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Are Your Bad Sleeping Habits Killing You? Copy

Are Your Bad Sleeping Habits Killing You?

About 30% of Americans get less than six hours of sleep a night. Not a particularly worrisome fact on the surface, but what is worrisome is that this is also the same group of people more likely to have a stroke.

If you’re one of these Americans who isn’t getting enough sleep, you’re also at risk of a compromised immune system, more stress, and possibly even a shorter life. It’s time to get serious about your bad sleeping habits so you can finally get a good night’s sleep!

Routine Matters

One of the worst sleep habits you can develop is irregular sleep. Pulling an all-nighter one night and then sleeping late the next day, or waking up early and going to sleep late during the week only to crash on the weekends. The reason this type of behavior wreaks havoc on our bodies is because of something called a circadian rhythm.

There are a plethora of cycles that impact our bodies: the seasons changing, the cycles of the moon, and the rising and setting of the sun, for example. The daily sun cycle is called a circadian rhythm, and it influences our body temperatures, blood pressure fluctuations, overall alternates, and our bodies’ production of melatonin, the sleep hormone.

Scientists don’t fully understand sleep or these rhythms, but we do know they are extremely important and delicately balanced. If you’ve ever tried to switch from a day shift to a night shift, for example, you know how much they matter. When we mess with Mother Nature’s routines, we can experience a host of physiological and mental symptoms, including things like depression and anxiety.

We also open ourselves up to the dangers of fatigue, which can dramatically decrease our response times and make us sluggish and unable to learn and form new memories. In short, while all-nighters might seem like great decisions in the short-term when balanced out against the long-term impact on our performance and health, they’re usually not worth it.

To help your body build routine, try the following tips:

  • Use the sun as a cue, and take advantage of its rising to wake up, if possible. Bonus points if you can open a window or step outside to get a few minutes of sun first thing!
  • Resist the urge to nap during the day.
  • Avoid things like heavy meals late at night, alcohol, and caffeine later in the day, as the things will tend to disrupt your natural rhythms

Lifestyle Matters

We wish we could tell you exercise had nothing to do with your sleeping health, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case! In fact, one study in 2010 found that after four months, women who started exercising were sleeping 45 minutes longer every night than women who weren’t exercising. There’s a wealth of information pointing to the same findings, but there is a caveat: give it time.

Study participants do not seem to experience immediate changes in their sleep patterns. In fact, sometimes a bad night’s sleep can cause you to exercise for less time the next day or especially vigorous exercise can cause you to get less sleep that night. It takes sustained activity over a sustained amount of time to see a difference. The difference, however, is substantial, and better (and healthier) than most people see with sleep aids!

The theory is that eventually exercise works to mute a person’s stress response, enabling that person’s brain to quiet and the tension to flow away, enabling sleep again!

It’s not just whether or not you exercise; how you eat matters, too. You probably know to lay off the caffeine, alcohol, and heavy meals, but did you know sugar might be impacting your sleep, too? Data now suggests limiting your added sugar intake during the day can increase the quality of your sleep at night.

Your habits matter a great deal when it comes to a good night’s sleep, and a good night’s sleep is incredibly important to your overall health–and maybe even your overall success in life. Make good routines and a healthy lifestyle a priority so that you can ensure sleep success.

5 Hacks to Fall Asleep Faster

5 Hacks to Fall Asleep Faster

We get it, we get it–sleep is important. If we’re not getting enough, we’ll be less productive and more prone to accidents and disease, but there’s nothing worse than crawling into bed early only to toss and turn for hours. If you’re serious about improving the quality of your sleep, however, here are five tips and tricks for falling asleep faster!

1. Use Aromatherapy

The jury is still out on whether it’s the actual smell of lavender or just the fact that it’s used in a regular bedtime routine that helps us fall asleep. Regardless, you can take advantage of this old-world-therapy-meets-new science by using scents such as lavender, bergamot, and cardamom to help you drift off into happy slumber.

You can use essential oils in a diffuser or apply topically or use a room or pillow spray.

2. Take a Bath

Or a hot shower. Something about the warmth and quiet noise of the water can do wonders to relax your body and quiet your brain so you can fall asleep quickly. Not a big fan of baths? No problem! Take a hot shower, instead. Either way, coming out of the warm water into a cooler bedroom will cause your body temperature to drop, which tells your brain that it’s sleep time.

Also, the change in body temperature dilates your blood vessels, which allows more blood and oxygen to flow through your body. This helps to release muscle tension and stress, sending yet another signal to your brain that sleep is imminent.

3. Progressive Blocking Technology

Progressive muscle relaxation involves tensing muscles while you breathe in, followed by relaxing those same muscles as you breathe out. The idea is that the release of tension in your muscles leads to physical relaxation, which in turn leads to mental relaxation and allows you to fall asleep quickly.

Most experts recommend this tensing-relaxing exercise be done in a certain order, and some even claim that saying the word “the” can be just as effective. Scientists call this a blocking strategy and explain that it helps the mind to stop racing.

4. Cool Your Brain

A recent study gave insomniacs caps with circulating water at cool temperatures to wear to bed. The study authors found that the caps enabled the so-called insomniacs to fall asleep just as fast as the non-insomniacs, and stay asleep for just as long, too! Scientists speculate it’s because people who have trouble sleeping have higher-than-normal activities in their brains, raising the temperature of their heads to a level not conducive for sleep.

Don’t have a special water-circulating cap? Trying dropping the temperature in your bedroom so your overall body temperature will fall.

5. Try Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced naturally by your body. It’s not a drug and won’t make your eyes close all on their home, but it does help your body drift into what’s called a state of “quiet wakefulness.” If you’re having trouble falling asleep quickly at night, there’s a chance your body might not be producing enough of the chemical on its own.

Melatonin isn’t normally recommended for long-term use, but it can be used short-term to help you overcome insomnia, deal with jet lag, or get back to a regular sleep routine. Experts recommend taking it about two hours before bed, and using other good sleep practices (like a warm bath) to assist.

5 No-Fail Tips for Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

5 No-Fail Tips for Getting a Great Night’s Sleep

Most people will agree: there’s nothing worse than a bad night’s sleep. Whether you’re finding yourself dragging into work each morning, resorting to way too much caffeine, or threatening to chunk your alarm clock out the window, we’ve rounded up five of the smartest, most reliable ways to help you fall asleep quickly, sleep great all night, and wake up feeling rested in the morning.

1. Impose a Screen Curfew

You’re guilty of it; we’re guilty of it–it’s so easy to spend a half hour or so in bed, scrolling through your phone. More often than not, we’ve got the TV going, as well! This is bad news for our sleep health, however. Scientists tell us that watching screens before bed can make it so that we have a hard time sleeping.

With sleep deprivation side effects like heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and lack of brain function, this is nothing to play around with! If you normally sleep with your phone next to your bed, try moving it to another room, even if that means you now need to purchase a separate alarm clock. Trust us–your email will be fine until tomorrow!

2. White Noise

It sounds weird to say that you’ll sleep better by turning up the noise in your room, but it’s true! Many people report falling asleep faster and staying asleep longer by using white noise.

White noise consists of sound that comes out evenly across all “hearable frequencies.” It masks the sudden starts and stops that happen in the night–a car horn honking, a partner snoring, etc.–so that you can stay asleep. You can use an app on your phone, or a machine like a fan or humidifier, or you can purchase a machine that specifically plays white noise. Many will allow you to choose different settings, such as a babbling brook or jungle rainstorm.

3. Get Active

Studies have found that aerobic exercise, like walking, hiking, or biking, can improve your quality of sleep, even if it’s just ten minutes a day. Regular exercise seems to increase the sleep impact even more as well as lower the risk of things like sleep apnea and restless leg syndrome.

Keep in mind that the initial rush of endorphins your body experiences after a workout can make you more energized. This doesn’t seem to bother everyone, but it might keep you from being able to sleep well if you work out just before

4. Create a Routine

When new parents are trying to help their new babies sleep, they often create elaborate routines: baths, books, songs, the same pajamas, special blankets, and so forth. Turns out, adults are much the same! We’re all creatures of habit, and creating solid bedtime routines can help us wind down and signal to our brains that it’s time for bed.

Everyone’s routine can look different, but we like nixing screens in favor of a warm bath, a hot cup of caffeine-free tea, and a noise machine. Whatever routine you decide on, the trick is to make it the same and to start it at the same time every night. You also need to give it time; don’t expect it to work magically the first night, but within a few weeks you should see a substantial change!

5. Get a New Mattress

Sometimes, it’s just the bed underneath you (or the pillow) that are keeping you from a good night’s sleep! Whether it’s an old bed that’s just lost its oomph, keeps you too hot or too cold, makes squeaky noises all night, or it’s a pillow that isn’t the right firmness, we spend a third of every day asleep on our beds, so it’s worth investing in a mattress that helps you sleep better!

You can choose coil options, foam options, or hybrids of both, and thanks to the internet you can now shop online in the comfort of your own home.

A great night’s sleep means you’ll look your best and be your best and these five tips are sure to help you achieve just that. Happy sleeping!

 

Why Sleep Matters & How To Get More Of It

Why Sleep Matters and How to Get More of It

If you’re an average person, you’re getting about eight hours of sleep a night. When you realize this means you still have sixteen hours in a day to do things that are not sleeping, eight hours doesn’t sound like much. But when you realize you’ll spend a third of your entire life asleep suddenly sleep seems really, really important.

In fact, sleep is incredibly important. It’s one of the most complex biological processes your body undergoes and it’s still not fully understood, but scientists know that it’s essential to maintaining pathways in your brain that allow you to learn and make memories, concentrate, and respond.

How Sleep Deprivation Hurts You

Sleep also impacts your brain, heart, lungs, and metabolic functions. Some scientists now believe your brain uses sleep to clear out toxins, a process that doesn’t happen while you’re awake. Research indicates that a lack of sleep causes all kinds of health problems, including physical problems such as stroke and mental problems such as depression.

Did you know sleep deprivation played a factor in the 1979 nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, the 1989 Exxon Valdez Oil Spill, and the 1986 nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl? You don’t have to be a historian or scientist, however, to understand that lack of sleep (or lack of quality sleep) makes you sluggish and unresponsive.

One study found that people with moderate sleep deprivation are just as impaired while driving as people who are driving drunk.

It’s not just your performance, however; sleep also impacts your health and kill your sex drive. Lack of sleep is implicated in a higher risk of the following conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Stroke
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Heart failure
  • Heart disease
  • Heart attack

What Can You Do To Sleep Better?

When it’s 3am and you’re staring at your ceiling, wide awake, sleep certainly feels like a mystery. Fortunately, we know some of the good habits that can lead to a great night’s sleep.

Make Healthy Choices

Sleep is one of those things that seems to snowball quickly: you stay up late, wake up late the next morning, skip the gym, grab a donut for breakfast, and before you know it you’re chugging caffeine in the afternoon and staying up late again, starting the cycle all over.

Making a few smart choices, however, can help you reset that cycle and get back to a better living–and sleeping–routine. Studies have found that regular exercise (even if it’s just ten minutes a day) can dramatically improve the quality of your sleep.

It’s also important to avoid stimulants such as electronic screens, caffeine, and alcohol at least two hours before bed. Your brain needs to time to unwind and calm down, and staying away from things that get it fired up will help.

Build Smart Routines

Just like small children need routines to help them calm and sleep well, adults need routines to help our bodies relax and our brains turn off. There are a variety of things you can employ in your nightly routine, but some of the most popular are a warm bath, a good book, a screen curfew, aromatherapy, and a white noise machine.

Ultimately, whatever routine you choose, you need to let it establish over the course of weeks or even months. This is not a short-term get-sleep-quick scheme, but investing in the quality of your sleep with a routine that makes sense for your life will pay dividends in the future.

Make Your Bedroom a Sanctuary

We’re all guilty of crawling into our beds to work–they’re so comfortable, after all! However, using your bed and bedroom for things other than winding down, relaxing, and sleeping can have a negative impact on your quality of sleep.

It’s also important to make sure your room is conducive to sleep. Is it too warm? Cooler temperatures help people fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. Is the mattress comfortable? Are the sheets cozy? Do you like your pillow? You can even add things like blackout curtains and a noise machine to help make your bedroom the ultimate sleeping sanctuary!

Sleep is vital to our wellbeing in every way, but it doesn’t have to be elusive. Build these habits into your life, and you’ll be on your way to getting better sleep in no time.

 

7 Tips for Improving the Quality of Your Sleep

1. Create a nightly routine & stick with it

This is one of the more important points on this list because most of us don’t have a set nightly routine. This involves creating a short, set routine of activities which you perform every night before bed.

Examples can be meditation, reading a book (preferably fiction as opposed to non-fiction to whisk the mind away from the stresses of the day for a short while), journaling, or creative work like drawing, painting, or writing.  DO NOT make your cell phone part of this routine.

2. Stick to a set bedtime

One of the single most important things you can do to help improve the quality of your sleep is to aid your internal clock and fit your daily schedule to your body’s rhythm.

This is easy to do because, for the most part, it just involves sticking to a set bedtime. Pick a time to go to sleep and what time you’ll wake and do your best to stick to those times consistently. Just make sure this time fits with your body’s natural rhythm, which is generally waking sometime from around five to seven o’clock in the morning to falling asleep around nine to eleven o’clock at night.  Avoid setting several alarms or hitting snooze.

3. Improve your sleep environment

This isn’t anything complicated. It just involves reviewing your physical environment and looking to see if there’s any way that you can alter your environment to help induce calm and aid in sleep.

Things to look out for are room temperature, noise, and sleep comfort level (a new pair of sheets can do wonders for improving sleep). However, in addition, try to reserve your bed for your nightly ritual and sleep time. If you frequently work or sit with your laptop or smartphone and do anything else on a device in bed, this can harm your ability to program the body and mind to go into sleep mode when getting into bed.  I recommend charging your phone away from the bed so you’re not tempted to pick it up and scroll for hours 🙂

4. Exercise

Physical exercises, like yoga, cardio, or weightlifting, are great for increasing energy throughout the day, but doing so earlier in the day also helps you sleep. This is partly because exercise helps reduce stress and calm the nerves.

However, exercise does more than just calm the mind and body. It also helps reduce the symptoms of insomnia and sleep apnea and allows you to remain in deep R.E.M. sleep for longer periods, making exercise a powerful sleep aid.

While exercise may or may not already be a part of your daily routine, if it isn’t, this doesn’t have to be complicated. Even fifteen to thirty minutes of high-intensity (HIIT) exercise can do the trick.

5. Don’t eat before bed

Most people don’t realize that your diet and eating schedule plays an important role in the quality of your sleep.

For one, don’t eat several hours before bed as digestion can make it harder to fall asleep. Big meals with acidic foods especially can cause a restless stomach, so try to stay away from eating before bed altogether. Also, try drinking more water throughout the day so you’re not encouraged to drink too much water before bed (a habit I’ve seen a lot of people have), resulting in frequent bathroom trips that interrupt you either falling asleep or being asleep.

In addition to watching your eating and drinking schedule, keep an eye out for consuming too much sugar and refined carbs such as white bread, white rice, and pasta, as that can cause wakefulness.

6. Remove blue light 2 hours before bed

Controlling your exposure to light, in general, is important for sleep quality, but if you’re rising at a reasonable time, get a little sunlight throughout the day, and go to sleep at a reasonable time this isn’t really something you have to worry about.

What should be a real concern, though, is your exposure to blue light which is the light emitted from devices such as smartphones, tablets, laptops, computers, and T.V. screens. Exposure to blue light too close to bed can cause a bit of a trick on your brain making it think that it’s still daylight.

Why does this matter? Because of this little trick, blue light halts the brain from producing melotonin, an important chemical which is typically produced when the sun goes down to prepare our body for sleep. Without producing enough melotonin, our sleep quality suffers. So, do your best to stay off of any devices at least an hour, if not two hours, before bed.

7. Calm the mind

Calming the mind is critically important because we carry the weight of our life on our shoulders throughout the day only to take those challenges with us to bed every night. This has a huge effect on every aspect of our sleep quality from our ability to fall asleep, stay asleep, and attain and maintain deep R.E.M. sleep throughout the night.

There are many ways to calm the mind, but in my opinion, I’ve never seen anything work half as well as a regular meditation practice for helping calm the mind before bed. Mindfulness meditation is my ideal practice for helping me step away from the day, calm the mind and body, while not doing so in a fabricated way where we’re just hiding from our challenges. However, feel free to use whatever practice works best for you.