Strange Sleeping Habits of Historical Figures

Old Wooden Cabin Bedroom. Aged Cabin Bed.

Not everyone gets the recommended eight hours of sleep per night. Some of the world’s most famous figures had very interesting and unique sleeping habits.

Leonardo Da Vinci

Some sources claim that Da Vinci was able to stay awake and alert almost 22 hours of every day, all while working on his brilliant artworks and inventions. He slept only 1.5 – 2 hours a day, taking 20-minute naps every four hours. Today this sleep system is called the polyphasic sleep schedule, or the Uberman Sleep Cycle.

Nikola Tesla

Nikola Tesla never slept for more than 2 hours a day. Much like Da Vinci, Tesla followed the Uberman Sleep Cycle, and claimed to have never slept more than 2 hours a day. He once reportedly worked for 84 hours straight in a lab without any rest.

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson is also considered a polyphasic sleeper, only sleeping 2 hours a day. In letters written by Jefferson he discusses his sleep habits, referencing that his sleep was not very regular. He would sleep at different times (often late into the night), and he would devote time each night before bed to creative reading and would continue reading if the book was of particular interest. However, he would regularly wake up at sunrise every day.

Thomas Edison

Edison would continuously work in his lab with little to no sleep for days. He kept a cot in his lab to grab a few minutes as needed. A newspaper even captured a famous picture of Edison sleeping on his workbench. When not absorbed in a project, Edison was known to sleep for an entire day, waking only to take a light meal, and then would head back to bed.

Sir Isaac Newton

Newton only slept 3-4 hours daily, and he would work so long and hard that he would often go days without sleep. Eventually the lack of sleep led him to become ill from exhaustion.

Albert Einstein

It is believed that Einstein liked to sleep 10 hours a night – unless he was working very hard on an idea, when it would be 11. He claimed that his dreams helped him invent. Also, he believed that naps “refreshed the mind” and that they helped him to be more creative.

Benjamin Franklin

Franklin had a reputation for limiting his sleep. In his own autobiography he explains his quest for moral perfection, including allocating only 4 hours of sleep per night.

Charles Dickens

In order to improve his creativity, Charles Dickens slept facing north. Dickens, who reportedly suffered from insomnia, always kept a navigation compass with him to ensure that he wrote and slept facing north.

Lydon B. Johnson

The former president split his day into two parts to get more done. He usually woke up at about 6:30 or 7 a.m. and worked until 2 p.m. After a quick bout of exercise, Johnson would crawl back into bed for a 30-minute nap, getting up around 4 p.m. and working into the early morning.

Emily Bronte

19th century novelist, Emily Bronte, suffered from insomnia and would walk around in circles until she was tired enough to fall asleep.

Winston Churchill

Winston Churchill was known for taking a two-hour nap every day around 5:00 pm. He’d pour himself a weak whiskey and soda, and settle in for a nice nap. Churchill said this short nap allowed him to get 1 ½ days’ worth of work done every 24 hours.

Do you sleep like any of these famous figures or do you have your own unique sleep habits?

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

 

business travel hotel

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.

Brain

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

airplane_sunset_by_kase131

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?

bellman-luggage-cart-104031_640

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

432273311_57cfd9c0cb_o_d

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

Screen shot 2015-11-16 at 9.45.38 AM

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

14445391302_152a847ec2_b

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

Screen shot 2015-11-16 at 3.26.12 PM

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

5123610577_b7881a536b_b

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

7339944092_3463564e14_o_d

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

Vetiveria_zizanoides_dsc07810

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

Excitement

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

Sleep and Exercise: A Reciprocal Relationship

6480297645_f71f3bd4f5_b

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.

15312-a-young-woman-jogging-outdoors-pv

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.

6697132255_c03c97f1a4

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.

7294549116_d0bb01296b_b

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.

athlete-body-exercise-4077

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.

Sleeping_man_with_beard

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!