7 Simple Tips for a Good Night’s Sleep

Studies show that your brain has to work harder to do the same amount of thinking when you’re tired as when you’re rested. "When you’re tired, thinking requires a lot more resources and you get fatigued more quickly as a result," says Dr. Philip Gehrman PhD, assistant professor of psychology at University of the Sciences in Philadelphia.

Pointing to the dangers of sleep deprivation, Dr. Gerhman mentions disasters like Three-Mile Island, Chernobyl, and the Exxon-Valdez oil spill. "A lot of the major industrial accidents of the last 100 years are at least partly attributable to people being sleep deprived," he said. Additionally, insufficient sleep can make people very irritable.

Dr. Gehrman has provided the following sleep hygiene tips:

  • Avoid caffeine after lunch. Caffeine can linger in your system for 10-12 hours.
  • Alcohol may help you fall asleep, but it keeps you at a light stage of sleep with poor quality. Even if you sleep for a while, you may not feel well rested the next day.
  • Have a wind-down period 30-60 minutes before going to bed. Do relaxing things that don’t require a lot of mental energy.
  • Your bed should not be your living room. If you make a habit of watching TV or reading in bed, your brain won’t know what is supposed to happen when you lay down to go to sleep.
  • Avoid napping excessively. Napping a lot can make it difficult to fall asleep at night.
  • Keep a consistent schedule for going to bed and waking up. This allows your body to develop a natural rhythm and can improve the quality of your sleep.
  • If you can’t fall asleep, don’t linger in bed. If you’ve been trying to fall asleep for about 15-20 minutes, whether it’s the beginning or middle of the night, you should get out of bed and do something relaxing. Then come back to bed when you feel ready to sleep.

"Another reason for getting a good night’s sleep", says Dr. Gehrman, "is that when people are sleep deprived, or only getting about six hours a night, their bodies actually enter a pre-diabetic state, meaning they’re bodies aren’t regulating its hormones in an efficient manner. So not only do you process food differently when you’re tired, in a way that is more likely to store food as fat, but you actually crave higher-fat food at the same time, so it’s kind of a double whammy."

Typically adults need between 7 and 9 hours sleep a night. Non-REM sleep enables our bodies to reenergize and restore themselves, while REM sleep is necessary for learning. "If you go to bed too late, you may miss the opportunity to have REM sleep," he said. "So if you’re not sleeping on a consistent schedule and at regular hours, then you can miss out on one or the other type of sleep."

Insufficient Sleep Could Lead to Overweight Kids

Research findings from the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital indicate that kids who don’t get enough sleep may be at increased risk of being overweight.

A study researching the connection between length of sleep and weigh for third and sixth grade children showed that kids who got less than 9 hours sleep per day were at greater risk of being overweight—regardless of their gender, race, socioeconomic status, or home environment quality.

The study showed that sixth graders short on sleep were more likely to be overweight. Third graders who got fewer hours of sleep—regardless of their BMI—were more likely to become overweight in sixth grade. The findings of this study appear in the November issue of the journal Pediatrics.

"Many children aren’t getting enough sleep, and that lack of sleep may not only be making them moody or preventing them from being alert and ready to learn at school, it may also be leading to a higher risk of being overweight," says study lead author Julie C. Lumeng, M.D., assistant research scientist at the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development. "This study suggests that an increased risk for overweight is yet another potential consequence of short sleep duration, providing an additional reason to ensure that children are receiving adequate sleep, primarily through enforcing an age-appropriate bed time."

Data from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Study of Early Child Care and Youth Development on reported sleep problems, sleep duration and BMI for 785 elementary school children, aged 9 to 12, was reviewed . 50% were male, 81% were white, 18% were overeight in the sixth grade. The overweight sixth grade lids slept fewer hours than those were not overweight, with boys in the majority of overweight sixth grade children.

"Even more important," Lumeng says, "is emerging research that shows a connection between sleep disruption and the hormones that regulate fat storage, appetite and glucose metabolism. Short sleep duration alters carbohydrate metabolism, and leads to impaired glucose tolerance, which can affect a person’s weight. Circadian rhythms, too, affect the body’s leptin, glucose and insulin levels."

So weight gain may not be a result of sleep’s effect on behavior, notes Dr. Lumeng, but rather sleep’s effect on hormone secretion in the body, specifically leptin and grehlin.

The National Sleep Foundation recommends these basic daily sleep requirements for children, adolescents, pre-teens and teens:

  • Preschoolers: 11-13 hours
  • Elementary school students: 10-12 hours
  • Pre-teens: 9 – 11 hours
  • Teens: 8 ½ – 9 hours

In addition to Lumeng, co-authors from the U-M Center for Human Growth and Development are Deepak Somashekar, B.S., and Niko Kaciroti, Ph.D.; Danielle Appugliese, MPH, with the Data Coordinating Center, Boston University; and Robert F. Corwyn, Ph.D., and Robert H. Bradley, Ph.D., with the Center for Applied Studies in Education, University of Arkansas.

The study was supported by the American Heart Association Fellow-to-Faculty Transition Award, and the American Heart Association Midwest Affiliate Grant-in-Aid.

Reference: Pediatrics, November 2007, Vol. 120, Issue 5.

You Can Repay Your Sleep Debt

6 out of 10 women get less than the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep at night. In due course, sleep debt piles up and affects their health.

A report published in Harvard Women’s Health Watch claims that this debt, however chronic or longstanding, can be repaid.
For instance, if you have a debt of 10 hours sleep, you can repay it by sleeping over the weekend and the week following it. If your sleep debt has piled up over decades, then it is advised that you take a short vacation to a place where you need not have a very busy schedule.

Ensure that you get proper sleep at night and wake up naturally in the morning—no alarm clocks allowed here. During the vacation, determine the amount of sleep you require and ensure that you get the determined amount of sleep everyday.

Source: Harvard Medical School

6 Tips for Beating Insomnia

A recent study has linked chronic insomnia to broader mental health issues like depression and anxiety.

Each year, the medical and reduced productivity costs associated with insomnia among U.S. workers is estimated to be $92.5 to $107.5 billion, according to a survey conducted by the Washington-based National Sleep Foundation (NSF).

According to the Sleep Disorders Clinic at Samsung Medical Center, one in five adults suffers from sleep disorders.

Source: The Chosun Ilbo / Korea

FDA Warning on Sleep Medications: Ambien, Lunesta, Restoril, Others

The FDA has issued stronger warnings on sleep medications, such as Ambien, Lunesta, and Restoril, and has asked the drugs manufacturers to place stronger warnings on the package labels.

The agency cites concerns such as allergic reactions, and sleep walking and "sleep driving" in its statement.

Source: Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

Study Probes Odor, Sleep and Memory Link

Doctors have long advised that a good night’s sleep is important for memory, but researchers now say a familiar scent wafting in the bedroom might help sometimes, too.

The caveat: In the study, published in the journal Science, it only worked for some kinds of memories and during one stage of sleep, meaning it’s not the answer for people hunting a quick memory boost.