It is 8:00 am, pre-coffee (if that’s your thing), and you’re getting ready to walk out the door after a night of staying up with your sick spouse, child, or roommate. You’re starting to feel super-human, juggling all your pre-work morning responsibilities with a heavy head and groggy eyes, when your spouse/child/roommate walks up to you and asks an innocent question: “I’m hungry. What are we having for breakfast?” You look at their cheerful face and take instant offense. You think, “What do you mean, what’s for breakfast? Can’t you see I’m simultaneously feeding the dog, prepping the beans for tonight’s slow-cooker dinner, and reading Junior’s school newsletter?” According to a new U.C. Berkeley study published in the Journal of Neuroscience earlier this week, there is a strong link between a lack of quality sleep and decreased ability to distinguish between positive and negative emotional facial expressions in others. Researchers viewed brain scans and monitored the heart rates of 18 adult participants while they randomly viewed 70 images of faces with random expressions: positive, neutral, and negative emotions. Each individual viewed the facial images twice, once when they were fully rested and once after they had been awake for 24 consecutive hours. The study noted a neural link between the quality and amount of sleep a person gets and his or her ability to correctly process others’ facial expressions. The results of the study inferred that there is “a role for REM sleep in affective brain recalibration” and “the next-day success of emotional discrimination…” All the more reason to get a good night’s sleep! For more information on the study, you can refer to the following articles: http://news.berkeley.edu/2015/07/14/brain-facialexpressions/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/07/15/sleep-brain-emotions_n_7801726.html
Many people feel that they get a better night’s sleep after a day of physical activity. It makes sense: The more active you are during the day, the easier it may be for you to relax and fall asleep at night. Interestingly enough, sleep may have as much of an effect on exercise as exercise has on sleep. Also, people who regularly sleep well may experience these effects very differently than people who have chronic sleep problems.
According to a study published in the Mental Health and Physical Activity journal, a nationally representative group of participants reported a 65% improvement in sleep quality and daytime alertness when they exercised for at least 150 minutes per week. Aerobic activities seem to be best for sleep, as they increase the levels of oxygen that reach your bloodstream. The exact reasons behind exercise helping with sleep are unknown, but there are some theories from the National Sleep Foundation. One is that your body becomes heated during a workout, and the post-workout drop in temperature may promote sleep. Another reason could be that physical activity decreases anxiety, arousal, and symptoms of depression, which may contribute toward sleep problems. By keeping active during the day, it may be easier to deal with stress, and with less stress comes a deeper and more restful sleep.
Sleep also maximizes the benefits derived from exercise. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, the body performs vital activities during sleep, such as providing an opportunity to recover from being used during the day. Restorative functions almost exclusively take place while asleep, such as muscle growth, protein synthesis, and tissue repair. Alternately, when humans are deprived of sleep it can cause health problems by modifying levels of hormones involved in metabolism, appetite, and stress response. If your body has not had a chance to recover and restore itself, you will not be as fit for activities the following day.
Most studies that look at the correlation between exercise and sleep do not use subjects with existing sleep issues. For people who do not have chronic sleep problems, the relationship between exercise and sleep is not as complicated. For people with insomnia, the relationship between sleep and exercise can become a vicious cycle, the lack of one hindering the other and vise versa. Insomnia can come in many different forms: difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, waking during the night, non-restorative sleep, and daytime sleepiness.
A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine takes a closer look at a previous study on physical exertion and sleep. It concentrated on sedentary older women with insomnia. They were randomly directed to either remain inactive or begin doing cardiovascular exercises for 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week for 16 weeks. After the 16 weeks, the active group was sleeping much more soundly than they had been at the start of the study. They were sleeping for 45 minutes to an hour longer each night, were waking up less frequently, and were more energized during the day.
What was most interesting though, was the fact that the active participants did not experience immediate results. They did not notice an improvement in sleep the night following a day of physical exertion. In fact, they instead noticed diminished corporeal performance after a night of poor sleep. People with insomnia tend to experience extreme arousal of their stress system. Random single bursts of exercise will not help overcome this arousal, and may even aggravate it. In order to help with insomnia, an exercise routine needs to be implemented and maintained. Eventually the regular activity will start to silence a person’s stress response, and sleep will come more readily.
The process is very gradual, and does not offer immediate gratification. This makes it harder to implement into daily life, because it takes regular exercise several months to show significant and consistent changes in sleep behavior for those with insomnia. And when you are tired, it is hard to motivate yourself to be active, and your workout suffers. Once sleep and activeness become a normal routine, each will benefit the other.
As a whole, sleep and exercise are mutually beneficial, and both help maintain overall health. For people who do not experience regular problems with sleep, these benefits can be reaped almost immediately after implementing regular workouts and sleep routines. For those with insomnia or other sleep issues, it may be a bit harder to find the initial energy and endurance to begin this lifestyle change. Either way, the conclusion of these studies is that regular sleep and exercise should be incorporated into everyone’s lives, and as a pair, they can improve your health!
If you have a hard time falling asleep or staying asleep, your bedroom may be part of the problem. There can be many factors that you don’t realize are keeping you from an entire, rejuvenating night’s sleep. The National Sleep Foundation put together this list of 6 simple changes that you can make to your bedroom to create an ideal sleeping environment.
Meet Russell Foster, a circadian neuroscientist who studies sleep patterns in the brain. In the following video, he speaks about a range of topics relating to the importance of sleep.
He first describes three theories on the main function of sleep, as well as which theory he subscribes to. He then discusses what happens to a person (and the person’s brain) when sleep is lacking, as well as ideas about how to improve sleep quality and duration. Foster debunks some common myths and misconceptions about sleep, then speaks about the correlation between mental health and sleep disruption. He urges people to take sleep more seriously and realize the huge role that it plays in making us happy and healthy.
Watch to learn more:
Dreams are a very mysterious nightly phenomenon. We can only speculate on the purpose of dreams, but they are usually extraordinary in nature and a bit confusing to analyze. Why is it that most of the time we forget what we dreamt about as soon as we wake? Why are our accounts of dreams often unreliable or distorted?
The following video delves into theories about REM sleep and how important it is for forming and storing memories. It also discusses lucid dreams, sleepwalking, and a theory behind why we have so many negative feelings like anxiety and anger while dreaming.
From the ISPA (International Sleep Products Association), regarding our government acknowledging the use of chemicals in products:
“The Energy and Commerce subcommittee on the Environment and the Economy held a hearing today on the bipartisan Chemical Safety Improvement Act, a bill currently pending in the Senate. This is a significant action as the House rarely holds hearings on Senate legislation. The legislation would update the Toxic Substance Control Act (TSCA), which governs the use of chemicals in consumer products in the U.S. ISPA is a member of the American Alliance for Innovation (AAI), which was formed to make sure that any legislation to reform TSCA did not burden the industry. ISPA joined members of the AAI in supporting the compromise legislation.
Despite broad support, there has been an effort by some Senators, states and environmental groups to make changes to the legislation because they are concerned with the bill’s preemptive effect on state chemical laws. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) is leading this charge and spoke at a recent hearing about making changes to the bill because she fears the compromise bill will limit California’s Proposition 65 and other state chemical laws. The AAI and ISPA support the bill, in part, because of its preemptive effect. The hearing and further action by the house could put pressure on the senate to not make significant changes to the current bill.
Any action on the legislation is not expected until next year at the earliest.
Efforts to reform TSCA in the past have failed but those were partisan efforts. ISPA will continue to follow the progress on this legislation.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation’s 2013 poll on exercise and sleep, getting more exercise will not only benefit you by gaining a better quality of sleep, but will also help you fall asleep faster and have fewer sleep problems.
Here are the National Sleep Foundation’s definitions of the types of exercise found in the chart below.
“In this self-report measure, vigorous was defined as activities, which require hard physical effort such as: running, cycling, swimming or competitive sports. The next level, moderate, was defined as activities, which require more effort than normal such as: yoga, thai chi and weight lifting. Light activity was defined as walking, while those who do not do any activity classified themselves into the no activity level.”
To view the full summary of the Sleep in America Poll®, click HERE.
Where do you fall on the chart?