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    How Sleep Supports a Vigorous Lifestyle
  1. How Sleep Supports a Vigorous Lifestyle


    As we’ve talked about before, sleep and exercise work hand-in-hand with each other to improve your health and well-being. This relationship is only strengthened when you increase the amount of activity in your life. If you are an athlete, a marathon runner, or just someone who enjoys working up a bit of sweat every day, you need an even greater amount of sleep than those living a more laid-back lifestyle.

    The reason behind this is simple: the more exercise you’re getting throughout the day, the more energy you’re expending, which means you feel more tired earlier on in the evening and experience greater sleep duration. If you’re packing a lot of physical activity into your day, you’re also more likely to feel well-rested the next morning due to experiencing a higher-quality sleep.

    Your body’s increased order of sleep is its way of helping you out with your goals, supporting your active lifestyle using one of its most useful tools: a full night of shut-eye. What exactly is sleep’s role in making you a better athlete or runner? Read on:

    • Sleep restores your body

      • When you get a full night of sleep, you experience slow-wave sleep, otherwise known as deep sleep. During deep sleep, which takes place when you’re in non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, your body releases growth hormones which can heal the tissues of muscles that have been worn down by your previous day’s exercise. This helps develop your muscles and allows you to bounce back faster the next day.

    • Sleep improves your performance

      • Studies show that, along with boosting their mood and alertness, athletes who increase their amount of sleep each night improve their athletic performance overall. Sleep also assists in the learning of new skills, an essential part of advancing in any physical activity, but especially useful when it comes to training for a competitive sport.

      • For those suspicious of the helpfulness of sleep when it comes to athletic performance, you only need to look at the opposite side of things: losing out on a total of even 20 hours of sleep (across a couple of weeks, say) has been shown to have a negative effect on athletic performance.

      • It’s not hard to imagine why: sleep deprivation saps us of energy, and without getting deep, quality sleep, you’re losing out on the restorative power of growth hormones. (And we won’t even go into how sleep deprivation also causes a lack of attentiveness, a lack of problem-solving skills, and a higher chance of eating unhealthy foods.)

    How Sleep Supports a Vigorous Lifestyle


    A tip for your best sleep

    Whether it’s reps in the gym or practice out on the field, it’s very important for your sleep hygiene that you don’t exercise at night close to bedtime. As you know, a lot of exercise will get your body temperature up, but your goal around sundown should actually be to lower your temperature.

    You should aim for getting your physical activity in during the day, and scheduling it for the morning is ideal. That way you get that lovely burst of energy at the start of your day, and when you soak in sunlight, you’re helping to keep your body’s circadian rhythm aligned with the rhythm of the sun. Who couldn’t use more alertness in the early morning and an easier time heading to bed at night?

    Conclusion

    Whenever you’re pushing your body harder, remember that you should make sleep an even higher priority. One of the great things about sleep is that it will always rise to the challenges we place on it—we just have to give it the opportunity!


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  2. Mental Deceleration: Downtime Before Bedtime
  3. Mental Deceleration: Downtime Before Bedtime


    If you’re like many people, your busy life probably keeps you going until you hit the pillow. And if you are like many people, your head hitting the pillow doesn’t mean your mind stops racing—in fact, often the opposite is true. Somehow the moment you decide to get some rest, you recall that you forgot to make lunches for the kids, and Christmas is coming up fast, and you have got to put new tile down in the kitchen, and you should probably figure out retirement right now before it gets too late…

    If this describes you, what’s probably missing from your busy life is a moment of mental deceleration before bed. You wouldn’t (or shouldn’t) finish up vigorous exercise without a good cool down, right? The same principle is working in mental deceleration. Your mind needs some time to calm down from all the stimulation of the day before it settles in to the tranquil waves of sleep.


    Mental Deceleration: Downtime Before Bedtime


    Unlimited unwinding

    Sounds great, right? But what sort of activities can help you relax? Obviously that will come down to your preference, but here are just a few of the endless possibilities:

    • Listening to calming music or tuning in to a podcast (again, ideally a rather tame one).

    • Reading a chapter of a book, or a short story (make sure not to leave the light on too close to bedtime!).

    • Brew some herbal tea. Chamomile is a great option that’ll help you prep for sleep.

    • Luxuriate in a warm bath. Baths have the added benefit of raising your blood vessels closer to the surface of your skin (where they’re better exposed to the air), allowing for a post-bath body-cooling effect to set the stage for deep sleep.

    • Journaling about the day now behind you, which is shown to have proven positive effects for you mentally in addition to helping you wind down.

    • Trying meditation. While meditating might seem a little “out there” to some, it really can be something as simple as focusing on calm breathing. Meditation increases “feel good” hormones, lowers stress hormones, and reduces inflammation in the body.

    You want to make sure that whatever activity you do end up choosing, you try to keep it screen-free. The daylight-mimicking blue light found in most of our screens puts a serious damper on the release of melatonin which your body craves for sleep.


    Protecting your bedtime

    The most important aspect of mental deceleration is that you make sure you have some transition time between the busyness of your daily life and the calm sanctuary that should be your bedtime. This will help not only to settle your brain, but it also treats your brain to much-needed consistency and much-beloved rhythm. Keeping up the habit of mental deceleration will help your body to better know that it’s time for sleep, and bring some welcome peace to your life as well.


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  4. The Amazing, Sleep-Saving Travel Pack
  5. The Amazing, Sleep-Saving Travel Pack


    While traveling can be an adventure, exposing us to new places and experiences, it can also be a rough time for our sleep. Leaving the familiar rhythm of our time zone opens us up to jet lag, which can keep us up late into the night or have us sleeping long past the start of business hours (check out our post full of awesome jet lag-beating tips written by a doctor of neurobiology and behavior here). Apart from jet lag, though, there’s one other source of discomfort we run into when traveling—the unpredictability of our unfamiliar sleeping  environment.

    Few things make falling asleep more difficult than being in a new place, in a new bed, and trying to force yourself to be as comfortable as you usually are at home. It’s really not a problem that we think about until we find ourselves in this situation, but the comfort of our own bedroom (thanks to the detailed control we have over our home environment) plays a big role in getting us to sleep quicker.

    The good news is, with a few small additions to your bedtime setup, you can turn any hotel room or guest bedroom into a relaxing sanctuary of sleep. Assemble these recommendations to make your own sleep travel pack—they’ll fit in a small bag the size of a dopp kit or makeup bag. Bring these bedtime boosters along next time you travel to help you get a good night’s sleep no matter where you are.

    The Amazing, Sleep-Saving Travel Pack

    • Eye mask: Even a sliver of light can give your body trouble with trying to start up the sleep process. An eye mask is a great way to ensure that no light slips through (especially useful in hotels where lights from the hallway or city can slip in through doorways and windows). Here’s an option for an affordable, lightweight eye mask.

    • Ear plugs: especially handy for travel when nighttime noise can be wildly unpredictable (rooming with snoring family or friends, for example). Here’s a pack that should last you a few trips.

    The Amazing, Sleep-Saving Travel Pack  
    • White noise: White noise helps to create a consistent aural environment so you’re less likely to be awakened by intermittent noises, of which there are plenty in hotels, with people checking in at odd hours and many up late dealing with jet lag themselves. Try out this portable option.

    The Amazing, Sleep-Saving Travel Pack  
    • Lavender essential oil: lavender has long been known for its relaxing properties. Bring a diffuser along, and with a few drops of lavender essential oil, you can change any room into a calming environment.

    There really is no place like home, but when it comes to making sure you’re sleeping right while traveling, you should try to get as close to the real thing as possible. Hopefully these traveling companions will help!

    Bon voyage and sweet dreams!


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  6. The Most Common Sleep Disorders
  7. The Most Common Sleep Disorders


    For most of us, getting a good night’s sleep comes down to simply making the right choices and setting sleep as a high priority in our lives. For a large number of adults in the U.S., though (an estimated 50-70 million to be exact), the poor quality of their sleep stems from a disorder beyond their control.

    It is an unfortunate fact that so many of those who have a sleep disorder go without a diagnosis because they don’t realize that they have a problem, or they simply believe that there’s no treatment for them. Some disorders can have a very substantial impact on the amount of sleep that someone is able to get (and thus on their health overall), so it is extremely important that they catch the disorder early on and begin treatment.

    These are just a few of the most common sleep disorders that are good for everyone to recognize, along with some possible treatments that may be recommended (but remember: there’s no replacement for a good old trip to the doctor):

    • Insomnia: defined as not being able to fall asleep despite giving yourself an adequate opportunity to sleep.

      • Causes:

        • Medical conditions such as nasal/sinus allergies, arthritis, asthma, or chronic pain

        • Psychological conditions such as depression or anxiety

      • Possible Treatment:

        • Cognitive behavioral therapy: working with a therapist to combine a personalized regimen of good sleep hygiene with positive thinking in relation to sleep

        • Prescription sleep aids

    • Narcolepsy: a neurological disorder characterized by excessive daytime sleepiness, sleep paralysis (waking up from sleep without the ability to talk or move), and cataplexy (sudden loss of muscle control).

      • Causes:

        • An autoimmune problem causing the lack of a hormone that helps regulate sleep

        • Some factors that may increase the risk of developing narcolepsy or an autoimmune problem are inherited genetics, a hormonal change such as in puberty or menopause, or major psychological stress

      • Possible Treatment:

        • Prescription medication

        • Practicing good sleep hygiene

        • Taking the precaution of scheduling naps, work, and activities

    • Sleep apnea: a disorder in which breathing repeatedly stops and starts, accompanied usually by loud snoring and feeling tired even after a full night’s sleep.

      • Causes:

        • There are several risk factors for sleep apnea including excess weight, cigarette smoking, and nasal congestion

      • Possible Treatment:

        • For milder cases of sleep apnea, a doctor may recommend lifestyle changes

        • A continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machine that delivers air pressure through a mask placed over your nose while you sleep

    • Restless leg syndrome: characterized by a nearly irresistible urge to move the legs, typically in the evenings.

      • Causes:

        • Underlying conditions such as an iron deficiency, pregnancy, or habitual use of caffeine, alcohol, or nicotine

      • Possible Treatment:

        • Iron supplements

        • Prescription anti-seizure medication

    The Most Common Sleep Disorders


    Conclusion

    If you or someone you know believes they may have a sleep disorder, we want to make sure you know how vital it is that you visit (or encourage your friend to visit) a medical professional. It is important that you talk with a doctor about the reasons you believe you may have a sleep disorder (no matter how odd or insignificant those reasons may seem to you).

    The negative impacts of sleep loss on your body and mind are much too serious—both in the short- and long-term—to ignore the symptoms of a sleep disorder or to accept them as something you cannot fix. As we always say, treating your sleep with care and giving it a high priority will pay you back with interest through sleep’s maintenance of your health and improvements to the quality of your daily life.


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  8. How to Survive Nighttime Nursing
  9. How to Survive Nighttime Nursing


    Caring for a newborn baby might be one of the times in life that is hardest on our sleep. Not only do around-the-clock feedings disrupt sleep, but it also comes right on the heels of the physical marathon of pregnancy and labor.

    What helps during this time is to focus on the positives: along with all of the bonding you’ll be getting with this new addition to the family during this time, you’re also helping along a future super-sleeper as they settle into the regular routine that we all come to enjoy. It’s just an undeniable fact that getting through this stage takes some work.

    Let’s take a look at why this time in your baby’s life wreaks havoc on your sleep, and some tips you can follow to help make the burden on you a little lighter.

    Sleepy, hungry baby

    Although it probably doesn’t seem like quite enough to you, your newborn actually sleeps a lot. Newborn babies clock in an impressive 15 to 17 hours of sleep a day, and this sleep usually comes in 2 to 3 hour intervals. Adding to the peculiarity of their sleep schedule is the fact that newborns have yet to develop the circadian rhythm that keeps us in tune with our daytime-nighttime schedule, so waking up at 3am or 3pm really makes no difference to them (but makes quite a big difference to you).

    Newborns are also hungry a lot of the time. Part of this is due to the fact that they have very small stomachs, which means that they can get full on less but they also become hungry at a more rapid rate. Babies also digest breast milk and formula quickly, which is why they are often ready for a full meal every two to three hours.

    With all of these interruptions, your sleep will become fragmented, due to waking up every few hours. Fragmented sleep means less deep, restorative sleep, causing you to lose out on some of the important benefits of a full night of sleep. One of the impacts of this loss is expressed through a lack of stability in your emotions. You becomes less understanding of other people, you react with greater negativity when things don’t go your way, and you have a harder time reading the emotions of others.  

    How to Survive Nighttime Nursing


    Tips for getting better sleep

    • Keep your baby close by. Whether you get a bassinet attached to your bed or just give the baby a spot somewhere in your bedroom, this helps you do away with the frequent nighttime trips down the hall, allowing you to quickly scoop up your baby from nearby and remain comfortable in bed. Along with the convenience factor, this also cuts down the time that you have to spend awake going from your room to baby’s room.

    • Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether it’s a partner, family, or friends, turning to them for assistance can help you get the boost you need. Try and get into the habit of making bottles of breastmilk or formula during the day so your partner or someone else can take over the night shift feedings occasionally.

    • Keep up with sleep hygiene. Make sure when you’re getting up to feed during the night you’re still keeping it dark (or as dark as you can while still being safe). Make use of white noise during feeding time, as babies grow used to sleeping through sounds in the womb, and this can actually be a comfort to them, helping them get back to sleep quicker (which means you do too). Watch your caffeine intake; we know it’s almost impossible to get through this time without it, but too much caffeine late in the day will keep you up later into the night.

    Take care of you, too

    In all the craziness of this nighttime feeding frenzy, don’t forget that you need to try and take care of yourself. If at any time you find the stresses of this sleeplessness overwhelming, make sure to consult a doctor as soon as possible. Remind yourself that this time of little sleep and constant wakeups will pass, and soon your baby will be getting a healthy night’s sleep all on their own—and so will you!

    Pregnant? New parent or have small kids? Tired? Get tips and info on our special site for exhausted moms. 

    Ready to start sleeping better?

    Dads need sleep too



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