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Smart Sleeping: How Sleep Powers Your Brain

Feeling less sharp after missing sleep is not all in your head… well, actually it is.

Studies have shown that lack of sleep is a huge contributor to lessened brain power and even declining brain size. During REM sleep, the brain becomes energized to the point that dreams occur. This stage of sleep is vital to rejuvenating the brain and repairing brain cells. Although it is recommended that individuals get a solid eight hours of sleep, naps are also beneficial to strengthening the brain and remaining alert during waking hours.

Failing to get enough sleep can be detrimental to your health and brain processes. It is even thought that sleep disorders contributing to lack of adequate sleep can result in Alzheimer’s and dementia, and, in the short term, makes it much more difficult to learn and retain new information. Although many people are aware of the damage to the body and mind that results from lack of sleep, sleep deprivation continues to be an issue, especially among students and young professionals.

Lack of sleep is horrible for your entire body so it is vital to give your mind and body the rest it needs. Sleep is also an important contributor to parts of the brain that influence growth, social interaction and emotional reactions. While you may only view sleep as a time to rest your brain, you are actually exercising it by allowing it to act in a way and produce chemicals it doesn’t have the ability to while the body is awake. Not only does lack of sleep hurt your brain, your brain cannot produce sleep inducing chemicals if you don’t go through the entire sleep cycle that occurs upon a full night’s sleep.

Give your brain a break and make sure to get adequate sleep to ensure a happy, healthy noggin.

 

“Brain Basics: Understanding Sleep.” : National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 25 July 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/brain_basics/understanding_sleep.htm&gt;.

Haiken, Melanie. “Lack Of Sleep Kills Brain Cells, New Study Shows.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 20 Mar. 2014. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/melaniehaiken/2014/03/20/lack-of-sleep-kills-brain-cells-new-study-suggests/&gt;.

Willingham, Val. “Lack of Sleep May Shrink Your Brain.” CNN. Cable News Network, 1 Jan. 1970. Web. 17 Sept. 2014. <http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/04/health/no-sleep-brain-size/&gt;.

Nightmares and Nightmare Disorder

Few things are quite as disturbing as waking up startled, not completely sure where you are or what is happening. If you are all too familiar with this feeling, you may be one of the adults who still experience nightmares on a regular basis.

Nightmares typically occur during REM sleep, or the deepest stage of sleep. This is the same stage in which dreams occur, but nightmares can be much more startling and even cause you to jolt awake.

While most people associate nightmares with small children crawling into their parents’ bed, “between 2% and 8% of the adult population is plagued by nightmares.” Having nightmares as an adult is a completely normal occurrence, but it is important to understand what may be contributing to these nighttime fits.

Just like dreams, nightmares can be affected by everything from the food you ate before bed, the person you met last week or the event you have coming up. More common causes of nightmares are changes in medications and sleep deprivation, both of which affect the chemical levels in the body. More importantly, adult nightmares can be a sign of more pressing sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, insomnia and depression. Some psychologists even believe that nightmares may be a way of working through traumatic issue that you are not able to handle in a conscious state.

Frequent nightmares become a disorder when they disturb everyday life. Nightmare Disorder is a sleep disorder characterised by the repeated occurrence of frightening dreams which precipitate awakenings from sleep; on awakening, the individual becomes fully alert and oriented and has detailed recall of the nightmare, which usually involves imminent danger or extreme embarrassment to the individual.”

As with most sleep disorders, frequent nightmares can be fixed by keeping a regular sleep cycle and bedtime routine. Regularity in this area can do wonders for all sleep issues. Figuring out what helps you sleep is important to getting the best night’s sleep and avoiding troublesome sleep disorders.

“Adult Nightmares: Causes and Treatments.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/nightmares-in-adults&gt;.

“Nightmares.” Psychology Today: Health, Help, Happiness Find a Therapist. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.psychologytoday.com/conditions/nightmares&gt;.

“Nightmare Disorder.” Patient.co.uk. 12 Aug. 2014. Web. 3 Sept. 2014. <http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/nightmare-disorder&gt;.

Kiss Morning Breath Goodbye

Halitosis may just be a fancy name for bad breath, but such a serious name may actually match the serious irritation it causes. Dentists have found that the main cause of morning breath is the lack of oxygen during the night, which leads to dry mouth. When the flow of saliva decreases in the mouth, odorous bacteria are produced.

It is also thought that those who snore with their mouths open are more likely to experience the stinkiest of morning breath. Smoking also causes the mouth to dry out through lower saliva production.

Whatever the cause of your morning breath, some simple home treatments or adjustments to your dental routine can have you kissing morning breath goodbye.

  • Brush, Floss, Rinse, Repeat—Be sure to brush your teeth thoroughly and brush your tongue, as well. The tongue produces the majority of bad breath and the back of the tongue is the worst offender. While most people try to avoid flossing it can actually get any stubborn food particles out of your mouth that simply brushing can miss. Using mouth wash is also a great way to avoid bad morning breath, instead of buying mouthwash that just gives the immediate illusion of fresh breath, look for mouthwashes that will kill odor-producing bacteria.
  • Stay Hydrated—Since the cause of bad breath is lack of saliva, keeping your body and mouth hydrated can cure bad breath during the day and even into the night. Be sure to avoid beverages that dehydrate and lessen saliva production.
  • Get Hip with Herbs—Herbs like mint, parsley, and basil are known for their refreshing scents, they may also help with long term bad breath due to their high levels of chlorophyll – a pigment in plants that can neutralize body odors.

Avoiding stinky foods and maintaining a strict dental routine is the best way to prevent bad morning breath and keep your breath fresh throughout the day as well.

“What you should know about bad breath.” (2003). Journal of the American Dental Association, 134, 135-135. http://www.ada.org/~/media/ADA/Science%20and%20Research/Files/patient_22.ashx

Tonzetich, J. (1977, January 1). Production and origin of oral malodor: A review of mechanisms and methods of analysis. Retrieved August 21, 2014, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/264535

 

6 Reasons For Snoring

Snoring is possibly one of the most irritating sleep habits and it, oftentimes, disturbs more than just the person snoring. Most snorers tend to suffer from various sleep disorders, however, other environmental factors could contribute. If you find yourself or a family member is sawing logs on a regular basis, be sure to consider some of the potential causes below:

 

Top Six Reasons for Snoring:

  1. Sleep Apnea—Most individuals who find themselves with a chronic snoring problem also suffer from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea can cause other sleep problems and is related to many other snore-inducing issues.
  2. Being Overweight—Packing on extra pounds is more than just bad for your waistline; it can also reap havoc on your sleep cycle. This is most likely caused by bulky throat tissue that obstructs airways. Losing weight can ease many other symptoms caused by other sleep disorders, as well.
  3. Pillow Height—People tend to suffer from snoring if they are using too many or too few pillows with adequate support. The optimal sleep position with the correct pillow support is the key to blissful, snore-free slumber.
  4. Cold and Flu—Restricted airways are a main result of having a runny nose or sore throat. Be cautious as to which night time sleep aids you use and be sure to use a remedy that will open up airways, not throw you into a chemically-induced coma.
  5. Large Tonsils—A good sign children need their tonsils removed is chronic snoring.
  6. Sleep Position—Those who sleep on their stomachs are more likely to experience increased snoring and difficultly sleeping. Try sleeping on your back or side to open airways and relax the throat.

Your snoring could be attributed to any of these issues, if not a combination. Sometimes simple adjustments can be the perfect antidote to a nighttime full of snoring.

“Snoring – Adults: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” U.S National Library of Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, n.d. Web. 21 Aug. 2014. < http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/003207.htm >.

 

5 Tips to a More Restful Vacation

While we go on vacation to get some much needed rest from the stresses of day-to-day life, it’s common to experience difficulty relaxing while away from home. Between the planning process and travel, there are a lot of obstacles to fully enjoying your time off. The biggest of these is difficulty sleeping while on vacation. A new sleep environment or simply too much excitement could be the cause of those sleepless nights in paradise. Follow these simple tips to truly unwind and make the most of your down time.

1. Plan relaxing activities: If a restless night is inevitable, plan some rejuvenating activities for the daytime. A soothing spa day consisting of steam rooms, massages and even an invigorating facial can make even the worse insomniac forget about that night of tossing and turning. If the spa isn’t in your budget, resting by the pool or ocean could be the perfect way to lull you in to an afternoon nap.

2. Maintain your sleep routine: It is tempting to engage in a more lax sleep routine when on vacation. Going to sleep at your normal bedtime and avoiding food and drinks that keep you awake at night can help ease the difficulty some experience when sleeping in a new space. Maintaining your normal routine, as difficult as it may be, is the best way to ensure a good night’s rest away from home.

3. Make your room familiar: Simple adjustments such as bringing your pillow or humidifier from home can make all the difference when sleeping in a new environment. You can also make simple modifications to your environment such as regulating your room temperature and controlling unwanted noise with the use of ear buds. By making your room more familiar, you can easily experience a more restful and fulfilling night’s sleep while on vacation.

4.Prepare yourself for time zone changes: Time zone changes and jet lag are known to reap havoc on tired travelers. Prepare for the change in time in advance by gradually going to bed closer to the time you would while on vacation in the new time zone. This process will ease the transition to a new time zone and leave you with less time yawning and more time enjoying your vacation.

5. Plan a Sleep Vacation: For those with serious sleep disorders, sleep retreats are being offered at many resorts in the United States. These intensive programs range in length but all have the goal of helping you have more fulfilling sleep. This fad is increasing in popularity and causing people to seriously assess and confront their sleep disorders. If you find yourself needing a vacation from your vacation, you should consider a sleep vacation.

The Moon and Your Sleep Cycle

The moon’s cycle is said to affect people in many mysterious ways from inciting more violent behavior to increased fertility. You may not be turning into a werewolf at the sight of the full moon, but it is likely that you have experienced some difficulty sleeping. This relationship has been a troubling subject for scientist that remains quite mysterious.

As with many other superstitions relating to the moon, scientists have tried time and time again to explain the connection between sleep cycles and lunar cycles through experiments and trials.

In one study, volunteers’ sleep cycles were monitored in a light controlled environment with no sunlight or moonlight exposure. The scientists found that during a full moon, volunteers experienced more restless sleep, more difficulty falling asleep and a decreased amount of time in delta sleep (the deepest stage of the sleep cycle). Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of the study showed that Melatonin, a sleep-related hormone, was produced at a lessened rate.

The natural justification for this phenomenon is increase light exposure during a full moon, however, because we now have light controlled environments, it is hard to support that theory.

The various effects of the moon continue to puzzle the human mind. Although, currently, there is little proof of causation between the moon and sleep cycle disturbances, scientists are looking to other research and historical evidence to attempt to find an answer. Scientists have looked to similar behavior in marine animals for an explanation; however, no conclusive evidence has been found.

At this point, it is hard to determine exactly what is causing this interesting relationship. Whether it be some mixture of gravity, animal instinct and mental awareness – it is clear there is much more for us to learn about the moon and its effects.

 

“How does the Moon affect sleep patterns?.” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 4 Aug. 2013. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.economist.com/blogs/economist-explains/2013/08/economist-explains-0&gt;.

BAKALAR, NICHOLAS. “Moon Phases Tied to Sleep Cycles.” Well Moon Phases Tied to Sleep Cycles Comments. The New York Times, 31 July 2013. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/07/31/moon-phases-tied-to-sleep-cycles/?_php=true&_type=blogs&_r=0&gt;.

 

How Can Technology Help Me Sleep?

Relaxation is a way of life – a state of mind. But in today’s fast-paced world, technology is also a way of life. With new technology emerging each day, it’s not hard to believe that we now have ways to analyze and improve our sleep cycle. Apps and wearable technology have allowed us to learn more about our sleep than ever before.

The Sleep Cycle app not only provides a way for you to monitor your sleep, but also analyzes that information and gently wakes you at the optimal time. The app prompts you to enter a time that you need to wake up, and, throughout the night, monitors your movements. Once the app learns your general sleep patterns, it will begin watching for your lightest portion of sleep 30 minutes before your alarm is set to go off. Sleep Cycle is only available for iPhones, but is perfect for waking up early. Instead of relying on an obnoxious alarm sound to jolt you awake, the app using the accelometer in the iPhone to determine your lightest stage of sleep to begin the alarm sound – ensuring for the least intrusive waking process.

Other apps simply provide soothing sounds or speeches to help you fall asleep such as Sleep or Deep Sleep with Andrew Johnson. Yoga for Insomnia is an app for smart phones that features Yoga poses specifically designed to stretch and relax the body.

Wearable technology is a trend increasing in popularity that, generally, helps monitor physical activity. Pulse O2 is a form of wearable technology that – along with other physical tracking such as step counting and exercise goal setting – allows users to monitor the hours you are awake and asleep to improve your sleep cycle. Upon waking, you are provided with a detailed graph depicting the times you woke during the night as well as overall sleep quality.

The Lark Pro wristband also helps to monitor sleep, but in a different way. This technology is ideal for those who wake up before their significant other. The wristband gently vibrates to wake the user without disturbing anyone else. The technology also allows you to record a sleep journal, tag issues your may be having while sleeping and compare results over time – a process ideal for coping with sleep disorders or improving sleep quality.

Currently, there are hundreds of apps for improving sleep and more emerging every day at varying prices. Whether you are looking for a way to get a better night’s sleep or trying to find your optimal alarm time and style, it is clear that technology is becoming the most effective way to monitor sleep.

 

“The Best Sleep iPhone & Android Apps of the Year.” The 16 Best Sleep iPhone & Android Apps of 2014. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.healthline.com/health-slideshow/top-insomnia-iphone-android-apps#1&gt;.

“Sleep Cycle.” Sleep Cycle. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.sleepcycle.com/howitworks.html&gt;.

“Lark Pro™ | Experience.” Lark. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://lark.com/products/lark-pro/experience&gt;.

“Pulse O₂ Track. Improve..” Withings Store. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.withings.com/eu/withings-pulse.html&gt;.

How To Reach Your Peak Performance – Sleep DiagnosticTests

Have you ever wondered if you are getting the right amount of sleep or if you could be doing something to sleep better? Preparing your mind and body for peak performance through better sleep is vital, here are four quick True or False tests to help you understand more about sleep to help you reach your peak. Self-test A reveals your general knowledge of sleep, self-test B tells how likely it is that you are sleep deprived, self-test C examines your current sleep practices, and self-test D probes for problems that could indicate you have a sleep disorder.

Self-Test A: What’s My Sleep IQ?
Please indicate true or false for the following statements:

1. Newborns dream less than adults
2. Men need more sleep than women.
3. Not everyone dreams every night.
4. As you move from early to later adulthood you need less sleep.
5. By playing audiotapes during the night, you can learn while you sleep.
6. Chocolate candies provided on your hotel pillow will help you sleep better.
7. If you have insomnia at night, you should take a long nap during the day.
8. Sleeping pills are very helpful for people who have had insomnia for
months.
9. Arousing a person who is sleepwalking can be very dangerous.
10. A soft mattress is better than a hard one for obtaining good sleep.
11. You are most alert when you first wake up.
12. To promote optimal sleep the best time to exercise is early in the morning.
13. A sound sleeper rarely moves during the night.
14. A boring meeting, heavy meal, or low dose of alcohol can make you sleepy, even if you are not sleep-deprived.
15. Sleep before midnight is better than sleep that begins after midnight.

–This test reveals your general knowledge of sleep, all the above statements are false. How did you score?

Self-Test B: Am I Sleep-Deprived?
Please indicate true or false for the following statements:

1. I need an alarm clock in order to wake up at the appropriate time.
2. It’s a struggle for me to get out of bed in the morning.
3. Weekday mornings I hit the snooze button several times to get more sleep.
4. I feel tired, irritable, and stress-out during the week.
5. I have trouble concentrating and remembering.
6. I feel slow with critical thinking, problem solving, and being creative.
7. I often fall asleep watching TV.
8. I often fall asleep in boring meetings or lectures or in warm rooms.
9. I often fall asleep after heavy meals or after a low dose of alcohol.
10. I often fall asleep while relaxing after dinner.
11. I often fall asleep within five minutes of getting into bed.
12. I often feel drowsy while driving.
13. I often sleep extra hours on weekend mornings.
14. I often need a nap to get through the day.
15. I have dark circles around my eyes.

–If you answered true to 3 or more of the 15 items, you are probably not getting enough sleep.

Self-Test C: How Good Are My Sleep Strategies?
Please indicate true or false for the following statements:

1. I go to bed at different times during the week and on weekends, depending on my schedule and social life.
2. I get up at different times during the week and on weekends, depending on my schedule and social life.
3. My bedroom is warm or often noisy.
4. I never rotate or flip my mattress.
5. I drink alcohol within two hours of bedtime.
6. I have caffeinated coffee, tea, colas, or chocolate after 6 pm.
7. I do not exercise on a regular basis.
8. I smoke.
9. I regularly take over-the-counter or prescription medication to help me sleep.
10. When I cannot fall asleep or remain asleep, I stay in bed and try harder.
11. I often read frightening or troubling books or newspaper articles right before bedtime.
12. I do work or watch the news in bed just before turning out the lights.
13. My bed partner keeps me awake by his/her snoring.
14. My bed partner tosses and turns or kicks/hits me during his/her sleep.
15. I argue with my bed partner in bed.

–If you answered true to one of the above questions, it is likely that at least one aspect of your lifestyle is interfering with your sleep.

Self-Test D: Might I have a Sleep Disorder?
Please indicate true or false or the following statements:

1. I have trouble following asleep.
2. I wake up a number of times during the night.
3. I wake up earlier than I would like and have trouble falling back asleep.
4. I wake up terrified in the middle of the night, but I do not know why.
5. I fall asleep spontaneously during the day in response to high arousal, such as when I hear a funny joke.
6. I have been told that I snore loudly and stop breathing temporarily during sleep.
7. I walk or talk in my sleep.
8. I move excessively in my sleep.
9. I have hurt myself or my bed partner while I was sleeping.
10. I become very confused, afraid, and/or disoriented after sundown.
11. I cannot fall asleep until very late at night or cannot wake up in the morning.
12. I cannot stay awake early in the evening and I wake up before dawn.
13. I feel mild pain or a tingling sensation in my legs just before falling asleep.
14. I physically act out my dreams during the night.
15. I am often too anxious, depressed, or worried to fall asleep.

–If you answered True to any of the above questions, you may have a sleep disorder.

 

Maas, Dr. James B., Megan L. Wherry, David J Axelrod, Barbara R. Hogan, and Jennifer A. Blumin. Power Sleep: The Revolutionary Program That Prepares Your Mind for Peak Performance. New York : Villard, 1998.

Mass, James B., Dr. “Sleep Diagnostic Tests.” Power Sleep. N.p., n.d. Web. 20 Dec. 2013. htdocs/diagnostics.htm>.

Do Bright Lights Keep You Awake? Part 2

Studies have proven that bright lights can keep us awake at night. Light affects our circadian rhythm or biological clock in accordance with light and dark. Darkness also affects our pineal gland’s production of melatonin, a naturally occurring hormone that helps induce sleep. Light signals your body to produce less melatonin, causing you to stay awake longer and can even lead to self-inflicted insomnia.

The 1998 discovery of a new photoreceptor in the eye—which later turned out to be especially sensitive to blue light—revolutionized the way we think about how circadian rhythm is entrained. Today we understand that blue light has many unique physiologic effects such as: Melatonin Secretion, Body Temperature, Cortisol Secretion, Heart Rate, Alertness, Cognitive Performance, Psychomotor Performance, Brain Bloodflow, EEG Responses, Clock Gene Expression, and Circadian Regulation.  Some of these physiologic effects can even be seen in blind people. Some studies in the 1990’s showed that blind people who still had their eyes showed normal circadian rhythms, and they was able to suppress melatonin secretion and shift circadian rhythm by exposing them to bright light. While some blind individuals, particularly those whose eyes had been removed, showed abnormal, free-running circadian rhythms with attendant sleep disorders, as one would expect for the sightless.

Now, knowing how much light, especially blue light, can affect our bodies it’s not surprising that about 60% of Americans say that they experience a sleep problem every night or almost every night. Around 90% of Americans use some sort of electronics like a television, computer, video game, tablet, or cell phone at least a few nights a week within an hour before bed; and about 63% of Americans say that their sleep needs are not being met during the week. Something as simple as turning off electronics an hour before going to bed could help people get a better and longer night of sleep. But, if turning off your electronics isn’t an option, maybe f.lux will do the trick for you. F.lux software is designed to make your electronic screen look like the room you’re in. You tell f.lux what kind of lighting you have, and where you live and it automatically adjusts throughout the day for you. Most people report that f.lux makes your screen look better, but more importantly that it can help you sleep better as well.

 

“Annual Sleep in America Poll Exploring Connections with Communications Technology Use and Sleep.” 2011 Sleep in America Poll: Results. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://sleepfoundation.org/media-center/press-release/annual-sleep-america-poll-exploring-connections-communications-technology-use-&gt;.

Holzman, David C.. “What’s in a Color? The Unique Human Health Effects of Blue Light.”Environmental Health Perspectives 118: A22-A27. Print.
<http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2831986/pdf/ehp-118-a22.pdf&gt;

“UCLA Researchers Identify Brain Cells Responsible for Keeping Us Awake.”Newsroom. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://newsroom.ucla.edu/releases/brain-cells-responsible-for-keeping-218204&gt;.

“Harvard Gazette: When the Blues Keep You Awake.” Harvard Gazette: When the Blues Keep You Awake. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 May 2014. <http://www.news.harvard.edu/gazette/2006/02.09/01-blue.html&gt;.

“F.lux.” Justgetflux. N.p., n.d. Web. 21 May 2014. <https://justgetflux.com/&gt;.

What To Do With Your Old Mattress?

You’ve done your research on mattresses and found the best one to buy for you or a family member, and you are now anxiously awaiting its arrival. It’s exciting to get a new mattress, but it can become a little confusing when you’re trying to figure out what to do with the old mattress. Here are a few suggestions that will hopefully make the process of getting rid of your old mattress painless as possible.

  • If your mattress is still in usable condition be sure to check with family members and friends who might be in need of a mattress.
  • You may want to consider donating the mattress to a local homeless shelter/church.
  • A nonprofit such as the Salvation Army, Habitat for Humanity ReStore, or Goodwill just to name a few, are in need of donations and usually offer pickup services.
  • If you’re feeling a little crafty you can find ways to re-purpose your old mattress. A few suggestions: Outside Swinging Bench/Bed, Lounge Area, Child’s Reading Nook, Pet Bed.
  • If your mattress isn’t in the best condition, but still usable you can try contacting local Pet Rescue Centers to see if they take mattress donations to give the animals a more comfortable place to sit and sleep.
  • If your mattress isn’t in an usable condition check out Spring Back Mattress Recycling to see if they have a location near you. They create employment opportunities for disenfranchised men; and rather than discarding people and disposing of waste, Spring Back is redefining recycling.
  • You can also go to Earth911 to look up where the closest place to recycle a mattress is near you, recycling a mattress helps to reduce the number of mattresses that get dumped into landfills.
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