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- Natural Remedies for Insomnia
14 Natural Remedies To Get a Better Night's RestBy Cathy WongUpdated July 24, 2013Although it is common to have the occasional sleepless night, if you lack sufficient sleep on a regular basis, it is called insomnia.Before starting any natural remedies, consult your doctor. Chronic insomnia can be a symptom of another condition, such as depression, heart disease, sleep apnea, lung disease, hot flashes, or diabetes, so it's important to see a doctor if you are having trouble sleeping.Natural Remedies for InsomniaHere are fourteen natural remedies that are used for insomnia.1) ValerianValerian (Valeriana officinalis) is a herb that has been long used as a remedy for insomnia. Today, it is an over-the-counter insomnia remedy in Germany, France, Switzerland, Belgium, and Italy.Exactly how valerian works in the body is still not well understood. Some studies suggest that like conventional sleeping pills, valerian may affect levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA.Unlike many other sleep medications, valerian is not believed to be addictive or cause grogginess in the morning. But valerian doesn't work for everyone. And although studies in labs have been encouraging, clinical trials are still inconclusive.Valerian is usually taken between an hour before bedtime. It takes about two to three weeks to work. It shouldn't be used for more than three months at a time. Side effects of valerian may include mild indigestion, headache, palpitations, and dizziness. Although valerian tea and liquid extracts are available, most people don't like the smell of valerian and prefer taking the capsule form.Valerian shouldn't be taken with many medications, especially those that depress the central nervous system, such as sedatives and antihistamines. Valerian shouldn't be taken with alcohol, before or after surgery, or by people with liver disease. It should not be taken before driving or operating machinery. Consultation with a qualified health practitioner is recommended.2) MelatoninMelatonin is a popular remedy to help people fall asleep when the sleep/wake cycle has been disturbed, such as in shift workers or people who with jet lag. Melatonin is a hormone found naturally in the body. The pineal gland in the brain makes serotonin which is then converted into melatonin at night when exposure to light decreases.Melatonin is typically taken about 30 minutes before the desired bedtime. Some experts caution that melatonin should not be used by people with depression, schizophrenia, autoimmune diseases, and other serious illness. Pregnant and nursing women should not use melatonin.A University of Alberta study examined 17 studies with 651 people and found no significant side effects when used for three months or less. The long-term effect of melatonin supplementation is not known.3) KavaKava is an anti-anxiety herb that may be helpful for anxiety-related insomnia. However, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued an advisory to consumers about the potential risk of severe liver injury resulting from the use of dietary supplements containing kava. To date, there have been more than 25 reports of serious adverse effects from kava use in other countries, including four patients who required liver transplants.4) Relaxation TechniquesRelaxation techniques are one of the most effective ways to increase sleep time, fall asleep faster, and feel more rested in the morning. They require a minimum of 20 minutes before going to bed. There are many different techniques:• Visualization - involves imagining a relaxing scene. You can try it in bed before falling asleep. Involve all your senses. If you're imagining yourself on a tropical island, think of the way the warm breeze feels against your skin. Imagine the sweet scent of the flowers, look at the water and listen the waves. The more vivid the visualization and the more senses you involve, the more effective it will be.• Relaxation Response: A mind/body technique based on the principles of Transcendental Meditation.• Mindfulness: A type of meditation that essentially involves focusing on your mind on the present.• Yoga: combines deep breathing, meditation, and stretching. A Harvard study found that daily yoga for eight weeks improved total sleep time, the time to fall asleep.5) DietCut Out CaffeineCaffeine can have a pronounced effect on sleep, causing insomnia and restlessness. In addition to coffee, tea, and soft drinks, look for hidden sources of caffeine such as chocolate, cough and cold medicine, and other over-the-counter medicine.Avoid SweetsAlthough sugar can give a burst of energy, it's short-lived and can cause uneven blood sugar levels. This can disrupt sleep in the middle of the night as blood sugar levels fall.Eat Foods That Help You SleepTryptophan is an amino acid that is a precursor to serotonin, which is then converted to melatonin. Carbohydrate snacks such whole grain crackers before bedtime may help to promote sleep. Just be sure to stay away from sweets.Eat Magnesium-Rich FoodsMagnesium is a natural sedative. Deficiency of magnesium can result in difficulty sleeping, constipation, muscle tremors or cramps, anxiety, irritability, and pain. It has also been use for people with restless leg syndrome.Foods rich in magnesium are legumes and seeds, dark leafy green vegetables, wheat bran, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, brewer's yeast, and whole grains.6) AromatherapyThe scent of the aromatherapy oil English lavender has long been used as a folk remedy to help people fall asleep. Research is starting to confirm lavender's sedative qualities. It's been found to lengthen total sleep time, increase deep sleep, and make people feel refreshed. It appears to work better for women, possibly because women tend to have a more acute sense of smell.The good thing about lavender is that it begins to work quickly. Try putting a lavender sachet under your pillow or place one to two drops of lavender essential oil in a handkerchief. Or add several drops of lavender oil to a bath -- the drop in body temperature after a warm bath also helps with sleep. Other aromatherapy oils believed to help with sleep are chamomile and ylang ylang.7) LightIf you have trouble falling asleep at night, you may need more light in the morning. Light exposure plays a key role in telling the body when to go to sleep and when to wake up. Try taking a walk first thing in the morning. Just be sure to wear sunscreen to protect your skin from ultraviolet rays.On the other hand, if you find you're waking up too early in the morning, you may need more light in the afternoon. Try taking a walk in the late afternoon.8) MusicGentle, slow music is another remedy that can help to improve sleep without medication. Music therapy has been found to improve sleep quality, decrease nightly wakenings, lengthen sleep time, and increase satisfaction with sleep.9) Acupuncture
Acupuncture may help with insomnia. A University of Pittsburgh analysis concluded that acupuncture may be an effective treatment for insomnia. A preliminary study found that five weeks of acupuncture increase melatonin secretion in the evening and improved total sleep time.10) Traditional Chinese MedicineIn traditional Chinese medicine, insomnia often stems from kidney energy weakness. This syndrome is not necessarily related to kidney disease in Western medicine. A few signs of kidney energy weakness are low back ache, tiredness and fatigue, and a burst of energy at about 11 pm in the evening. Women in menopause often experience this type of insomnia. People who are taking anti-estrogenic drugs such as tamoxifen also experience this type of insomnia, however, they should not take herbal combinations such as the herbal formula liu wei di huang that may increase estrogen levels.11) Ayurvedic MedicineIn Ayurvedic medicine, insomnia is often associated with a vata imbalance. Vata regulates breathing and circulation. People with a vata imbalance often notice irritability, anxiety, and fear with insomnia. One Ayurvedic treatment is the application of oil on the head and feet. For the pitta type, room temperature coconut oil is used, for the vata type, warm sesame oil is applied, and for the kapha type, warm mustard oil is often applied.12) ExerciseLack of exercise can contribute to poor sleep. Muscle tension and stress build in the body. Exercise can promote deep sleep that night. However, intense exercise too close to bed can increase adrenaline levels, leading to insomnia.13) Other Natural Remedies• For hot flashes, a thin, flat foam pillow insert, called a Chillow, can help to cool the head throughout the night.• Chamomile, hops, passionflower, lemon balm, and ashwagandha are other herbs that are often used for insomnia. Some people may find benefit from simply having a cup of chamomile tea one to two hours before going to bed. Chamomile can reduce anxiety, calm the digestive system, and relieve muscle tension.14) Feng ShuiFeng shui, which originates in the Chinese philosophy of Taoism, instructs on how to arrange rooms, furniture, offices, houses, and other arrangements to maximize favorable energy flow throughout living spaces. Here are some recommendations that may help promote relaxing sleep and also read these 6 feng shui tips for your bedroom:• Try not to have the bed in a corner of the room. The corners are where energy tends to be stagnant.• Avoid putting your bed next to a window. Energy can be drained this way.• The bed shouldn't be positioned so that the soles of the feet, when lying face-up in bed, directly face the doorway.• When lying in bed, you should have full view of anyone coming in the door. If you can't do this directly, hang a mirror to reflect the entranceway.• Try to avoid facing sharp corners from desks, bookcases, and other pieces of furniture.Sources____________________Buscemi N, Vandermeer B, Hooton N, Pandya R, Tjosvold L, Hartling L, Vohra S, Klassen TP, Baker G. Efficacy and safety of exogenous melatonin for secondary sleep disorders and sleep disorders accompanying sleep restriction: meta-analysis. BMJ. 2006 Feb 18;332(7538):385-93.Khalsa SB. Treatment of chronic insomnia with yoga: a preliminary study with sleep-wake diaries. Appl Psychophysiol Biofeedback. 2004 Dec;29(4):269-78.Lewith GT, Godfrey AD, Prescott P. A single-blinded, randomized pilot study evaluating the aroma of Lavandula augustifolia as a treatment for mild insomnia. J
- Why Do We Need Sleep?
Brains Sweep Themselves Clean of Toxins During SleepBy Jon HamiltonNPROctober 17, 2013While the brain sleeps, it clears out harmful toxins, a process that may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's, researchers say.During sleep, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain increases dramatically, washing away harmful waste proteins that build up between brain cells during waking hours, a study of mice found."It's like a dishwasher," says Dr. Maiken Nedergaard, a professor of neurosurgery at the University of Rochester and an author of the study in Science.The results appear to offer the best explanation yet of why animals and people need sleep. If this proves to be true in humans as well, it could help explain a mysterious association between sleep disorders and brain diseases, including Alzheimer's.Nedergaard and a team of scientists discovered the cleaning process while studying the brains of sleeping mice.The scientists noticed that during sleep, the system that circulates the cerebrospinal fluid through the brain and nervous system was "pumping fluid into the brain and removing fluid from the brain in a very rapid pace," Nedergaard says.The team discovered that this increased flow was possible in part because when mice went to sleep, their brain cells actually shrank, making it easier for fluid to circulate. When an animal woke up, the brain cells enlarged again and the flow between cells slowed to a trickle. "It's almost like opening and closing a faucet," Nedergaard says. "It's that dramatic."Nedergaard's team, which is funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, had previously shown that this fluid was carrying away waste products that build up in the spaces between brain cells.The process is important because what's getting washed away during sleep are waste proteins that are toxic to brain cells, Nedergaard says. This could explain why we don't think clearly after a sleepless night and why a prolonged lack of sleep can actually kill an animal or a person, she says.So why doesn't the brain do this sort of housekeeping all the time? Nedergaard thinks it's because cleaning takes a lot of energy. "It's probably not possible for the brain to both clean itself and at the same time (be) aware of the surroundings and talk and move and so on," she says.The brain-cleaning process has been observed in rats and baboons, but not yet in humans, Nedergaard says. Even so, it could offer a new way of understanding human brain diseases including Alzheimer's. That's because one of the waste products removed from the brain during sleep is beta amyloid, the substance that forms sticky plaques associated with the disease.That's probably not a coincidence, Nedergaard says. "Isn't it interesting that Alzheimer's and all other diseases associated with dementia, they are linked to sleep disorders," she says.Researchers who study Alzheimer's say Nedergaard's research could help explain a number of recent findings related to sleep. One of these involves how sleep affects levels of beta amyloid, says Randall Bateman, a professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis who wasn't involved in the study."Beta amyloid concentrations continue to increase while a person is awake," Bateman says. "And then after people go to sleep that concentration of beta amyloid decreases. This report provides a beautiful mechanism by which this may be happening."The report also offers a tantalizing hint of a new approach to Alzheimer's prevention, Bateman says. "It does raise the possibility that one might be able to actually control sleep in a way to improve the clearance of beta amyloid and help prevent amyloidosis that we think can lead to Alzheimer's disease."
- The Moon and Your Sleep
How the Moon Messes With Your SleepA new look at old data gives credence to a long-suspected phenomenonWe are all, quite literally, lunatics—and I mean that in the nicest way possible. It is the moon, after all, that is responsible for the luna part of that word—and the moon has always made us at least a little crazy. Over our long history we have been charmed by it, spooked by it, seduced by it. We kiss by the moon, go to war by the moon, we spent $25 billion—in 1960s money, no less—to go to the moon. So it’s hardly a surprise that the moon is in some very real ways inside of us all.The human menstrual cycle is the best-known example of the way our bodies—over millions of years of evolution—have synchronized themselves to the rhythms of the moon. Less well-known is the lunar link to the electrochemistry of the brain in epileptic patients, which changes in the few days surrounding a new moon, making seizures more likely. And then there are the anecdotal accounts of the effects the moon has on sleepPeople have long reported that it is harder to get to sleep and remain asleep when the moon is full, and even after a seemingly good night’s rest, there can be a faint sluggishness—a sort of full-moon hangover—that is not present on other days. If you’re sleeping on the prairie or in a settler’s cabin with no shades, the simple presence of moonlight is an inescapable explanation. But long after humans moved indoors into fully curtained and climate-controlled homes, the phenomenon has remained. What’s never been clear is whether it’s the real deal—if the moon really does mess with us–or if it’s some combination of imagination and selective reporting, with people who believe in lunar cycles seeing patterns where none exist. Now, a report in the journal Current Biology suggests that the believers have been right all along.For a research paper that was just released today, the initial work took place an awful long time ago. In 2000, a team of investigators from the University of Basel, the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology and the Switzerland Centre for Sleep Medicine, recruited 33 volunteers and studied them in a sleep lab on and off over the course of three years. The investigators gathered a range of data—brain wave activity during sleep as measured by electroencephalograms (EEG); levels of melatonin, a sleep-related hormone; the amount of time it took subjects to fall asleep and the amount of time they spent in deep sleep; and their subjective reports of how rested they felt the next day. All of it was intended to learn more about human sleep patterns in a general way and, more specifically, how they are affected by age and gender. Only a decade later did the investigators realize that they may be able to re-crunch the data to learn about the moon.“The aim of exploring the influence of different lunar phases on sleep regulation was never a priori hypothesized,” they wrote in a wonderfully candid passage in their paper. “We just thought of it after a drink in a local bar one evening at full moon.”Thus should all great science be done, since as it turned out, the second look revealed intriguing patterns. On average, the subjects in the study took five minutes longer to fall asleep on the three or four nights surrounding a full moon and they slept for 20 fewer minutes. In addition, EEG activity related to deep sleep fell 30%, melatonin levels were lower and the subjects reported feeling less refreshed the next day than on other days. The subjects slept in a completely darkened lab with no sight of the moon, and none of them—at least from what was known—appeared to have given any thought at all to lunar cycles. And since the moon was not an experimental variable in the original study, it was never mentioned either to the subjects or even among the investigators.In terms of scientific reliability, all of this is both good and not so good. A study can’t get more effectively double-blind than if no one is even thinking about the thing you wind up testing for, which makes the findings uniquely objective. On the other hand, the ideal moon study would have been carefully set up to give equal weight to every night in the lunar cycle. This study—while capturing most of the nights in the month—did so in a less rigorous way.“The a posteriori analysis is a strength and a weakness,” concedes lead author Christian Cajochen, head of the University of Basel’s Centre for Chronobiology, in an e-mail to TIME. “The strength is that investigators and subject expectations are not likely to influence the results, yet the weakness is that each subject was not studied across all lunar phases.”Even if the moon has as significant an effect on sleep as the study suggests, what’s less clear is the mechanism behind it. Dark labs eliminate the variable of light, so that can’t be it. And before you ask, no, it’s not gravity either. The authors stress that while lunar gravity does indeed raise tides in the oceans, it doesn’t on lakes and even many seas. Those bodies are simply too small to feel the effects—to say nothing of human bodies.Rather, the answer is simply that we, like every other species on Earth, evolved on a particular planet with a particular set of astronomical cycles—day and night, full moons and less full—and our circadian systems adapted. It’s hard to say where the internal clock is in, say, a flowering plant, but in humans, it’s likely in the suprachiasmatic nuclei, a tiny region of the brain near the optic nerve involved in the production of melatonin, certain neurotransmitters and other time-keeping chemicals, all in a rhythm consistent with both its terrestrial and cosmic surroundings. Physically, human beings may be creatures of just this world, but our brains—and our behavior—appear to belong to two.
Read more: http://science.time.com/2013/07/25/how-the-moon-messes-with-your-sleep/#ixzz2aAQjMqWe
- DO YOU HAVE ADHD OR SLEEP DEPRIVATION?
- Diagnosing the Wrong Deficit
IN the spring of 2010, a new patient came to see me to find out if he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He had all the classic symptoms: procrastination, forgetfulness, a propensity to lose things and, of course, the inability to pay attention consistently. But one thing was unusual. His symptoms had started only two years earlier, when he was 31.Though I treat a lot of adults for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the presentation of this case was a violation of an important diagnostic criterion: symptoms must date back to childhood. It turned out he first started having these problems the month he began his most recent job, one that required him to rise at 5 a.m., despite the fact that he was a night owl.The patient didn’t have A.D.H.D., I realized, but a chronic sleep deficit. I suggested some techniques to help him fall asleep at night, like relaxing for 90 minutes before getting in bed at 10 p.m. If necessary, he could take a small amount of melatonin. When he returned to see me two weeks later, his symptoms were almost gone. I suggested he call if they recurred. I never heard from him again.Many theories are thrown around to explain the rise in the diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D. in children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of school-age children have now received a diagnosis of the condition. I don’t doubt that many people do, in fact, have A.D.H.D.; I regularly diagnose and treat it in adults. But what if a substantial proportion of cases are really sleep disorders in disguise?For some people — especially children — sleep deprivation does not necessarily cause lethargy; instead they become hyperactive and unfocused. Researchers and reporters are increasingly seeing connections between dysfunctional sleep and what looks like A.D.H.D., but those links are taking a long time to be understood by parents and doctors.We all get less sleep than we used to. The number of adults who reported sleeping fewer than seven hours each night went from some 2 percent in 1960 to more than 35 percent in 2011. Sleep is even more crucial for children, who need delta sleep — the deep, rejuvenating, slow-wave kind — for proper growth and development. Yet today’s youngsters sleep more than an hour less than they did a hundred years ago. And for all ages, contemporary daytime activities — marked by nonstop 14-hour schedules and inescapable melatonin-inhibiting iDevices — often impair sleep. It might just be a coincidence, but this sleep-restricting lifestyle began getting more extreme in the 1990s, the decade with the explosion in A.D.H.D. diagnoses.A number of studies have shown that a huge proportion of children with an A.D.H.D. diagnosis also have sleep-disordered breathing like apnea or snoring, restless leg syndrome or non-restorative sleep, in which delta sleep is frequently interrupted.One study, published in 2004 in the journal Sleep, looked at 34 children with A.D.H.D. Every one of them showed a deficit of delta sleep, compared with only a handful of the 32 control subjects.A 2006 study in the journal Pediatrics showed something similar, from the perspective of a surgery clinic. This study included 105 children between ages 5 and 12. Seventy-eight of them were scheduled to have their tonsils removed because they had problems breathing in their sleep, while 27 children scheduled for other operations served as a control group. Researchers measured the participants’ sleep patterns and tested for hyperactivity and inattentiveness, consistent with standard protocols for validating an A.D.H.D. diagnosis.Of the 78 children getting the tonsillectomies, 28 percent were found to have A.D.H.D., compared with only 7 percent of the control group.Even more stunning was what the study’s authors found a year after the surgeries, when they followed up with the children. A full half of the original A.D.H.D. group who received tonsillectomies — 11 of 22 children — no longer met the criteria for the condition. In other words, what had appeared to be A.D.H.D. had been resolved by treating a sleeping problem.But it’s also possible that A.D.H.D.-like symptoms can persist even after a sleeping problem is resolved. Consider a long-term study of more than 11,000 children in Britain published last year, also in Pediatrics. Mothers were asked about symptoms of sleep-disordered breathing in their infants when they were 6 months old. Then, when the children were 4 and 7 years old, the mothers completed a behavioral questionnaire to gauge their children’s levels of inattention, hyperactivity, anxiety, depression and problems with peers, conduct and social skills.The study found that children who suffered from sleep-disordered breathing in infancy were more likely to have behavioral difficulties later in life — they were 20 to 60 percent more likely to have behavioral problems at age 4, and 40 to 100 percent more likely to have such problems at age 7. Interestingly, these problems occurred even if the disordered breathing had abated, implying that an infant breathing problem might cause some kind of potentially irreversible neurological injury.CLEARLY there is more going on in the nocturnal lives of our children than any of us have realized. Typically, we see and diagnose only their downstream, daytime symptoms.There has been less research into sleep and A.D.H.D. outside of childhood. But a team from Massachusetts General Hospital found, in one of the only studies of its kind, that sleep dysfunction in adults with A.D.H.D. closely mimics the sleep dysfunction in children with A.D.H.D.There is also some promising research being done on sleep in adults, relating to focus, memory and cognitive performance. A study published in February in the journal Nature Neuroscience found that the amount of delta sleep in seniors correlates with performance on memory tests. And a study published three years ago in Sleep found that while subjects who were deprived of sleep didn’t necessarily report feeling sleepier, their cognitive performance declined in proportion to their sleep deprivation and continued to worsen over five nights of sleep restriction.As it happens, “moves about excessively during sleep” was once listed as a symptom of attention-deficit disorder in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. That version of the manual, published in 1980, was the first to name the disorder. When the term A.D.H.D., reflecting the addition of hyperactivity, appeared in 1987, the diagnostic criteria no longer included trouble sleeping. The authors said there was not enough evidence to support keeping it in.But what if doctors, before diagnosing A.D.H.D. in their patients, did have to find evidence of a sleep disorder? Psychiatric researchers typically don’t have access to the equipment or expertise needed to evaluate sleep issues. It’s tricky to ask patients to keep sleep logs or to send them for expensive overnight sleep studies, which can involve complicated equipment like surface electrodes to measure brain and muscle activity; abdominal belts to record breathing; “pulse oximeters” to measure blood oxygen levels; even snore microphones. (And getting a sleep study approved by an insurance company is by no means guaranteed.) As it stands, A.D.H.D. can be diagnosed with only an office interview.Sometimes my patients have resisted my referrals for sleep testing, since everything they have read (often through direct-to-consumer marketing by drug companies) identifies A.D.H.D. as the culprit. People don’t like to hear that they may have a different, stranger-sounding problem that can’t be fixed with a pill — though this often changes once patients see the results of their sleep studies.Beyond my day job, I have a personal interest in A.D.H.D. and sleep disorders. Beginning in college and for nearly a decade, I struggled with profound cognitive lethargy and difficulty focusing, a daily nap habit and weekend sleep addiction. I got through my medical school exams only by the grace of good memorization skills and the fact that ephedra was still a legal supplement.I was misdiagnosed with various maladies, including A.D.H.D. Then I underwent two sleep studies and, finally, was found to have an atypical form of narcolepsy. This was a shock to me, because I had never fallen asleep while eating or talking. But, it turned out, over 40 percent of my night was spent in REM sleep — or “dreaming sleep,” which normally occurs only intermittently throughout the night — while just 5 percent was spent in delta sleep, the rejuvenating kind. I was sleeping 8 to 10 hours a night, but I still had a profound delta sleep deficit.It took some trial and error, but with the proper treatment, my cognitive problems came to an end. Today I eat well and respect my unique sleep needs instead of trying to suppress them. I also take two medications: a stimulant for narcolepsy and, at bedtime, an S.N.R.I. (or serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor) antidepressant — an off-label treatment that curtails REM sleep and helps increase delta sleep. Now I wake up without an alarm, and my daytime focus is remarkably improved. My recovery has been amazing (though my wife would argue that weekend mornings are still tough — she picks up the slack with our two kids).Attention-deficit problems are far from the only reasons to take our lack of quality sleep seriously. Laboratory animals die when they are deprived of delta sleep. Chronic delta sleep deficits in humans are implicated in many diseases, including depression, heart disease, hypertension, obesity, chronic pain, diabetes and cancer, not to mention thousands of fatigue-related car accidents each year.Sleep disorders are so prevalent that every internist, pediatrician and psychiatrist should routinely screen for them. And we need far more research into this issue. Every year billions of dollars are poured into researching cancer, depression and heart disease, but how much money goes into sleep?The National Institutes of Health will spend only $240 million on sleep research this year. One of the problems is that the research establishment exists as mini-fiefdoms — money given to one sector, like cardiology or psychiatry, rarely makes it into another, like sleep medicine, even if they are intimately connected.But we can’t wait any longer to pay attention to the connection between delta sleep and A.D.H.D. If you’re not already convinced, consider the drug clonidine. It started life as a hypertension treatment, but has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat A.D.H.D. Studies show that when it is taken only at bedtime, symptoms improve during the day. For psychiatrists, it is one of these “oh-we-don’t-know-how-it-works” drugs. But here is a little-known fact about clonidine: it can be a potent delta sleep enhancer.
- THE BEST MATTRESS FOR STOMACH SLEEPERS
- We’ve discussed how to find the best mattress for Back Sleepers:We’ve also discussed how to find the best mattress for Side Sleepers:If you go back and review the other two articles, you’ll find a recurring theme: the mattress that is best for you will be the one that holds your body in a neutral position.To define “neutral position”: this is how you look when standing in a relaxed position. Generally, the hips and shoulders line up; the spinal column is gently curved.If a mattress can keep you in your neutral position, it means that unnecessary muscular tension due to improper alignment and imbalance will be all but eliminated.However, for true stomach sleepers, those who sleep flat on their bellies, the idea that you can find a mattress that will hold you in a neutral position is false.You can certainly find a mattress that holds your body in a healthy way from the shoulders down. It’s the neck up that is, sadly, impossible.When sleeping flat on the belly, (the prone position), the head must be turned drastically to one side in order to be able to breathe. This creates mispositioning of the cervical vertebrae and musculature issues due to such harsh flexion, resulting in neck pain.Imagine holding your head in this position for extended periods of time during your daytime hours. It’s unthinkable, isn’t it? Still, many people do sleep in the prone position and find it difficult to re-train their bodies to a healthier sleeping position. So for those people, we offer the following suggestions.The best mattress for the belly sleeper is the one that keeps the hips in the proper place. The mattress must be firm enough to create just enough lift under the hips so the gentle curvature of the lumbar spine remains intact and as it exists when the sleeper is standing up in a relaxed position.How do you know if your hips are in the correct position? If the mattress is too soft, the hip region / pelvic girdle will enter too deeply into the mattress surface, which places excess curvature in the lumbar region—in effect, a swayback situation will occur.If the mattress is too firm, there will be too much lift under the hips, resulting in a flattening of that all-important lumbar curvature.Firm/Medium/Soft mattress: the one that works best for you is based on your weight. Try out models until one keeps the hips in the proper position and don’t worry about if it’s called a soft or firm. The importance of proper alignment (at least from the shoulders down for belly sleepers) supersedes the soft/firm question. And if you find one that keeps you in a correct position, that question answers itself.Again, it’s so important to look carefully at the materials involved in the making of the mattress, and to inspect the warranty. What good does it do to find a mattress that fits your body perfectly if it’s going to wear out very quickly? And if the mattress gets worn out, your body is no longer in a neutral position, but is flexed in an unnatural, unhealthy way.Most warranties contain a clause regarding “body impressions”—and most warranties will not go into effect until that body impression reaches a depth of at least 1.5 inches. When the body is lying in even a ½-inch-deep body impression, there’s no way for it to remain neutral, no matter what sleeping position you might be in. Please think carefully about longevity of the mattress as it relates to maintaining your healthy sleeping positions.Also, please see the following link for information on what to look for (and look out for) in a mattress warranty:
- The Best Mattress for Back Sleepers
- The very best mattress for back sleepers will be the mattress that supports the body in a neutral position.What do we mean by that? Well, the best mattress will be able to not only support your body weight, but also simultaneously provide the proper contour necessary to maintain that neutral position.Your neutral position is how you look standing upright, nice and relaxed; it’s the way your shoulders line up with your hips. If you turn to the side and look in the mirror, you can see the natural curvature of your spinal column and how your seat curves down to your hamstrings.This is what we’re trying to replicate while back sleeping: everything should look as close as possible to how it looks while you’re standing upright. All that natural curvature needs to exist while you’re sleeping. If it doesn’t, you’ll wake up with soreness due to the stress of being mispositioned during the night.For back sleepers, please pay special attention to the hip region. The heaviest bone group in the body is the pelvic region. If proper contour isn’t achieved in this area, it throws off the entire alignment.If the bed is too firm, and hips are held too high, once sleep sets in and the body relaxes, the hips will be forced upwards (towards the ceiling) in an unhealthy way, and ultimately flatten out the natural curvature of the low back region. The discs in between each vertebrae can’t rehydrate properly, resulting in back pain. The musculature isn’t relaxed in a healthy position, but is flexed, resulting in tension/pulling sensations: back pain. See where we’re going with this?If the bed is too soft, the hips/pelvic region drop in too far into the mattress, creating a swayback effect. This creates musculature tension along the lumbar spine due to exaggerated curvature: back pain. And again, the intervertebral discs can’t rehydrate properly when they’re pinched.; back pain results.Do you need a soft, medium, or firm mattress? The answer is dictated by your weight.We suggest throwing the terms “soft” and “firm” right out the window. Shop according to flexible support that allows proper positioning. Find a mattress that holds you properly, then take a good long look at the warranty to see how long you may expect it to do so. Beware, again, of “comfort impression” caveats. Please refer to our article: Mattress Warranties—What You Need to Know Before You Buy for more information on how to de-code warranties: http://sovnsleep.blogspot.com/2012/12/mattress-warranties-what-you-need-to.htmlNext up: What’s the best mattress for stomach sleepers?
- THE BEST MATTRESS FOR SIDE SLEEPERS
- We decided to break things down in shorter (but still informative) essays more focused on main sleeping position.Go look in the mirror at yourself in a relaxed, standing position. Note the position of your shoulders in relation to both your hips and waist region. This is your neutral position.This is what the best mattress for you will do: it will allow your body to rest in that alignment while you’re sleeping.For the side-sleeping individual, imagine replicating your standing position while in bed.The shoulders and hips need to “get in” to the mattress, compressing the materials just enough so that the midsection gets proper support. There should be contact on every part of your body: no gap under the midsection.The firmness of the best bed for you depends on your build and weight.When side-sleeping, if the shoulders and/or hips do not compress the surface of the mattress enough, the mattress will essentially repel them. So comparing the two:A well-fitting mattress:Plenty of room for shoulder/hips and support through the midsection. Spine in a straight alignment.
Note the foundation underneath the mattress: a flexible slat system adjusts to your movements and helps get the spine in proper alignment.A too-firm mattress will get you to this:Shoulders and/or hips get forced upward (towards the ceiling), which flexes the spine into a “U” position. Pain in the low back area will occur. Also, compression upon the shoulders/hips can cause numbness in the arm, tingly fingers, mid-back pain, hip/shoulder pointers, etc.If a mattress is too soft, the heaviest parts of the body (hip zone) get too far into the mattress; once again, the spine is flexed in an unnatural position. Different problem with the same results: Low back pain and more.So there you have it, yet again. The proper mattress for YOU will be dictated by:
- Your weight
- Your build
- Your sleeping positions
- 40 Facts About Sleep
- Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain
- By TARA PARKER-POPE
The best path to a healthy weight may be a good night’s sleep.For years researchers have known that adults who sleep less than five or six hours a night are at higher risk of being overweight. Among children, sleeping less than 10 hours a night is associated with weight gain.Now a fascinating new study suggests that the link may be even more insidious than previously thought. Losing just a few hours of sleep a few nights in a row can lead to almost immediate weight gain.Sleep researchers from the University of Colorado recruited 16 healthy men and women for a two-week experiment tracking sleep, metabolism and eating habits. Nothing was left to chance: the subjects stayed in a special room that allowed researchers to track their metabolism by measuring the amount of oxygen they used and carbon dioxide they produced. Every bite of food was recorded, and strict sleep schedules were imposed.The goal was to determine how inadequate sleep over just one week — similar to what might occur when students cram for exams or when office workers stay up late to meet a looming deadline — affects a person’s weight, behavior and physiology.During the first week of the study, half the people were allowed to sleep nine hours a night while the other half stayed up until about midnight and then could sleep up to five hours. Everyone was given unlimited access to food. In the second week, the nine-hour sleepers were then restricted to five hours of sleep a night, while the sleep-deprived participants were allowed an extra four hours.Notably, the researchers found that staying up late and getting just five hours of sleep increased a person’s metabolism. Sleep-deprived participants actually burned an extra 111 calories a day, according to the findings published last week in The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.But even though we burn more calories when we stay awake, losing sleep is not a good way to lose weight. The light sleepers ended up eating far more than those who got nine hours of sleep, and by the end of the first week the sleep-deprived subjects had gained an average of about two pounds.During the second week, members of the group that had originally slept nine hours also gained weight when they were restricted to just five hours. And the other group began to lose some (but not all) of the weight gained in that first sleep-deprived week.Kenneth Wrightdirector of the university’s sleep and chronobiology laboratory, said part of the change was behavioral. Staying up late and skimping on sleep led to not only more eating, but a shift in the type of foods a person consumed.“We found that when people weren’t getting enough sleep they overatecarbohydrates,” he said. “They ate more food, and when they ate food also changed. They ate a smaller breakfast and they ate a lot more after dinner.”In fact, sleep-deprived eaters ended up eating more calories during after-dinner snacking than in any other meal during the day. Over all, people consumed 6 percent more calories when they got too little sleep. Once they started sleeping more, they began eating more healthfully, consuming fewer carbohydrates and fats. Dr. Wright noted that the effect of sleep deprivation on weight would likely be similar in the real world although it might not be as pronounced as in the controlled environment. The researchers found that insufficient sleep changed the timing of a person’s internal clock, and that in turn appeared to influence the changes in eating habits. “They were awake three hours before their internal nighttime had ended,” Dr. Wright said. “Being awakened during their biological night is probably why they ate smaller breakfasts.”The effect was similar to the jet lag that occurs when a person travels from California to New York.Last fall, The Annals of Internal Medicine reported on a study by University of Chicago researchers, who found that lack of sleep alters the biology of fat cells. In the small study — just seven healthy volunteers — the researchers tracked the changes that occurred when subjects moved from 8.5 hours of sleep to just 4.5 hours. After four nights of less sleep, their fat cells were less sensitive to insulin, a metabolic change associated with both diabetesand obesity.“Metabolically, lack of sleep aged fat cells about 20 years,” said Matthew Brady, an associate professor of medicine at the University of Chicago and the senior author on the study.“These subjects were in their low 20s but it’s as if they were now middle-aged in terms of their response. We were surprised how profound the effects were.”Both Drs. Wright and Brady noted that because their studies lasted only days, it was not clear how long-term sleep deprivation affects weight, and whether the body adjusts to less sleep.Dr. Brady said that while better sleep would not solve the obesity problem, paying more attention to sleep habits could help individuals better manage their weight.In the future he hopes to study whether a focus on better sleep could improve the health of people in middle age who are overweight or prediabetic.“Telling someone they need to sleep more as a way to improve their metabolic health, we think would be more palatable,” said Dr. Brady. “We think sleep is very underappreciated.”
A version of this article appeared in print on 03/19/2013, on page D4 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Lost Sleep Can Lead to Weight Gain
- What's the Best Pillow?
- We have so many customers who are desperate to find a good pillow, it seems logical to discuss how to do so.In our previous post “Is a Firm Mattress Better? “ we sought to educate the customer as to how his/her weight, build, and sleeping positions determine, to a very large degree, what firmness of mattress is going to hold the body the most properly.As a quick reminder: In a properly supportive mattress, one that keeps your body in a neutral alignment, the spinal column will be supported evenly.Meaning that in a side sleeping position, the shoulders and hips should compress the mattress just enough to get support through the midsection and maintain a straight alignment in the spinal column.In a back sleeping position, the seat should compress just enough of the mattress so the low back concavity gets supported and kept in a neutral position.What about pillows?The right pillow for each person depends, again, on build and sleeping positions, but there’s one more thing to take into consideration: the firmness of your mattress.Why is that?The deeper your body gets into the surface of your mattress, the less space needs to be filled under the neck to keep it in a healthy position.A well-fitting pillow will help keep the neck and head in a healthy neutral alignment.Stand up in a relaxed position and look forward. Take a look at the space between your chest and your neck. That’s the same amount of space you need while sleeping in order promote the healthiest position, which allows optimum oxygen flow. Also, this position will allow the neck muscles to relax properly while sleeping.Imagine finding the perfect pillow to go along with your mattress. Everything is in perfect alignment; you can breathe easily. There’s no stress in the neck. You wake up without pain. You have set yourself up in a beautiful, healthy neutrality while you sleep!Now take this pillow with you on vacation, where the bed is far softer than yours at home. Your body sinks in more deeply to the vacation bed. Now, all of a sudden, the pillow that works so beautifully at home is too big! Your head is pitched up at an angle, causing both neck stress and breathing issues. Not good.Keeping in mind how the mattress itself plays such an important role in finding the correct pillow, let’s now talk about sleeping positions.Back Sleepers: Generally need lower pillows. Go too tall with a pillow, and your head will be pitched up at an angle. This is terrible positioning for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it puts a bend in the airway, which impedes oxygen flow, which can cause snoring. Secondly, the neck will not rest in a healthy position. Neck pain upon awakening will generally occur.Side Sleepers: Tend to have more problems with finding a pillow that corrects their positioning from the neck up. There needs to be enough lift under the neck to fill up the area between neck and shoulders, but enough softness under the head itself to allow it to drop into a neutral position.If the pillow is too short, your head will angle downwards.If the pillow is too tall, the opposite happens: the head angles upwards. Ultimately, the neck stress and lack of proper oxygenation will happen in both instances.Stomach Sleepers: Generally don’t need a pillow. But there are many different “stomach sleeping” positions.For those who sleep truly flat on their bellies; think about the placement of the head while you’re in that position. In order to breathe, you must turn your head severely to one side. This is wreaking havoc on the neck. Torsion of the neck in this position stresses the musculature and can force the cervical vertebrae out of correct position. Our advice is: Do everything within your power to change your sleeping position! The neck is a delicate region and just cannot withstand such stress and maintain good health.For those who do more of a “belly crawl”; more of a side/belly combo, usually with one leg drawn up. These sleepers like to angle the pillow in order to hug a portion of it. In these instances, look for a pillow that keeps the head as neutral as possible with the spinal column. If the head is pitched upward or downward, the problems with neck pain and breathing will occur.There you have it. The best pillow for you is dictated by your body, your sleeping positions, and your bed.One more thing to think about: most people sleep in both side and back positions. Ideally, your best pillow will be able to keep your head and neck properly aligned in both positions.This is why we have 17 different sizes of Oxygen Pillow-to accommodate the sleepers’ varying positions while still maintaining neutrality. You can have proper alignment, more open airways, and wonderful comfort all night long.
- Snoring Linked to Cancer
- by Cindy Kuzma May 25, 2012, 05:00 am ESTDon’t get mad when your girlfriend kicks you out of bed for snoring. Get help—it might save your life.Snoring is the main symptom of sleep apnea, a disorder in which your breathing becomes shallow or even stops for a while during the night. People with severe sleep apnea are almost five times as likely to die of cancer than those who breathe easy while they sleep, according to a new study presented last week at the American Thoracic Society conference. The study, which tracked 1,500 people for 22 years, found that mild or moderate snoring also increases your risk of cancer death. (To live to see your great-grandkids, follow these 50 Tips to Live Longer.)Sleep apnea reduces the oxygen level in your blood; to avoid suffocating, tumors grow new blood vessels, says study author F. Javier Nieto, M.P.H., M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health. These extra veins and arteries help existing tumors grow faster and give cancer cells more opportunities to spread through your bloodstream to new parts of your body.It’s not yet clear whether sleep apnea increases your risk of getting cancer or just worsens existing cases, and more research is needed to confirm the results. But snoring is cause for concern either way—leading to accidents, depression, high blood pressure, and heart disease. If you snore and are sleepy during the day, check with your doctor, especially if you’re carrying a few extra pounds (they increase your sleep apnea risk). Other signs of sleep apnea include grumpiness, forgetfulness, and headaches that are hard to shake. (If you’re battling other aches and pains, click her for The Real Reasons Why Your Body Hurts.)http://news.menshealth.com/snoring-cancer/2012/05/25/
- Sleep deprivation has genetic consequences, study finds
- Doctors know that being chronically sleep-deprived can be hazardous to your health. Night-shift workers, college crammers and all the rest of us who get less than our fair share of zzz's are more likely to be obese and to suffer cardiovascular woes than people who get a consistent, healthful eight hours.Now scientists have some new clues about how lack of sleep translates into disease.After subjecting 26 volunteers to seven nights of insufficient shut-eye followed by a marathon all-nighter, researchers detected changes in the way hundreds of genes were expressed in their bodies. Some genes, including damage-inducing ones involved in stress reactions, were amplified. Others, including many that nurture and renew cells and tissues, were turned down."It's possible to see how that contributes to poor health," said Colin Smith, a genomics researcher at the University of Surrey in England and one of the senior authors of a report detailing the findings this week in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.Scientists have long puzzled over the purpose of sleep. For years they focused on how it influenced the brain, said Derk-Jan Dijk, a sleep and circadian rhythm researcher at the same institution and the study's other senior author.But epidemiologists noticed that people who work early in the morning or late at night — or who lack sleep in general — have higher rates of diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure, among other ailments. And biologists have discovered that people who get poor sleep produce more of the stress hormone cortisol and the appetite stimulating hormone ghrelin, among other biochemical changes."It used to be thought that sleep was by the brain, of the brain, for the brain," said Dr. Charles Czeisler, a Harvard Medical School researcher who is well-known for his examinations of how poor sleep affects people in a variety of everyday settings. "Now it's recognized that it plays an important role in bodily functions."To learn more about the biological mechanisms at work, Dijk, Smith and colleagues asked their study volunteers to complete two 12-day-long evaluations.In one test condition, the subjects — all healthy adults who did not suffer from sleep disorders — were allowed to stay in bed for 10 hours on seven consecutive nights. Brain wave scans showed that they slept for an average of 8.5 hours each night, an amount considered sufficient.In the other test condition, subjects were allowed to stay in bed just six hours a night for seven nights, and they got an average of only 5.7 hours of sleep.At the end of each week of controlled sleep, the researchers kept subjects awake for 39 to 41 hours, drawing blood every three hours for a total of 10 samples.Then they analyzed cells in the blood, looking at changes in RNA — the molecule that carries out DNA instructions, creating the proteins that drive processes in the body.They found that losing sleep changed rhythmic patterns in the way genes turn on and off, disrupting the genes' circadian clock.Also, overall, 711 genes were expressed differently when people were sleep-deprived: 444 were turned down, and 267 were amped up.Further analysis revealed that genes involved in inflammation, immunity and protein damage were activated, suggesting that tissue harm was occurring after sleep deprivation. Many of the down-regulated genes, in contrast, were involved in producing new proteins, cells and tissues. The balanced process of tissue renewal seemed to be disrupted by insufficient sleep.Dijk and Smith said they found it striking that the changes were so readily apparent after just one week.According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30% of civilian adults in the U.S. say they get six or fewer hours of sleep. That suggests that millions of people might be sustaining damage to their bodies.Scientists who were not involved the study praised its careful design and said that being able to use blood to assess the molecular effects of sleep deprivation represented a promising advance for the field.In the past, many studies of the biological consequences of sleep restriction were conducted in laboratory animals like mice, with scientists examining gene expression in tissues from the brain or the liver. For obvious reasons, that's not feasible with people.But the ability to use a simple blood test to "tell what time of day" it is in a person's body could help doctors deal with their sleep-deprived patients, said Czeisler, who wasn't part of the British research team.Today, doctors must rely on a patient's self-assessment of how tired he or she feels. But caffeine "gums up the signal" that tells the brain when it needs more sleep, fooling people into thinking that they're getting plenty of rest, Czeisler said."This could be an early warning system" that could let doctors know a patient is at risk for ills related to sleep loss, he said.
- Really? Using a Computer Before Bed Can Disrupt Sleep
- By ANAHAD O'CONNORTHE FACTSIn today’s gadget-obsessed world, sleep experts often say that for a better night’s rest, Americans should click the “off” buttons on their smartphones and tablets before tucking in for the night. Electronic devices stimulate brain activity, they say, disrupting your ability to drift off to sleep. But according to the National Sleep Foundation, more than 90 percent of Americans regularly use a computer or electronic device of some kind in the hour before bed.Increasingly, researchers are finding that artificial light from some devices at night may tinker with brain chemicals that promote sleep. Researchers at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute showed that exposure to light from computer tablets significantly lowered levels of the hormone melatonin, which regulates our internal clocks and plays a role in the sleep cycle.In the study, published in the journal Applied Ergonomics, the researchers had volunteers read, play games and watch movies on an iPad, iPad 2 or PC tablet for various amounts of time while measuring the amount of light their eyes received. They found that two hours of exposure to a bright tablet screen at night reduced melatonin levels by about 22 percent.Studies of college students using computers at night have suggested similar effects on melatonin. And researchers say melatonin suppression may not only cause sleep disturbances, but also raise the risk of obesity, diabetesand other disorders.To be on the safe side, the authors of the latest study suggest limiting computer use before bed, or at the very least dimming your screen as much as possible.THE BOTTOM LINEArtificial light from computer screens at night may reduce melatonin levels.A version of this article appeared in print on 09/11/2012, on page D5 of the NewYork edition with the headline: Really? The Claim: Using a computer before bed can disrupt sleep
- Does your diet influence how well you sleep?
- By Alexandra Sifferlin, TIME.com(TIME.com) -- Poor sleeping habits can lead to overeating, but can unhealthy diets keep you up at night?Getting enough sleep and eating right are well-known behaviors for good health. Keeping a balanced diet is one of the best ways to maintain a healthy weight, and those who get seven to eight hours of sleep per night tend to have better health overall.Previous studies have linked a lack of sleep to overeating, but less is known about how diet influences sleep patterns.A group of researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania investigated how diets correlated with sleep patterns.The researchers studied data from the 2007-2008 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) involving 4,548 people. They looked at how much sleep the participants reported getting each night, as well as a very detailed report of their daily diet.For the study, very short sleep patterns were defined as less than five hours a night, short sleep was five to six hours a night, standard sleep was seven to eight hours, and long sleep was nine or more hours a night.It turns out that people in the different sleep categories also had distinct diet patterns. Short sleepers consumed the most calories, followed by normal sleepers, then very short sleepers. Long sleepers consumed the least calories.Normal sleepers, however, showed the highest food variety in their diets, and very short sleepers had the least variation in what they ate. A varied diet tends to be a marker for good health since it includes multiple sources of nutrients.Very short sleepers drank less tap water and consumed fewer total carbohydrates and lycopene, found in red and orange-colored fruits and vegetables and high in cancer-fighting antioxidants, than people with other sleep patterns.Short sleepers tended to eat less vitamin C, tap water and selenium (found in nuts, meat and shellfish) consumption, but more lutein or zeaxanthin, which are found in green, leafy veggies. Long sleep was associated with consuming less theobromine, which is found in chocolate and tea, the saturated fat dodecanoic acid, choline found in eggs and fatty meats and total carbohydrates. Long sleepers also drank more alcohol.What do all the correlations mean? As one of the first studies to look into the role that diet plays on sleep quality, the findings are more hypothesis-generating than confirming."It was like, 'No one has ever entered this country before, let's go in and take some pictures,'" says study author Michael Grandner, an instructor in psychiatry and member of the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at Penn.Many studies have looked at how sleep influences eating habits. Research suggests sleep deprivation interferes with hunger and satiety hormones crucial to regulating appetite. But the study authors suggest that the relationship works both ways, and that diet can alter sleep as well.Some of the interactions are well known already, such as how drinking too much water and interrupt sleep by waking you up to use the bathroom, or how consuming heavy and spicy foods can keep you up, but there may be less apparent effects as well."For example, iron deficiencies have been linked to restless leg syndrome in some cases. There may be certain substances that work on the molecular level to regulate some of the biological machinery of sleep, but there hasn't been a lot done to tease that apart, and this study may be one of the first to help point us in the right direction of where to look," says Grandner.Further work may may clarify whether the relationship is as complicated as short sleep disrupting the body's ability to process calories, or as simple as people who report very short sleep also under reporting the amount they eat.Still, there is the potential that scientists could one day determine the right mix of calories and nutrients to promote better sleep, which could become a low-cost strategy to curb obesity and heart disease."It reminds people that we have come to the point in our society where we recognize that our diet is important to our health. We don't always act on it, but we recognize it," says Grandner."We haven't come there with sleep yet. People don't brag about how much they eat anymore -- we used to, but we don't anymore, but we still show off about how little sleep we get."The study is published in the journal Appetite.This story was originally published on TIME.com.
- Tips for Hot Sleepers
- Do you sleep hot and not understand why? Are you playing the “covers on/covers off” game all night long?Sometimes it’s hormones wreaking havoc, such as in menopause or thyroid dysfunction. Other times it’s directly related to a combination of factors that, with a bit of consideration, can be corrected.A liter of moisture (on average) emits from our bodies during sleep through breathing and through skin. When this moisture leaves the body, it needs to be absorbed by the immediate environment. The more easily it can be absorbed and drawn away from the body, the more even the temperature regulation remains, and the deeper and more comfortable your sleep will be.However, if the heat and moisture is reflected back to your body due to use of waterproof or synthetic materials, it creates a feedback loop. Eventually, you’re going to be covered in sweat.No matter why you’re having temperature regulation problems, there are things you can do to either eliminate this issue, or reduce it greatly.#1: Room Temperature:Sleep scientists have studied this, proving that keeping your bedroom on the cooler side (between 62-72 degrees) will help lower the body temperature and induce sleep.#2: Sheets and Blankets:Always use cotton or linen sheets. Polyester, rayon, acrylic, and nylon blends are treated with chemicals during manufacturing and trap heat and moisture. Cotton is breathable, and doesn’t reflect that heat/moisture back onto the sleeper.Wool comforters and blankets are incredibly efficient at keeping a sleeper at an even, healthy temperature, due to the nature of wool fibers. They’re hollow, so moisture is siphoned away from the body and evaporated very quickly into the atmosphere.Conversely, if there are issues with sleeping too cold, the wool fibers hold air to keep the sleeper at a comfortable, toasty temperature.Things to think about:Don’t be fooled by Bamboo sheets. Bamboo sheets are actually a very high percentage rayon, and as such can trap heat and moisture.Anything you put on your bed that’s waterpoof, or even water resistant, is going to trap moisture.You know what’s highly water resistant? Down. It may feel and look luxurious, but for the sleeper with heat issues it’s a definite offender.Most conventional mattresses have covers (ticking) made with polyester or rayon, so a great number people will be starting off at a deficit.#3 Pajamas:Again, cotton, linen and wool are your best bets to stay dry, comfortable, and asleep.#4: Food and Drink:High fat content foods can raise blood pressure, and the body responds by perspiring to level things back out.For many people overeating, and overindulgence in alcohol can cause problems.Some sensitive people should avoid meals or alcohol even in small portions for 3 hours prior to bedtime.These tips are an excellent place to begin in your search to end the cycle. A little extra attention to them can drastically reduce (and sometimes even eliminate) the number of nights you wake up drenched in perspiration.
- Aging in Brain Found to Hurt Sleep Needed for Memory
Published: January 27, 2013Scientists have known for decades that the ability to remember newly learned information declines with age, but it was not clear why. A new study may provide part of the answer.The report, posted online on Sunday by the journal Nature Neuroscience, suggests that structural brain changes occurring naturally over time interfere with sleep quality, which in turn blunts the ability to store memories for the long term.Previous research had found that the prefrontal cortex, the brain region behind the forehead, tends to lose volume with age, and that part of this region helps sustain quality sleep, which is critical to consolidating new memories. But the new experiment, led by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, is the first to directly link structural changes with sleep-related memory problems.The findings suggest that one way to slow memory decline in aging adults is to improve sleep, specifically the so-called slow-wave phase, which constitutes about a quarter of a normal night’s slumber.Doctors cannot reverse structural changes that occur with age any more than they can turn back time. But at least two groups are experimenting with electrical stimulation as a way to improve deep sleep in older people. By placing electrodes on the scalp, scientists can run a low current across the prefrontal area, essentially mimicking the shape of clean, high-quality slow waves.The result: improved memory, at least in some studies. “There are also a number of other ways you can improve sleep, including exercise,” said Ken Paller, a professor of psychology and the director of the cognitive neuroscience program at Northwestern University, who was not involved in the research.Dr. Paller said that a whole array of changes occurred across the brain during aging and that sleep was only one factor affecting memory function.But he said the study told “a convincing story, I think: that atrophy is related to slow-wave sleep, which we know is related to memory performance. So it’s a contributing factor.”In the study, the research team took brain images from 19 people of retirement age and from 18 people in their early 20s. It found that a brain area called the medial prefrontal cortex, roughly behind the middle of the forehead, was about one-third smaller on average in the older group than in the younger one — a difference due to natural atrophy over time, previous research suggests.Before bedtime, the team had the two groups study a long list of words paired with nonsense syllables, like “action-siblis” and “arm-reconver.” The team used the nonwords because one type of memory that declines with age is for new, previously unseen information.After training on the pairs for half an hour or so, the participants took a test on some of them. The young group outscored the older group by about 25 percent.Then everyone went to bed — and bigger differences emerged. For one, the older group got only about a quarter of the amount of high-quality slow-wave sleep that the younger group did, as measured by the shape and consistency of electrical waves on an electroencephalogram machine, or EEG. It is thought that the brain moves memories from temporary to longer-term storage during this deep sleep.On a second test, given in the morning, the younger group outscored the older group by about 55 percent. The estimated amount of atrophy in each person roughly predicted the difference between his or her evening and morning scores, the study found. Even seniors who were very sharp at night showed declines after sleeping.“The analysis showed that the differences were due not to changes in capacity for memories, but to differences in sleep quality,” said Bryce A. Mander, a postdoctoral fellow at Berkeley and the lead author of the study. His co-authors included researchers from the California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco; the University of California, San Diego; and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.The findings do not imply that medial prefrontal atrophy is the only age-related change causing memory problems, said Matthew P. Walker, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley and a co-author of the study.“Essentially, with age, you lose tissue in this prefrontal area,” Dr. Walker said. “You get less quality deep sleep, and have less opportunity to consolidate new memories.”
- 10 toxic hotspots in the home
Children’s Bedroom: Toxic Furniture
10 toxic hotspots in the home
- Is a Firm Mattress Better?
- In the interest of continuing education, I was reading an online article about this subject. The author, who’d worked in the mattress industry for over 20 years, gave some pretty insightful information.In the comments section, however, a reader felt the need to dispute all that good information. He was adamant that the perfect bed had to be the combination he then listed, which was a long list of very specific components in very specific heights and, strangely, a specific height of bed frame. He stated in his comment that this list was what will work for everyone, because it’s what worked for him.I was horrified.Not only because it was so wildly inaccurate, but also because it was the first comment after a quite helpful article about how to find a better bed. What’s the typical “I need a new mattress” researcher to think?So, let's clarify a few things. Is a firm mattress better?Let’s define “firm.” Firm means solid. Hard. Stiff. Rigid. Not yielding when pressed. This is something we hear quite a lot: “My doctor says I need a firm bed for my back.”What becomes clear when talking more in-depth to customers is that a huge percentage of people equate the word firm with the word supportive.Let’s define “supportive." In a medical sense, the word “supportive” means to help maintain a normal physiological balance. In essence, a properly supportive mattress is one that holds your body in as neutral a position as is possible while you’re sleeping.“Firm” and “supportive” don’t mean the same thing. A super firm mattress, one that does not give to the natural curvature of the body, will cause problems for most people. A supportive mattress, one that fits properly, will hold your body in a natural, neutral position. A supportive mattress will support your body weight and yet provide enough contour for shoulders and hips.The goal is to get your body in as neutral a position as is possible. Imagine how you look when standing in an upright, natural position - hips and shoulders are nicely stacked and relaxed, that’s how the proper mattress should hold your body. And that’s where weight, build, and sleeping positions come into the picture.Imagine a 5’2”, 115 lb. female with a small waistline who’s a side sleeper. In order to achieve a neutral position while side sleeping, her shoulders and hips have to compress the mattress materials enough to get contact in the waistline area. This is the only way the spinal column can remain straight and neutral.If the mattress is too firm for this person (meaning her weight is such that her shoulders and hips can’t compress the mattress enough) the shoulder and hip will get contact, but the waist will not. There will be a gap in that region until the muscle relaxation of sleep sets in, at which time the waist region will sag down until it meets the mattress. Ultimately, the spine is forced into a “U” position, placing undue stress on the intervertebral disks and spinal musculature. Pressure points can potentially build up in the shoulder and hip joints, causing pain and/or numbness. At the very least, she’ll have low back pain upon waking.Now imagine another scenario. This time we have a 6’2”, 220 lb. man who is mostly a back sleeper. If you envision the customary, slightly curved “S” shape of the spinal column and keep in mind that he’s a back sleeper, you can conceptualize how the seat area needs to compress the mattress just enough so that the curvature of the low back gets contact. With that accomplished, the spinal column should be supported nicely. This individual, as a heavier back sleeper, can go firmer than the female side sleeper and be in a healthy position.However, if you turn this same man onto his side, the broadness of his shoulders comes into play. Now, in order for the shoulders to compress enough of the mattress to allow support through the torso (and maintain a straight spinal column) the mattress needs to be a bit softer. No less supportive, just more flexiblein order for the shoulders and spinal column to align properly.Back to the original question of “is a firm bed better?” The answer is that it truly depends on your weight, build, and how you sleep. You can go too firm, and you can also go too soft, depending on your weight.Your body weight has to be distributed evenly on the mattress. The mattress needs to be flexible enough to give where you need it to (shoulders/hips when side sleeping, seat when back sleeping) but supportive enough so that your spinal column is never forced into an unhealthy position.This is why we ask so many questions when customers come in for mattresses, even when there’s the old familiar “I need firm” idea in their minds. We take our customers through a fitting process to find the mattress that not only supports them properly, but feels the best to them. It’s simple. It’s logical. And it works.
- Driving While Drowsy
- Exercise and the Ever-Smarter Human Brain
- Anyone whose resolve to exercise in 2013 is a bit shaky might want to consider an emerging scientific view of human evolution. It suggests that we are clever today in part because a million years ago, we could outrun and outwalk most other mammals over long distances. Our brains were shaped and sharpened by movement, the idea goes, and we continue to require regular physical activity in order for our brains to function optimally.The role of physical endurance in shaping humankind has intrigued anthropologists and gripped the popular imagination for some time. In 2004, the evolutionary biologists Daniel E. Lieberman of Harvard and Dennis M. Bramble of the University of Utah published a seminal article in the journal Nature titled“Endurance Running and the Evolution of Homo,” in which they posited that our bipedal ancestors survived by becoming endurance athletes, able to bring down swifter prey through sheer doggedness, jogging and plodding along behind them until the animals dropped.Endurance produced meals, which provided energy for mating, which meant that adept early joggers passed along their genes. In this way, natural selection drove early humans to become even more athletic, Dr. Lieberman and other scientists have written, their bodies developing longer legs, shorter toes, less hair and complicated inner-ear mechanisms to maintain balance and stability during upright ambulation. Movement shaped the human body.But simultaneously, in a development that until recently many scientists viewed as unrelated, humans were becoming smarter. Their brains were increasing rapidly in size.Today, humans have a brain that is about three times larger than would be expected, anthropologists say, given our species’ body size in comparison with that of other mammals.To explain those outsized brains, evolutionary scientists have pointed to such occurrences as meat eating and, perhaps most determinatively, our early ancestors’ need for social interaction. Early humans had to plan and execute hunts as a group, which required complicated thinking patterns and, it’s been thought, rewarded the social and brainy with evolutionary success. According to that hypothesis, the evolution of the brain was driven by the need to think.But now some scientists are suggesting that physical activity also played a critical role in making our brains larger.To reach that conclusion, anthropologists began by looking at existing dataabout brain size and endurance capacity in a variety of mammals, including dogs, guinea pigs, foxes, mice, wolves, rats, civet cats, antelope, mongeese, goats, sheep and elands. They found a notable pattern. Species like dogs and rats that had a high innate endurance capacity, which presumably had evolved over millenniums, also had large brain volumes relative to their body size.The researchers also looked at recent experiments in which mice and rats were systematically bred to be marathon runners. Lab animals that willingly put in the most miles on running wheels were interbred, resulting in the creation of a line of lab animals that excelled at running.Interestingly, after multiple generations, these animals began to develop innately high levels of substances that promote tissue growth and health, including a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF. These substances are important for endurance performance. They also are known to drive brain growth.What all of this means, says David A. Raichlen, an anthropologist at the University of Arizona and an author of a new article about the evolution of human brains appearing in the January issue of Proceedings of the Royal Society Biology, is that physical activity may have helped to make early humans smarter.“We think that what happened” in our early hunter-gatherer ancestors, he says, is that the more athletic and active survived and, as with the lab mice, passed along physiological characteristics that improved their endurance, including elevated levels of BDNF. Eventually, these early athletes had enough BDNF coursing through their bodies that some could migrate from the muscles to the brain, where it nudged the growth of brain tissue.Those particular early humans then applied their growing ability to think and reason toward better tracking prey, becoming the best-fed and most successful from an evolutionary standpoint. Being in motion made them smarter, and being smarter now allowed them to move more efficiently.And out of all of this came, eventually, an ability to understand higher math and invent iPads. But that was some time later.The broad point of this new notion is that if physical activity helped to mold the structure of our brains, then it most likely remains essential to brain health today, says John D. Polk, an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and co-author, with Dr. Raichlen, of the new article.And there is scientific support for that idea. Recent studies have shown, he says, that “regular exercise, even walking,” leads to more robust mental abilities, “beginning in childhood and continuing into old age.”Of course, the hypothesis that jogging after prey helped to drive human brain evolution is just a hypothesis, Dr. Raichlen says, and almost unprovable.But it is compelling, says Harvard’s Dr. Lieberman, who has worked with the authors of the new article. “I fundamentally agree that there is a deep evolutionary basis for the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind,” he says, a relationship that makes the term “jogging your memory” more literal than most of us might have expected and provides a powerful incentive to be active in 2013.
- Mattress Warranties – What you need to know before you buy.
- If you’ve been mattress shopping lately, you probably discovered that the world of mattress warranties can be incredibly confusing and very often misleading.Most reasonably intelligent individuals would think that a 25-year warranty is better than a 10 year warranty-that the mattress with the longer warranty should be better quality and last longer. Unfortunately, the mattress business doesn’t usually work that way.The ugly truth is that most 15, 20 and 25 year warranties are quite simply marketing ploys intended to make a sale. Don’t make the mistake of associating length of warranty to a realistic indicator of how long the mattress is going to last. Read the fine print.Some back ground - What is a warranty meant to do?A warranty is a written guarantee given to the purchaser of a new item by the manufacturer or dealer, usually specifying that the manufacturer will make repairs or replace defective parts free of charge for a stated period of time.This all sounds great, but what happens when you throw in the added complexity of a “limited warranty” and the “pro-rated warranty”? These kinds of warranties provide less repair and replacement conditions the longer you own the mattress. As a result, the manufacturer is responsible for less and less the longer you have the item.Most manufacturers will have a schedule for the amount of proration of a 20-year warranty (or 10-year warranty, or 15-year…you get the gist.) Depending on the mattress model you buy, the warranty schedule will tell you the length of time that the company will repair or replace the mattress at no charge. It will also tell you what you can expect to be charged for repairs and/or replacement after that time frame has passed. Many times, this cost is based on a percentage of the retail price you paid for the mattress multiplied by the years you've had it.Imagine you purchased a mattress for $2,000 with a 20-year warranty. You become aware of the mattress sagging during year 2, and contact the company to see what your options are. A company rep comes to your home and fully agrees that you have a problem. Unfortunately, your warranty was only a FULL warranty for one year.Since you've had your bed for 2 years, you must then pay 1/10th multiplied by 2 (the number of years you've had it) of the purchase price to get the issue resolved, as well as pay for shipping of the entire mattress to and from the repair facility.You thought the warranty was a safety net: instead, you have to pay $400 plus shipping costs. Imagine what would costs you'd incur at year 14 or 18! At year 10, you'd spend the same amount just to get the mattress repaired that you originally paid for it, and even more with shipping costs.What to look for in a warranty.Better mattresses will provide better warranties. Ask to see the warranty in writing. You should be able to study it in detail. For the most part you will get a significant amount of legalese but it should be very simple to filter through the important points. Look for phrases like “full warranty,” “limited warranty,” “prorated warranty”. Also, look for “depth of mattress compression” and/or “body impression” (aka “comfort impression” and “body signature”) followed by 1½” or 2.0”. These key terms will tell you what you are dealing with. In essence, how much of a body impression you must achieve to get your warranty to kick in.The full warranty, non-prorated, not limited is the best you can find...period.HOWEVER - Buyer beware: There are a few companies that offer a full warranty with certain requirements that must be met before they will replace or repair their mattresses. Those requirements may or not be included in the warranty handout. Always ask “what's the catch?”Universally in our research on this subject, each company touting a full warranty will not repair or replace your mattress unless there is a body impression of at least a certain amount, typically 1½ inches. They'll measure the depth of the indentation, and if it's not at least 1½ inches, they do absolutely nothing to remedy the issue. They consider that to be normal wear, and usually it’s stated right in the warranty. That’s where the usage of phrases such as body impression, comfort impression, etc. come into play.Keep in mind, a body impression measuring ½ inch to 1-inch in depth can significantly affect proper neutral alignment. So by the time you reach that magical 1½” of compression, you could be experiencing significant discomfort.Some companies even have a hybrid warranty, which they call (for example) a “10-Year Full Warranty, 20-Year Pro-Rated Warranty.” When you read that, it's almost impossible to think it's not a great warranty - it sounds as though you have a 30-year warranty. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll discover that during the 10-year portion of the warranty, it's not truly a full warranty. Once again, any body impression must be at least 1½ inches deep for the warranty to go into effect...and there must be no staining on the mattress cover. Which brings us to:Stain on the mattress cover and your warrantyAcross the board, no mattress warranty we’ve run across will honor a warranty if there is any staining on the mattress cover.Why? Consider this scenario, and it’s one we hear quite often from customers discussing bad experiences with beds they’ve purchased in the past. You purchased a “top of the line” mattress just one year ago. It’s becoming more and more obvious that you have a very deep body impression in your mattress. Let’s say it measures 2” in depth.You have your warranty and call for help. A representative comes out and agrees there is a problem, but then points to a barely perceptible sweat stain and tells you that staining of any sort voids your warranty. At that point, you're trapped either sleeping uncomfortably in that body impression or purchasing a new mattress with the hope that it will hold up better than the last one.What if I don't buy the box or foundation piece?Staining isn’t the only issue that will void your warranty. In many cases, if you don't purchase a box spring or foundation piece along with your mattress, that will also void your warranty. Some companies even go so far as to stipulate the box spring must match the mattress. What does that mean? If you've taken advantage of the “mis-matched mattress and box spring” promotions so prevalent now, you may have no warranty at all.How bed frames can void your warranty:Recently, we’ve become aware of warranties that discuss “improper support of the mattress in the bed frame.”In order to keep the mattress stable and prevent sagging due to improper support, every bed frame that’s a Full size or larger should have center supports. Meaning, not only are there legs on the 4 corners, but also at least one going from the center of the frame to the ground. More center supports are, of course, going to offer even greater stability.All this is true. But many companies will stipulate how many center supports must be used with the bed frame-usually 3 or 5. If you have a warranty problem and just one center support, your warranty is void. This just re-illustrates how very important it is to read through a warranty prior to your purchase.The Sovn European Sleep Systems WarrantyOur objective is to keep things simple. That’s why we offer a true Full 10-year Warranty. We don't measure impressions - if there's a body impression in one of our mattresses during the warranty period, we determine where the problem lies (top component? Bottom piece?) and replace it. Period, end of story.How can we do this? First of all, our components are of vastly superior quality and durability. As a result, we simply don’t have warranty issues.Since our mattresses come with a zippered cover, we can honor the warranty without taking any surface staining into consideration. We simply imbed the new component back into the same cover. And of course, if you'd like to purchase a new cover at any time, you're more than welcome to do that as well.Our mattresses are designed to be used with or without foundation pieces. So, if you purchased only a mattress and no box spring you're still covered.Another point that’s important to mention: we don’t have weight limits in our warranty. If you weigh 380 lbs, you’re covered just as completely as someone who weighs 120 lbs.Søvn European Sleep Systems has the best warranty in the business: we aren’t looking for a loophole in the fine print; we just want you to feel less anxiety about your purchase.
- Natural Latex Foam vs. Synthetic/Polyurethane Foam -- What's the difference?
- We received a phone call recently from a gentleman who was frustrated with his latex research. I informed him that “There’s natural latex, and then there’s synthetic latex.” His reply was, “Well, but latex is latex is latex, right?”The answer is Absolutely not. As a matter of fact, there is a world of difference between natural latex and synthetic/polyurethane foam. To make things even more interesting and/or confusing, there are different variations of both kinds.Natural latex is manufactured from sap tapped from rubber trees, then it is either vulcanized (Dunlop method) or frozen, then vulcanized (Talalay method.) I don't want to get too involved in which method is better, because it's hugely dependent upon the processing facility and a number of other factors.The point is, natural latex is an incredibly resilient and durable, clean and supportive material. It is resistant to dust mites, anti-microbial, antifungal, and hypo-allergenic.The important thing to remember when considering a product made of natural latex is purity - what is the percentage of pure natural latex vs fillers or synthetic material. Look for certification by an independent laboratory such as Oeko-Tex, which tests for chemicals and toxins in the finished product. The Oeko-Tex stamp of approval will attest to the cleanliness and purity of the product.Some manufacturers add fillers (most commonly clays, calcium oxide, or titanium dioxide) to the natural latex to make it go further (imagine taking one gallon of milk and diluting it with water to create two gallons of milk). While the finished product will be less expensive, the addition of fillers ultimately makes the latex less durable and more apt to rapid breakdown. Here’s where the consumer needs to be very vigilant…the fact is that natural latex with additives such as those listed above can technically still be called “natural latex”.Synthetic latex(aka polyurethane foam/memory foam) is made of petroleum by-products, sometimes actually mixed with natural latex.Again, that's where you have to be really careful. There are many manufacturers who tout their product as “natural latex”, when in fact it's actually a blend of natural AND synthetic. Interestingly, Dunlop and Talalay latex can be either natural or synthetic. Needless to say, Caveat emptor -- do your research!Synthetic latex, being chemically based, has a tendency to break down quicker than natural latex. If you have ever had a warranty issue with a mattress,you know what I mean. Have you ever had a body impression in your mattress measured by your friendly local mattress salesman and told that it's “normal wear and tear?”Polyurethane foam /synthetic latex are actually graded on how quickly they're expected to break down. That's the reason you have to waituntil the body impression is at least 1.5 inches (in most cases) in depth to get your warranty to kick in.Synthetic latex / polyurethanes also have a tendency to off-gas. That is, the chemicals inside the mattress will escape and cause a strange odor. Guess what? You're breathing those chemicals in while your skin is absorbing them. There's also an issue with synthetics being unable to absorb and release moisture properly, trapping moisture and heat, which is a great breeding ground for molds, mildews, dust mites and other undesirable little critters.What does that mean for you? Well, it means that the mattress made with poly-foam or synthetic latex is less durable: compacting or developing body impressionswhen confronted with weight and moisture (by the way, the human body emits about 1 liter of body moisture while sleeping, not necessarily sweat, just moisture being released by the body. No kidding… yuck!!!)Take this into consideration also: the average queen-sized polyurethane foam mattress covered in polyester fabric loses HALF its weight over ten years of use. Where does the weight go?Polyurethane foam oxidizes, creates “fluff” (dust) which is released into the air and eventually settles in and around your home as well as in your lungs. Yes, you breathe in this dust. And some of the chemicals used in these types of mattresses include formaldehyde, styrene, toluene di-isocyanate (TDI), antimony...the list goes on and on. Onceagain, do your research if you're concerned about these things. We suggest reading up on the effects of chemicals on www.epa.gov.The bottom line: Natural latex (without fillers) is more resilient/durable, cleaner/healthier and more comfortable -- anti-microbial, anti-fungal,and hypo-allergenic, as well as being dust mite resistant and biodegradable. You'll pay a bit more for anything made of pure natural latex, because it's more expensive to obtain and produce, but you get your money’s worth out of the product in longevity and comfort.When purchasing a natural latex bed, remember grandmother’s excellent advice: “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.” A natural latex bed free of fillers won’t be inexpensive. Find out what warranty corresponds to the item you’re interested in, and read it! The warranty will tell you a great deal. Also, keep in mind that websites can be tricky: many that have the Oeko Tex logo do have natural latex products, but also polyurethane.And there you have it, a crash-course in latex foam. Hope that helps you navigate the mattress world. Good luck & happy shopping!
- Get Some Sleep: Are you a night owl? Here's why
- I hear the floorboards creak, the toilet flush, first one shoe drop to the floor, then the other. My husband pulls back the covers and climbs into bed, disturbing the dog, who now spins around rattling her tags looking for a new, cozy den. I groan and turn over to look at the clock: 3 a.m., an early night for him. You see, my husband is what many people call a "night owl," but really he suffers from a circadian rhythm sleep disorder called delayed sleep phase disorder.Circadian rhythm means a 24-hour cycle. Humans have a 24-hour sleep/wake cycle that is linked to the 24-hour cycle of the sun. So, in the optimal situation, we rise in the morning and after about 16 hours of wakefulness we are sleepy and we go to bed and sleep for eight hours. In my last blog, I talked about shift work disorderand how shift workers are not able, because of their jobs, to flow with this natural rhythm.People with delayed sleep phase disorder also get out of sync with what we would consider normal bed times (10 p.m. to midnight), but for unknown reasons. The exact prevalence in the general population is unknown, but it is estimated to affect 7 percent to 16 percent of teens and young adults.Delayed sleep phase disorder usually begins in adolescence or early adulthood. Sleep onset is delayed at least two hours from social norms, and these altered sleep/wake times can impair the work, academic and social parts of sufferers' lives.People with DSPD often complain of insomnia because they try to go to sleep at a normal time but their internal rhythm is set to a later time and sleep is usually impossible until very late. Then, if they have to get up for work or school, they are very tired and sleepy in the daytime and are not functioning at their highest capabilities. Often, they will steal a nap, but that only sets them up for further delay in their bedtime.Usually the patients who show up at the sleep center are teens who are brought in by their mothers because they can't get up and make it to their early morning classes. Their grades are failing and the school is threatening to expel them. How do I help them? Well, I must return to my near-constant theme: Light.We get them on a schedule where we slowly move up their bedtimes - just 15-30 minutes each time over a series of weeks. With each change in bedtime, they are instructed to be sure to avoid bright light two hours before the desired bedtime. We often need to use glasses that filter the blue light because it is not realistic to think that teenagers are not going to be on the computer or using some electronic device.I also have them get outside and get some bright light in the mornings. Where I am in Chicago, for much of the year we recommend that such patients use light boxes in the morning. I recommend the ones made by Lite Book because they use LED technology, which means they are smaller and patients need to spend only 15-30 minutes in front of the unit.We also use melatonin, but not as a sleep aid. Instead, we use it to alter people's circadian rhythm, and therefore, we give it 5-7 hours before desired bedtime and we use small doses (0.5-1.0 mg). And I always recommend that they try this at home the first few times in case it makes them sleepy right away.I would like to caution that although this general principle of bright light in the morning and dim light before bedtime is easy enough to understand, it is also easy to apply the principle incorrectly and actually make matters worse. For example, a well-meaning mother of a 16-year-old reads this and tomorrow morning hauls her son out of bed at 6:30 a.m. to get him to his first AP class. The next night, to her dismay, he stays up even later, and getting him up the following morning would require inviting the marching band to hold practice in his bedroom.What has gone wrong? Well, when mom got him up at 6:30 a.m., he had only had 4½ hours of sleep and his core body temperature had not reached its low point. When his eyes received bright light before the lowest drop in core body temperature, then the internal clock in the brain was being reset to a later time and actually delaying the sleep onset for the next night. Many times we have to wait until a vacation to try to reset someone's clock. Most times, the help of a sleep physician is essential, and always, the patients themselves have to want to change their schedule.Another word of caution: It is easy to confuse this disorder with insomnia, but just giving the young person a sleeping pill doesn't usually work to reset the internal clock.Why do some teens have these dramatic shifts in sleep onset and not others? This can run in families and changes in one of the circadian clock genes have been associated with this disorder but we cannot yet point to a specific genetic mutation that causes this problem. Delayed sleep phase can be associated with depressive symptoms but the good news is: Many will naturally outgrow it, especially when the responsibilities of adult life force them into becoming morning people. Some, like my husband, will return to their nocturnal ways every chance they get.Lisa Shives, M.D., is the founder of Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois. She’ll blog on Tuesdays on The Chart. Read more from her at Dr. Lisa Shives’ Sleep Better Blog.The information contained on this page does not and is not intended to convey medical advice. CNN is not responsible for any actions or inaction on your part based on the information that is presented here. Please consult a physician or medical professional for personal medical advice or treatment.
- Why we love wool!
If you sleep on a Søvn bed, you won't be exposed to chemical flame retardants. The Søvn bed does, however, meet all federal requirements of flame retardancy. How is that possible? We use wool in the lining of our mattress covers. Another major benefit of using wool is its capacity to absorb moisture - reducing heat & humidity from the body. This characteristic makes wool a “temperature regulator” because it can protect the body in both cold and warm conditions.
- New Worries About Sleeping Pills
- If you can avoid sleeping pills and get some good, solid natural sleep, do it! Read this: