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4 Realistic Ways to Deal with Sleep Deprivation

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The effects of too little sleep can be hazardous to your health and happiness. Here are some natural solutions to help ease the symptoms and get more quality shut-eye.

Sleep debt is disorienting and can even be dangerous. Whether you suffer from general insomnia or juggle a grueling travel schedule, sleep deprivation is a serious health issue that affects millions. It can weaken one's immune system, heighten emotional responses, and even alter gene expression. Sleeping pills can lead to potential overuse, or worse, abuse. Luckily, there are healthful alternatives that can ease the symptoms of sleep loss.

Larissa Hall Carlson, a Kripalu Yoga teacher and Ayurvedic Life Counselor, knows sleep deprivation firsthand. Managing an active schedule that brings her from a Yoga Journal conference to a photo shoot, to Wanderlust Festival, and then to direct a 500-hour yoga teacher training course--all within one week--can leave anyone feeling a bit bleary-eyed. "After a restless night, it's easy to overlook healthier options in favor of indulgent treats and movie marathons. But knowing that sleep deprivation compromises the strength of the immune system, choosing wholesome food and proper exercise is essential for staying strong," says Carlson. It is counter intuitive because many of us seek comfort foods--sugar, excessive caffeine, and other stimulants--but maintaining the discipline of self-care can lead to far better results.

Here are some tips on how to practice mindful awareness to overcome exhaustion and stay charged, even when you're feeling drained.

1. Gently face the day. "Despite grogginess, let the sunrise mark a new day to empower yourself with healthy choices and set yourself up for a good night's sleep ahead. Avoid 'treating' yourself to a large, sugary, whipped-cream-covered latte, which will only provide temporary satisfaction as a pick-me-up, but will leave you with calorie overload and revved-up nerves. Instead, pamper yourself with something cleaner and more gratifying: freshly brewed organic black coffee with a splash of maple syrup, a rich cup of loose-leaf black tea, or a caffeine-free cup of tulsi tea (holy basil)," says Carlson. "Rushing, multi-tasking, or commuting during your morning cup will leave you agitated. Start the day as peacefully as possible," she advises. Allow yourself the time to have your breakfast in a calm state, and perhaps more importantly these days, device-free. Morning serenity will set the pace for a sustainable day.

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