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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;.