Here’s What Happens When You Lack Sleep (Plus 6 Easy Tips for Better Sleep!)

Twenty years ago, back in my modeling days I was used to surviving on very little sleep, like three hours a night. Between long days, late nights and minimal nourishing food it was hard to get my body clock into sync with my needs. Sure, I knew I wasn’t living up to my full potential and could feel the effects on my body and brain, but at the time I had the impression it was all just a symptom of my crazy, hectic lifestyle.

I thought I was one of those amazingly rare people who thrives on 3 hours of sleep a night, while at the same time I would find myself with heavy eyelids and a fuzzy brain by lunch time. I imagined that I was fooling everyone around me, but when my makeup artist said to me one day, “Uh, Lane, why don’t you take a little shut eye as I do your hair”,  I knew I wasn’t right!

It came as a bit of a surprise when years after I changed my career and started changing my lifestyle, I still found myself struggling with sleep, especially after having my son, Adrian. I would lie awake late at night willing my brain to switch off to no avail. Even if I managed to get to sleep soon after my head hit the pillow, I was often plagued by restless sleep patterns that left me feeling exhausted when I woke up.  Dead tired, bags under my eyes, practically useless!

It goes without saying that I needed to find a way to reset my body clock and learn how to make a solid night’s sleep part of my regular routine rather than something I experienced once in a blue moon.

We all know how important it is to get a good night’s sleep, but somehow it’s one of life’s necessary functions that eludes a lot of us. It should be something that just happens naturally, like flicking off a light switch, but then your head hits the pillow and all you can think about is the fact that you’re not going to sleep. Before you know it, hours have passed and you’re still lying wide awake. Does that sound familiar to you?  I would wake at 2:20am and count sheep, repeat prayers, come up with amazing business plans, create magical conversations with people I can’t stand and by the time 4:15am would roll around I’d doze to sleep only to find myself rolling over to find the sun beaming at my face!  UGH!.  


You’re probably nodding your head along with all this talk of sleepless nights spent rolling around with a head full of frustration and are wondering what the big deal is. Everybody has sleepless nights, right?  We do, but after time, these sleepless nights begin to tear our bodies apart, for real, we start losing our minds!


Unfortunately missing out on a good night’s sleep has ramifications far beyond your energy levels the next day. I want you to understand that long term sleeplessness may be affecting more than you care to admit.  

Here are some of the ways sleep deprivation is affecting your brain and your life:

  • Alertness

Research shows that even missing 1.5 hours of sleep can have an impact on your alertness the next day. You’ll find yourself unable to concentrate and your reaction times will be considerably lower than usual.  Think about when you’re driving across town with your screaming kids in the backseat, and the guy in front of you suddenly slows down as a cat races across the road; you come to a screeching halt, only an inch between him and you! Your heart races, you get that glorious shot of adrenaline, and your hormonal imbalance is at play!       

  • Memory

Our short term memory relies on our cognitive functions working at full capacity, but when you’re not having enough sleep at night you’ll struggle with both your short and long term memory. You’ll find yourself forgetting appointments (like the dermatologist appointment you’ve had on the calendar for months, opps it’s gone)! You will also have a more difficult time creating positive habits. (Yes, the good habits that we are trying to build everyday, like cutting your caffeine in half and walking for 20 minutes a day…)

  • Hormone imbalances

Just one week of sleep deprivation can can affect your body’s ability to recognize and digest glucose – the simple sugar that is a component of many carbohydrates and acts as an energy source, but is also found in many processed foods – which can be a factor in weight gain and the development of diabetes. These hormone imbalances can also lead to cardiovascular disease and depression as your body tries to find ways to right the situation as you continue to throw it off balance.  

  • Relationship stress

Our mood is the most obvious indicator of our body’s reaction to sleep deprivation, and unfortunately it tends to display our sleep problems to everyone we encounter. Have you ever had a terrible night’s sleep and then found yourself snapping at your partner for every little thing the next day? That’s your brain struggling to work overtime to make up for the rest that it missed out on.  Don’t go to bed mad, whether it be from a particular incident with a colleague at the office, a client you haven’t received payment from, your son’s teacher, or your most intimate relationship, your partner.  When you are stressed the body releases cortisol, causing a disruption in your sleep cycle, which will diminish our sleepy go lucky hormone melatonin.  

  • Quality of life

The old saying “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” is more likely to lead you towards an early grave than it is to help you achieve everything you want in life – especially if one of those things you want is to be happy. A lack of sleep not only makes you moody and tired (and just a general joy to be around, she says sarcastically – ha!), but you may find yourself struggling to get into your usual routine, with exercise and a healthy diet most likely falling by the wayside – to your detriment. In fact, studies have shown that restricted sleep can have the same effect on your brain as consuming marijuana, and when you experience the “sleep munchies” you’re more likely to consume on average 385 more calories. Not what you want to be doing!

  • Higher risk of car accidents

Drowsy driving accounts for thousands of crashes, injuries and fatalities each year, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Some experts believe that driving while drowsy is far more dangerous than driving while intoxicated – and if you’re as horrified as I hope you are by the dangers of drink driving then that should be a suitable wake up call. (Just don’t do it!)

It’s not all doom and gloom for those of you who are currently struggling through sleepless nights because here are a few of my little tricks and lifestyle changes you can implement that can help you make great sleep a part of your life. I should mention, that while these tips can definitely be helpful, if you’re suffering from extreme insomnia you should consult your doctor for help.

I know you must have said to yourself at least once, what the heck, how can I get some sleep?  When we’re all living these crazy busy lives what can you actually do to help you get a better night’s sleep?

Well, for starters you need to start hacking your habits to make sure you’re giving yourself the best possible chance at getting to sleep quickly and more importantly, getting more of that good quality restorative sleep you need.


1. Set your room up right

If you want to get a good night’s sleep — start by making sure you’ve got the best possible environment, and that means making sure you have a nice dark room. That means heavy blinds to block out sunlight or street lights and make sure there’s nothing electrical in the room with little lights. When I travel I even bring that black electrical tape and a clip to block out the safety lights and clamp down the blinds!

2. Forget your phone

Not only can the light from your phone screen affects your brain ability to produce melatonin (the hormone that controls your sleep cycle), but it can further distract you when you need to clear your mind and go to sleep. Consider getting an old school alarm clock and leaving your phone outside your bedroom for the night. Put it to sleep before you, in a drawer in your kitchen.

3. Look at your diet

Hopefully I don’t need to be telling you that you shouldn’t be having a coffee before bed – or really and time after about 1pm – but your diet can affect your sleep in other ways. Unhealthy eating habits can have a negative effect on your body’s production of hormones that can adversely affect your sleep, but gastrointestinal distress can also make for an uncomfortable night. {OUCH}

4. Develop a routine

A steady routine will help signal to your brain that it is time to start powering down and go to sleep. This can include gradually dimming lights and getting off your phone, as well as your usual pre-bed beauty routine, but most important it is getting into bed at the same time every night.  GET into bed before 10pm!  

5. Get the thoughts out of your head

If the reason you struggle to get to sleep is because your head is full of problems and your to-do list for the next day, keep a notepad and pen next to your bed and make it a habit to write a list of everything that is running through your head and that you need to accomplish for the next day. While you’re at it, make a list of everything you’re grateful for from today to end your day on a positive note, remember:

“Grateful people report themselves as being less materialistic and less envious. In particular, grateful people report being more willing to part with their possessions, more generous with them, less envious of the material wealth of others, less committed to the idea that material wealth brings happiness..”

6. When in doubt, meditate

Adding a short meditation to your nightly routine can help you to settle your mind and relax, leading to a much more restful sleep. It can help you to clear your mind of all the racing thoughts and focus on the now which in turn will help you to drift off to sleep easier. There are several ways to meditate, all of them worth trying!  

Commit to taking good care of yourself, your subtle bodies will thank you, promise.

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