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Monthly Archives: June 2015

  • The Myth of the Weight-Doubling Mattress

    Every once in a while you’ll come upon a statistic that makes you stop and shake your head in utter amazement, and that is exactly what happened to me the other day when I read (on a mattress store website) that mattresses double in weight every ten years. The site offered no more information than that, so I took it upon myself to do some research and found the reason behind the stat, as well as the truth behind it – which is that it is entirely untrue. Continue reading

  • Top Fifteen Tips To Help You Get to Sleep Fast

    There are so many things that can keep us from getting the seven to nine hours of sleep that we are each supposed to get every night. Work obligations, social and family obligations, the lure of reading just one more chapter or watching just one more episode of our favorite episodic television show. With all of these temptations and distractions, it’s no wonder that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said that sleep deprivation is a national public health epidemic, and that doesn’t even begin to touch on the problems that may be caused by stress, financial worry, or medical problems and sleep disorders.

    If you believe that you have a physical or emotional problem that is interfering with your ability to get the sleep that you need, then you are urged to see your physician for medical help. But if not going to sleep at night is more a matter of your habits and the choices that you’re making, perhaps all you need is a bit of self control, commitment, and a few helpful hints on ways to make falling asleep quickly easier. Here are fifteen of the top tips for getting yourself off to dreamland faster.

    1. If you smoke, stop. In addition to everything else that you already know is unhealthy about smoking, cigarettes contain nicotine, a known stimulate that elevates your heart rate and sets your brain to alert.
    2. If you’re got your tablet, smart phone, or television up and operational in your bedroom, that’s causing you more trouble then you realize. Not only does the blue light that the devices emit switch your brain to thinking that it’s time to wake up, but the content you’re looking at is stimulating you too. Turn it off and you’ll find yourself falling asleep much more easily.
    3. Face the alarm clock towards the wall. This not only stops you from watching the clock and obsessing over how long it’s taking you to fall asleep, it also helps to minimize the brightness of the LED light that your clock emits.
    4. Create a set of nightly steps that lead up to your bedtime and repeat them every single night. It doesn’t need to be anything elaborate – it can be as simple as washing your face and brushing your teeth and doing a few deep breathing exercises. The idea is that your brain will quickly learn to associate the nightly activity with sleep, and that means that once it recognizes those cues it will begin making you feel drowsy as soon as the routine begins.
    5. Check the bedroom thermostat and make sure that you have the temperature set to between 60 and 68 degrees. Though the idea of being warm and toasty may be appealing, studies have shown that when our bodies go to sleep our core temperature drops, and by creating that environment we actually speed the process along. Not only that, it’s been shown that being too warm can actually work against you when it comes time to go to sleep.
    6. Establish a specific bedtime and wakeup time for each and every day, including the weekends, and stick to it. The more routine your schedule is, the more your body will respond and become engaged with the process you set, and that means that if you go to bed each and every night at ten o’clock, that will soon be the time that your body starts to feel sleepy.
    7. Make sure that your room is nice and dark. That may mean buying light blocking shades, tucking a towel underneath a door that adjoins a bright hallway, or maybe even wearing an eye mask to bed. The reason for this is that our bodies respond to darkness by producing the sleep hormone melatonin, but any sliver of daylight means that melatonin production is diminished, and your chances of falling asleep easily are too.
    8. Take a good look at your mattress to make sure that it is still in good shape and providing you with the support that you need. If it has been more than eight or ten years since you purchased it, then there’s a good chance that it’s time for a replacement. You will be amazed at how much better you sleep when your back and body are well supported.
    9. Keep a journal by your bed and right down whatever is bothering you before you go to sleep. This also works for to-do lists. If you jot down something that pops into your head when you’re trying to fall asleep, then you’ve basically told your brain that there is no need to worry about it any more because you’re going to take care of it tomorrow.
    10. Use the bed for sleep, sex, and nothing else. Don’t make the mistake of watching television, doing work, or even watching television in bed, because you want your brain to reach the conclusion that if you’re in bed, it’s time to go to sleep.
    11. Take off those pajamas. Some studies have shown that when you sleep wearing any kind of clothing, you not only get too warm but also can get distracted by the feeling of restriction that they provide.
    12. Having a banana before bedtime is a great way to increase your body’s levels of both melatonin and tryptophan, both of which help you fall asleep more easily.
    13. The old story that your grandmother told about having a glass of warm milk before bed is actually true. Milk contains tryptophan, and having it heated up makes it even more soothing.
    14. Because you know that your body likes to be cool to go to sleep, the idea that taking a warm bath or shower helps may sound counterintuitive, but when you heat up in the tub and then step out into the cooler air, your body temperature drops quickly, and it is actually that drop that makes you fall asleep more quickly.
    15. Cut out the caffeine after mid afternoon. No matter how much you think you need the pick-me up, it’s going to hurt you in the long run. Instead of drinking another cup of coffee, take a walk around the block and get some exercise and fresh air.
  • Sleeping on Planes, Trains and Automobiles

    A story recently appeared in the magazine Advertising Age, which caters to marketing executives. It reported on an ingenius targeted advertising campaign that was recently launched on behalf of the fast food chain Burger King in Seoul, South Korea. Apparently, when looking at the list of countries that are most sleep deprived, South Korea ranks pretty near the top, and the city of Seoul is among the worst affected in the country. As a result, commuters often attempt to make up for lost sleep while they are riding the subway in the morning, especially because the city’s workers have a reputation for having extremely long commutes. Continue reading

  • How Colleges Are Encouraging Students To Get More Sleep

    If America is a sleep-deprived nation, then the canary in the coal mine is our college students, who notoriously party into the wee hours and then stagger into early morning classes, or else pull all-nighters to complete projects and essays or study for exams. Though some may consider this a time-honored tradition, others see it as a health hazard that puts students at risk for a bevy of conditions that have been associated with sleep deprivation, including obesity, depression, diabetes, sleep apnea, and cardiovascular problems. In an effort to curb the tendency and educate students about the benefits and importance of getting a good night’s sleep, many colleges are taking extraordinary measures to raise awareness. Continue reading

  • Circadian Rhythms Respond to Color of Daylight, Not Intensity

    Though sleep experts have long known that the stability and establishment of our biological, or circadian, rhythms are completely reliant on our exposure to daylight and the rising and setting of the sun, little has been understood about exactly what it is that light does or what factor in daylight serves as the catalyst for our response. But now, a study published in the journal PLOS Biology has found that it is specifically the color of the light that we see, and not its brightness or intensity, that tells our bodies when it is time to wake up and when to go to sleep. As the color of the sky changes in the light of dawn or near sunset, the body recognizes those signals. Continue reading

  • New Research Shows Why Sleep Deprived Brain Poses Such Tremendous Danger

    Over the last several years, there have been increasing reports of tragic accidents that have been attributed to sleep deprivation. The nuclear accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, the wreck of the Exxon Valdez, the recent train derailment on the Long Island Railroad, and most recently the truck accident that took the life of comedian Tracey Morgan’s friend, and which seriously injured Morgan himself are just a few examples. Researchers have been working to understand exactly what the mechanism is that makes sleep deprivation so dangerous, and a new study conducted by researchers at Duke University and the National University of Singapore has indicated that people who are sleep deprived have extended periods in which their brains function normally, but these are interspersed with periods in which response is slow and visual processing and attention drop precipitously. Continue reading

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