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Posts from the ‘Sleep & Your Health’ Category

What Does Your Sleep Position Mean?

People sleep in all different positions due to involuntary movement throughout the night. These positions not only affect the comfort you feel while sleeping, but may also affect how you feel in the morning and indicate certain personality tendencies.

In a study of 1,000 individuals, six sleep positions were the most prevalent. Furthermore, in the study, individuals were interviewed to determine what personality types tend to sleep in which position. Each position has its benefits and faults.

Fetus: The fetal position is the most popular position with 41 percent of those participating in the study identifying with the position. 1 It is characterized by sleeping in a sort of ball on the side of the body with the legs pulled up toward the chest. This position may help alleviate snoring and is ideal for pregnant women. The fetal position may cause joint pain in the morning if remaining in a ball throughout the night. Those who sleep in the fetal position are said to have a tough exterior, but are very shy. These sensitive individuals may take some time to warm up, but will eventually relax.

Log:  In the log position, an individual lays straight on their side with arms straight down by their sides. This position shares many of the benefits of the fetal position. Individuals who sleep in the log position are typically social and easy-going. They are perhaps too trusting and easily deceived.

Yearner: Laying on ones side with both arms stretched out in front of them is the yearner position. These individuals are perceived as open and social, but are truly suspicious. They also tend to take a long time to take decisions. Side-sleeper positions are almost as beneficial as sleeping on the back. Side sleeping helps with snoring and sleep apnea related problems as well as not putting too much pressure on the skin that could cause premature wrinkling.

Soldier: The soldier position is characterized by laying flat on the back with both arms straight down by the sides. This position reflects that individuals are typically easy-going and reserved. The soldier position is one of the most favorable positions by experts because it helps with acid reflux and prevents wrinkles because nothing is pressed against the face. Additionally, laying on the back provides the easiest position to help keep your neck and spine aligned.

Free-faller: The free-faller position is the least favorable positions. It is characterized by laying flat on the stomach with arms stretched either above the head or wrapped around the pillow. Those who sleep in this position are typically extroverted and outgoing and tend to take criticism poorly. This position is best to help alleviate snoring and aid in digestion but also creates wrinkles due to the face being pressed against a pillow the entire night. Sleeping on the stomach may also cause back and neck pain because this position makes it difficult to keep the neck and spine aligned.

Starfish: This position is characterized by laying flat on the back with arm above the head. This position is also very favorable, but worsens snoring and other breathing problems that could disrupt the individual and result in fragmented sleep.

If experiencing trouble sleeping, determining sleep position may be beneficial to understanding why certain problems occur. By understanding the way you sleep comfortably, it is made easier to counter those problems with specialty pillows and positional therapy.

Bibliography:

1. Men’s Health—Sleep Position Master; http://www.menshealth.com/spotlight/sleep/sleep-position-master.php

2. CNN Health—Which sleep position is healthiest? http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/04/19/healthiest.sleep.position/index.html

Guide to the Perfect Pillow

The first pillows were simply wooden or rock headrests that supported the neck in Egypt and helped to not smudge tribal body paint in Africa and later to not ruin fancy hairdos in North America and England. Additionally, there is a health benefit in having the neck elevated to allow air flow and keep the body cooler. The Chinese developed a ceramic pillow that was able to be filled with hot or cold water depending on the time of year.1 The idea behind all pillows has always been that, regardless of an individual’s sleep position, the spine, neck and head are all aligned.

The first step in choosing your perfect pillow is determining how you typically sleep. Most people are back sleepers, side sleepers or stomach sleepers. Each of these positions has different benefits and requires specific pillows to adjust the head for the best and most restful sleep.

  • Back sleepers typically need a pillow thin enough to not push the head and neck too far forward. Sleeping on one’s back with a contoured or “s-shaped” pillow is the most ideal sleep position due to back and neck support, reducing acid reflux and helping to prevent wrinkles. 2
  • Side sleepers will require a thicker, firmer pillow to prevent the spine from dipping down as there is a further distance from the neck to the mattress in the side sleeping position. Side sleeping is not as ideal as sleeping on one’s back; however, it will help with snoring that is at its worst when sleeping on the back. Also, sleeping in this position is the recommended position for pregnant women as sleeping on the back puts all the fetal weight on a major blood vessel.1
  • Stomach sleeping is discouraged by experts because it pushes the neck backwards and forces individuals to have to keep their heads turned in one direction for hours at a time. Because of this, experts recommend a very thin pillow or no pillow at all. Again, the goal is to keep the spine, neck and head aligned. Although this position is not ideal for the spine, it opens up the airways making snoring less likely. 2

Stuffing Material

  • Memory foam pillows will offer the same benefits a memory foam mattress will such as alleviating pressure points and adding support; however, the pillows do not allow you to adjust the pillow to each individual’s desired shape and thickness.2
  • Natural-fill pillows (feather and down) are still very popular because of their “customizable” properties. An individual can warp the pillow to fit their needs and are typically very soft. These pillows typically last longer than synthetic pillows.3
  • Latex pillows are great because they are the firmest type of pillow and are not prone to mold and dust mites.2
  • Polyester blend pillows are the cheapest type of pillow but will not stand the test of time and will not give the same support as some more expensive pillows.

Retire Your Pillow

People have the strange need to hang on to pillows long after they are broken. Experts say that individuals should buy a new pillow every 12-18 months to insure that you are getting the most support and comfort out of a pillow, not to mention bacteria and mold that can build up in such a personal item. The easiest way to test if your pillow is still in working condition is to fold the pillow in half or in thirds for a King sized pillow and push all of the air out of the pillow. When letting the pillow go, it should spring back into shape and unfold completely without assistance.3 If it does not, your pillow is broken.

Bibliography

1. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

2. Bouchez, Colette. “The Best Pillow: Foam, Down, Anti-Snoring, Support, Comfort, and More.” WebMD. WebMD. Web. 25 May 2012. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/features/snuggle-up-with-the-perfect-pillow&gt;.

3. 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.

Shift Work: Shift Sleep

Almost 15 million workers are considered shift workers in America. 1 Shift work is known as working long shifts with little time off, usually including a night shift or rotating shifts. While this type of work increases productivity, it has the potential to reap havoc on the sleep patterns of those affected. The most common type of shift work is known as the “seven swing” in which there are seven days of work with an eight-hour morning shift followed by two days of rest. 2 Following the rest the individual will work another seven days with eight-hour night shifts and continuing the pattern with different shifts. 1 This type of schedule will essentially be like traveling and never being on a consistent sleep schedule. This causes these workers to exhibit the symptoms of jet lag on a nearly consistent basis.

Shift work is common for doctors, nurses, commercial drivers and law enforcement officials. Shift workers typically do 400 more hours of work a year than individuals with a typical 40-hour work week.  2

Because shift-workers are never on a consistent schedule, they typically have a hard time going to sleep and staying awake at work because their circadian rhythm is irregular. The circadian rhythm is regulated by the cycles of light and dark throughout the day. 3 The occasional weekend off tends to leave the worker with no other choice than to attempt to catch up on sleep, which leads to neglect of family, friends and other aspects of life important to the individual. Shift workers often use alcohol to help fall asleep and cigarettes and caffeine to help stay awake. 2 These techniques only serve to make sleeping more difficult.

Because of the intense stressors on the lives of shift workers, 70 percent report having difficulty falling asleep and average one to two hours less sleep than typical 40-hour a week workers. 2

How Shift Workers Can Improve Sleep

  • Take a nap two hours before your shift begins to help make up for lost sleep.
  • Stay physically fit and exercise as regularly as possible to help with fatigue.
  • Avoid caffeine in the last hour of a work shift.
  • Eat a snack at the same time each day during a shift to establish a routine.
  • Avoid alcohol as a means to induce sleep.
  • Try to prepare for your upcoming sleep schedule on your days off by staying up and sleeping later to prepare for an evening shift, for example.
  • Wake up at the same time every day during your work week and eat regular meals.

Shift work has proven to be very harmful to workers’ personal lives and sleep patterns. Though this productive concept of work allows more time to be spent on a job, it leaves workers exhausted and unable to focus on tasks. Taking simple steps to try to avoid complete fatigue and related accidents because of lack of focus. Sleep remains the most important aspect in keeping the body healthy and keeping healthy sleep habits is vital to living a fulfilled life.

Bibliography

1. Center for Disease Control and Prevention—Work Schedules: Shift Work and Long Work Hours; http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/workschedules/

2. 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.

3.  WebMD—Shift Work Sleep Disorder; http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/tc/shift-work-sleep-disorder-topic-overview

Does Sleep Help Your Skin?

As we age, it is evident that the effects of sleep deprivation become more noticeable. Not only fatigue and lack of focus are results of sleep loss. It has been proven that sleep helps restore the skin cells in your face and helps to cure blemishes.

The process of sleep helps to increase the collagen 1 production in the skin, which helps retain water, the key to good skin. 1 The nighttime also offers protection from skin stressors that we may encounter throughout the day such as sunlight, makeup and polluted air that can have many damaging effects on the skin.

As individuals grow older, the skin releases less moisture and the body typically gets less sleep. Because of these circumstances, it may be helpful to employ skin helpers such as moisturizers, humidifiers and retinoids or vitamin K (found in creams that assist in removing dark spots from the skin). 2

In order to let the skin reach its healing potential, it is best to remove all makeup that could clog pores and otherwise disturb electrodermal activity (electrical activity of the skin and eccrine sweat glands 3). This activity helps keep the skin moist and enhance the healing process. A nightly cleaning and moisturizing regimen will make it easier for the skin to do what it needs to do naturally. Make sure to moisturize the skin, especially during the fall and winter as skin tends to dry out during colder months.

It will be helpful to change sleeping positions from the side or stomach to the back in order to avoid putting too much pressure on the face and creating lines and wrinkles. Additionally, using a humidifier can aid in the skin restoration process by helping keep the skin moist.

It is suggested that the best thing to improve skin health is get at least six hours of sleep each night to ensure that you can complete at least five sleep cycles. Because cell-tissue repair is initiated in the Delta stage of sleep (deep sleep), allowing yourself ample time to rest will simultaneously be allowing your body to heal itself. 1 Also, staying hydrated on the inside as well as on the skin is equally important, and therefore, salty foods should be avoided before bed to prevent dehydration or bloating.

So don’t lose sleep over that blemish. Get some beauty sleep and let your body do its job.

Bibliography

1. Los Angeles Times—For Healthy Skin, Get Some Sleep; http://articles.latimes.com/2009/nov/08/image/ig-beautysleep8

2. WebMD—Getting Better Skin While you Sleep; http://www.webmd.com/healthy-beauty/anti-aging-skin-care-11/sleep-skin

3. Carskadon, Mary A. Encyclopedia of Sleep and Dreaming. New York: Macmillan Pub., 1993.

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation as defined by WebMD.com is a sufficient lack of restorative sleep over a cumulative period so as to cause physical or psychiatric symptoms and affect routine performances of tasks. 1

Nurses and doctors, truck drivers, shift workers, soldiers and mothers are some of the professions at highest risk for sleep deprivation. A sure sign that individuals are sleep deprived is that they fall asleep almost immediately upon entering a comfortable environment. A well-rested person will take around 15 minutes to fall asleep.

Are you sleep deprived?

You may be sleep deprived if you require an alarm clock to wake up in the morning at the correct time or if waking up in the morning is extremely difficult. Additionally if you have difficulty remembering, concentrating or driving, it is likely you are not getting the appropriate amount of sleep. Sleep deprived individuals also tend to fall asleep while watching television, during meetings or lectures, after heavy meals or low doses of alcohol or very quickly after getting into bed. They also may require a nap to get through the day or some sort of stimulant to stay awake. 2

Effects of Sleep Deprivation

Some people are sleep deprived because of poor sleeping situation, discomfort while sleeping, being overworked or a sleep disorder. Most individuals today are sleep deprived and remain unaware and unconcerned with the negative effects sleep deprivation can have on our minds and bodies. Some of the symptoms of sleep deprivation include:

  • Daytime drowsiness
  • “microsleeps” or brief moments of sleep that cause individuals to lose focus
  • Mood swings, depression and irritability
  • Loss of coping skills and stress
  • No desire for social interaction
  • Weight gain due to intake of sugary drinks and food in order to stay awake
  • Reduced immune system functioning to help prevent disease and viral infection
  • Loss of motivation and feelings of lethargy
  • Reduced productivity2

Sleep deprivation is often disguised to individuals who experience it because they appear to be very alert when actively involved in a project, but tend to fall asleep any time they are not being mentally or physically stimulated.

Other negative health risks include increased risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular problems when regularly getting less than 6 hours of sleep a night based on a study from the University of Warwick. The study also indicated an increased risk of stroke for individuals who are sleep deprived. 3

Depriving the body and mind of rest is not only dangerous and disruptive to the individual’s life, but also to those interacting and experiencing the consequences of their bad decisions. For example, there are various instances of airplane pilots, truck drivers and train engineers being so exhausted they have crashed or nearly crashed their vehicles causing death to other people and themselves as well as millions of dollars in damage. The likelihood of accidents occurring increases when individuals have not had adequate rest.

For instance, in 1974 an Eastern Airlines captain crashed his airliner, killing all crew and passengers on the plane. This occurred 30 minutes after reporting to the control tower that he desperately needed rest.2

Napping is even an effective way to avoid being severely sleep deprived. Getting to sleep and making sure the body is fully rested is vital to survival and success in life.

Bibliography:

1. http://dictionary.webmd.com/terms/sleep-deprivation

2. 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.

3. http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/feb/09/sleep-medical-research

Eating to Sleep Better

Many of us blame our difficulty sleeping on outside factors, when it is usually the result of our own poor food intake decisions. Because many individuals who are overweight or obese report having problems sleeping or sleep disorders such as sleep apnea, it is evident that these factors are somehow correlated. 1 An individual’s diet can have a great effect on his or her sleep pattern which can, in turn, affect your ability to exercise because of lack of energy. The viscous cycle can be avoided by getting more sleep and eating properly in order to do so.

Ever heard of drinking warm milk before bed? Certain foods help you sleep much easier, such as foods with Tryptophan like milk and other dairy products. Additionally, honey, seeds and nuts are Tryptophan-rich and assist in inducing sleep. 2 Carbohydrates also complement the Tryptophan in dairy products, so an ideal bedtime snack would be cheese and crackers and a small glass of warm milk or a small bowl of cereal with milk.

Avoid eating a large meal or spicy foods within four or five hours of when you plan to go to sleep. Doing this can cause those with acid reflux to experience nighttime heartburn and discomfort as the digestion process will be continued into sleep, which may result in the need for a trip to the bathroom. This discomfort can also be avoided with the use of certain pillows to elevate the upper body or with an adjustable bed. This reveals another reason to avoid having your last meal of the day as the largest. This is also because eating too large, too late in the day does not give the body adequate time to burn calories.

Avoid too much protein too close to bedtime. Heavy meats can help avoid hunger pangs at night, but will be harder to digest. They also inhibit transfer of Tryptophan to the brain, resulting in more alertness. 3

Alcohol should never be consumed to help you sleep. Although it may cause you to feel more tired as a big meal would, its negative effects don’t truly occur until the sleep cycle commences and it causes you to wake up more, have a headache and can increase the likelihood you will develop sleep apnea. 3

Avoid all caffeine within four to six hours of when you plan to go to sleep. This, quite obviously, has the ability to keep you up at night and disrupt the sleep cycle. Be aware of foods and drinks with hidden caffeine in them such as some over the counter medications. Many pain relievers, cough medicines, diuretics and weight loss pills tend to contain small amounts of caffeine that can have a large impact on your sleep. 2 Additionally, look out for foods and drinks that you wouldn’t associate with caffeine such as chocolate and tea that can still contain high amounts of sugar that will prevent you from sleeping.

Bibliography:

1. National Sleep Foundation—Diet, Exercise and Sleep, http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/diet-exercise-and-sleep

2. WebMD—Foods That Help or Harm Your Sleep, http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/ss/slideshow-sleep-foods

3. 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.

The Truth About Bed Bugs

Some people enjoy sleeping alone, but sometimes it’s unavoidable or unwanted. Several members of the Cimicidae family have moved into the comfort of many homes across the U.S. and into their beds and other comfortable places.  Cimex lectularius, also known as the bed bug, is a parasitical bug that is mainly associated with humans, birds and bats. Although they parasitize with these different creatures, they adapt best to human environments 1.

There are many people that don’t know what bed bugs are capable of and why they choose to sleep in beds with other humans. Another question that has also risen to the surface is, what do they look like? The answer is this: They are a small bug that has a chestnut brown color to them, dorso-ventrally flattened, and the adult bug usually measures up to c. 5 mm across2. Bed bugs can look similar to other small insects such as ticks and fleas, but don’t get confused as to where each bug can hide or even sleep at night.

Bed bugs are known for spending most of their lifetime concealed in harbourages, including around the seams of mattresses, in bed-frames, behind head-boards, behind skirting boards, in furniture, inside electrical fittings, behind pictures and coving, in curtains, under fitted carpets and in wall voids2. These small creatures hide and sleep in other places that aren’t exclusive to peoples’ beds. They are also sometimes found on or in clothing and the seams on clothes, but they are almost never found on humans.

Whenever there is an unfortunate event of bed bugs being spotted on someone, one most know what the dangers of that situation are. After someone has been bitten, that person may or may not show a substantial, red, itchy reaction wherever the bite occurs. While some people have extreme and quick reactions to a bite, some people may never have any reaction at all2. This can be very fortunate in some cases, but knowing that someone has been bitten only means an early detection of an infestation in your home, apartment, office, etc. Although bites may sometimes become secondarily infected, research has consistently indicated that bedbugs do not transmit blood-borne infections, such as HIV or hepatitis2. With this being known, the worse consequence of a bed bug is only irritation, itchiness, and swelling of certain areas.

The infestation of bed bugs can be very annoying, irritating, and also very costly. After some people have experienced them moving into their homes, their only solution may be to throw out any mattresses, (a memory foam mattress naturally resists bed bugs) furniture, carpet, linens, and many other items that could have contained bed bugs. This only means that replacements are in need for any place or item that has been bothered by this insect. If you ever suspect bed bugs, we recommend contacting a pesticide specialist immediately. COMING SOON:Please read ‘How to Prevent and Control Bed Bugs’ for tips you can use to help prevent and control them in your home.

[1] Reinhardt, Klaus, and Michael T. Siva-Jothy. “Biology of Bed Bugs (Cimicidae).” Annual Review of Entomology 52. (2007): 351-374. PDF. 30 Nov 2010. <http://www.annualreviews.org/doi/pdf/10.1146/annurev.ento.52.040306.133913&gt;.

[2] Boase, Clive. “Bedbugs – Back from the Brink.” Royal Society of Chemistry 2001 (2001): 159-162. Web. 30 Nov 2010. <http://pubs.rsc.org/en/Content/ArticleLanding/2001/PO/b106301b&gt;.

Alcohol Before Bed: The Effects Of Alcohol On Sleep

Sometimes falling asleep is no easy task, and for many it’s downright difficult to do under any circumstance. Due to its sedative effect, alcohol is a common choice for those who have a hard time finding a way to fall asleep.  It’s important to consider the other effects, however, that alcohol will have—namely on the very sleep these people use it to achieve. Booze before bedtime may appear to ease the transition into dreamland, but what happens after that is well worth taking note of.

Adults function best with anywhere between 7-9 hours of sleep per night. The consumption of alcoholic beverages before bedtime, interestingly enough, will effectively serve to cut the number of hours actually acquired in half. In fact, drinking alcohol at any time three hours or less before bed can lead to both early waking and disruptions in the sleep cycle on the whole. The entire sleep process is advanced by alcohol intake: N-REM sleep [also know as “deep sleep”] increases, incrementally decreasing REM [or “Rapid Eye Movement” rest]. The problem is that you need both types, in very balanced doses. You may be surprised to learn that these facts don’t deter many: in recent studies, some 28% of insomniacs claimed to have depended on alcohol as a means for falling asleep, and fully 67% described the practice as helpful.

The difficulty with this nighttime “medication” approach is plain: alcohol can either make sleep disorders more frequent, or increase your susceptibility to acquire them. The most common sleep disorder that occurs as a result of the consumption of alcohol before bedtime is obstructive sleep apnea, and it’s one of the most destructive in regard to heart health. Drinking alcohol will narrow your air passages and thereby make it harder to breathe at night. As you gasp for the air that’s being blocked, your sleep cycle is deeply disturbed.When air is obstructed in the passages, your heart must work much harder to get the oxygen that it needs, which results in lasting health problems if it persists over a long period of time.

Studies have shown that the consumption of alcohol even just an hour before bedtime causes major disruptions in the second part of the sleep cycle, which will lead to early awakening. As mentioned earlier, drinking alcohol before bedtime will not only shorten REM sleep but increase deep sleep. The resultant physiological state is known as “REM rebound.” After consuming high doses of alcohol, the body becomes sedated, causing you to fall asleep quickly. After you begin to snooze, your body becomes adjusted to that alcohol running through your blood stream. By the time the second part of the sleep cycle is underway, however, your body has metabolized [re: eliminated] the alcohol from your system, and it will attempt to return your metabolism to normal levels. This is where that rebound begins to occur. Instead of successfully returning to physiologically-normal levels [gauged by certain sleep variables such as the amount of REM sleep acquired at night] your body will over-compensate and change its course in the opposite direction, which results in a sleep disturbance. Furthermore, this disturbance will disrupt the proportionality of the various sleep stages. When rebound and its associated disturbances occur, your body won’t feel fully rested the next day. We all know what that’s like: an unclear [or “foggy”] state of mind and a marked inability to perform simple tasks at an optimal and efficient performance level.

Several studies have evaluated next-day performance and alertness in healthy people who consumed alcohol before falling asleep. In one such study, young pilots drank alcohol between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. in quantities sufficient to result in BACs [blood-alcohol concentrations] of 0.10-0.12 percent right before bedtime. The following morning, over 14 hours after consuming alcohol and with BACs reset to 0, the performance of pilots in a flight simulator was significantly impaired when compared to their performance after imbibing a placebo. The lack of continuity and longevity of the sleep they experienced after heavy drinking is the same as what everyone will suffer when doing so: it simply makes people slower and less attentive the following day.

It’s clear by now that the effects of alcohol on sleep can be dire. Though you may believe it’s helping you sleep, the consumption of alcohol before bed will only result in next-day fatigue and an inability to remain alert… and can actually lead to a serious sleeping disorder. Aside from the havoc it wreaks on your system when frequently drunk at high levels, alcohol can also be dangerous to others around you. There’s no question that critical mistakes are made every day by folks in all walks of life due to the effects of alcohol consumption, whether in the intoxicated state or, like the pilots mentioned, well after you think you’ve “slept it off.” Remember that there are several alternatives to alcohol that are both healthier and more effective when it comes to getting the shut-eye you require on a nightly basis. For starters, you might try getting into a sleep routine, which is a tremendously effective way to train your body’s physiological nature into winding down at night. You’re probably already aware that you should avoid caffeine, dairy products, and smoking before bedtime. Finally, consider going to bed an hour or two later—it can help you go to sleep faster because you’ll be more fatigued. And bear in mind that your old mattress may be part of the problem… switching to memory foam will improve your body’s blood circulation and alleviate the pressure points associated with traditional innerspring mattresses so that you get more restful sleep each night. In sum, you can do better for your body than waking up with a hangover every day. It’s time to make strides toward getting some quality sleep without alcohol.

Even if you do own a fine memory foam mattress you must be sure to have good sleeping habits to help you fully enjoy it!

Alcohol Alert. National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism. http://pubs.niaaa.nih.gov/publications/aa41.htm. Retrieved on July 28th, 2009.
Alcohol and Sleep.Loyola Marymount Universtiy. http://www.lmu.edu/PageFactory.aspx?PageID=25070. Retrieved on July 28th, 2009.;

Can Lack of Sleep Make You Fat?

Eating too much and exercising too little are well-known ways to put on weight, but did you know that losing sleep can also lead to obesity? Interestingly enough, recent studies have proven that fatigue can increase both appetite and vulnerability to weight gain. The percentage of the United States population who are considered obese has been on the rise for many years, and it’s no wonder: it seems everyone now lives high-paced, demanding lifestyles that clamor for instant gratification at all times. In order to accommodate, people are working longer hours and cutting their sleep time by an average of two hours a night1.

Researchers throughout the United States have found that the reason for the weight gain is due to an increase in hormones called gherlin and leptin. Higher levels of gherlin and leptin contribute to a greater feeling of hunger. Dr Shahrad Taheri from the University of Bristol in the UK and her American colleagues found that in people who slept 5 hours per night compared to those who slept 8 hours, leptin and gherlin levels increased up to 15%2.

In another study from author and medical professor Eve Van Cauter at the University of Chicago, 12 healthy men in their 20’s were observed. Those who slept only four hours a night [as opposed to those who slept for 10] experienced an appetite increase of some 24% along with additional levels of the hormones named above, and they tended to crave foods with higher carbohydrate and calorie content such as cookies, candy, and cakes1. Van Cauter’s proof of these increased hormone levels was accompanied by the discovery that less sleep also causes a decrease in metabolism, the process by which your body burns calories. “We found that the metabolic and endocrine changes resulting from a significant sleep debt mimic many of the hallmarks of aging. We suspect that chronic sleep loss may not only hasten the onset, but could also increase the severity of age-related ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, obesity and memory loss3.” Sleep deprivation will not only cause you to crave foods with higher calorie and carbohydrate counts, it will lower your ability to process them through metabolism.

Okay, so now we know that lack of sleep can make you gain weight, but can enough sleep help you to lose additional weight? The fascinating answer is yes: studies show that your body actually burns calories while it sleeps, especially when you sleep for more than 7 hours per night. According to the weight-loss calculator at FitWatch.com, a 160 pound person will burn an average of 547 calories during an 8 hour period of sleep4. But don’t count on added sleep to help you drop unwanted pounds alone: exercise and a healthy diet are still key essentials to successful weight loss– but having a longer rest will definitely assist your efforts.

Finally, it’s important to understand how to get better sleep. Some suggestions to improve your sleep quality and enhance your night-time calorie burn include the purchase of a memory foam mattress, keeping a set sleep schedule, and turning down the thermostat at night. Memory foam increases blood circulation, which will nourish your heart, lungs and brain, and maximize your body’s capability to burn calories. Maintaining a consistent sleep schedule will hold hunger pangs at bay, and turning down your thermostat will increase calorie burn because the body expends energy in order to preserve its regular temperature. Remember that losing weight and sleeping better go hand-in-hand, so your quality of sleep should improve as you work toward your ideal weight.

By: Michael Hopper

[1] Wise-Blau, Lisa. Forget Cranky. Lack of Sleep May Make You Fat: Link may be hormones that regulate hunger. http://myhealth.ucsd.edu/HealthTopics/weight/Dec05wtMain.htm Nov. 30 2005.

[2] University of Bristol (2004. December 13). Does the Lack of Sleep make You Fat?. Science Daily. Retrieved June 3, 2009.http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/12/041206204702.htm

[3] Easton, John. Lack of Sleep Alters Hormones, Metabolism. The University of Chicago Chronicle. Retrieved June 3, 2009. http://chronicle.uchicago.edu/991202/sleep.shtml

[4] Calories Burned Calculator. http://www.fitwatch.com/phpscripts/viewexercise.php?descr=sleeping&mets=0.9

How Much Sleep Does a Body Need?

It would be great to know the exact amount of sleep necessary to start the next day refreshed [with just the right amount of energy to glide through tasks easily], and then fade easily into peaceful sleep when hitting the pillow that night. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a “magic number” of resting hours, as it varies for everyone despite the popular eight-hour rule. In fact, sleep trends indicate that getting a good night’s rest is at the bottom of our national “to-do” list.

Our bodies are pre-programmed to be sleepier at certain times of the day than others. For example, that afternoon slow-down and evening fatigue is completely normal for adults, and is due to your body’s natural “time clock” [scientifically referred to as the Circadian rhythm]. In contrast, the Circadian rhythms of teenagers make for highly alert late-evening hours– which would explain why staying up all night used to be so easy to do. If your household is composed of several age groups, altering schedules to accommodate everyone’s sleeping needs may be difficult but is certainly necessary.

The National Sleep Foundation has established guidelines, seen below, based on particular age groups:

  • Newborn (1 to 2 Months) – 10.5 to 18 Hours
  • Infant (3 to 11 Months) – 9 to 12 hours at night, and 30-minutes to 2-hour naps 1 to 4 times a day
  • Toddlers (1 to 3 years) – 12 to 14 hours
  • Preschoolers (3 to 5 years) – 11 to 13 hours
  • Children (6 to 10 years) – 10 to 11 hours
  • Teenagers (11-17 years) – 8.5 to 9.25 hours
  • Adults – 7 to 9 hours

So how do you find out how many hours of sleep you personally need? The answer is found by simply going to bed. Mark everything off the to-do list, clear your mind, and sleep for a set number of hours, making a note of how you feel the next morning. Some people perform perfectly well on just six hours, but others easily need nine—the key is to listen to your body. Try testing several different times to determine which is ideal for you, and then maintain that routine, even on the weekends! Tailor a routine to fit your entire family based on their needs, and avoid planning activities that will disrupt their respective sleep schedules.

Most importantly, designate your bedroom the “sleep-only room” and make it as peaceful and comfortable as possible so you can fall asleep easily and stay asleep. If your mattress or pillows are making it difficult to rest, it’s time for an upgrade. All activities such as eating, watching television or working on the computer need to happen in another room. Still having problems winding down? The National Institutes of Health recommend that you try taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music or drinking a warm beverage. They also advise that you avoid consuming alcohol or caffeine two to three hours before bed, and that you get your exercise several hours before bed. Sleep well!

Sources:

  1. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/prof/sleep/res_plan/sleep-rplan.pdf “2003 National Sleep Disorders Research Plan”
  2. http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need “How much sleep do we really need?”