Sleeping Habits of Some of History’s Greatest Minds

We have all heard of many geniuses staying up through the night working manically and creating masterpieces, writing prize-winning novels, and inventing amazing technologies. Or maybe you have heard the myth that you are most creative when you are tired. But are these bizarre sleeping habits really effective in creating brilliance?

In the book Daily Rituals: How Artists Work, by Mason Currey, Currey explores how brilliance has often been the product of a well-rested mind and not artistic all-nighters.

This New York Magazine infographic shows the typical sleeping habits of some of the world’s greatest minds

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Unfortunately, the infographic doesn’t give us any sleep-related tricks for releasing our own latent genius, other than following the traditional eight-hours-a-night rule.

So rest up and give your inner creative genius a chance to be brilliant!

 

Trouble Sleeping In A New Place? Blame It On Your Brain.

 

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Have you ever had trouble sleeping when you are in a new place? Do you toss and turn or easily wake when you travel or sleep somewhere other than your own bedroom? If so, you are not alone. According to a new study published in the journal “Current Biology,” it is a very normal occurrence for your first night’s sleep in new surroundings to be less than satisfactory.

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Researchers at Brown University found that, similar to some animals, only half of the human brain “sleeps” the first night a person sleeps in a new environment. Research showed that the left hemisphere of the brain, the more logical and analytical side, was still actively “awake” throughout the night. The researchers believe that it is our brain’s way of “keeping watch” in unfamiliar territory. Though humans no longer worry about predators lurking in the darkness, our brains evolved during a time when that threat was very real.

So next time you are traveling or house sitting, plan accordingly, because your first night of sleep away from home will most likely not be as good as usual.

For more information, check out NPR’s article, “Half Your Brain Stands Guard When Sleeping In A New Place.”

 

 

Don’t Let Jet Lag Tag Along: 6 Tips to Leave It Behind

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With the holidays right around the corner, many people are starting to make travel plans. They are booking flights and hotels and getting ready to fly and drive to see loved ones. Visiting family and taking part in fun holiday traditions is something we all look forward to, but the required traveling isn’t always easy, especially when you are traveling to a different time zone. So how can we prevent jet lag from ruining holiday travel?

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According to the American Sleep Association, “Jet lag is a physiological condition caused by disturbance to the body’s natural circadian rhythm, or internal clock.” It most likely affects those who travel by air across more than two time zones. However, it can also affect those who travel for longer than 12 hours at a time. Some symptoms of jet lag include insomnia, disturbed sleep, fatigue, digestive problems, dehydration, difficulty concentrating, nausea, irritability, headache, dizziness, coordination problems, and sometimes memory loss. We’d all prefer to arrive at grandma’s house without all this excess “baggage,” so here are a few tips to prevent and alleviate jet lag.

Sleep With Your Destination

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If you plan to sleep while traveling, schedule your zzz’s as if you had already arrived. Set your watch to the local time of your destination, and sleep only if it is nighttime there. If it is daytime when you arrive, try to stay awake until your normal bedtime. If you absolutely need to nap, do so for less than two hours to ease your transition to the new time zone.

Be Mindful of Your Seat Selection

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The location of your seat on a plane can greatly affect your quality of sleep and your likelihood of preventing jet lag. If you are planning to sleep on a flight, choose a window seat that is far from heavy traffic areas of the plane. A first-class or business-class seat is always preferable for better sleep, since they are wider and provide more leg room. If that is not a viable option, choosing a window seat will still prevent you from being disturbed if other passengers get up during the flight. It also allows you to control whether or not the window shade is up or down, and consequently controls the amount of outside light streaming in through the window during the day. You can also easily position a pillow or neck rest against the window. Choosing a seat away from high-traffic areas like bathrooms and flight-attendant seating will reduce disturbances from people moving around.  Additionally, sitting in the middle or front of the plane is preferable, because the back of the plane is bumpier during take-off and turbulence.

No Tech Before Sleep

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As noted in one of my previous blog posts, the blue light emitted from phone, computer, and tablet screens delays the body’s release of melatonin, the hormone that helps you feel sleepy. If you are trying to sleep, stop using electronics an hour before you’d like to fall asleep.

To Drink or Not to Drink

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Many people believe alcoholic beverages will help them sleep. Initially, they can make you feel tired, but they can also dehydrate you, especially at high altitudes. While alcohol can help you fall asleep, you are likely to wake easier and more often and wake up feeling groggy. Whether you are trying to sleep or to stay awake, it is best to avoid alcoholic beverages while traveling to prevent jet lag. Instead, bring a water bottle, and ask the flight attendant to refill it throughout your flight.

Need Coffee, Will Travel

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Though caffeine can help you stay awake, it can cause dehydration. It is important to stay hydrated when traveling, especially when trying to prevent symptoms of jet lag. The high altitude and dry air in a jet plane can hasten the onset of jet lag. If you are like me and are intent on having your pre-flight cup o’ joe, follow it with at least 8 ounces of water to keep you hydrated.

Get Comfortable

Comfort is the key to feeling rested or preparing for a good sleep when you arrive at your destination. You can be completely prepared, well-rested, hydrated, and on-schedule, but when traveling on commercial flights, you can’t control things like room temperature, the volume of the pilot/driver’s announcements, or how many times the flight attendants push the beverage cart up and down the aisles. Prepare for comfort by dressing in layers and packing a blanket, neck pillow, eye mask, earplugs, and/or noise-canceling headphones. You’ll be thankful to have your personal comfort kit in case of the unexpected screaming child or chilly cabin temperature.

So now that you have a few good travel tips, you can be sure to arrive at your holiday destination without allowing jet lag to tag along.

 

Nature’s Sleep Aids

Do you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep? One of the easiest ways to combat insomnia and sleeplessness is to utilize the benefits of natural essential oils. Whether you apply the oils topically, add them to a warm bath, diffuse them, or spritz* them onto your pillowcase or eyemask, certain essential oils provide relief for insomnia and aid in falling and staying asleep.

Lavender

lavender By now, many people know that lavender helps to soothe and relax tired minds and muscles. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, “Scientific evidence suggests that aromatherapy with lavender may slow the activity of the nervous system, improve sleep quality, promote relaxation, and lift mood in people suffering from sleep disorders.” It is also beneficial as a bug repellent and antibiotic, for all you avid campers.

 Ylang Ylang

imagesThis essential oil is one of my favorites for relaxation, probably because of its fragrant floral notes. It reduces stress and relaxes the nerves. I like to mix a couple drops of this with lavender or chamomile for added benefits.

 Roman Chamomile

chamomile-401490_640Roman Chamomile has a sweet, fruity aroma. It has a calming effect, and is great to diffuse for a soothing and peaceful environment, i.e., one that promotes and supports sleep.

 Bergamot

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Bergamot is a good choice for someone who loves citrus scents, but it is much more calming than the more stimulating oils of grapefruit or tangerine. It is great for “clearing your head” in preparation for a peaceful night’s rest.

Vetiver

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This essential oil is extracted from the root of the vetiver plant. It has a warm, earthy scent, and promotes sleep while also relieving stress and muscle tension.

* I recommend adding a couple drops of essential oil to a water-based spritzer so the oil does not stain your bed linens.

Surprise! Sleep Deprivation Affects Emotional Intelligence

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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…” Sleeping_angel 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

The Science of the Brain During Sleep

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.

It’s Cuddling Time!

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It’s that time of year when everyone is breaking out thicker blankets and cuddling up for warmth. But warmth isn’t the only reason why cuddling feels so great!

It turns out that when someone is engaged in intimate physical contact, such as hugging, kissing, cuddling, or even sex, the brain naturally produces a “love hormone” called oxytocin.

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Oxytocin promotes happiness and kind behaviors, such as friendliness, empathy, and supportiveness. When people don’t get enough physical bonding (especially as a child), the lack of oxytocin tends to make them behave despondently and feel depressed or alienated.

So remember, if you’re feeling down, grab a loved one (person or pet) and cuddle!

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To learn more about how oxytocin may be used to treat depression, read this article from Prevention News by Siobhan O’Conner called Can Cuddling Cure Depression?