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3 Myths and Interesting Facts About Sleep

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Jackie_Martinez_in_B&W_sleeping_with_a_bookSleep is a complex process, and there is a lot we don’t know or have wrong about it. The Huffington Post just published the article 3 Crazy Myths and Facts about Sleep that clears up several myths with some interesting truths about sleep.

Myth #1: Getting up at night for, say, 15 minutes just means I lose 15 minutes of sleep. Unfortunately, when life wakes you in the middle of the night, you lose way more than just those minutes out of bed. Waking to change your pajamas after a hot flash, answer the phone if you’re on call, or of course, comfort a crying baby is harder on us than we ever thought.

I’m surprised it took until 2014 to officially research this, but a first-of-a-kind study in the journal Sleep Medicine looked at the effects of sleep interruption over two nights. The first night, all the study participants slept for eight hours. Then researchers then measured their mood and ability to pay attention. Good so far.

A few nights later, the participants were split into two groups: half slept for only four hours, while the other half slept for eight hours but got woken up four times for 10 to 15 minutes at a stretch. So technically, they spent at least seven hours asleep — three hours longer than the four-hour group — just interspersed with awakenings. Then everyone’s mood and attention was measured again.

Anyone who’s ever had a newborn or been on call for work knows the results: the mood and attention of folks with interrupted sleep were just as bad as those who slept for only four hours. Both groups felt depressed, irritable, and had a hard time getting going. Plus, performance on the attention task got worse the longer they kept at it. Indeed, whoever coined the term “sleep like a baby” clearly never had one.

Myth #2: My brain holds my internal clock. Yes, the master clock, technically called the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN, is in your brain. But almost all your organs, plus your fat and skeletal muscle, follow some sort of daily rhythm as well. Your gut, liver, and kidneys in particular have strong rhythms.

That’s why you feel so lousy when you have jet lag, and that’s why you often wake up groggy or feeling thrown off when you sleep in on the weekend: your whole body is affected.

And over the long term, throwing off your body clocks through overnight shift work, frequent jet lag, or just wacky sleep habits can put you at risk for some serious diseases, including breast cancer and colon cancer

Circadian disruption is also thought to be a final push that sends some of those merely at risk over the edge. For example, only 30 percent of alcoholics develop liver disease. Why? Well, a 2013 study found that circadian disorganization, common in shift workers, increases “permeability of the intestinal epithelial barrier,” or in other words, a leaky gut. In the context of what the researchers called “injurious agents,” i.e., booze, a leaky gut puts folks at higher risk for liver inflammation and disease. They concluded that while there are many factors that determine whether someone with alcohol addiction develops liver disease, circadian disruption may be a swizzle stick that breaks the camel’s back.

Myth #3: If I can’t sleep, I should just wait it out… sleep will come. On the contrary, if you know you’ll be staring at the ceiling for awhile, get up. Yes, your bed is cozy and warm, but here’s why. Much like you probably associate biting into a lemon with puckered lips and Pavlov’s dog associated the bell with food, thereby salivating, you want to associate your bed with one thing: sleep (well okay, two things: I’ll let you guess the other).

When you lie in bed for more than about 15 or 20 minutes without sleeping, you start to associate your bed with wakefulness. And when you watch TV or fool around on Pinterest in bed when you can’t sleep, those too become associations with bed.

With time, bed could mean sleep, or it could also mean CSI, preschool science project pinboards, or planning your day in your head. Yes, even thinking and worrying qualify as activities you don’t want to do in bed.

So what to do? You can still do all these things, just don’t do them in bed. Get them done before you head to bed, and if you can’t sleep after 15 to 20 minutes, get up and do something non-stimulating like reading (on paper, not a tablet!) until you feel sleepy. Then try again. If you still can’t sleep, rinse and repeat: get up again to avoid associating the bed with anything but sleep and sex.

This is what behavioral psychologists call stimulus control and it’s the most effective way to combat chronic insomnia. It may take a week or two, but it’s been shown to break the bad habits that maintain insomnia. Before you know it, you’ll be so good at sleeping you’ll do it with your eyes closed!

For the full article click HERE.

 

Why Do Teens Nowadays Get Less Sleep Than Previous Generations?

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Teens of this generation are generally getting less sleep than those of previous generations. What could be the reasoning behind this trend?

According to a study performed at Uni Research Health in Norway, the culprit could be the hours a day teens spend using electronic devices. The study was based on data gathered from 10,000 16- to 19-year-old boys and girls, who were asked about their daily quantity of screen time as well as their sleeping habits.

The findings were that those who used an electronic device for over four hours a day had a 49% higher risk of taking longer than an hour to fall asleep. Those who exceeded two hours of screen viewing per day were more likely to toss and turn before falling into a deep sleep. Teens who used multiple devices throughout the day were more likely to get less than five hours of sleep per night.

The reasoning behind this might be linked to the screen light, which may impact sleep hormone production. It could also be related to the social communication aspect, such as anticipating a response from a friend.

An easy way to fix this problem would be to treat electronic devices like any other stimulant (such as caffeine) and limit their use before bedtime and just in general. If the devices are not used while in bed, the body and mind won’t associate the bedroom with wakefulness, and could thus obtain better sleep.

For more information about how electronic devices impact teen sleep, read this article by Bill Briggs from NBC News: http://www.nbcnews.com/health/health-news/zombieland-tech-wrecking-sleep-scores-teens-study-n298901

Paradigm Shift for Wellness

A poll by The Hartman Group shows that a shift has taken place in how people think about wellness. In 2000, people were more reactive to their health, doing what was necessary to maintain their health or respond to a health issue.

By 2013, people had shifted from being reactive to their health and wellness to being proactive. They ate healthier in general, rather than going on a “diet” when they felt it necessary. Exercise became part of the regular routine rather than a New Year’s resolution. There was a 10% increase in people who reported being proactive about their health.

Overall, people are feeling more balanced and satisfied in creating a healthy lifestyle for themselves. Rather than reacting to arising health issues, people are beginning to take preventative measures by being healthy in their everyday lives. This is a shift that will hopefully continue over the years to come.

Wellness- Then & Now

The Science of the Brain During Sleep

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Our brains account for only 2% of our body’s mass, yet they use approximately a quarter of our entire energy supply. How does the brain receive and then expel the vital nutrients needed for all that energy? New research suggests that sleep has some amazing impacts on the brain. This Ted Talks video features Jeff Iliff, a neuroscientist, who explores the unique functions of the brain during sleep.

Benefits of a Cool Sleeping Environment

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Recent studies have found a correlation between cooler sleeping environments and metabolic health, relating to the volume of “brown fat” that is stored in a person’s body.

“Brown fat” is one of two types of fat found in mammals, along with the more common “white fat.” An abundance of brown fat is found in newborns and hibernating mammals, generating body heat for those who do not shiver.

Research has shown that this type of fat is metabolically active, unlike white fat. It takes sugar out of the bloodstream to burn calories and maintain the body’s core temperature.

It was previously thought that adults didn’t have brown fat stores in their bodies, but recent studies have detected small amounts stored in their necks and upper backs.

In a new study, five healthy male adults volunteered to sleep in climate-controlled rooms over the course of four months. Their blood-sugar and insulin levels were tracked throughout, along with their caloric expenditures. At the end of each month, they measured the amount of brown fat found in their bodies.

After four weeks of sleeping in cooler temperatures (66º F), the volume of brown fat had almost doubled, and improved insulin sensitivity was also seen.

By sleeping in a cooler room, adults could over time add to their stores of brown fat and lessen their risk for diabetes and other metabolic health problems.

To learn more, read this article: “Let’s Cool It in the Bedroom” by Gretchen Reynolds from the New York Times.

Take Sleep Seriously!

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:

Why Do We Dream?

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.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7GGzc3x9WJU

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