A Diet for Better Sleep

Want to clock more ZZZ’s? Change up your plate. Certain nutrients in your diet—like vitamin C, lycopene, and selenium—are associated with healthier sleep patterns, according to a new study on 4,500 people published in Appetite.

Researchers crunched sleep and nutrition data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). They broke people up into four sleep categories: “very short” (less than 5 hours per night), “short” (5 to 6 hours), “normal” (7 to 8 hours) and “long” (more than 9 hours) and examined the participants’ diet patterns from 24-hour food recall interviews.

One key finding from the study: People who ate a more varied diet were more likely to be “normal” sleepers (about 18 foods versus 14 in the shortest sleepers). Eating a variety of foods may indicate you’re consuming more nutrients. In turn, “that may provide the nutritional coverage to help your body work optimally, which, among other things, would translate into better sleep,” says study coauthor Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., a research associate at the Center for Sleep and Circadian Neurobiology at the University of Pennsylvania.

So why’s the sleep-diet connection so important? People who get 7 to 8 hours of sleep at night are generally healthier. Research shows those who log less hours have an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, while sleeping more than 9 hours has been linked to depression.

“This study should remind us that not only is sleep an important part of overall health, but sleep and diet are related to each other,” Grandner says. The reasons why vary—people who sleep better may make more nutritious food choices, or they may make healthy eating a priority. Other studies have shown that sleep loss affects certain hormones that control hunger and appetite.

Although Gardner says his research didn’t uncover why certain foods are related to better sleep, it can’t hurt to eat more of the nutrients identified in the study that help make your night better. Here are five:

Lycopene: A cancer-fighting antioxidant found in tomatoes, watermelon, and pink grapefruit.

Vitamin C: One cup of strawberries or one medium kiwi packs more than 100 percent of your daily value of this heart- and cancer-protective antioxidant.

Selenium: An ounce of Brazil nuts or a can of tuna are both excellent sources of this anti-inflammatory that’s key for immune function.

Theobromine: Find this heart healthy phytochemical in tea and chocolate.

Lauric acid: Most commonly found in coconut oil. Though it’s a saturated fatty acid, studies show that it may improve “healthy” HDL cholesterol without affecting “bad” LDL levels.

This article was originally published by Men’s Health. See the original article here.

Why Do We Sleep?

Sleep deprivation can cause serious health and cognitive problems in humans. In short, it can make us fat, sick and stupid. But why do humans need so much sleep? Science correspondent Miles O’Brien talks to scientists on the cutting edge of sleep research and asks if there’s any way humans might evolve into getting by with less.

See the original post from PBS here – Can Sleep Make You Smarter?

How to Design a Bedroom for Better Sleep

The bedroom can serve as a multifunctional room–such as an office, library, or laundry room–but in the end, it is a sanctuary for sleep. This room should be the most luxurious and personal space in any home – a soothing oasis that is conducive to relaxation and comfort. Here are some tips on how you can design your bedroom for better sleep, which should be considered along with color options, styles, and furniture.

1. A good mattress is the key to a good night’s rest.

A good night’s rest may be as simple as getting a new mattress. If your mattress is too lumpy, hard, or soft, it will keep you up all night trying to get comfortable. There are many different types of mattresses, such as pillow, foam, innerspring, adjustable, waterbeds, and airbeds; each type has manufacturers who guarantee comfort and better sleep.

When you shop for a mattress, follow these simple steps:

  • Research extensively, because this is a very important and expensive purchase.
  • Once you have a mattress in mind, test out your mattress. If your mattress has a 30 or 60 day guarantee or your money back, take advantage of it. Also, don’t be afraid to try out a mattress in the store by lying down on it like you would at home.
  • Figure out what size you need (King, Queen, or Full), because this may be the reason you cannot sleep; a small mattress may be your issue, especially if you share a bed.

To determine if you need a new a mattress, these simple guidelines from The Better Sleep Council can help you make that determination.

2. One of the most important conditions needed for sound sleep is darkness.

According to Brandon Peters, M.D. , who is trained in clinical sleep medicine and neurology at the University of Minnesota Medical Center in Minneapolis, explains how our mind and body’s natural circadian rhythm lean towards following dark-light cycle. Therefore, the amount of light in your bedroom will affect your sleep.

Our modern lifestyles can disrupt us from dark, calm environments that our bodies need for sleep. These modern devices are digital clocks, televisions, phones, and computers, which can light up your bedroom and interrupt your REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep. Some solutions you can use in your bedroom are armoires to hide televisions or computers, and vintage open-faced alarm clocks versus bright digital alarm clocks. Remove phones from your bedroom; if it’s important to have a phone in your bedroom, hide it away in a side table drawer.

3. Air temperature can affect your sleep.

If the room is too cold or warm, it too can affect how you sleep at night, according to Ralph Downey III, PhD, Chief of Sleep Medicine at Loma Linda University. A simple solution, which can be tested if you believe this is your issue, is altering your thermostat. Other options you can incorporate in your bedroom to help with room temperature is a ceiling fan, portable heater, or heavy blinds and window treatments, which will help keep the room dark and prevent outside weather conditions from entering your bedroom.

4. Soothing colors and soothing sounds make for a good night’s sleep.

Bright, vibrant colors can be fun, but sometimes it’s best not to use them within a bedroom, especially if you have trouble sleeping. Instead, use calm, soothing colors like muted blues,greens, and pastels, which are more peaceful and calm. If you still would like to incorporate bright colors in your bedroom, use them as accents on your pillows or within artwork.

Besides color, soothing sounds can promote sleep too, such as a babbling brook, soft wind chimes, or crickets’ chirping. You can incorporate these sounds in your room with a CD player or any other electronic device hidden away; if you prefer the real thing, then place a small fountain in your bedroom or hang some wind chimes outside your window.

5. Too much clutter can cause anxiety and lack of sleep.

Too much clutter in your bedroom may cause your sleep deprivation. This is a feng shui no-no and good advice to bear, since too much clutter can cause anxiety and uneasiness in any room. Try to keep your bedroom in order so you’re not worried about tripping over stuff when you get up in the middle of the night or toss-and-turn about cleaning up before you go to sleep. There are several storage options you can use in your bedroom or closet that will tackle the clutter, which are appealing and affordable, too.

One or more of these design tips will help you maintain a sanctuary of sleep and rest in your bedroom. Next step to designing your bedroom is to determine your style, color scheme, and furniture.

 

See the original article from About.com here.

Sleepy’s 30 Insane Facts About Sleep [Infographic]

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What Are Your Nightmares Made Of?

Last night, I experienced something that I hadn’t felt in a long time.  I woke up in a panic, shaking, and scared for my life… from a nightmare.  I thought I was crazy.  I’m an adult – shouldn’t I have grown out of this by now?  But apparently, I’m not the only one.   According to U.S. News, 85% of adults experience nightmares occasionally, while between 2% and 6% experience nightmares on a weekly basis.

In order to understand our nightmares, we first have to understand why they occur. There are two basic types of nightmares, post-traumatic dreams & idiopathic nightmares. Post-traumatic dreams are pretty self-explanatory. They occur as a result of a past traumatic experience from your life. Now you may be thinking, “Why on Earth would your mind want to re-live a traumatic experience”? The answer may lie in healing. According to some theories, nightmares actually “aid people in working through traumatic events”. So, an event that you would not consciously want to think about or relive can be worked on subconsciously through your nightmares.

Idiopathic nightmares, on the other hand, usually do not have a clear or distinct cause behind them. U.S. News points out that they are typically more personal and reflective of an issue within a relationship as opposed to a traumatic experience. While there are some specific times in your life when the cause of a nightmare might be more obvious – for instance, dreaming of showing up late to work right before starting a new job – having a nightmare without knowing the cause can be an unsettling experience. Although occasionally losing sleep because of a nightmare may be an inconvenience, nightmares aren’t considered to be a serious issue unless they interfere with your sleep on a regular basis.

If you have concerns about nightmares or any other sleep disorder, talk to your doctor.
 

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy

Sleepwalking: Harmless or Harmful?

You’ve seen sleepwalkers depicted in movies, on TV, and even in some beloved cartoons.  From the hilarious Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers to Disney’s take on a sleepwalking Pluto, we’re used to seeing sleepwalking in a humorous light. However, sleepwalking isn’t always a laughing matter.

Sleepwalking, also known as somnambulism, occurs when some parts of the brain are awake while other parts of the brain are still asleep.  While sleepwalking more commonly affects children, about 25% of children who sleepwalk will continue to do so through adulthood, according to a study done by the University of Montreal.  This study also explains that sleepwalking may be genetic, with 80% of sleepwalkers having a family history of the disorder.  Although there is no clear cause for sleepwalking, anxiety and stress, lack of sleep, use of alcohol and certain medications can increase a person’s chance of sleepwalking if they are already predisposed to it.

Most sleepwalkers perform routine activities such as changing their clothes, sitting up in bed, watching TV, or going to the bathroom.  However some people have reported much more dangerous behaviors like leaving their homes or even driving a car.  The National Library of Medicine says that most sleepwalking episodes last for no more than 10 minutes, although some rare instances have been reported to last for over a half hour.

Now there’s a new generation of somnambulism referred to as “sleep-texting”.  We live in a world of constant connection.  The ability to communicate and connect with others at any time of day has become a great convenience, except for when you’re trying to get some sleep!  Sleep-texting is exactly what it sounds like—sending a message while you’re sleeping that you don’t remember sending upon waking up.   Some people have reported sending messages to unintentional recipients or sending messages that make no sense to them upon waking up.  To prevent sleep-texting, shut down all of your electronic devices before going to sleep.  You’re less likely to send a message in your sleep if you have to go through the extra step of turning on your phone.  You can learn more about the benefits of “unplugging” before bed here.

So, what do you do if you encounter a sleepwalker or sleep-texter?  You’ve probably heard the old wives tale to “never wake a sleepwalker”, but this is not always the case.  If you wake a sleepwalker they may become disorientated or confused.  However, if you know someone with a history of getting into precarious sleepwalking situations, then it is safer to wake them in order to prevent them from accidentally harming themselves or others.  If you don’t feel comfortable waking them up, you can gently guide them back to bed instead.  If left alone, sleepwalkers will eventually go back to sleep, although they may not return to bed.  They are more likely to go to sleep wherever is convenient at the time, such as on a couch, in a chair, or even on the floor.

If you have concerns about sleepwalking, be sure to talk to your doctor.

Keep up with the latest on everything sleep by following me on Twitter & Instagram!  And don’t forget to like Sleepy’s on Facebook!

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy

The Pitfalls of Sharing Your Sleep Space

Making the transition from sleeping alone to sleeping next to someone can be a difficult change to make.  Adjusting to someone else’s bedtime routines, sleeping position and nighttime habits can cause serious tension within a relationship.  In fact, over 30% of couples now say they sleep in separate beds or in completely separate rooms.  Let’s avoid a sleep separation and talk about some of the pitfalls couples face when sharing a sleeping space and ways to resolve these issues.

You’re peacefully sleeping the night away when suddenly your partner wakes you up with a swift, yet unintentional, elbow to the face.  Raise your hand if this has ever happened to you.  Adjusting to sharing a bed can take time, and in the middle of the night it’s easy to forget that you can no longer occupy the entire bed.  If you, or your partner, have a tendency to flail their limbs while they sleep, then a bigger bed is definitely better.  For two people, at least a Queen-size bed is recommended for a comfortable night’s sleep, but if you have some extra space in the bedroom a King-size bed would be best.  If a King isn’t an option, use a body pillow as a barrier between you and your partner to avoid black eyes and bruised ribs.

If your partner’s constant tossing and turning makes you feel like you’re sleeping in a Bouncy Castle, it may be time to replace your mattress.  A mattress made with memory foam, latex, or individually wrapped coils will minimize the amount movement you feel from your partner’s side of the bed.  So, toss the old mattress before you toss your partner out of bed.

Do you wake up in the middle of the night on the brink of hypothermia?  If your partner is a blanket hog there’s a simple solution that will keep you both toasty all night long.  All you have to do is change your sheets!  If you sleep on a King-size mattress you can use a normal King size fitted sheet, but here’s the trick… instead of using one King-size flat sheet, use two Twin XL flat sheets and two Twin XL blankets.  This gives you each your own individual sheet and blanket, so you can control the temperature of your side of the bed without worrying about a blanket bandit.  You can cleverly disguise this with a King size comforter and keep your sheet secret to yourself.

While getting a new mattress and changing your sheets might be easy fixes, your partners annoying sleep habits may be harder to break.  According to a survey conducted by Sleepy’s, the biggest pet peeve among couples is their partner’s snoring.  While snoring can be a sign of a more serious issue, like sleep apnea, there are a few tricks you can use to help reduce your snoring.  First, try changing your sleeping position.  Back sleepers are more prone to snoring because this position restricts their airways.  Try sleeping on your side or your stomach instead.  Using the correct pillow can also help dissipate your unfavorable habit.  The right pillow will correct your sleeping posture, aligning your neck and spine and opening up your airways.  So, quit keeping your partner up all night and change your pillow.

So, why do we put up with it all?  It could be because sleeping next to someone makes us feel better.  Studies have shown that there are physical and mental health benefits that directly correlate to sharing a bed with the one you love.  As reported by the Wall Street Journal, “shared sleep in healthy relationships may lower levels of cortisol, a stress hormone.  Sharing a bed may also reduce cytokines, involved in inflammation, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone that is known to ease anxiety and is produced in the same part of the brain responsible for the sleep-wake cycle”.  And although sharing your bed with a blanket hog or a snorer may be difficult at first, the pros definitely outweigh the cons.

For more information follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SnoozeDirector, like Sleepy’s on Facebook, and be sure to check back here for more sleep tips, tricks, and Snooze News.

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy

Beating Those 3pm Blues

Every day around 3pm my desk is unoccupied.  You can usually find me in the café buying a large coffee or at the vending machine getting a bottle of soda.  Yes, I admit it.  I am a victim of the 3 o’clock slump.  Whether my day is hectic or uneventful, I can’t help but feel a lull in my energy in the middle of the afternoon.

Why does that happen?  According to the National Sleep Foundation, our circadian rhythm varies throughout the day causing us to naturally feel tired at certain times.  “Adults’ strongest sleep drive generally occurs between 2:00-4:00 am and in the afternoon between 1:00-3:00 pm”.  We’ve talked about how the hours you work can affect your sleep patterns, but there are other factors in your workday that can be encouraging that sleepy afternoon feeling too.

If you spend the majority of your day looking at a computer screen (guilty!) it could be contributing to your need for that 3pm latte.  Researchers at King’s College London University conducted a study to see how frequently viewing a computer screen at work affected participants IQ scores.  The results were alarming.  Over a course of 80 trials, they found that those who spent the day constantly checking their messages during work had an IQ drop of 10 points throughout the day, that’s equivalent to missing an entire night of sleep!  In an age where we feel the need to constantly check our email, Facebook, and Twitter for updates, it’s not hard to figure out why there’s a line at the coffee shop in the middle of the day.

How long do you take for your lunch break?  If you’re laughing at me because you can’t remember the last time you actually took a lunch break, then it’s time to start.  Career and workplace expert, Michael Kerr, told Forbes magazine how beneficial it is to take a break in order to combat afternoon exhaustion.  He says, “It’s critical to make the most of lunch and remind yourself taking a proper break you will accomplish more in the long run, and that productivity and creativity will increase, while your levels of stress and fatigue will diminish”.  And this doesn’t mean eating quickly at your desk while you check emails.  As I mentioned above, it’s important to give our minds a break from our screens.  Get up from your desk, find a spot free of screens and distractions, and take time to relax while you eat before diving back into your work.

So how can we cure these 3pm blues?  I say take a hike.  Leave your iPhone at your desk, turn off your computer screen, and go for a 10 minute walk.  The time away from your screens will help to rejuvenate your tired mind and promote the blood circulation in your body, causing an increase in energy levels.

Just make sure your walk doesn’t lead you to the café.  This tip might be a hard adjustment (especially for me), but it’s time to put down the coffee.  Caffeine can stay in your system for up to 8 hours, which means having a cup mid-afternoon can make it harder to fall asleep at night.  Instead, try a snack that’s high in protein, like nuts or low-fat yogurt.  The protein will provide you with sustained energy, giving you that little boost you’re looking for without affecting your sleep.  Get more suggestions for energy boosting afternoon snacks from The Huffington Post.

Marcum Workplace Challenge  – Last night, Sleepy’s sponsored the 8th Annual Marcum Workplace Challenge, where over 8,000 participants came together to raise money for three great charities – The Long Island Children’s MuseumLong Island Cares -The Harry Chapin Food Bank, and the Children’s Medical Fund of New York.  Sleepy’s had over 100 participants running and walking the 3.5 mile course.  It was a great night for everyone and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Some members of the Sleepy's team who ran and walked the Marcum Workplace Challenge to raise money for 3 great charities.

For more information follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SnoozeDirector, like Sleepy’s on Facebook, and be sure to check back here for more sleep tips, tricks, and Snooze News.

 

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy

Sniff Your Way to Better Sleep

In order to get a great night’s sleep, all five senses must be taken care of.  We make our rooms dark and close our eyes to shut out the light.  We listen to white noise or the waves of the ocean from a sound machine to relax us.  We brush our teeth before bed so our mouths are fresh and clean.  We are most comfortable using sheets and blankets that are soft to the touch.  What about our sense of smell?  If you’re neglecting your nose, it could be hindering your ability to sleep.  Here are some fragrances that can help us fall asleep faster and get a more restful night’s sleep. 

If your stress level is through the roof and you’re having trouble falling asleep, lavender can help ease your mind.  According to Prevention magazine, a study from the University of Southampton in Britain showed that the scent of lavender helped its participants to sleep 20% better than they did without lavender exposure.  Another sleep study conducted at Wesleyan University found that the scent of lavender acted as a mild sedative and “has practical applications as a… method for promoting deep sleep”.

Another popular sleep inducing scent is chamomile.  Chamomile has been used for centuries to treat a variety of ailments, including insomnia.  The National Institute of Health refers to chamomile as a mild tranquilizer and sleep-inducer.  It soothes your mind, eases your emotions, and even helps to relax your muscles, making it easier to fall asleep.

Can’t remember what you ate for breakfast?  Roses could be the answer.  As reported by the New York Times, a study conducted in Germany found that smelling roses can increase the formation of memories.  In this study, the scent of rose was released into the air while its participants were in a state of deep sleep.  Upon waking up, they were asked to recall cards on a computer screen that they had memorized the day before.  The study found that those who slept in the rose scented air “scored an average of 97 percent on the card game, compared with 86 percent when they played the game and slept without being perfumed”.

Scents can do more than make us sleepy, they can help keep us awake, too.  A study from the University of Cincinnati found that the scent of peppermint made its participants more alert and increased their productivity.  So, before you reach for that 3pm cup of coffee, try using peppermint to keep your mind focused.

Not sure how to incorporate these scents into your bedroom?  Try using essential oils, a concentrated liquid version of your preferred scent.  Put a few drops of oil on a tissue or a cloth and tuck it under your pillow.  You can also use an oil diffuser that will pump the scent into the air.  Another option is to take a warm bath before bed using scented scrubs and lotions, like the ones in this spa kit.  The bath will not only leave your skin smelling great, it will also help you fall asleep faster too.  When in the bath the warm water raises your body temperature, but once out of the bathtub your body temperature falls, causing you to fall asleep more quickly.  Try incorporating a soothing scent into your bedtime routine to keep all five senses satisfied and sleepy.

For more information follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SnoozeDirector, like Sleepy’s on Facebook, and be sure to check back here for more sleep tips, tricks, and Snooze News.

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy

Rain, Rain, Go Away

As I’m sitting at my desk, looking out the large glass windows, I can’t help but yawn.  With a title like “Snooze Director” you might think that this is common practice, but with blogs to write, meetings to attend, and Twitter feeds to follow, there is no time for sleepiness in my day.  I tried to figure out what was making me so abnormally tired today…  I got 8 hours of sleep last night, I ate breakfast this morning, and I haven’t done any strenuous activity yet today.  So what could it be?   As I sat here analyzing my morning routine my eyes were drawn back to the window.  Today is the first day this month that the sun isn’t shining and the thermometer hasn’t hit 80 degrees.  I think we’ve found the root of the problem.

There is a direct link between the weather and your ability to stay awake.  You’ve probably noticed that when it’s sunny and warm, you’re cheerful and awake; but when it’s cloudy and cold, you’re tired and sluggish.  We’ve discussed what the optimal sleeping conditions are for your best night’s sleep – cool, dark, and between 54 and 74 degrees Fahrenheit – so it makes perfect sense that when the weather outside mirrors the conditions of your bedroom, you tend to get sleepy.

Whenever I wake up to a text from my fiancé that says “perfect sleeping weather” I know it’s raining before I even open the curtain.  But that’s not just his opinion, science says it too.  The two main hormones that regulate our sleep/wake cycles are melatonin and serotonin.  Melatonin helps us fall asleep and regulates our sleep cycles throughout the night, while serotonin stimulates wakefulness and lifts our mood.  When our eyes sense darkness, we release melatonin.  So on a cloudy day, although consciously we know that it’s daytime and we have to be awake, subconsciously the chemicals in our brain are telling us it’s time for bed.  On the other hand, when our eyes sense light, serotonin is released and melatonin production decreases.  This is why we are more alert and happier on bright and sunny days, while cloudy days make us want to crawl back into bed.

So, if you find yourself drinking an extra cup of coffee today, blame on it on the weather.  Just make sure you enjoy that cup at least six hours before bed.

For more information follow me on Twitter and Instagram @SnoozeDirector, like Sleepy’s on Facebook, and be sure to check back here for more sleep tips, tricks, and snooze news.

 

Contributor: Elizabeth Murphy