2018 Resolution

It’s no secret that the New Year starter pack almost always includes a gym membership, eating healthy, learning something new, and spending more time with family. However, as healthy sleep habits are quickly gaining notoriety, shouldn’t sleep be included in a list of New Year’s resolutions?

Sleep is important for a number of reasons. Along with feeling refreshed and well rested, sleep can actually account for keeping the body healthy and alert. It is said that someone can go three times as long without food as they can without sleep . If you wouldn’t starve yourself, you also shouldn’t neglect your body’s natural need for sleep. Lack of sleep can make reaction times slower as well as impair alertness and concentration. Sleep deprivation can also lead to serious health problems including heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. If that wasn’t enough, lack of sleep can also make you crave sweets and actually gain weight.

However, in a busy world of balancing work and home, it is difficult to get those well rested 8 hours. Some tips to a more rested sleep include, removing electronics from the bedroom, taking 30 minutes to relax and unwind before bed, making comfort a priority with Tanda , and hoping in bed a bit earlier than usual so that your body can have the time it needs to repair itself after a tiring day.

So let’s add sleep to our New Year’s resolutions!

Sleeping in the Winter

Thanks to technology, winter isn’t a game of Survivor any more like it was in the 18th and 19th centuries. But even with heating and enormous puffy jackets, winter comes with its own challenges—specifically to sleeping. Reduced daylight and the social isolation accompanied by the blithering weather can throw off sleep patterns.

No Sun, No Sleep

In the winter, the days are short and the nights are long. With your circadian clock off-kilter, melatonin isn’t being suppressed as long and the lack of exposure to light can affect your energy levels, mood, and even drive for sleep.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

Also known as SAD are those winter blues that stick around for months and is a clinical grade condition. It is a depression with a seasonal pattern that follows similar patterns to insomniacs, usually having more nightmares and more likely to be night owls.

Effective treatments like light therapy and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (which can also be used to help solve other sleep issues) have shown to help combat those winter blues.

Don’t Leave Me Alone

With it so cold outside the last thing you want to do is face the onslaught of cold waiting for you outside the confines of your home to hang out with people. But being so alone can contribute to winter blues, loneliness, and an all over decline in mental health, sleep, and well-being.

Work It Out

New Year’s resolutions bring about the usual signing up for a gym but there is something to be said about working out. As Elle Woods said in Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands, they just don’t.” Now that last part is a little extreme but you get the gist. While bundling up and lazing about seems like the perfect winter activity, it has been linked to poor sleep. So if going outside (especially in this weather) or going to a gym isn’t for you, try something at home between binge watching sets of your favorite shows.

It’s Getting Hot in Here…

Listen, I get it, it’s cold outside and you want that heat cranked up to warm up your numbed toes but this isn’t a day at the spa so there is no need for your home to be a sauna. As we discussed many times over, research has shown that the ideal sleep temperature is 65° Fahrenheit so if you’re really that cold, put on a pair of fuzzy socks.

Pro tip: use a humidifier near your bed to help counteract the drying effects of cold winter air and the heating going on in your home. They help to create an environment more suitable for a healthier sleep.

12 Days of Sleep Tips

December 13 marks the countdown of 12 days of sleep tips

  1. Stick to a schedule. Around the holidays it is difficult to remain on a sleep schedule. However a sleep schedule regulates the body to know when it is time to fall asleep and when it is time to wake up.
  2. Make 8 hours of sleep a priority. Don’t skip on the 8 hour rule. You can’t make up missed hours of sleep, and you’ll lose productivity throughout the day.
  3. Exercise daily. Exercise is important for overall health, but also sleep. Exercising in the morning or daytime can actually make it easier to fall asleep come nighttime.
  4. Eliminate light. The body keeps itself awake when exposed to light, especially natural night and blue light emitted from screens. This light can make it difficult to fall asleep. Cut down light exposure about an hour before bed.
  5. Keep the room cool. Internal body temperature regulates the body. Before falling asleep, the body temperature drops slightly which helps aid in falling asleep. Sleep expert, Dr. R recommends between 62 and 70.
  6. Reserve the bedroom for sleep only. Many people bring their work or laptops into the bedroom. This is a big no. The brain needs to learn that the bedroom is for sleep only, otherwise you can be kept up with racing thoughts of unanswered emails.
  7. Get all your worries out into the open and on paper. Writing everything down that is bothering you can help put the mind at ease. Then it doesn’t look as threatening in the morning.
  8. Reduce napping. Power napping can be helpful, but be sure to limit it to 20 minutes; otherwise it can make it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime.
  9. Chamomile tea. Chamomile comes with many known benefits. One being that it naturally induces sleep. So on the night’s when you’re awake tossing and turning, reach for that cup of tea.
  10. Meditate/breathing exercises. It’s easy to stress and stress does not induce sleep. It’s important to try meditation or breathing exercises to relax and drift to sleep.
  11. Hide your clock. Consistently counting the minutes that you’re not asleep only adds more stress and anxiety. Staring at the clock actually keeps you awake longer.
  12. Don’t overbook. Overbooking for the holidays is a big no no. Overbooking creates stress and unreal expectations which can often put sleep on the back burner. Make sleep a priority this season!

One more tip for good luck.

Give back. Around the holidays it is super important to give back. After all, it is the season of giving!

Thriving in a 9 to 5 World as a Night Owl

If you tend to function best at night, you might find it rough to navigate the 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. world designed for so-called “morning people.” The most caffeinated beverage and delicious breakfast pastries cannot alleviate that groggy, disorienting feeling that night owls feel in the morning. Instead of crawling your way back to bed, try these tips in the workplace to help you thrive.

Change Your Sleep Schedule

  • A gradual shift in your sleep pattern will make you feel more energetic during the day. As a night owl, you are used to going to bed late so start going bed earlier in smaller increments. Eventually you’ll get to an earlier bedtime.

Take Breaks

  • Staying late and waking up early usually leads to sleep loss and can cause procrastination in the workplace. Instead of trying to plow through your day, break your workload into smaller, more manageable tasks and take breaks in between each task.

Talk to a Doctor

  • If coping mechanisms and other tips aren’t helping and your night-owl habits are interfering with your lifestyle, talk to a doctor to make sure you don’t have a sleep disorder. Most people don’t recognize when they have a sleep disorder, so seeing a doctor could help answer some questions.

Tired Driving

It’s no secret that lack of sleep takes a toll on your health, both mentally and physically. However, driving while tired is often overlooked. It’s the common misconception that you’re not that tired or you’re not that far away from your destination. This couldn’t be more wrong. Over time, individuals who regularly get 6 hours of sleep or less will find their reaction time has slowed to a quarter of a second to almost 4 seconds. Believe it or not, 4 seconds is all it takes to swerve off the road, hit someone, or run a red light. Continue reading Tired Driving

Daylight Savings

Spring ahead, fall  back. Twice a year we change the clocks to either gain or lose an hour of beloved sleep. We wind the clocks back in the fall and gain that much needed extra hour of shut eye. In the spring, we lose an hour and are all of a sudden sent into a tailspin of rushed obligations and sleep deprivation. Understandably, it is easier to get accustomed to that extra hour in the fall – or so we think. Any time change can throw the body off balance, and changing the clock in the fall makes our days shorter and the nights longer with people getting up an hour earlier than they are used to.

It takes about a week to adjust to the shift during daylight savings time for both the fall and spring. Meanwhile, here are some tips you can start in advance to make the transition a bit easier.

  • Start adjusting ahead of schedule
    • Adjust your sleep schedule by 10-15 minutes for a few days before the end of Daylight Savings Time.
  • Exercise
    • Although it is easy to give in the snooze button, waking up to exercise is a good way to kickstart the day. Exercising, particularly in the morning, releases serotonin in the brain, which helps the body adapt to the time change.
  • Wake up at the same time
    • Keeping a regular sleep schedule helps regulates the body. After a while, your body will get used to the rhythm of going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day.
  • Avoid alcohol and caffeine
    • This one should be simple. Alcohol and caffeine can interfere with sleep. If you already have trouble falling asleep, avoiding these two items can aid in sleep.
  • Resist the nap
    • It is best to avoid taking a nap during Daylight Savings Time, because it may make falling asleep for the night more difficult. If you really can’t avoid a nap, it is recommended to take a power nap that is no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Avoid late night snacking
    • Eating too late at night can cause indigestion, which may lead to insomnia as your stomach works over time to digest. It is best to finish dinner a few hours before bedtime.
  • Relax
    • If all else fails, it is important to remember to relax. Stressing and worrying about not being able to fall asleep can actually keep you up longer. Don’t worry, eventually sleep will come. If it doesn’t, it may be important to consult a doctor because you may be suffering from a more serious sleeping condition.

Nightmares

Nightmares are “lengthy, elaborate dreams with imagery that evokes fear, anxiety, or sadness. The dreamer may wake up to avoid the perceived danger. Nightmares can be remembered upon awakening and may lead to difficulties returning to sleep or even cause daytime distress” (Psychology Today). Having a nightmare once in a while is normal but if you are having recurring nightmares that are bringing on anxiety or other symptoms, it can be part of a larger sleep disorder.

They occur during REM sleep and usually happen towards the end of the night and can be a reaction to stress or even a way to work something traumatic out. The issue arises when it impacts your waking life from your all over health to how you function every day. The tendency for nightmares is seen more often in girls than boys beginning in childhood and if they continue into adulthood, can be due to outside factors (or mental disorder).

Children and adolescents tend to experience nightmares more commonly and it becomes infrequent into adulthood. However, about 50% of adults experience nightmares where women have them more often than men. Roughly 1% of adults who have frequent nightmares need professional help as it can lead to avoiding sleep and negative impacts to their everyday life.

Reoccurring nightmares, which do become a disorder, may be referred to as Nightmare Disorder and there are some criteria for a diagnosis. (Once again I implore you to see a doctor if you believe you have a sleep disorder of any kind and do not go all WebMD on yourself).

  • You are oriented and alert the instant you wake up
  • Waking up often with detailed recollection of your nightmare occurring in the latter part of sleep and are usually about security or threats to survival
  • Adverse effects to work, social interaction, and overall well being
  • No known medical condition or use of medications or substances that would cause symptoms

While M. Night Shyamalan might help to create some nightmares, there are other causes. 60% of cases are due to anxiety or stress but they can also occur due to sleep apnea, side effect or withdrawal of drug, excessive alcohol intake or withdrawal, eating right before bed, sleep disorders, and many more.

They can induce a lot of anxiety within a person but there are ways to help treat it. Support from friends and families will help reduce stress and if you have been a part (in any way) of a type of trauma, a mental health professional can help you navigate some issues. Your physical health also has a lot to do with how you sleep so be consistent with what you do as it relates to food, exercise, and sleep habits. If you started a new medication and your nightmares began shortly thereafter, contact your doctor to see if that could be the culprit and what you can do.

Nightmares can be terrifying but understanding what they are, what causes them, and some ways to treat them can go a long way in getting a more restful sleep.