1. Dads Need Sleep Too

    Dads Need Sleep Too

    Any new dad will tell you that there’s nothing more magical and life-altering than the arrival of your new baby. Among the major adjustments new fathers face, the most taxing is a severe alteration to their sleep schedules.

    During the first 24 months of your child’s life, you will lose an average of six months of sleep. But it’s the first three to six months that will really be grueling with your newborn waking up every two to three hours demanding to be fed or have their diaper changed. Lucky for all you zombie dads, there are some easy ways for new fathers to cope with sleep deprivation.  

    Dad need sleep

    Give Yourself More Credit

    Most people assume that in a co-parenting couple, it’s the mom who loses more sleep during the earliest days of a newborn’s life. That assumption is especially understandable when you consider a woman’s role in breastfeeding and the fact that infants awaken at night every two to three hours. Alas, leave it to science to disprove our educated guess.  

    Studies have found that dads get less sleep than moms and experience more confirmed fatigue during the day. But before you text your wife this link announcing your plans to sleep in tomorrow, we should note that the same study showed that while new mothers received more sleep over the course of the day, that rest was disturbed more often. The takeaway is that you are both exhausted and it’s your duty as a new dad, partner and employee to find ways to cope.

    If you’re surprised to learn that you’re getting less sleep than your better half, consider this: it’s not just women who have strong neurological reactions to an infant’s cry. The sound of a baby crying (even one that’s not your own) triggers a heightened emotional response that’s almost impossible to ignore.

    It Takes a Toll

    Your newfound sleep deficit affects everything from your relationship to the U.S. economy. When you don’t get a good night’s sleep, you have a harder time reading emotions, making misunderstandings with your partner more frequent and harder to resolve.

    And remember our mention of the economy? Researchers in 2016 found that the U.S. economy loses $411 billion a year due to insufficient sleep. When you aren’t sleeping well, you’re an unproductive employee.

    Dads need sleep too

    You Can Make It Better

    The good news? You will get through this and eventually your baby will sleep through the night. Until that happens though, it’s important to find ways to cope. Here are some ways to improve your sleep:

    1. Take turns with the baby.

    Unless you’re bottle-feeding, you won’t be able to pitch in as well as you’d like when it comes to night feedings. Do your best to establish a routine that ensures you are both getting sleep. Maybe that means sending your better half to bed early while you stay up late until the first feeding, or rising early to let mom snooze.

    This is also a great time to start using that extra guest room if you have one. Whichever one of you is on deck can rest in the spare room to ensure your better half is getting uninterrupted sleep. You’ll soon discover what works for you both, but the important part is to communicate openly and be consistent.

    2. Get a white noise machine.

    Newborns make noise when they sleep, even when they’re not crying. Adding a white noise machine to your sleep routine helps ensure that you don’t awaken to every little squeak and sigh. Still sleeping with the baby in your room? You’re in luck—white noise machines benefit the quality of baby’s sleep as well.

    3. Take a cat nap.

    A 20-minute nap can work wonders in restoring your brain functions midday, making you a more productive employee. If your office has a nap room, use it. If they don’t, consider having a conversation with your boss about dedicating some space to a little shut-eye.

    Dads need sleep too4. Avoid the midday caffeine boost.

    Caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours in humans. If you have a cup of coffee after 3 p.m., your body won’t fully be rid of the caffeine until 1 a.m. or later. Foregoing that extra cup of coffee in the afternoon may feel painful in the moment, but will pay off later when you’ve fallen asleep faster. If your brain’s really struggling to let go of its afternoon reward, try filling the void with a short afternoon walk or treat yourself to a square of chocolate.

    5. Put your phone down.

    Your phone’s blue light messes with your melatonin production, reducing your body’s urge to fall asleep. Additionally, being on your phone means you’re more likely to be checking your email, which gets you thinking about work and worrying over tomorrow’s responsibilities. The best thing you can do is put your phone down and save it for the next morning.

    Dads need sleep too

    Armed with a little extra knowledge, we hope that you start catching some extra sleep and reap the rewards in all aspects of your life. Keep up the good work, dads, and enjoy this special time with your little one. Before you know it, they’ll be 15 years old and sleeping until noon every weekend.


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

    Ready to start sleeping better?

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  2. Every Hour Counts: How to Beat Chronic Sleep Loss

    Every Hour Counts: How to Beat Chronic Sleep Loss

    If you have a sneaking suspicion that you’re not getting enough sleep every night, you can find a little comfort in knowing that you are definitely not alone. A recent study by the CDC states that 1 in 3 Americans are getting an insufficient amount of sleep, which means less than 7 hours of shut-eye a night.

    Losing more than sleep

    If you are one of the many Americans who are content if they can get five or six hours of sleep a night, you might think, “Well, what’s an hour more or less of sleep?” It turns out that hour can make an enormous difference. Spread out over months, years, or even (sadly) an entire lifetime, this condition is known as chronic sleep deprivation, and it comes with serious consequences, such as an increased chance of developing hypertension and diabetes.

    As sleep is one of your main protectors against rampaging diseases and debilitating conditions, losing out on an hour or two every night means lowering your defenses, and taking unnecessary risks with your health.

    What’s in an hour?

    Not only is it dangerous to constantly get less than 7 hours of sleep, but it also deprives you of getting quality sleep.

    When you’re asleep, your brain is cycling through the two main types of sleep: rapid-eye-movement sleep (REM) and non-rapid-eye-movement sleep (NREM). Sleep scientist Matthew Walker in his book Why We Sleep tells us that waking up too early or going to bed too late can steal away the time you should be spending in these important phases that work to keep us physically and mentally in good shape.

    Walker gives us the example of going to sleep at midnight and instead of waking up at eight in the morning, you’re up at six a.m. for an early meeting. The logical answer to how much sleep you’ve lost would be 25 percent (as you’ve lost two hours from the recommended eight), but that’s not entirely true. “Since your brain desires most of its REM sleep in the...late-morning hours,” Walker tells us, “you will lose 60 to 90 percent of all your REM sleep, even though you are losing 25 percent of your total sleep time”.

    Similarly, if you wake up at eight a.m. but don’t go to bed until two a.m., “then you lose a significant amount of NREM sleep”. According to Walker, losing these precious couple of hours at the beginning or ending of sleep is “[s]imilar to an unbalanced diet in which you only eat carbohydrates and are left malnourished by the absence of protein”. Clearly, when it comes to the efficient operating system of sleep, an hour is much more than just an hour.

    920x519 phone_at_night

    Put sleep on the schedule

    If you’re like a lot of people, you may spend the end of your day in bed, unwinding by going through Facebook notifications or scrolling through your Twitter feed. Screens do a fantastic job of keeping our brains itching to refresh the page just one more time before shutting off for the night. Despite tucking yourself in at nine p.m....you may not actually be going to sleep until much later. This common activity could be shaving off an hour or two every night from your sleep.

    A solution? Giving yourself an eight-hour “sleep opportunity”. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to be asleep for eight hours, but you are going to carve out that time to give your body rest every night. This eight-hour span of time should be reserved especially as “sleep time”—not a refresh-the-feed time.

    This “sleepportunity” gives you enough cushion to fall asleep, have an occasional night time wake up, and still give your body those beautiful seven to eight hours of sleep.

    A friend indeed

    Sleep is our constant companion for one-third of our lives (one-third!), and just like any special relationship we want to keep going strong, it requires us to carve time out of our day and make it a priority. If you treat your sleep well, you can be sure that it will return the favor many times over.


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  3. New Parent? You Have Permission to Nap

    New Parent? You Have Permission to Nap

    Unless you plan on becoming a Navy SEAL, the sleep deprivation you experience as a new parent will likely be the most severe you ever encounter. Need proof? During the first 24 months of your child’s life, a survey revealed you’ll lose an average of six months’ sleep.

    One of the best things you can do for your overall wellbeing during this incredible period of your life is to take daily naps. For most of us, the last nap we had was some time during our senior year of college, but for new moms and dads, we encourage a short daily nap as often as possible.

    Sleep makes everything better

    The recommended amount of nightly sleep for adults is seven to nine hours. Whether you’re doing all the nightly feedings yourself or dividing them up with your better half, you’re not going to meet that nightly quota during the first few months of your child’s life. That means you’re going to be exhibiting signs of sleep deprivation.

    A person deprived of sleep experiences more than just a tired body. In one study published by the Journal of Neurobiology and Circadian Rhythms, researchers found that sleep-deprived individuals had trouble identifying facial expressions of happiness and sadness.

    It’s not only your capacity to recognize other people’s emotions that suffers. When you’re not getting enough sleep, your ability to express joy in your face and voice is also impaired.

    Enter the benefits of a nap.

    Napping does a body good

    A short cat nap (we’re talking no more than 20 minutes) improves your mood and cognitive abilities. Naps do everything from restoring alertness to reducing accidents and creating feelings of rejuvenation.  

    New Parent You Have Permission to Nap

    Get the timing right

    Most experts recommend taking either a short 20-minute nap or completing a normal adult sleep cycle, which lasts 90 minutes. Anywhere in between or over that timeframe, and the napper will awake in a groggy state, which for our purposes is not what we’re after. Unless you’re certain your baby will snooze for an hour and a half, you may want to play it safe and set your alarm for 20 minutes.

    If you’re a stay-at-home parent, then the best advice is to nap when the baby naps. Both stay-at-home and working parents should try to avoid napping past 3 p.m. as it may affect your ability to fall asleep later that night.

    Ditch the stigma

    Napping is viewed as somewhat taboo in American culture, often creating perceptions of laziness. If you’re a stay-at-home parent, then you may feel guilty or judged for napping instead of doing the housework, and if you’re a working parent, then you might worry that your boss and coworkers will think you’re slacking off.

    The truth is you’re going to be a more productive and relatable person if you nap during the first couple years of your child’s life. You are 100% allowed to let the dishes and laundry pile up during this time in your life, but you must take care of yourself in order to take care of your baby.

    New Parent You Have Permission to Nap

    Ask for help

    We know, we know. As a new parent, you want to feel like you have it all together (or just mostly together). But here's a little secret: nobody does! It's totally OK to ask for help. Call a friend or family member to come over and hold your adorable baby while you take a nap. They'll likely be thrilled you asked, and it gives you some much-needed rest. Think of it this way: if your friend called you with this request, you'd be happy to help. Know they would do the same for you.

    Happy napping, everyone!

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

    Ready to start sleeping better?

    momsneedsleep.com exhausted moms


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  4. The New Parent’s Guide for a Better Night’s Sleep

    The New Parent’s Guide for a Better Night’s Sleep

    Between the constant feedings, dirty diapers, and that growing pile of laundry that’s threatening to establish itself as your home’s overlord, you just aren’t getting enough of that sweet (oh-so-sweet) sleep you want.

    By now you’re probably rolling your tired eyes and grumbling, “Tell me something I don’t know,” but hang in there, moms and dads. We have five simple strategies new parents can use to improve their sleep.

    What it really means to sleep like a baby

    Babies actually have a sleep cycle that’s in overdrive. At three months, babies need a hefty 15-16 hours of sleep. Babies will sleep (an often sporadic) 10 hours at night and 5 hours during the day napping. Plus, the average newborn spends 50 to 80 percent of their sleep time in REM and takes only 50 minutes to complete a full sleep cycle. In comparison, adults spend 20 percent of their sleep time in REM and complete a full sleep cycle in 90 minutes. Translation: your baby’s brain races through sleep like a NASCAR driver, while yours is cruising the parking lot in first gear.

    A newborn’s speedy sleep pattern is also affected by their small tummies, which cause them to digest breast milk and formula at a rapid pace. That’s the reason they wake up every two or three hours feeling hungry. During the first few months when you’re keeping their schedule, you experience sleep fragmentation. These constant breaks in your sleep cycle cause you to spend less time in deep sleep and more time in light sleep. Likely coming as no surprise—this is a recipe for exhaustion.

    How to maximize the sleep you’re getting

    Things will eventually improve. Your baby will start sleeping through the night and the new parent anxieties that keep you up will lessen. Until that time comes, you’ll want to take some steps to ensure you maintain some semblance of rest.

    1. Nap when the baby naps

    It may sound trite, but one of the healthiest things you can do as a new parent is accept that you can’t do it all. Let your dishes and laundry pile up, and go take a nap. Even if you can’t complete a full sleep cycle, the extra rest will do good for your body and mind.

    2. Give your bedroom an easy makeover

    While changing your wall color and buying new bedding would be nice, this isn’t that kind of makeover. Instead, consider making some alterations to your bedroom’s light, noise and temperature levels.

    You can make daytime naps easier by installing some blackout shades or wearing a sleep mask. We also recommend getting a white noise machine to drown out the buzz from the outside world.

    As for the temperature, it’s better to be on the cooler end of the spectrum. Our bodies’ core temperatures drop to initiate sleep. When we’re too warm, this process is slowed or stopped altogether. Ensure that you’ll drift off faster by keeping your bedroom’s temperature between 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit.

    3. Let’s talk about that baby monitor

    Baby monitors are great, don’t get us wrong. But when your baby hits that four month mark, they’re starting to sleep in more regular sleep cycles. Consider separating from the baby monitor at this point, if even for just a night to start. While a monitor can be a helpful tool in feeling connected and safe, it can be an unnecessary sleep stealer once your child has established more consistent sleep. In regard to SIDs-related safety, check out a sensor pad or a device like Owlet instead for added peace of mind.

    4. Go for a stroll

    Try putting your baby in the stroller and heading out for a brisk walk (weather permitting, of course). Fresh air has a way of lifting spirits, and the sunlight will help regulate both you and your baby’s circadian clocks. Plus, adding movement to your day is great for your sleep and will help make you feel more alert during the day.

    5. Be aware of your caffeine consumption

    Because caffeine has a half-life of five to seven hours, it takes your body anywhere between 10-14 hours to fully be rid of it. A cup or two of coffee in the morning will likely not affect your sleep at night (and let’s be honest: sometimes it’s the only way to make it through the aforementioned sleep deprivation), but think about giving yourself a cutoff mid-afternoon.

    While a good night’s sleep may seem like a distant memory, remind yourself that this won’t last forever. In the meantime, take care of yourself and rest when you can. Sleep does wonders in making you the parent, spouse, and friend you want to be.


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

    Ready to start sleeping better?

    momsneedsleep.com exhausted moms

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  5. How to Make Sleep a Family Priority

    How to Make Sleep a Family Priority

    Families share everything. From their genes down to their sense of humor, children take their cues from their parents. But there’s one personal trait that we may not realize is affecting our families. You guessed it—our sleep habits.

    In order for your household to function at its best, sleep has to become a family priority. Let’s talk about the importance of sleep for your family and discuss how you can improve it for everyone.

    How much sleep should everyone be getting?

    For adults, the recommended amount of nightly sleep is seven to nine hours. For children, it depends on their stage of development. Here’s a breakdown of the number of hours of sleep required per day, including naps:

    • Infants 4 months to 12 months should sleep 12 to 16 hours
    • Children 1 to 2 years of age should sleep 11 to 14 hours
    • Children 3 to 5 years of age should sleep 10 to 13 hours
    • Children 6 to 12 years of age should sleep 9 to 12 hours
    • Teenagers 13 to 18 years of age should sleep 8 to 10 hours
    • What happens when your family misses its sleep quota? 

    You know that not getting enough sleep will make you irritable, but one study suggests that sleep-deprivation causes adults to dole out harsher punishments.

    How to Make Sleep a Family Priority

    As for your kids? On top of the damage it does to their cognitive abilities and physical health, sleep-deprived children are cranky, more likely to behave badly, and often exhibit signs of hyperactivity and lack of focus (sleep deprivation is sometimes confused with ADHD in kids). Combine that with a tired parent’s short fuse and you have a recipe for more family feuds. By making a good night’s sleep a family initiative, you may be able to improve the emotional environment of your home.

    FOUR TIPS FOR A HEALTHY SLEEP ROUTINE

    1. Put the electronics to bed.

    The cues start with you. A survey by the National Sleep Foundation found that if a child’s parents slept with one or more electronic device on (e.g., smartphone, tablet) the child is more likely to do the same. The same survey found that both parents and kids sleeping with their devices exhibit poorer sleep quality than those who keep their devices off or out of the room.

    Pro tip: Set up a communal charging area in your home where you and your kids can plug in devices for the night. You’ll know they’re sleeping without their devices and getting better rest because of it.

    2. Eat dinner earlier.

    Young children take more time to digest their food. They need to eat at least two hours before bedtime to sleep well.

    3. Enforce your bedtime rules.

    Setting rules and sticking to them will make a big difference for everyone. Set a caffeine cutoff for 2 p.m., and set definite cut-off times for television, computers, and video games.

    4. Develop a consistent routine.

    Getting everyone to sleep at the appropriate time every night is a good start, but following a consistent bedtime routine signals to our brains that we’re going to sleep soon, allowing them to shut down even faster.

    How to Make Sleep a Family Priority

    Lay out clothes for the next day, brush teeth, and end the night with a wind-down activity such as reading together—which we recommend as both a great activity that’s been tied to academic performance and also as a relaxing activity to prepare the body for bed.

    As with everything else in your life as a parent, setting a good example of healthy sleep habits starts with you. It might be a challenge to reverse some bad habits (we recommend trying one new thing at a time) but the payoff is worth it. After all, healthier and happier families is something we can all get behind.


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

    Ready to start sleeping better?

    momsneedsleep.com exhausted moms

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  6. 3 Parenting Tips for Creating Sleep Balance with Your Partner

    3 Parenting Tips for Creating Sleep Balance with Your Partner

    Tell someone that you and your better half are expecting, and the first thing out of their mouth will be, “Congratulations!” The next will probably be, “Sleep while you can.”

    With newborns waking every two to three hours during their first three months, parents are coming up short on the seven to nine hours of nightly sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. Sleep interruptions are the most severe with newborns, but can carry on in the following years as little ones navigate potty training, nightmares and the urge to climb in bed with their parents.

    For co-parenting couples, striking the right sleep balance with one another can be difficult, but it will be one of the most important things you can do for the sake of your child, your relationship, and your overall health. With that in mind, here are three tips to help parents strike a healthy sleep balance.

    3 parenting tips for creating sleep balance

    1. Divvy up the newborn night shift

    Many couples choose to put the responsibility of night feedings on one person’s shoulders, particularly if that individual is a stay-at-home parent or breastfeeding mom. But with most babies not sleeping through the night until the six-month marker or beyond, this can be extremely taxing.

    Studies have shown that sleep deprivation affects our abilities to interpret how our actions affect others and the other way around. So, unless we want to see our spouses become insensitive, socially-inept zombies, it’s probably best to split up the night.

    Approach night feedings with shifts. If one of you is naturally a night owl, let that person stay up later to tackle the first feeding while the other snoozes. Then swap so the night owl can sleep until morning. Another alternative is to switch on and off nightly, with one person getting a full night’s rest, while the other answers the baby.

    For breastfeeding mothers, these ideas may mean pumping ahead of time and getting your baby used to taking a bottle. No matter which method you choose, remember to be flexible with your routine, and acknowledge that from time to time, one of you may need to lean on the other for a little extra sleep.

    3 parenting tips for creating sleep balance

    2. Talk it out

    If your current sleeping setup isn’t working, make time to talk about it with your partner. Have the discussion when you’re both rested (more on that to come) and when you’re free from distractions (yes, your children count as distractions.) This will give you both a leg up in your abilities to listen and express yourselves.

    Resist the urge to frame the conversation around who does more on less sleep. Instead, explain the ways in which you’re struggling and ask for help. Odds are your partner has also been holding in strong feelings on this topic, so be ready to hear them out.

    Since parenting takes teamwork, try thinking of this conversation as reworking the playbook you and your teammate have been running. It’s not getting us the results we thought it would. How do we adjust so we can both feel like we’re winning?

    Lastly, be ready to have a conversation about sleep balance a few times over the course of your child’s life. Your kiddo’s sleep schedule will continue evolving as they grow. Keep the lines of communication open with your partner and you’ll both sleep happier.

    3 parenting tips for creating sleep balance

    3. Sleep more. Bicker less.

    Yet another motivation for striking a sleep balance, studies have shown that lack of sleep leads to more frequent and severe conflicts among couples. When you and/or your better half aren’t getting enough sleep, you’re more likely to bicker and have a harder time resolving the issues.

    If something’s bothering you, sleep on it and say your piece after getting some shut-eye.

    Bonus tip: Take turns sleeping in or napping on weekends.

    It may sound like a no-brainer, but Saturday and Sunday are the only days of the week where one of you can catch up on sleep while the other watches the kids. Try alternating weekends, or have one of you take Saturdays, while the other gets every Sunday.

    There’s no one-size-fits-all for sleep-deprived parents, but we hope these tips have given you some new ideas to try or inspired you to have a conversation about sleep balance with your partner. Just remember: you both deserve empathy, and you both deserve a good night’s sleep!

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

    Ready to start sleeping better?


    momsneedsleep.com exhausted moms



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  7. How Sleep Aids in Weight Loss

    How Sleep Aids in Weight Loss

    Did you know that getting quality, restful sleep can help you lose weight?

    According to Sanjay Patel, M.D. a researcher at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, at least two dozen studies have confirmed that people who sleep less tend to weigh more. Studying almost 70,000 women over the course of 16 years, Patel and his colleagues discovered that women who sleep less than five hours a night were far more likely to gain weight than those who get at least seven and a half hours. And the difference wasn't negligible. In fact, they were 30% more likely to gain 30 or more pounds. Yikes.

    The sleep connection to appetite and metabolism.

    There are several different ways losing sleep can thwart your weight loss efforts. Research from the University of Chicago suggests that sleep deprivation may lead to a change in how our bodies regulate appetite, leading us to crave more food. “You may start not only eating more, but eating unhealthy foods — those high in fat and carbohydrates,” says Patel. “Another possibility is that because people who are sleep-deprived feel more fatigued, they exercise less. Sleep deprivation can also change your basal metabolic rate, slowing down how many calories you burn just doing basic life-sustaining activities, like breathing and maintaining body temperature.”

    The nitty gritty science of it.

    Michael Breus, Ph.D., clinical director of the sleep division at Southwest Spine & Sport in Scottsdale, Arizona, and author of Beauty Sleep, reports that sleep deprivation leads to an overproduction of ghrelin and a decrease in leptin production. Ghrelin is hormone that causes hunger; leptin is a hormone that prompts people to stop eating. This imbalance can lead to over-eating. Furthermore, the brain secretes growth hormones during sleep, which helps metabolize fat in the body.

    In short, the intertwined nature of sleep and weight loss continues to be uncovered, and in all cases it seems that better sleep contributes to a more ideal weight. If you're struggling to lose a few pounds, it might be time to refocus on your nightly slumber rather than the next juice cleanse.

    For more info about how different sleeping positions can help you sleep better, click here.

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

    Ready to start sleeping better?

    momsneedsleep.com exhausted moms


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  8. A Pill-Free Approach to Better Sleep

    A Pill-Free Approach to Better Sleep

    For those that struggle with insomnia (or even with milder forms of “I just can’t sleep”), the list of solutions is slim and even dangerous. The most popular treatments are sleeping pills, but the negative impacts of sleeping pills don’t seem to have been widely publicized.

    Currently, sleeping pills do not have the ability to naturally imitate sleep. Instead, they more closely resemble a sedative rather than mimicking natural sleep patterns. Put more simply: when people use sleeping pills, they aren’t getting any of the necessary restorative benefits of sleep. And to go one step further: sleeping pills are tied with earlier death across the board.

    So where does that leave a bleary-eyed sleeper in the middle of the night, lying awake, tossing and turning?

    This is where cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia (or CBT-I) comes into the picture.* Right now, it’s being used in medical communities around the country as the front-line treatment plan for insomnia. The best part? No pills necessary.

    How does CBT-I work? Well, it’s a collection of behavioral principles for better sleep health, and it’s also built on your body’s remarkable ability to form associations. You want to make your bed a place that you (and your body) associates calm, rest, and sleep rather than middle-of-the-night mind racing. Here’s the short list:

    1. Go to bed and wake up at a consistent time.

    Your circadian rhythm loves consistency. The more you can get your body into a wake/sleep consistent habit (within an hour, even on weekends), the easier it will be to feel tired when it’s bedtime and alert when it’s morning.

    2. Go to bed only when sleepy.

    Many insomniacs have trouble falling asleep, which becomes a downward spiral of sleepiness. Although the principle of delaying bedtime until sleepy seems counterintuitive at first, the reason behind this one is simple and goes back to association. If your body isn’t tired when you go to bed, you’re missing out on that clear signal that tired equals bedtime. This principle also uses sleep pressure to its advantage, so the longer you stay awake the stronger your urge for tiredness. We need that sleep pressure to build a bit so you’re body is actually tired when you go to bed and sometimes that might take sleeping a little less than recommended to start.

    3. Get out of bed if you can’t sleep.

    If you are lying in bed and your mind starts racing, it’s best to get out of bed. Again: you don’t want to associate your bed with stress. Go to a different room (dim lights, no screens) and do something relaxing like read a book, meditate, or listen to music until you find yourself getting sleepy (at which point, return to bed).

    4. “Mentally decelerate” before bed.

    Give yourself 30-60 minutes to wind down at the end of the day. Take up a bedtime routine and do everything in the same order each day. The best mental deceleration doesn’t involve TV, reading the news, or scrolling through social media (as these are all very brain-stimulating activities). Do try listening to calming music, journaling, reading books, or even just catching up on the day with your partner.

    5. Remove visible clock faces from bedroom.

    This one might seem a little odd, but the idea behind it is that you want to avoid the feeling of waking up in the middle of the night and looking at the clock, which just adds stress to the fact that you can’t sleep.

    Next time you find yourself in a period of stress and have a few nights of angsty wakeups, try a few of these principles as an all-natural return to better sleep.



    *We are not attempting to diagnose or treat insomnia. If you feel you or a family member is struggling with insomnia, visit your health care provider.


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  9. Stay Sharp! Sleep, Aging, and Your Brain

    Stay Sharp! Sleep, Aging, and Your Brain

    It’s an unfortunate but nearly universal fact that as we age, we become a little less…um…what’s the word we’re looking for… quick. Or, as our slowed synapses might have it, the brain don’t work so good no more. This is nothing to get down on yourself for—deficits in cognitive performance are a universal consequence of the aging process. It can start from as early as 45 years old, and its myriad forms—cognitive decline, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease—stem from the same basic condition: age. Like your skin and your bones, your brain gradually becomes weaker over time, and things like learning new skills, retaining memories, and using language become more and more difficult. For most, it usually happens so slowly that it’s hard to notice that anything is happening at all.

    So is there anything you can do to halt, or at least slow down, this process? For those of us already in the age group most likely to suffer from dementia and mental decline—65 years and older—a variety of methods may help slow the onset, including managing blood sugar levels, staying physically active, consuming a lot of antioxidants (berries are a brain favorite), and keeping the brain challenged with  activities like crossword puzzlesongoing study, and meditation.

    But an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. What can be done to reduce the risk of cognitive decline? How can we stop it before it’s begun? The tactics above are certainly useful, but there’s an undervalued factor that’s as simple and effortless as closing your eyes.

    Oh yeah, we’re talking about sleep.

    You probably already know that when you’re tired, your mind moves a little more slowly than usual, and science has proven this from every angle. Sleep deprivation severely diminishes your ability to learn and retain information, all while decimating your coordination and reaction time to boot.

    What’s really troubling is that these problems compound over the long term. One day of low sleep will disrupt a litany of hormonal reactions that your body needs for optimal function. Fortunately, catching up on those lost Zs with some better sleep will more or less right the wrong—the body is nothing if not good at bouncing back.

    But what happens if the body isn’t given the time it needs to recover? What if one day of bad sleep is followed by another, and another? A 2014 study in the American Academy of Sleep Medicine sought to answer that question by looking at 2,822 men with a mean age of 76 years. After using a wrist actigraph to study their sleeping habits over an average period of three and a half years, they found that fragmented sleep resulted in a 40 to 50 percent increase in the odds of clinically significant cognitive decline. This is such a severe increase that the study authors equated it with adding on five years of age. They also noted that cognitive impairment is actually increasing in the elderly, making it all the more important to nail down its causes.

    Sleep (or lack thereof) is a pretty darn big one, and other studies have found plenty of reasons why. Sleep apnea, for instance, disturbs sleep quality and can result in less oxygen reaching the brain, and a 20-year study of Californian women found that women with problematic sleep were almost twice as likely to experience dementia or cognitive impairment. Other research has found that fragmented sleep, whatever its cause, results in an overall reduction in slow wave sleep, which is crucial for normalizing cortisol and inflammation, which can both lead to mental decline.

    In the end, sleep isn’t just important; it’s a pillar of a healthy lifestyle, equally as crucial as diet, exercise, and mental health. Indeed, it has a profound effect on all three. While six pack abs may be impossible to maintain in a nursing home, cognitive function is—especially if you start sleeping better tonight.

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