|The ultimate pro-sleeper cheat sheet
You’ve heard the frightening list of things that can happen when you don’t get the sleep you need. From short-term avoidable accidents to long-term disease risk and early death, it’s enough to send us racing to our bedrooms. But what about the amazing benefits that are yours for the taking when you do get the sleep you need?
After all, wouldn’t you rather hear about the rewards for a change?
In the interest of brevity, we cut our list off at 9 but we challenge you to share more. Leave a note in the comments below and let the world in on your sleep secrets.
When it comes to how long you’re going to live, there’s a lot of truth in the saying that genetics is a loaded gun – but your environment is the trigger. You may carry genes for a multitude of diseases, but whether you get them or not is largely dependent on how you live your life. If you want to live longer, sleep can be your best defense against a slew of diseases.
Maintain a healthy weight
Mattress manufacturers should consider giving away a free bathing suit with every purchase. Think we’re crazy? As wild as the idea sounds, substantial medical evidence suggests fascinating links between sleep and weight. According to WebMD.com, “Researchers say that how much you sleep and quite possibility the quality of your sleep may silently orchestrate a symphony of hormonal activity tied to your appetite.”
Manage stressful situations better
Some stress is good for us – like date night with your partner or accepting an award for a job well done. But some stress has the power to turn us into impatient toddlers, especially if we didn’t get a good night’s sleep. If you’re averaging four to five hours sleep a night, your brain reacts to stress as if you’ve gone for three consecutive nights without any sleep. Imagine the power you’ll have the next time your boss wigs out and you’ve had a good night’s sleep…
Reduce inflammation and pain
Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging all have strong ties to inflammation. If you sleep less than six hours a night, your blood levels of inflammatory proteins may be higher than people who sleep more. Show your heart some love – put it to bed.
Enjoy physical activity
When’s the last night you had a terrible night’s sleep and bounced out of bed in the morning, energized and ready for a 10K run? We thought so. Sleep is the mop-up crew for your brain and body, cleaning up spills, reorganizing memories and repairing muscle tissue. Skip that important recovery time and you look more like the energizer bunny who didn’t make the cut.
In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that sleepy drivers are responsible for the most single car crashes – even more than alcohol. What’s downright sobering though is that even one sleep deprived night can impair your driving, mimicking the effects of an alcoholic drink.
Embrace lifelong learning
Just as sleep repairs muscle tissue, it also cleans out the synapses in your brain. Sleep facilitates the processing of memories, moving the important ones to storage and discarding the ones you won’t need tomorrow. Without sleep, your memories all stay in the short term retrieval area and learning complex skills becomes nearly impossible. So in essence, that 8-hour void of doing nothing other than sleep actually makes you smarter.
The relationship between sleep and depressive illness is complex – depression may cause sleep problems and sleep problems may cause or contribute to depressive disorders. But the evidence is clear: people with insomnia have a ten-fold risk of developing depression compared with those who sleep well, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
Enjoy more creativity
Ever notice how creativity ebbs and flows during the day? Depending on whether you’re a night hawk or early bird, you’ll enjoy spurts of creativity throughout the day – when your brain is most awake and energized. Without sleep, your brain lacks the fuel it needs to get into that creative zone. All work and no play make Jack a dull boy – without sleep, he’s really a drag.
Now you know the amazing benefits of a good night’s sleep. Who’s tucking in early tonight?
Sleep mistakes worth correcting – tonight!
Yawning your way through your workday? According the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, roughly 30% of us sleep fewer than 6 hours a night. For the record, sleep experts say we should aim for somewhere between 7 and 9 hours.
Welcome to our insomnia-crazed culture.
Shortchanging ourselves on sleep can have big-time negative effects on health. Weight-gain, a stressed immune system, inability to focus and reduced memory are just a few of the short-term effects. Long term health effects from sleep deprivation include high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes – to name just a few.
If you’re one of the estimated 40.6 million adult Americans who could stand to spend a few more hours in bed each night, it’s time to make sleep a priority. Check out our list of sleep savers and start sleeping better tonight.
Practice yoga in the evening
If you’re a yoga aficionado, you already know the amazing health benefits yoga offers. Doing yoga later in the day reduces pent up muscle stress and helps you begin the relaxation needed for sleep – long before you get to bed. If yoga’s new to you, start slow and don’t overstretch. This yoga tutorial will help you with poses that are believed to be best for preparing for rest and relaxation.
Drink warm milk
What if a better night’s sleep was a close as a bedtime snack? Sleep experts have long believed diet can directly impact sleep quality and quantity. Our mothers have always known this. Whether its glass of warm milk or a cup of chamomile tea or even a nibble of dark chocolate, food can be powerful medicine. Enjoy your bedtime snack.
Set a bedtime and stick to it
We’re creatures of habit and sticking to a sleep routine is the easiest way to get the sleep we need every night. Set a doable bedtime and stick to it. Anticipating that moment you’ll lie your head down on your pillow and close your eyes will set off a complicated set of triggers in your brain – all aimed at shutting things down so you can rest.
Set a bedtime for your electronics
Light plays an important role in our ability to sleep and wake at expected times. Electronics emit a cool, bright light that’s similar to sunrise – not the deep, warm colors of sunset. While cool light helps us see our screens better, it also sends a wake-up call to our brains. Stop sending mixed signals to your brain by powering down electronics an hour before bed. .
Cool and darken your room
When it comes to sleep, light is to your brain as temperature is to your body. Too hot and you’ll be tossing and turning in an effort to cool down. Too cold and you’ll be shivering and hunting for another blanket in the middle of the night. Set your thermostat for 65-69F or crack open your window if your bedroom is naturally warm. A temperature-controlled-mattress is another great option.
Read a book
Now that you’ve put electronics to bed and the TV’s off limits, we recommend a good old-fashioned book. Snuggle up in your favorite chair or crawl into bed and dive in – best sleep medicine in the world.
Hydrate earlier in the day
If you’ve ever taken a prescription to help you sleep, you either slept like a dream or felt it was a waste of your money that delivered nothing more than a slew of uncomfortable side effects. If you want to stay on the drug-free side of healthy sleep, start with a big glass of water – before your first coffee in the morning. Early hydration and a protein-rich breakfast kick starts your metabolism, which will help you make healthier choices for the rest of the day. Click over to our sleep right cheat sheet: 17 ultimate sleep hacks.
Cut out the caffeine earlier in the day
If you’re a coffee person, giving up your morning cup-a-joe may be too high a price for better sleep. While no one can tell you exactly how much coffee is safe before life with less sleep is your reality, research is helping us understand what constitutes sensible consumption. This post will help you sort out the coffee conundrum.
Meditate during the day
If you’re stressed, your sleep suffers and suffering from sleep deprivation can lead to increased stress – talk about a vicious cycle. So how do you slow down, de-stress and sleep better? There’s no one answer that will work for everyone but a few tweaks to your sleep schedule may help you slow your pace and catch a better night’s sleep. These tips will help you reduce stress and sleep better.
Create a sleep spa
Sleep spas are the newest thing with the spa-goer set. It might be a fad but what if you could create a sleep spa in your own bedroom? We’re betting you’ll wake up bent on maintaining your status as a newly anointed sleep ambassador. Thankfully creating a sleep spa at home isn’t difficult – as long as you’re focused on the goal. Learn how to create your own sleep spa.
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Nightmares, Insomnia & Depression – Oh My!
How the three are intertwined
Sleep plays an important role in a person’s health and mood regulation. When a person suffers from nightmares, it not only affects their sleeping life but their waking life as well. According to Mayo Clinic, a nightmare is a disturbing dream associated with negative feelings, such as anxiety or fear. Nightmares can cause anxiety about returning to sleep, which can spiral into a debilitating cycle. Nightmares can cause a lack of sleep, which in turn can cause a variety of issues including insomnia and depression. The same is also true reverse – insomnia and depression can cause nightmares. The three are often intertwined.
Nightmares and depression
During the 1970s, psychologists noted that people suffering from depression also reported more dreams than average. In fact, people who are clinically depressed may dream three or four times as much. The quality of REM sleep dreams is different too – more intense emotions, more negative themes, more nightmares, and more unpleasant dreams. In general. REM sleep is the time when your brain is most active during sleep, which is when your brain actively works to heal and replenish itself. These unpleasant dreams are often mixed with insomnia, leaving someone tired. Read more at DreamStudies.org
Nightmares & insomnia and their effect on depression
Researchers at Tokyo Medical University in Japan investigated the influence of nightmares on depression, both independently and in conjunction with insomnia. They found nightmares can aggravate the symptoms of depression. They also learned that the joint presence of insomnia with nightmares had a significant effect on the severity of depression. Read more at PsychologyToday.com
As researchers work toward better understanding the links between insomnia and depression, it’s clear that a deeper understanding of sleep and its effect on mood regulation and mood disorder is needed as well.
If you suffer from insomnia and/or nightmares, there is no one simple solution – as you well know. But there are changes you can make. Try these tips to help you sleep better and wake up better rested:
- Set an alarm for bed – Set an alarm as a reminder to start your nightly routine to help your body prepare for sleep. Going to bed at the same time each night trains your brain and body when to anticipate sleep, which will help you relax.
- No nightcaps – Alcohol and sleep do not mix well. If you’re already having a hard time sleeping, a nightcap won’t help as alcohol can effect a person’s REM sleep cycle.
- Stretch it out – Yoga is a great way to unwind and decompress at the end of the day. There are several simple positions you can do to help you relax before bed.