Tag: sleep

Sleeping Positions and Health

We all know sleep is important for our health… but what about our sleeping positions?

There are several sleeping positions we may find ourselves in. These may include sleeping on our side, our back, in a fetal position, or on our stomach. Each sleeping position carries its own level of health benefits.

Sleeping in a fetal position. This popular sleeping position is good for your spine, and it can also help prevent snoring. A loose (less tightly-curled) fetal position–particularly on your left side–is especially good for health, facilitating breathing and blood circulation.

Sleeping on your stomach. While this sleeping position may reduce snoring, it may not be the healthiest. Sleeping on your stomach can cause neck and back pain, and it can also put pressure on your muscles, causing numbness.

Sleeping on your side. This common sleeping position can be very healthy. Not only does it reduce neck and back pain, but it can also reduce snoring by keeping your airways open, helping you to breathe better. Additionally, placing a pillow between your legs in this sleeping position can provide extra support to both your hips and back.

Sleeping on your back. This sleeping position may be good for quality sleep – your weight is evenly distributed, and your head, neck, and spine are neutrally positioned. Additionally, placing a pillow underneath your knees while sleeping in this position can provide extra support for your spine. Also, using a pillow to support your head can be helpful when sleeping in this position. Sleeping on your back, however, can induce sleep apnea, as well as aggravate snoring and/or digestive problems such as acid reflux.

What’s your preferred sleeping position? What are your thoughts?

Happy Sleeping!

References

Sleeping Positions. (2017). Retrieved from http://www.hcmc.org/clinics/SleepCenter/SleepingPositions/index.htm?clinicDocName=HCMC_CLINICS_440&conditionDocName

Starfish or Freefall? What Your Sleep Position Can Tell You. (2017). Retrieved from http://bettersleep.org/better-sleep/sleep-positions/

The Best Sleep Position for Your Body. (N.d.) Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/best-sleep-position/

What’s the Best Position to Sleep In? (2017). Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/best-sleep-positions#1

Featured image taken from Flickr.com (user “Jon Huss”).

Should you sleep naked?

As someone who traditionally loves wearing pajamas to bed at night I have always wondered about the question: is it better to sleep naked than in pajamas? A lack of sleep over time has been shown to increase the risk for stroke, diabetes, cognitive decline, depression, and obesity, so it’s important to determine what’s best for yourself to get a good night’s rest.

Rather than sit around and continue to wonder, I decided to do some research on the topic and solve this dilemma once and for all. In the US, around 10% of the population admit to sleeping naked; which is actually kind of low considering about 30% of our friends in the UK do so. Now that I know some people in the world actually do sleep naked, what are the benefits of doing so?

The most scientifically sound reason I could find for sleeping naked was to better regulate your body temperature overnight. If you sleep in pajamas and have heavy covers it can be easy to overheat and disrupt sleep accordingly. The Sleep Council has determined that 68°F is the ideal sleeping temperature for a high-quality night’s rest.

Personally, this just tells me to make sure my thermostat is set to 68°F at night before going to bed. I normally don’t have trouble sleeping at night, but I know that is not always the case. It seems there is more research needed to truly determine its effect, but do you think sleeping naked actually helps sleep quality?

 

AB

Practicing Good Sleep Hygiene

Like diet and exercise, sleep is an important part of living a healthy life. Sleep supports healthy brain function, healthy growth and development, and our immune function. For adults, the National Sleep Foundation recommends 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. But what happens if we don’t get enough shut-eye? This can affect our productivity, our ability to manage our emotions, and even our ability to fight off infections. In addition, a lack of sleep can increase our risk for obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

An important part of getting enough and better sleep is practicing good sleep habits or “sleep hygiene.” Here are some ways that you can practice good sleep hygiene:

Sleep more consistently. Try to go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning by setting your alarm. This will help to reinforce your body’s sleep/wake cycle.

Create an optimal sleep environment. It may be helpful to keep any work-related items/electronics in a room other than the bedroom. This will allow you to better associate the bedroom with sleep. Also, use a comfortable mattress and pillows, and try to reduce any light and noise that can affect your sleep. Blackout curtains, eye masks, and/or ear plugs can help with this. Finally, keep your bedroom at a cool temperature (60-75 degrees Fahrenheit) to facilitate sound sleep.

Establish a bedtime ritual. Listening to relaxing music, stretching, or reading before bed can be helpful to prepare you for sound sleep. Avoid activities that are very stimulating such as strenuous exercise or using a computer.

Put away technology. Using electronic devices such as your cell phone and computer before bed can make falling asleep more difficult. This is because the blue light that emanates from your phone and computer screens stimulates your brain, which can affect your sleep/wake cycle. Avoid using these devices 30 minutes before bed.

Avoid cigarettes, alcohol, caffeine, and heavy meals before bed. Caffeine, alcohol, and cigarettes can act as stimulants that can keep you awake. Avoid these substances 4-6 hours before bedtime. Additionally, avoid heavy foods before bed as these may cause indigestion, disrupting your ability to fall asleep.

If you must, nap during the day. Taking naps later in the day may disrupt your drive to sleep at night.

Happy Sleeping!

Helpful Resources: 

National Sleep Foundation

American Academy of Sleep Medicine

American Sleep Association

National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project (from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine)

References: 

Circadian Rhythm and Your Body Clock. (N.d.). Retrieved from  https://sleep.org/articles/circadian-rhythm-body-clock/

Healthy Sleep Tips. (2017). Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-tools-tips/healthy-sleep-tips/page/0/1

National Sleep Foundation. (2015, February 2). National Sleep Foundation Recommends New Sleep Times. Retrieved from https://sleepfoundation.org/press-release/national-sleep-foundation-recommends-new-sleep-times

The High-Tech World of Sleep. (N.d.). Retrieved from https://sleep.org/articles/how-technology-changing-the-way-we-sleep/

Twelve Simple Tips to Improve Your Sleep. (2007, December 18). Retrieved from http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/healthy/getting/overcoming/tips

Peters, B. (2016, March 1). What Sleep Rituals Should Be Part of Your Bedtime Routine?  Retrieved from https://www.verywell.com/bedtime-routines-and-sleep-rituals-for-restful-sleep-3014947

Why Is Sleep Important? (2017, June 7). Retrieved from https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/sdd/why

Technology and Sleep: Timing is Everything [Infographic]

GUEST BLOGGER: John Rehm

According to a poll conducted by the National Sleep Foundation, the average American looks at their phone 46 times day and uses gadgets for 11 hours a day. In addition, 90 percent of adults and 75 percent of children use their electronic devices within an hour of bedtime.

The result: Americans are being exposed to short-wavelength blue light that affects their circadian rhythm, which determines when we feel tired or awake. The infographic below was created by Nursing@Georgetown, Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies’ online FNP program, to explain how light affects our ability to fall asleep. For more information, visit Nursing@Georgetown’s post here.

screens_and_sleep_infographic

Practice These Morning Habits For A Better Day Ahead

Most of us fail to consistently get a good night’s sleep, BUT there are things you can do the next morning so you won’t feel exhausted throughout the day. The good news is that you can begin feeling better before you even leave the house. While some of these may be obvious, we bet there are some that may shock you.

  • Don’t look at your phone after you awake. Studies reveal the longer you stay in bed, the longer your brain waits to prepare for the day ahead. Electronic devices have contributed to this problem, as people are inclined to check the weather, send emails, read news headlines, or review social media immediately after awakening. The rule of thumb here is, “when you wake up, get up.” The phone can wait.
  • Don’t be discouraged by your fitness tracker. While Fitbits and the like are great for giving us detailed information regarding the quality of our sleep, sources say beginning the day by looking at negative sleep reports can induce stress and get us off on the wrong foot. Folks tend to begin their day with the mindset they should be tired, even when they aren’t.
  • Drink plenty of water. We all know drinking water is good for many reasons, but replenishing our bodies after a long night of sleep gives us the energy we need to begin our day. Water not only helps relieve “morning breath” but it also helps keep from feeling tired and irritable. So while you perk that initial pot of coffee, go ahead and grab a glass of water and get to hydrating yourself ASAP.
  • Shower in the morning. We all love a hot shower just before bed, but studies show this can have a negative effect on our sleep since our core body temperature drops to about 60 degrees before we fall into a deep sleep. Showering before bed can result in a delay in hitting REM or can cause restless sleep since it takes longer for our bodies to cool down. Actually, a warm morning shower can help energize us by raising our body temperatures and helping us to awake quicker than taking cooler showers or not showering at all.
  • Exercising at night keeps us up. It may be difficult to get in an hour workout before work at 8 a.m., but studies reveal the more activity you do during the later hours in the day, the more likely you’ll have a harder time falling asleep at night. In fact, working out in the morning makes us awake quicker and leaves us energized throughout the day, regardless of the amount of sleep we actually got.
  • Get outside! This should be no-brainer, but Vitamin D gives us energy, and reduces the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. As soon as you arise, you should open the curtains and let the sunlight in. Go for a morning walk or run if you really want an extra energy boost.
  • Turn on the tunes. If you exercise regularly, chances are that your iPod often helps get you in the mood to get you through your work out. Well, the same theory can be applied to getting out of bed. Turn on something upbeat to help you power through your morning routine – think: Pharrell’s “Happy”, “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves, or “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

 

Photo source: Flickr.com

 

Other Dangers of Using Devices at Nighttime

Most of us know that using mobile phones or e-readers before bed can disrupt our sleep cycles, but did you know there are other dangers associated with prolonged exposure to artificial light at night?

Recent research suggests that excess blue light exposure may be doing more than robbing you of a good night’s sleep, and could also increase your risk of cancer, obesity, and depression.

It’s important to understand why the blue light emitted from mobile devices affects your circadian rhythm. Typically, after awaking, people usually open the shades to let in the morning sunlight. Special cells in your eyes detect the natural light and signal your brain to shut off its production of melatonin. The physiological process doesn’t stop there—the morning light also signals cells to increase production of the stress hormone cortisol and a hunger-promoting hormone called ghrelin. The morning light also signals your body temperature and heart rate to rise.

In essence, the morning light allows your body to “reset” itself to prepare for the work ahead, which is exactly what’s supposed to happen in the early hours of the morning. However, this physiological resetting can sometimes occur at night, which is when things can start to go amiss.

Previous research has shown that people who use mobile phones, e-readers, or are exposed to LED lighting have increased appetite, took longer to fall asleep, experienced less restorative REM sleep, and were more tired the following day than those who did not use such devices before bedtime. Another study demonstrated where device users experienced a 55% drop in melatonin after only five days, which can be alarming because in addition to its sleep-inducing powers, melatonin has also been shown to be an anti-cancer agent.

While most of the recent research is too early to determine the true effect of blue light at night, scientists aren’t afraid to suggest that folks burning the midnight oil on their devices are more likely to be obese or suffer from heart disease. Other studies have linked late night workers to higher rates of both breast and prostate cancer.

So, in a world driven by technology, what can we do to ensure we’re getting the proper kind of sleep? Fortunately, there are several steps we can take that won’t require us to toss out our smartphones and computers. With a proper balance, we can have both!

The best advice public health gives us in this department is to power down those devices at a normal hour, or at least an hour before you go to bed (of course, the earlier the better).

Next, try reading an actual paper book before bed. Foregoing the artificial light from a phone or e-reader will signal your brain to begin producing melatonin at a decent hour to prepare your body for sleep.

Also, try purchasing energy-efficient light bulbs. Certain companies now produce bulbs that automatically change their hue depending on the time of day.

Finally, if you must use an electronic device before bed, purchase an app that allows your laptop or phone to emit blue light during the day and shifts to warmer wavelengths by evening. While this option isn’t as healthy as reading a traditional paper book, it should help your body to still produce some amounts of melatonin.

Sweet dreams!

How to sleep better on your period

 

Sleep_woman

Now that Spring Break is over and the end of the semester is approaching faster than any of us would like, I know that I need to get as much sleep as possible to keep my mind fresh and make it through each overscheduled day. I’ve noticed lately that the week before my period starts that I lie awake and review my growing to-do list over and over again and get a really restless night of sleep. Thirty percent of women reported that their sleep was disturbed during their period and 23% reported that their sleep was disturbed in the week before their period started.

Why do our periods give us insomnia when we would give anything to fall asleep quickly and get some good rest?

  • Your body temperature rises over the course of your menstrual cycle and can make it hard to sleep. An evening drop in temperature is what helps our bodies feel sleepy.
  • Mood swings can make you feel anxious or depressed.
  • Stomach issues, cramps, or headaches can make it hard to sleep.
  • Your cycle does cause insomnia. The drop in progesterone levels is likely a cause as progesterone has a mild sedative effect.

How to fix this

  • Make sure your bedroom is cooled to an optimal temperature.
  • Try deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to relax and de-stress before bedtime.
  • Eat a snack that is kind to your stomach before bed.
  • Take an ibuprofen or other pain reliever right before bed.
  • Avoid caffeine for several hours before bed.
  • Keep a period log that includes your sleep patterns in order to be prepared for your next cycle or to show your doctor at your next appointment.
  • Use a hormonal form of birth control to reduce the fluctuation in estrogen and progesterone. In addition to all of the other benefits of hormonal birth control, it can also help you sleep!

Health can’t be achieved overnight

Sleep is often overlooked when discussing health. We often focus on daytime activities like diet and exercise when trying to improve our health; however sleep has a major impact on our overall well being. Getting the recommended 7-9 hours can…

  • improve mood
  • improve concentration
  • improve reaction time
  • improve memory
  • improve immune system
  • reduce chances of accidents, particularly car accidents
  • reduce risk for obesity
  • reduce risk of diabetes
  • reduce risk for heart disease

If you aren’t getting enough sleep, what should you do? Track it!

There are many wearable fitness trackers and mobile apps that track sleep. Find one that is in your price range and start recording your data. Research has shown that simply tracking sleep levels can improve sleep habits. If you want to go a step further and self-monitor your progress, you can reap even more benefits. In addition, many sleep trackers and apps will provide feedback for enhancing sleep such as reducing caffeine intake or avoiding exercising right before going to bed. Incorporating these helpful tips can vastly improve your sleep over time.

The key to sleep tracking, or any health tracking for that matter, is to view the data over several days or weeks, try to find trends, and then make small adjustments to improve your numbers. Try to avoid seeing each night, or day, as a success or failure, but rather aim for gradual improvement. Essentially, achieving any health goal is a process, and can’t be achieved overnight (no pun intended).

Read more about which sleep trackers are best here.

Reference: mybasis.com

Image Source: wikipedia.org

 

3 Simple Ways to Manage Stress During Exams

It’s the middle of the semester and students are guzzling caffeine, pulling all-nighters, and camping out in the library just to get through exams. While midterms can be a crucial and stressful time for many, it’s important to remember that sometimes overworking yourself can lead to counter-productive results. (which in turn, causes more stress)

Believe it or not, there are actually many things you can do to reduce your stress and still be successful on exams. Here are three simple and easy ways to change your study habits for the better:

  • Get organized- You finally get to the library and pull out your study guide, and you start to shuffle through the piles of paper in your backpack for your notes. An hour later, you realize you’ve wasted more time looking for the information to study, than actually studying. This is just one of the reasons why getting and staying organized is the key to a successful semester (and a successful life). Organize your notes, keep an agenda, write things down, plan ahead, make to-do lists; all of these things will make a big difference and save you both time and stress when it comes to exams.
  • Take breaks- While it may seem like there’s not enough hours in the day to get everything done, studying non-stop for ten hours will take a toll on you. Try to study for 45 minutes and then take a 15 minute break. Take a walk outside, listen to some music, meditate, stretch; let the information sink in. You’ll feel much more ready to start again and you’ll be less tempted to give in to distractions when you actually are studying.

If you ever need a little extra motivation, just remember: only eight more weeks until Christmas Break!

Lack of Sleep Can Increase Risk of Common Cold

If you’re trying to avoid catching the common cold this winter, a new study suggests getting more sleep. Research finds that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are four times more likely to catch a cold than than those who get at least seven or more hours of sleep.

While previous research has been linking poor sleep with increased illness for years, these studies relied only on self-report of hours slept, leaving results subject to recall bias. Therefore, in this study, researchers aimed to avoid this by using a combination of sleep diaries and wrist actigraphy (a new technique that uses a watchlike device to measure movement and inactivity) to monitor the sleep patterns of the 164 participants over seven consecutive days.

Volunteers were then given a small dose of the common cold virus and were monitored for symptoms over the next five days. In the end, what they found was that shorter sleep duration was associated with increased susceptibility to the common cold.

We already know that most Americans are not getting enough sleep. The CDC reports that 30% of adults sleep six or less hours each night. While most people recognize diet and exercise as important factors of overall health, many adults fail to realize that sleep is just as critical. However, given the data reported in this new study, it is clear that getting sufficient sleep needs to become more of a priority for many adults.