1. Polyphasic Sleep: To Sleep Better Look at Our Ancestors

    April 26, 2014

    Polyphasic Sleep: To Sleep Better Look at Our Ancestors

    by Audrey  Hollingshead

    You’re tired. Dog tired. Just the simple thought of studying for your looming math midterm makes your eyes heavy. You need to study but you also need to get snacks ready for your kids when they burst through the door from school in an hour. Worse yet, as soon as their done you’ll have to rush them off to the neighbors so you can rush to work. If I just had one decent nap, you sigh to yourself, maybe I wouldn’t feel so dazed.

    Well, what if you COULD? What if a simple two-hour nap felt like eight AND refreshed you better then a reloaded webpage? Imagine all the things you could do!!!

    As unreal as it sounds this is totally possible.  You CAN train your body to put those power naps to good use. But how? By using the Uberman Sleep schedule, also known as Polyphasic Sleep.

    See, our brains LOVE sleep. It’s like a double stuff Oreo to them, with REM sleep being the creamy middles it just can’t get enough of, and with good reason. While many phases of sleep are beneficial, the phase with Rapid Eye Movements (And the dreams responsible for R.E.M.) gives us that well rested feeling. With a little training and patients anyone can learn to have R.E.M. filled naps any time, any day. If you think this sleep schedule is right for you, read on!

    Step 1: Go to bed at 9:00PM. Wake up at exactly 9:30PM. Do dishes, study, or relax.

    Step 2: Go to sleep again at 1:30AM for another 30 minutes. The times are not exact, but you SHOULD be sleeping 20-30 minutes every 4 hours for this to work.

    Step 3: Repeat this process for three-four days. WARNING: You WILL feel sleep deprived. This is NORMAL. By the fourth or fifth day your brain will give up on it’s old sleeping pattern and will kick into R.E.M. sleep the second head hits pillow. This means that any catnap you grab will leave you well rested and refreshed.

    Step 4: Once your brain becomes the R.E.M. master you should try to nap for at least two hours. This will give your brain enough time to get through a full dream cycle.

    So why does this work? Why does breaking up our sleep turn us into better sleepers over all? Because, according to one New York Times article, we’ve slept this way for centuries. Before Thomas Edison had the bright idea of improving artificial light many people used to sleep more then once a night. They’d go to bed around eight or nine, and then wake an hour or two later feeling tranquil and meditative. They’d use this time to pray, or, as the article most mentions, make love to their bedding partners. After an hour of quiet wakefulness they’d go right back to sleep for another four-five hours.

    What’s even more interesting is that the article mentions a study done at the National Institute of Mental Health where volunteers experienced more then 14 hours of darkness. Pretty soon everyone in the study was breaking up his or her sleep with quiet wakefulness before returning to dream filled bliss.

    So the next time you feel like you’re not getting enough from your sleep, try this method and see if it works for you!

    And remember,

    Dream Well! Dream Positive!!!

     

    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tanaka/2436918835

     


  2. Extra Tools to Help Effectively Manage Bipolar Disorder

    August 3, 2013

    bipolar disorder

    by Tricia Chilcott

    Bipolar disorder is a serious psychiatric disease. I know because I live with it. Every day. I know from firsthand experience how much it sucks. I understand the major negative impact it can have on all areas of your life, including things like personal relationships, job performance, and your finances. If you’ve been recently diagnosed, or are having medication management problems, the debilitating effects can throw you into a deep depression which you feel like you’ll never get out of. I’ve been there myself, and I can assure you, the right combination of meds is out there, don’t despair!

    But besides medications, what else can you do to effectively manage your disorder? There are a multitude of tools that you can add to your arsenal to help combat this illness. These are things that have been proven to help by numerous research studies. One of those tools you can use is seeing a therapist regularly, even if you don’t think you need one. A therapist can help you identify what you triggers are, and teach you effective, and healthy coping skills to deal with those events.

    Another thing that can help is practicing good sleep hygiene. I don’t think I can emphasize this one enough. Just a personal example, but I have a 3 day window for poor sleep habits before they trigger an episode in me. I know if I got more than 3 days without sleep, I’ll start cycling into a manic episode, and I contact my doctor. On the flip side, if I go a week or more being unable to get out of bed and sleeping 18 hours a day, it’s time to call my doctor as well. Healthy sleep habits is one of the most effective tools a person can use in stabilizing their disorder. This means going to bed at a reasonable hour, and getting up in the morning at the same time every day. I know some of you are shaking your head at this because insomnia can seem impossible to overcome without medications, but just trying these things can’t hurt,, and I get it where you’re coming from. I take a sleeping pill to get me to sleep every night. But doing what you can to try and establish healthy sleeping habits can potentially have positive effects. This includes things like turning off the TV and computer at least an hour before bed, not drinking caffeine after 6 PM, and not exercising right before bed. Also, keep your bedroom as tranquil as possible and keep electronics out of it. Use your bedroom for sleeping only.

    Of course, exercising regularly can help keep your disorder in check, there are numerous studies that have empirically proven the benefits of exercise in regards to mental illnesses such as major depression and bipolar disorder. In addition to keeping your body healthy, it is recommended that people with bipolar disorder abstain from drinking alcohol, as this tends to exacerbate their symptoms. As much as I hate getting out, I force myself to zumba twice a week, and although I dread going every time, I leave feeling reinvigorated and glad I went. So even if you don’t feel like getting up and moving around, do it anyway! I promise it’ll make you feel better.

    One thing that has proven helpful to many bipolar patients is keeping a mood journal. This is a very useful tool that you use to track your mood everyday, and to also add in what activities you did that day that might have impacted your mood. You can also add how much sleep you got the night before, if you napped or not during the day, if you worked out, and how your eating habits were. There are several apps that you can download to help you keep track of these, or you can find an example online and print it off. This is also a very helpful thing to show your doctor when you meet with them.

    The last suggestion I have is for you to adopt a routine and stick to it. Have a list of things you need to accomplish each day, and work towards accomplishing them. Not only does this give you a sense of purpose, but it also helps you build your self esteem as you are able to cross off activities you’ve accomplished each day. These don’t have to be huge projects your taking on, they can be as simple as taking a short walk outside, watering your garden, doing the dishes, getting one load of laundry done, or even showering and getting dressed for the day.

    These might seem like mundane activities, and unlikely to help you manage your disorder better to boot. I can assure you that by making these small changes to your life, you will feel more in control of your disorder, and happier and healthier overall. I know this for a fact because many of the things I’ve touched on are things I do myself to manage my disorder. It’s true I’m on an effective drug cocktail, but medications can only take you so far. At some point, you have to start putting more effort in as well. I promise if you do, you’ll be amazed at the benefits you will reap from it. I hope you’ve found this an informative read, good luck in managing your disorder, and God bless!

    Author bio: Tricia enjoys spending time blogging about bipolar disorder and fighting against stigma towards mental illness. When she’s not advocating for Mental Health Awareness, she’s being a mom to 4 busy children! She also enjoys photography, and anything crafty such as sewing, crocheting, and scrapbooking. She loves to learn, and is also an avid reader. She will cheerfully read anything with print on it. If you’d like to read more of her musings about bipolar disorder, you can find them at www.beingmebeingbipolar.blogspot.com.

    Image Credit: Giulia Bartra


  3. Common Sleeping Disorders And How To Resolve Them

    July 19, 2013

    lack of sleep

    by Dr. Frank Shallenberger

    Almost everyone has experienced trouble sleeping at some time or another. Difficulty sleeping is normal and is typically only a temporary problem, which is often due to stress or another outside factor. If you have problems sleeping on a regular basis and the lack of sleep is interfering with your daily activities, you may have a more serious sleeping problem or a sleeping disorder. Sleeping disorders have other symptoms outside of simply sleepiness and they can have a negative impact on your overall well-being, emotional balance and energy. The following are a few of the most common sleeping disorders and how they can be resolved.

     

    Insomnia

     

    Insomnia is the most common type of sleep disorder. Insomnia prohibits you from getting the amount of sleep that your body needs to wake up feeling refreshed and rested. In most situations, insomnia is a symptom of one or more other problems such as depression, stress, anxiety or a health condition. Insomnia can also be the result of your lifestyle choices such as a lack of exercise, jet lag, excessive consumption of caffeine and/or certain medications. Some common symptoms of insomnia may include:

    • Frequently waking up during the night
    • Trouble falling asleep and/or difficulty getting back to sleep when you wake during the night
    • You have to take something that allows you to get to sleep (sleeping pills)
    • Low energy levels and sleepiness during the day
    • When you do sleep it feels fragmented, light and/or exhausting

    Insomnia can take a toll on your mood, the ability to function in daily activities and energy. Fortunately, there are changes you can make that will help you get a good night’s sleep. For most people, simple changes in lifestyle are the most effective. Taking a natural supplement that works with your body’s own natural rhythm is enough to avoid having to take over-the-counter or prescription sleeping pills.

     

    Circadian Rhythm Sleep Disorders

     

    Everyone has an internal biological clock to regulate the 24-hour sleep and wake cycle, which is known as the circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are primarily cued by light, so in the morning when the sun rises, your brain tells your body it is time to wake-up; when there is less light at night, the brain begins to trigger the release of melatonin, a hormone in your body that makes you sleepy. When the circadian rhythms get thrown off or disrupted, you may begin to feel sleepy, disoriented or groggy at inappropriate times. Many sleeping disorders and sleeping problems are associated with disrupted circadian rhythms such as seasonal affective disorder, jet lag, insomnia and shift work. If you have a circadian rhythm disorder, there are several beneficial treatments you can try such as keeping the room dark and quiet while you are sleeping and well-lit when you are awake. It is also best to avoid exposure to bright light during the evening and to maintain a routine for eating and activity hours. You should make all attempts to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, avoid napping and try to avoid sleep deprivation, stress and fatigue.

     

    Shift Work Sleeping Disorder

     

    Shift work sleeping disorder may occur if your biological clock and work schedule are disrupted or are out of sync. It is common for workers to have a midnight shift, early morning shift or a rotating shift, but these schedules may be forcing your body to work when your brain is signaling sleep time, and vice versa. Many people rapidly adjust to the demands of shift work, while others get significantly less quality sleep. When workers are struggling with shift work sleeping problems, it causes sleepiness and mental lethargy while at work, which can put you at the risk of injury and decrease your productivity. To reduce the impact of shift work on your sleeping patterns, regulate your wake and sleep cycle by limiting your exposure to light when it is time to sleep and increasing exposure to light while at work, use blackout curtains during the daytime when you sleep to block out the sun, and consider taking a natural supplement such as melatonin when it is time to go to sleep.

    The first step to finding a solution for your sleeping problems is identifying what the problem is. While many sleep disorders may require a visit to your physician or CBT sessions with a psychologist, you can address many sleeping problems on your own. A consistent sleep routine, changes in lifestyle, natural sleep supplements and keeping a sleep diary are all beneficial for monitoring your sleeping patterns. For example, keep a sleep journal to record when you went to bed, when you woke up, how many hours of quality sleep you had, the food and beverages you consumed before bedtime and when you exercised. The journal will help you identify what may be preventing you from getting a good night’s sleep.
    When it comes to supplements that aid in sleep disorders, many believe in melatonin or valerian as natural ways to get a good night’s sleep. But the latest research casts doubts on the ability of these nutrients alone to do the job. Reading Beyond Melatonin and Valarian here sheds new perspective on this wide spread problem, and what to do to get that restful, deep sleep we all need.

    Image Credit: Jöshua Barnett

     


  4. The Single Most Important Factor for your Mental Health

    July 5, 2013

    sleep and mental health

    by Mark Kislich

    What is it? Good, healthy, deep sleep. If you’re looking for a magic solution to improve your life…well: this is it!

    Sleep is grossly underestimated in it’s importance for a productive, happy life and for a sound, balanced mind.

    The statement “You can sleep when you’re dead.” is typical, and complete nonsense. It’s more like “If you don’t sleep properly, you’ll not live properly.”

    Think I exaggerate? Look at a small child. What happens when they’re tired? They get cranky, they cry. Well, the same goes for adults. They might not cry (or they might), but given a lack of sleep, even the most positive people will eventually get sour. A tired person is a frustrated person, then -if the sleep deprivation continues- depression can set in.

    This is not just an opinion: serotonin is an important neurotransmitter tied to sleep and mood. So it looks like good sleep and good mood are intimately related. Well what’s new.

    “When you’re tired, you get wired” Sleep problems often result in a nervous, jittery kind of behavior, especially when the tiredness is temporarily offset by caffeine.

    People who can’t stop talking and pacing around are likely very tired and running on coffee. This is also the time when anxiety sets in. “Why did they look at me like that?”, or: “They didn’t have to say it like THAT!”…

    If you ever found yourself feeling like this -overly sensitive to others and your surroundings, taking everything very personally- you’ve probably been sleep deprived.

    As if all the above was not bad enough, clumsiness and reduced reflexes increase the risk for accidents and injury.

    Positive thinking and motivation are seriously hampered by lack of quality sleep.

    OK enough of the bad stuff, here’s the good news: you can do a whole lot to fix this and ensure a perfect slumber every time. Following are a few tried and proven tips that will help you do just that.

    Always Wake Up at the Same Time
    Regularity is important: even when you had a late night (which should be avoided wherever possible), try and get up when the bell rings anyway. In the long run this is better than over sleeping and ruining your circadian rhythm for it.

    In that Vein: Go to Bed at the Same Time

    After a while your internal clock will be so fine tuned, you fall asleep on cue and wake up without an alarm clock.

    Try to avoid Daylight and Artificial Light during Sleeping Hours

    In Scandinavia, the midnight sun can cause problems. Other places, the TV and electric lights do about the same: Your body’s sleeping patterns get disturbed by it, melatonin production is reduced (an important hormone related to sleep).

    Keep It Quiet

    There should be no noise at all whatsoever, total silence is what you want. If that’s not an option, a good pair of ear plugs can come to the rescue.

    Wind Down towards the Evenings

    Exercising too close to bed time can jack up cortisol and ruin your night. Do something relaxing instead: a nice walk in the evening, some Yoga, a massage, a hot bath.

    Here’s some herbals that can help you relax:  Fever few, Reishi, Wild Lettuce.

    Get into Physical Training

    Having said that you shouldn’t train too close to bed, doing some exercise during the day can sure help get rid of steam, get in shape and you’ll be nice and tired at the end of the day.

    Take some Magnesium

    Magnesium is an important mineral that many are deficient in. It’s involved hundreds of biological functions and also helps muscles -and you- to relax. Best taken in the evening.

    Meditate

    Like I said above, it helps to wind down at nights. Meditation can calm your mind, so that brain won’t keep you thinking and worrying through those valuable sleeping hours.

    Don’t Drink Coffee too Late in the Day

    Coffee can stay in the blood for around 12 hours, so that’s a good time frame to shoot for: if you go to bed at midnight, have the last cup of coffee at lunch.

     

    Remember the last time you woke up in the morning, all by your self -no need for an alarm clock- and you were totally refreshed and recuperated, ready to take on a new day?

    The world looks a better place when we’re well rested. A positive mindset and a positive outlook on life – require one thing, more than anything else: good, deep, beautiful sleep. Don’t let anybody ever tell you otherwise!

    P.S.

    This is not about being selfish, and most definitely not about being lazy. If you’re cranky, you and those around you only suffer. That’s a lose-lose.

    So do yourself and your family and friends and coworkers a great, huge, great big favor…and sleep well.

     

    Author Bio: Mark Kislich is an Olympic Performance Coach and Fitness and Health Blogger. He helps people find appropriate solutions for their fitness and health issues.

    Image Credit: Mark Sebastian


  5. The Science of Sleep: Lessons from a UK Study

    May 24, 2013

    lack of sleep

    by Angus Carbarns

     

    You slip the PJ’s on, switch the light off and as your head hits the pillow after a long day you fall into a deep, restful slumber… at least, that’s the dream – but a third of the population gets by on just five or six hours sleep a night and bedtime has become a nightly struggle. Read to find out how to sleep longer and better, and why sleep is so important.

     

    Why sleep matters

     

    Margaret Thatcher may have been able to get by on just 4 hours of shut-eye a night, but for us mere mortals, a good night’s sleep is crucial to help us feel our best. The dangers of a lack of sleep are enough to keep us up at night worrying: sleep deprivation has been blamed for stimulating the creation of the sinister-sounding ghrelin which makes us eat more and put on weight, is linked to an increase risk of stroke, heart disease and high blood pressure and can affect our performance at work (Bill Clinton has said that ‘every important mistake I’ve made in my life, I’ve made because I was too tired’).

    Worryingly, recent reports suggest that British schoolchildren aren’t concentrating in class because they’re not getting enough kip – and researchers from Berkeley in California say it may even contribute to marital woes.

     

    Britain’s sleep deficit

     

    Unfortunately, it seems many Brits are getting by with far too little sleep, opting to play catch-up at the weekend to make up for the lack of sleep.

    A recent sleep study has found that we’re a nation of eternal snoozers who are too sleepy to get up as soon as our alarm goes off. One in ten of respondents to their survey hit the snooze button up to five times before lugging themselves out of bed, with 14% waiting for the very last minute to get up.

    But some don’t even make it out of bed in time, with one in ten people owning up to having missed a job interview because they slept in and a whopping 25% sheepishly admitting to having received a warning from their boss for being late.

    So how can we get a more restful night and bound out of bed in the morning with enthusiasm instead of lethargically hitting snooze again?

     

    5 tips for better sleep

     

    1. Lights off

    Let’s face it, we’re a society addicted to our gadgets. If you turn to your phone or tablet to check out what’s happening on Twitter before nodding off or take an e-reader instead of a paperback to bed to help you wind down, stop.

    According to the sleepcouncil.org.uk, being exposed to even the slightest glimmer from an electronic gadget can disrupt our body’s natural circadian rhythms, keeping you awake at night.

    Bright lights, whether it’s from a streetlight or a phone, suppresses melatonin (the sleepy chemical) so invest in some decent blackout blinds and a good eye mask. You can even get some eye masks that are filled with lavender to help you feel even more tranquil and ready to get some zzzs.

     

    2. Switch off your thoughts

    Many people struggle to nod off because their minds are racing with worries about what to say in that meeting the next day or going through a mental to-do list for the weak. And with the economic downturn, many Brits are kept up worrying about how to pay their bills or if they’re going to lose their job.

    Break the cycle by writing things down on paper to get niggling worries out of your head. If you’re plagued with recurring feelings of anxiety, it may be best to try simple cognitive behavioural therapy exercises, or even speak to a therapist or a friend to get it off your chest.

     

    3. Get moving

    It may be the last thing you feel like doing when you’re chronically tired, but going for a gentle jog or doing some form of light exercise in the evening will help you wind down and sleep more deeply. If running’s not your thing, try to slot in time for yoga – the mindfulness and breathing techniques you’re taught in a yoga class will help you chill in no time.

     

    4. Snack to snooze

    Being too full or too hungry will affect your sleep, so you want to aim to eat a light snack a few hours before bed that’s just enough to satiate any hunger pangs.

    Go for foods that contain Tryptophan which converts into serotonin, a clever chemical that helps you deal with stress and anxiety and turns into melatonin at night which helps you sleep. Tryptophan tends to be found in foods that are high in protein like turkey, pumpkin seeds, chicken and cheese. Yes, you heard that right – it’s a myth that cheese will give you nightmares.

    Though many people unwind with a glass of wine before bed to help them doze off, alcohol severely disrupts the quality of your sleep — stopping you from getting REM (the holy grail of the sleep world). If you crave a reward after work and feel a bit frazzled, try a bubble bath with a few drops of lavender oil or go for a run instead.

    5. Get into a routine

    Try to get into the habit of heading to bed at the same time every night and banish any distractions like work or TV from the bedroom after a cut-off point so your body gets used to winding down at a certain time.

    And everyone knows that it’s quality, not quantity that matters when it comes to sleep. Your body goes through various sleep cycles during the night, and you’ll feel groggy if you wake up at the wrong point during a cycle, even if you’ve been asleep for a while. One sleep cycle typically lasts about 90 minutes, so decide when you need to wake up and work out when time to go to bed to get about four or five complete cycles.

    Do you have problems getting to sleep at night? Share in comments what worked for you?

     

    Author Bio: Angus Carbarns is a freelance writer and Psychology and Sociology graduate.  Since graduating, Angus has worked predominantly alongside individuals on the autistic spectrum in an educational capacity.  This article was inspired by a recent study conducted by hotel chain Premier Inn.

    Image Credit: Ashley Webb