digestive issue that is related to sleep deprivation. If you don’t have enough Spleen qi, you might be battling a whole host of stomach troubles alongside your sleeplessness. That can include painful bloating, constipation, diarrhea, and more.

That’s because Spleen qi powers our entire digestive system. When the qi is flowing, our blood and digestion can go on their merry way throughout the body. But when the qi gets blocked up, you can end up with either a Liver qi deficiency or Liver Yang rising, which can harass the Heart.

If Liver qi deficiency is the cause of your digestion and sleep problems, you might also feel weak, have a lot of headaches, get dizzy spells, or feel bloated. To try and counteract this, you can try eating more beef liver, root vegetables and probiotics. So the next time you think your Liver qi is low, whip up a batch of beef stew and you’ll be feeling better in no time!  

Why You Need To Get Enough Sleep

Practitioners of both eastern and western medicine agree–getting enough sleep is crucial to being healthy in your body and mind. Here are just a few of the reasons we need sleep.

Sleep and Brain Power in Eastern MedicineBrain Function

You know how you feel fuzzy or a little slow when you don’t get enough sleep? That’s because getting the right amount of rest can affect how well we can think, how productive we are, and how well we do at our jobs or school. In fact, not getting enough sleep can affect our brains in the same way that getting drunk does!

The more sleep we get, the better our brains work. So when you’re chronically sleep deprived, you’re less productive, creative, and sharp than you should be. Who knew all you had to do to be smarter was take a nap!

Qi Balance

In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), all living things contain a life force called qi. This life force is supposed to keep flowing throughout our bodies while keeping the levels of yin and yang it contains in balance.’

One of the ways that yin and yang stay balanced is with proper sleep. In TCM, our bodies are filled with yang qi during the day, while yin qi takes over at night. The levels of yin and yang rise and fall every day, and they are supposed to match up with our sleep cycles. If you don’t sleep enough and let your yin qi take over at night, your qi balance will get all messed up. And unbalanced qi can wreak havoc on both your body and your mental health.

Heart Health

Did you know that heart disease is the number one killer of Americans? That might go back to the fact that 1 in 3 of us doesn’t get enough sleep, because how long and how well we snooze has a big impact on our heart health. In fact, one group of scientists found out that people who sleep less than 7 hours a night are much more likely to have a stroke or get heart disease. So if you’re trying to keep your ticker in tip top shape, remember to hit the snooze button every now and then.

Sometimes it can be tricky to tell if you’re sleep deprived or just addicted to your afternoon lattes. If the signs above are a little too familiar, you need to turn off the alarm and take a snooze!

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