Sweet Dreams

Having a good night's sleep takes more than just a bedtime.

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Oversleeping: The Effects & Health Risks of Sleeping Too Much

Setting the Stage for Healthier Sleep

The field of sleep science is still looking into the cause and effect relationship between oversleeping and health, but some habits and steps that promote better quality sleep and a healthy sleep duration are known.

While a small percentage of people naturally sleep longer, for many long sleepers (especially whose sleep needs have changed), there are certain conditions, behaviors and environmental factors that can increase sleep need or affect sleep quality (making you feel less rested on a normal amount).

To get an idea of how to avoid oversleeping and get healthier Zzz’s, we reached out a few sleep experts for their words of wisdom. Here’s what they had to say:

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How High Blood Sugar Steals Sleep Time

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It’s probably far from obvious, but your diabetes could be the reason that you’re having trouble sleeping.

Type 2 diabetes affects nearly 30 million Americans—and the numbers are growing. Though most of us are aware that the disease has a serious impact on a person’s diet and blood sugar, fewer are familiar with the many related health woes that diabetes can cause—and how they can negatively impact sleep.

Take a closer look at the surprisingly intricate relationship between diabetes and sleep—plus how people with the condition can get a better night’s rest.

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7 Fitness Experts Share Tips on Balancing Exercise and Sleep for Better Health

7 Fitness Experts Share Tips on Balancing Exercise and Sleep for Better Health

When people think about fitness and getting in shape, the most common focuses are usually exercise and diet. We know that burning calories and eating right contribute to a better body, but what about rest?

Mounting evidence shows that sleep is a vital component of fitness as well, important not only for energy, but also for keeping muscles healthy and hormones balanced.

Research from Stanford found improved athletic performance when their basketball team slept more, and a Northwestern University study also found that people exercised longer on days following good sleep. Several studies also associate too little sleep with higher body fat and greater risk of obesity.

But not only does sleep boost your workouts and possibly weight loss, getting regular exercise also benefits your sleep quality, creating a symbiotic and complementary relationship.

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13 Easy to Prepare Sleep-Inducing Dinners

15 Easy to Prepare Sleep-Inducing Dinners

Advice for better sleep typically focuses on evening habits like limiting electronics and keeping bedrooms comfortable, but there’s one important aspect you might be overlooking.

Dinner. You’ve heard that you are what you eat, but what you eat may also affect how you sleep.

Certain nutrients are required by the body to carry out daily functions, including making hormones and neurotransmitters related to rest. Other foods can impact physical comfort, affecting slumber by boosting your heart rate or causing indigestion.

The more we learn, the more significant nutrition’s role in sleep appears to be. Read on to see how diet and rest connect and what to eat at night to nourish your body for more efficient sleep.

 

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The Best Sleep Position for Your Body

Your p.m. pose can affect a lot more than just your slumber.

Your sleeping pose can have a major impact on your slumber—as well as your overall health. Poor p.m. posture could potentially cause back and neck pain, fatigue, sleep apnea, muscle cramping, impaired circulation, headaches, heartburn, tummy troubles, and even premature wrinkles. Wondering which sleep spot is best? Check out the rankings, below, from best to worst.

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1. On Your Back

Though it’s not the most popular position—only eight percent of people sleep on their backs—it’s still the best. By far the healthiest option for most people, sleeping on your back allows your head, neck, and spine to rest in a neutral position. This means that there’s no extra pressure on those areas, so you’re less likely to experience pain. Sleeping facing the ceiling also ideal for warding off acid reflux. Just be sure to use a pillow that elevates and supports your head enough—you want your stomach to be below your esophagus to prevent food or acid from coming up your digestive tract. However, snoozing on your back can cause the tongue to block the breathing tube, making it a dangerous position for those who suffer from sleep apnea (a condition that causes periods of breathlessness). This position can also make snoring more severe.

2. On Your Side

This position (where your torso and legs are relatively straight) also helps decrease acid reflux, and since your spine is elongated, it wards off back and neck pain. Plus, you’re less likely to snore in this snooze posture, because it keeps airways open. For that reason, it’s also the best choice for those with sleep apnea. Fifteen percent of adult choose to sleep on their side, but there’s one downside: It can lead to wrinkles, because half of your face pushes against a pillow.

3. In the Fetal Position

With 41 percent of adults choosing this option, it’s the most popular sleep position. A loose, fetal position (where you’re on your side and your torso is hunched and your knees are bent)—especially on your left side—is great if you’re pregnant. That’s because it improves circulation in your body and in the fetus, and it prevents your uterus from pressing against your liver, which is on your right side. This pose is also good for snorers. But resting in a fetal position that’s curled up too tightly can restrict breathing in your diaphragm. And it can leave you feeling a bit sore in the morning, particularly if you have arthritis in your joints or back. Prevent these woes by straightening out your body as much as you can, instead of tucking your chin into your chest and pulling your knees up high. You can also reduce strain on your hips by placing a pillow between your knees.

4. On Your Stomach

While this is good for easing snoring, it’s bad for practically everything else. Seven percent of adults pick this pose, but it can lead to back and neck pain, since it’s hard to keep your spine in a neutral position. Plus, stomach sleepers put pressure on their muscles and joints, possibly leading to numbness, tingling, aches, and irritated nerves. It’s best to try to choose another position, but if you must sleep on your stomach, try lying facedown to keep upper airways open—instead of with your head turned to one side—with your forehead propped up on a pillow to allow room to breathe.

This article was originally published on Sleep.org. You can read the entire post, here.

How Often Do We Dream?

You may be shocked to discover exactly how many dreams you have while you’re fast asleep.

Dreams may be a secret window into your feelings, act as inspiration for a creative project, and even help you solve problems.Whether you recall many of your dreams or none at all, read on to find out how many dreams you’re actually experiencing during any given night.

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How Much You Really Dream Each Night

Just because you don’t remember dreaming doesn’t mean you’re not doing it! You generally dream at least four to six times per night, usually during the most active REM stage of sleep if you’re over 10 years old. (Kids younger than 10 dream only about 20 percent of the time in REM sleep.) You usually dream longer as the night goes on because the REM stage of sleep can be anywhere from five minutes early in the night to as long as 34 minutes towards the end of your sleep session. So if you snooze for, say, eight total hours a night, two of them may be spent dreaming.

Why You Forget Your Dreams

You may not think that you’re a big dreamer because most of us forget 95 to 99 percent of our dreams. Why you don’t recall most of your dreams remains a mystery, but one theory is that it’s simply because you’re not concentrating on them while you’re snoozing. (People who think dreams are important and are more interested in them are likelier to recall them—probably because they are motivated to pay attention to their dreams). Another theory is that our lack of recall is partly due to the hormone associated with memory (norepinephrine) being turned off while we sleep, so our brain doesn’t actually encode our night visions into memories.

How To Better Remember Your Dreams

A trick to keeping your dreams from leaving your mind as soon as you wake up is simply to tell yourself that you want to remember your dreams as you’re falling asleep. Keep a dream journal by your bed so you can jot down everything that you can remember about your dreams the second you wake up—before thoughts about the day ahead clutter your mind. Write down everything (even if you can recall only vague images or snippets of your dreams) in order to train your brain to better remember them in the future.

This article was originally published on Sleep.org. You can view the entire post, here.

The Ideal Temperature for Sleep

Find out what the ideal thermostat setting is to help you snooze longer.

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Are you too hot or too cold when trying to snooze? Maybe you’re trying to be money conscious by keeping the temperature as low as possible in the winter and as high as possible in the summer, but if you didn’t know, your thermostat can make or break your
slumber. For some, the temperature has to be just right for an ideal night’s sleep.

In general, the suggested bedroom temperature should be between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit for optimal sleep. When lying in bed trying to snooze, your body temperature decreases to initiate sleep—and the proposed temperatures above can actually help facilitate this. If your room is cool, rather than warm, it will be much easier to shut your eyes for the night.

Thermostat settings far lower or higher than what’s recommended could lead to restlessness and can also affect the quality of REM (rapid eye movement) sleepThe stage of sleep with the highest brain activity. During this stage, you’ll have higher brain metabolism and often dream. There are spontaneous rapid eye movements and minimal body movement. It’s usually difficult to wake a sleeper during this stage.

It can also help to think of your bedroom as a cave—it should be quiet, cool, and dark for the best chance at getting enough rest. If you’re still a troubled sleeper, in addition to the cooler room temperature, you should try placing a hot water bottle at your feet or wearing socks. This will help dilate your blood vessels faster and push your internal thermostat to a more ideal setting.

And if you’re trying to get your baby or toddler to bed, raising the thermostat a little higher between 65 and 70 degrees will suffice. Just make sure to keep the crib or bed away from windows or fans, and be certain that the temperature stays consistent.

This article was originally published on Sleep.org. You can read the entire post, here.

Fun Facts About Pajamas

The clothes you wear to sleep have an eye-opening history

What you choose to wear to bed is a personal matter. You might be perfectly happy in a matching striped pajama set, while someone else could choose to snooze in a cute nightgown (or absolutely nothing!). But do you know how today’s nightwear made it to its current state? The history of pajamas is more surprising than you might think!

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  1. Where The Word Comes From: The word “pajama” comes from the Indian word “piejamah,” which described loose pants that were tied at the waist. The comfy trousers were admired by British colonials as the perfect thing to wear when napping in the afternoon, and it wasn’t long before the outfit was deemed perfect for any time spent asleep. When the colonials returned to Britain, the trend caught on.
  2. Pajamas Aren’t Just For Sleeping: In the early 1900s, a fashion designer named Paul Poiret created silk pajamas to be worn out in public during the daytime, as well as in the evening. And today, in some Asian countries, people still like to wear full pajama sets out in public. In Japan, this trend is taken one step further. Some people go out in something called Kigurumi, which are pajamas made to look like giant stuffed animal costumes.
  3. Footed Pajamas Aren’t Always For Kids: They actually started out as something designed for adults. The first versions were made when people began sewing socks to the bottom of their pajama pants. It wasn’t to just keep their feet warm; it was to prevent bugs like termites from nibbling on their toes.
  4. Nightcaps Were All the Rage: Nightcaps (the articles of clothing, not the alcoholic beverages) might enter your mind mostly during the holidays (since they are featured in both A Christmas Carol and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas), but they were popular throughout the 19th century. The purpose is pretty obvious: to keep a person’s head warm during the winter while he or she slept. But the design has some thought behind it. The pointed cap is long enough to wrap around your neck like a scarf, but not so long that it could choke you in the middle of the night.
  5. Who Needs Pajamas? While stores sell tons of pajamas these days, sleeping in your birthday suit is still popular. For example, in the UK, 47 percent of men sleep in absolutely nothing (while only 17 percent of British women go nude in the night). Americans, on the other hand, are just slightly more conservative. About 31 percent of men in the United States sleep naked and 14 percent of women go nude.

This article was originally published on Sleep.org. You can view the entire post, here.

How to Be Productive on Low or No Sleep

Follow these five rules to stay productive when you’re running on empty.

Sure, there’s no replacement for a good seven to nine hours of sleep a night. But sometimes, well, life interferes. When you’re running on fumes—either because you just stayed up too late or because sleep problems are keeping you up—there are simple ways to maximize your productivity until you can start to repay that sleep debt and get back on track.

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Get Some Sun. Sunshine (or bright light, in a pinch) helps to remind your brain that it’s daytime and you should be awake—even if you’re exhausted. That’s because light triggers your internal clock to stop producing melatonin, a hormone that makes you feel sleepy at night.
  1. Move Your Body. It may sound counterintuitive when you’re already dragging, but expending energy through exercise (or even a quick jog up a flight of stairs) increases blood flow and pumps up your rate of breathing. It sends more energizing oxygen throughout your body so you feel as much as 65 percent less fatigued.
  1. Drink Up. Water, that is. While drinking more than you need won’t necessarily increase your energy levels, being even mildly dehydrated can put a damper on your mood and leave you feeling worse than you already do. And if you find yourself running to the bathroom more often, the extra activity can only help!
  1. Take a Nap. No, napping is not a sign of weakness. It can be the secret to better performance. NASA pilots who averaged a 26-minute nap on a cross-ocean flight had 34 percent better performance than their non-napping colleagues. Just don’t snooze too long or you’ll run the risk of waking up even more bleary-eyed. If you drink coffee, consider this trick: Since it takes about half an hour for caffeine to work its magic, sip your cup of Joe just before your nap to wake up refreshed.
  1. Don’t Multitask. It’s unfortunate but true: When you’re under-slept, your brain simply doesn’t fire on all cylinders. You have less working memory and you recover more slowly from distractions. So keep it simple. Close extra Internet windows (including e-mail), silence your phone, and shut off those distracting yet oh-so-interesting podcasts for an extended period so you can focus on one task at a time.

What is a Power Nap?

Man SleepingLearn how to use daytime sleep to boost both energy and productivity.

Think napping is only for the preschool and under set? Think again. Naps can be a boon for both your health and your productivity—a big reason some companies are making daytime sleep a part of their corporate ethos. A power nap is a nap that’s long enough to get you through the day, but not so long that it makes you groggy or unable to sleep at night. For a nap that will power you up, follow these simple rules.

Set an Alarm.

Twenty minutes is the sweet spot for nap length if you want to wake up feeling alert, cheerful, and productive. Unlike at night when the goal is longer stretches of continuous sleep that will give you the restorative benefits of deep REM sleep, keeping naps to lighter, non-REM sleep will help ensure that you wake up bright-eyed. If you’ve got even more time, lucky you. But go big or go home: 30- to 60-minute naps are likely to leave you feeling worse, while a 90-minute nap gives you enough time for a complete, creativity-building sleep cycle.

Maximize Efficiency.

To make your naptime as productive as possible, it’s important to get straight to business—that is, fall asleep fast. To help you do that, rest in a cool, dark room that’s free from distractions. Power down your phone, and try using props like a noise conditioner or sleep mask if you can’t escape ambient noise and light. In an office? Consider hanging a do-not-disturb door sign to keep colleagues at bay.

Time it Right.

An hour or two after lunch is a natural time to nap since your blood sugar and energy levels drop. Instead of topping off your coffee when this afternoon lull hits, consider a nap to perk up your afternoon without interrupting your nighttime sleep. (And if you do need another splash of caffeine, have it before your nap so you’ll wake up feeling the effects.)

Get Back in Action.

After your 20 minutes is up, get right back to whatever you were doing before the nap. Get some sunlight on your face, take a brisk walk, jump in place, or splash some water on your face to let your body know that nap time is over.

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