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Sweet Dreams: 5 Tips for Sound Sleep and a Healthy Brain 

It doesn’t matter what age you are, getting a good night’s rest is essential for your physical and mental health. Taking the time to recharge every night is especially vital because sleep and brain health are closely related. However, as we age, sleep doesn’t always come as easily as it used to. 

In a 2003 poll, the National Sleep Foundation found that over 48% of older adults experience symptoms of insomnia more than twice a week, and the National Institute on Aging reported that insomnia is one of the most common problems experienced by adults aged 60 and over.

Insomnia and sleep disruptions have been known to worsen health conditions like Alzheimer’s disease and increase your risk factors for developing other health problems, including heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, and hypertension. Let’s dig into the science behind sleep and what are our five best tips for a good night’s rest!

Why sleep is so important to our bodies

Sleep gives your body some much-needed rest, but it’s also vital for maintaining your cognitive health. When you lie down to sleep at night, your body takes this time to cleanse your brain of toxins and waste. The space between your brain cells actually enlarges during sleep, allowing your body to wash out harmful substances like beta-amyloid proteins, which researchers have linked to the formation of Alzheimer’s disease. It follows, then, getting enough sleep can help ward off Alzheimer’s disease.

A poor night’s sleep has also been tied to forgetfulness and lapses in memory. Because sleep is the vital period when our brains take time to consolidate our memories, not getting adequate sleep makes you more likely to forget things during the day. A good night’s rest is one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal in the fight against mental aging. 

Why getting enough rest is more difficult as we age

Production of the “sleep hormone” melatonin naturally decreases with age, making it harder for older adults to fall asleep and stay asleep. The aging process also causes changes to the body’s natural circadian rhythm, which can make you get tired earlier than usual. Because of this, older adults are also more likely to experience restless sleep and waking up throughout the night. 

Environmental factors can also be to blame, such as stress or a lack of structure in your life. Recent retirees sometimes have a hard time adjusting to changes in their schedule, which can lead to fitful sleep. 

How to get a good night’s sleep: build healthier sleep habits

Now that you know why a good night’s sleep is so vital, you’re probably wondering how you can improve the quality of your own rest. If you struggle with tossing and turning or restless nights, don’t worry. The good news is that healthy sleep habits are universal and can be practiced by anyone of any age. 

It’s never too late to establish a healthy nighttime routine! Here are our 5 best tips to help you combat insomnia, in no particular order.

Work up a sweat

Exercise helps to keep you in good shape, but did you know that exercising can also improve your sleep? The Sleep Foundation has demonstrated a clear link between exercise and improved sleep quality in adults. Try using a fitness tracker, which can be useful to show your progress and motivate you. To rest easier at night, try going for a brisk walk or bike ride outside. Exposing yourself to sunshine and fresh air can improve circadian rhythm, so you can stay active with your favorite outdoor hobbies like gardening and fishing. Just be careful not to exercise too late in the day–getting worked up too close to bedtime may actually keep you awake!

Don’t nap during the day

Napping is common among older adults and retirees, with research showing that around 25% of older adults take naps daily. But did you know that your daily power nap may actually be doing more harm than good?

It’s true. While a brief nap can be beneficial for a boost of energy, excessive napping can disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep at night. If you absolutely must have a nap, try to take it earlier in the day and make sure to sleep for no more than 30 minutes.

Establish a bedtime routine

Human beings are creatures of habit, so practicing good habits before bed can help improve your rest. If you don’t already have one in place, try establishing a nightly routine before drifting off to sleep. 

You can engage in soothing activities like taking a bath, reading a book or meditating to relax before bed. Sleep comes easier in a cold room, so make sure that your bedroom is cool before you lie down. Always try to fall asleep at roughly the same time every night to establish routine, and make sure that you fall asleep while lying in bed–not in a recliner or on the couch. 

Turn off the TV

Although many of us like to fall asleep with the glow of the TV to keep us company, staring at screens before bed can actually disrupt your sleep. The blue lights found in common electronic devices like smartphones, tablets, TVs and computers can disrupt your natural circadian rhythm. That’s why experts recommend cutting out all screens and electronic devices before going to bed. 

A few hours before your usual bedtime, turn off all your TVs and power down your tablets, phones and laptops. You can replace time in front of the TV with screen-free activities like doing a jigsaw puzzle, playing cards or drawing in an adult coloring book. Instead of sleeping with your phone on your bedside table, try plugging it up to charge in another room. You’ll be less likely to check for texts or emails in the middle of the night and can rest more peacefully. 

Cut back on caffeine and other foods

Eating or drinking certain things too close to bed can cause sleep problems. Foods high in caffeine like coffee and chocolate have been shown to disrupt sleep patterns and interfere with melatonin production. Drinking alcohol late at night also could lead to restless sleep because it can cause decreased REM sleep. Never use alcohol as a sleep aid. 

If you can’t do without your morning coffee, that’s perfectly all right. Just make sure that it stays a morning cup. Avoid consuming coffee in the afternoon and eating large meals too close to bedtime. Don’t drink too much water before bed, either, if waking to go to the bathroom is a problem for you. If you must eat before bed, try having something to boost your melatonin, like a handful of almonds or a cup of tart cherry juice. 

The bottom line

Along with diet and exercise, getting a good night’s sleep is one of the most important things you can do to maintain a healthy mind and body. 

If you’ve tried all these tips and nothing works, check with your doctor to see if one of your medications or an underlying health problem may be to blame. Insomnia can sometimes be a symptom of a more serious issue. 

Sleep is just one of many tools on your belt you can use to live your best life possible, so try to rest well every night!


Originally printed on aviv-clinics.com. Reprinted with permission.

Aaron Tribby, M.Ed is Head of Physiology for Aviv Clinics where he is responsible for managing a team of physiologists, physical therapists, dietitians, and stress technicians at Aviv Clinics – the first hyperbaric medical treatment center of its kind in North America dedicated to improving brain performance. He also oversees the cardiopulmonary exercise tests and CPET in the clinic, responsible for analyzing each test. Leading to Aviv Clinics, his clinical experience is focused on health and wellness, strength and conditioning and nutrition within both the non-profits and private sectors including Mercy Hospital and MusclePharm, respectively.

 

References

sleep nightlight

We Need More Sleep

We need more sleep because we were not designed to be awake each day for 24 hours. I know in today’s society, a lot of us try and are successful at staying awake for 24 hours. 

However, I am sure it came with consequences right? 

How much coffee or red bull did you have to drink to do it? How did you feel when you finally did get some sleep? I bet that the next morning when you woke up felt horrible, didn’t you? 

In today’s blog, I want to highlight three reasons why we all need more sleep. I hope these three things are simple enough for us to put into practice NOW!

#1. Growth Hormone

There is a hormone that our bodies produce called growth hormone. Without it, we make it harder for us to get bigger muscles. Growth hormone also helps with getting rid of body fat and it helps our bones retain calcium. Wow, sounds like pretty important stuff right? Well, if we are not getting enough sleep in general, and enough quality sleep, then, our growth hormone can’t work like it should. 

#2. Leptin

During good sleep, our bodies use something called leptin to control our hunger feelings. Well, this hormone can only do its job properly with a good night’s rest. Leptin helps to curb our appetites and gives us a satisfied feeling. However, if we are not getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night (ideal sleep time), then another hormone, ghrelin, will work for us. This is the hormone that gets released to let us know that we are hungry. 

We want ghrelin to work for us when we are actually hungry, not because we did not get a good night’s rest. If you’ve awoken starving, it could have been from a lack of quality sleep! 

#3. Exercise Suffers

Yep, all that hard work you’ve been putting into exercise becomes null and void without proper sleep. One of the great benefits of lifting weights is the increase in muscle size and as a result, better metabolism that leads to weight loss. Well, lack of sleep is an enemy to protein synthesis (how our bodies make muscle). If your muscles are not getting stronger and/or bigger, then, your metabolism is not working for you. 

Also, inadequate sleep leads to your body having a harder time recovering from your workouts. If you cannot recover from your workouts, then you could potentially 1.) injure yourself and 2.) have less slow-wave sleep.

Conclusion

We need more sleep. There is no way around this, folks! Sleep really does our bodies well.  I recommend we at least do the following to get more sleep: 

  1. Go to bed one hour earlier than you normally do.
  2. Shut down all electronics one hour prior to going to bed.
  3. Meditation
  4. Drink something soothing like chamomile tea

Maurice D. Williams is the owner of Move Well Fitness in Bethesda, MD, and Assistant Professor of Health & Human Performance at Freed-Hardeman University.  He is a NASM Master Instructor and Master Trainer,  and is also certified with NASM as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, Performance Enhancement Specialist, Senior Fitness Specialist & Weight Loss Specialist, and as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist by NSCA.

alarm clock

10 Tips for Sleep Health

Here are ten critical pieces of information every person should know about sleep and how to optimize and enhance sleep for healthy living.

Sleep is the secret weapon for maintaining overall health and wellness.

1. Be asleep > 2 hours before midnight.

Quality sleep is biologically driven by the brain and is often inflexible to environmental change. The best quality sleep is achieved between 2200 – 0600. Quality sleep helps to clear toxins and repair muscle.

2. Electronic devices reduce quality sleep.

A recent study found that late-night tweeting increases next-day fatigue and daytime sleepiness. Biologically speaking, blue light emitted from smartphones and TVs stops nighttime release of the hormone that helps us fall asleep: melatonin. Melatonin helps us achieve restorative sleep responsible for overall rejuvenation and repair.

3. Quality sleep releases anabolic hormones.

It is a myth that we release growth hormone and testosterone after we exercise. Rather, the body “saves” that information and releases these anabolic hormones during sleep but only if quality, restorative sleep is achieved.

4. No sugary foods before bedtime.

While it is common to wake up starving in the middle of the night, eating low glycemic foods that do not elevate blood sugar (e.g., sweet potatoes over a banana or ice cream) before bedtime will help reduce awakenings in the middle of the night.

5. Supplementation with magnesium and zinc.

These are two key minerals rapidly depleted during the day that are critical for a healthy nervous system. Most foods do not provide adequate amounts of magnesium/zinc.  Both will help reduce leg cramping and muscle twitching common at night as well as with achieving quality sleep.

6. Sleep in the fetal position.

Sleeping on your back or stomach makes the ability to breath difficult during sleep. Use pillows to condition the body to sleep in the fetal position.

7. Keep the room cool for quality sleep.

A room temperature between 68 -72 degrees Fahrenheit will help ensure that you do not wake up in the middle of the night and can achieve quality stages of sleep.

8. Mentally rehearse important information before bedtime.

Sleep is necessary to learn and recall new information.

9. “Sleep bank” prior to intended sleep deprivation.

It is common to have poor sleep the night before travel.  Extending sleep by > 1 -2 hours for 3 – 4 days leading up to travel will help protect against declines in physical and mental performances.

10. Use sleep medications as a last resort for insomnia or other sleep difficulties.

When all else fails, take half a recommended dose of a prescribed sleep medication or use melatonin (3 -5 mg; 1 -2 capsules) to help re-adjust a sleep schedule to a new time zone. The easiest way to prepare for time zone travel is to slowly adjust sleep by 30 – 60 min in the direction of travel a few days prior.


Dr. Allison Brager is an expert in sleep physiology and relevance to issues of mental health. She serves in several leadership and scientific advisory board positions with professional research societies, industry, and professional, Olympic, and collegiate teams.

She has over 30 publications in flagship journals of medicine, neuroscience, and physiology widely featured by large media outlets and is author of the popular science book Meathead: Unraveling the Athletic Brain. She has a Sc.B from Brown University and a PhD from Kent State University.

woman sleeping

Are Your Sleep Habits Damaging Your Liver?

Before we talk about which sleep habits are damaging your liver, let’s get to know this organ. The liver performs more than 500 vital bodily functions. Here are a few:

  • Bile production. The liver produces bile, which helps break down the fat in food.
  • Glucose storage. It stores sugar called glucose, which gives you a quick energy boost when you need it.
  • Detoxification. It’s responsible for detoxifying your blood by removing harmful chemicals, such as hormones that have done their job, that are produced in your body.

The Liver’s Working Hours

Plenty is going on in our body when we’re sleeping, but the most important function is detoxification. This happens ideally between 11 pm to 3 am. During these hours, our liver becomes much larger as blood supplies from all over our body converge here.

Researchers monitoring phases of activity and rest in mice saw that the size of the liver gradually increases to about 40% more towards the end of the night and that it returns to its initial size during the day. When the normal circadian rhythm is reversed, this fluctuation disappears. As mammals, our liver works much the same way as the liver of mice. What happens to your liver, and by extension to you, if you can’t sleep during these hours? Can detoxification take place if you’re awake between 11 pm to 3 am? Here are three studies that seem to indicate that you’re heading for trouble if you don’t catch your shut-eye at the right time.

Sleep and Glucose

Studies show that losing a single night’s sleep may affect the liver’s ability to produce glucose and process insulin. This increases the risk of metabolic diseases such as hepatic steatosis (fatty liver) and type 2 diabetes.

Sleep and Liver Fat

As many as 1 in 4 Americans are estimated to have excess liver fat. This can lead to inflammation and damage that could eventually cause liver failure. Fat production in the liver is affected by the circadian rhythm. So says a mouse study conducted at the University of Pennsylvania.  The study showed that liver cells change with the time of day and these changes influence gene expression. When mice are asleep and fasting, the genes involved in fat production are active and help prevent the liver from producing fat. Watch out if you’re disrupting your daily cycle with rotating shift work or night flights. This can increase the risk of diseases like obesity and diabetes.

Sleep and Liver Cancer

Researchers have also associated sleep disruption with increased risk of liver cancer. The American Cancer Society reports that 700,000 people worldwide are diagnosed with liver cancer each year. If you’re overweight, you run more of a risk for liver cancer. The same applies if you suffer from chronic sleep disruption. Scientists exposed mice to disrupted light and dark cycles for nearly 2 years. These cycles disrupted the normal sleep cycles of the mice. As a result, the mice developed a range of conditions, including skin disorders, neurodegeneration, and cancer.

Keep Your Liver Healthy For a Good Night

We’ve established that adequate sleep at the right times can keep your liver healthy. Sadly, if you already have liver damage, you’ll probably have trouble sleeping. Liver damage (cirrhosis) can be caused by harmful alcohol consumption, viral hepatitis B and C, metabolic disorders, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Most patients with liver damage have a harder time falling asleep and staying asleep. Their sleep is of poor quality, and in addition to sleeping less, they feel sleepy during the day. We don’t really understand why liver patients struggle with insomnia, but the hormone cortisol probably plays a part in things.

As well as getting to sleep on time, there’s one more thing that you can do to help your liver function: keep calm and relaxed so that your cortisol levels don’t rise. When you wake up in the morning, you usually feel energized. That’s thanks to the stress hormone cortisol that was secreted into your body before you woke up. Stress will elevate the cortisol levels in your blood. Your liver will have a harder time deactivating this hormone. The longer the hormone stays in your system, the harder it’ll be for you to fall asleep.


Rhona Lewis is a healthcare freelance writer with over 11 years of writing experience that she uses to help healthcare companies grow their authority and create brand awareness. Her background as a journalist means she’s curious enough to ask the right questions and committed to thorough research. She has a knack for breaking down complex medical concepts into content that a lay audience will read till the end.

Reference Articles:

https://www.nih.gov/news-events/nih-research-matters/molecular-link-between-sleep-liver-fat

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/314318.php

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5664866/

sarahcummings-sleeparticle

The Health Benefits of Better Sleep

The more that time goes on, the more evidence there is that sleep is our friend – possibly one of the best! Do you find that drifting off into sound slumber among today’s full-on society is something that is slightly out of reach for you in your life?

If you’re nodding your head as you read this, and you want to find out how sleep can have a positive impact on your life, then you’ve come to the right place.

Over the course of this article, we’re going to elaborate on the health benefits of sleep and how it can make a difference in your life!

Heart Health

Did you know that the chances of suffering a heart attack or stroke are higher in the early morning hours? [1] It’s thought that this is because of the way sleep interacts with our blood vessels.

If you are experiencing a lack of sleep, then you are considered among those who are more likely to be associated with issues surrounding blood pressure and cholesterol. These are defined as high-risk factors for both stroke and heart disease.

You’ll benefit from a healthier heart if sleep between seven and nine hours every evening, as recommended by health professionals.

Body Repairs

Sleep is your body’s time to be at its most relaxed. This is also the period in which the body busies itself repairing any damage developed from a range of factors, including stress.

When you’re asleep, notably deeper stages of sleep, [2] your body works to repair muscle, organs, and other cells. Chemicals that operate to strengthen your immune system begin to circulate in your blood.

Your body’s cells are able to produce more protein, and these protein molecules are at the root of the repairs your body needs to overcome daily stressors.

Less Stress

When you don’t receive adequate amounts of sleep, your body moves into a state of stress. This means that your body’s functions are put into ‘high alert mode’, with the effects of this ranging from high blood pressure to the increased production of stress-related hormones.

Avoiding high blood pressure is important, because high blood pressure can increase your heart attack and stroke risk. What’s more, when we factor in stress hormones and how they make it harder to fall asleep, it soon becomes clear that sleep is vital to stay for health.

More Energy

High-quality rest gives will make you feel energized and more alert the following day. You’ll be more active and use up the energy you’ve rewarded yourself with, which subsequently opens the door for a good night’s sleep that evening, too.

This knock-on effect creates a healthy cycle that is hard to not enjoy, especially when you are waking up feeling refreshed and ‘full of beans’ to accomplish whatever lies ahead each day.

Enhanced Memory

During sleep, as your body is resting and repairing itself, your brain is hard at work processing the things you have learned that day.

It’s like a filing process, whereby your brain is sorting all the things in their rightful place, creating connections between events, memories and feelings, for example.

The ability to move into a deep sleep is absolutely essential for your brain to form links and memories, and the better quality of sleep you experience, the better your memory will become.

Weight Loss

Some experts believe people who sleep under seven hours each evening, are more likely to be classified as overweight or obese. Researchers believe that this is due to the balance of bodily hormones that affect the appetite of sleep-deprived individuals. [3]

The body’s hormones leptin and ghrelin are both responsible for the regulation of your appetite, and when sleep isn’t at a suitable level, these hormones become disrupted.

The result of the disruption with these hormones is that you will eat more than necessary, and when you eat more than you need to, losing weight – and even maintaining it – becomes a difficult task.

Conclusion

As you may have realized throughout this article, sleep has the ability to have a bearing on many of the chemicals and processes that help your body to function. This is what makes sleep such an important function in all of our lives.


Sarah Cummings writes for The Sleep Advisor (sleepadvisor.org), a site dedicated to helping people improve their sleep habits. Her love of exercise has always been a big part of how she leads her life, and finds that her keen approach to a healthy diet, daily yoga and dedication to high-quality sleep helps her offer sound advice to others all over the world!

References

  1. https://www.nhs.uk/news/heart-and-lungs/heart-attacks-worse-in-the-morning/
  2. https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2014/03/07/your-body-does-incredible_n_4914577.html
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3519150/

 

woman sleeping

Sleep: An Essential Component to Maintaining Health

I have the answer to making you feel calmer, more energized, with no side effects, help with depression, lose weight, improve your for focus and productivity at work, regulate your hormones and boost your immune system. Sleep does all of this and more. 

Sufficient sleep is an essential to maintain health.

Getting enough sleep improves:

  • motivation
  • supports brain health
  • recovery of muscle strength
  • speed
  • muscle glycogen (stored energy in the muscles)
  • cortisol (stress) regulation
  • memory

Two thirds of adults in developed nations do not get enough sleep!

Less than six hours of sleep compromises the immune system and doubles cancer risk.

A tired brain isn’t able to communicate its needs properly, which can lead to imbalance and unhealthy habits.

Those who are sleep deprived also have a slower reaction time than to those who are rested. You can take all the vitamins and drink all the caffeine you want, sleep deprivation is sleep deprivation. Sleep enables the body to heal itself. Sleep actually is not passive, but studies show during some sleep phases, parts of the brain are more active then they are when you are awake.

The shorter your sleep, the shorter your life span. For athletes, insufficient sleep can be the reason for decreased performance and increased injury risk.

Adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Less than five or six hours of sleep can negatively impact human performance, metabolic health, mental health, cardiovascular health, immune function, mortality, pain, general health. More than 8 hours a night can improve all of the above.

As you age, you sleep less and you spend less time in slow wave sleep. Amyloid beta is cleared from the brain during sleep and more slowly from the aging brain. Worsening amyloid deposition is seen in people with shorter sleep durations, or worsening sleep quality. Don’t count on recovery methods to contract little sleep and a poor diet. Sleep and nutrition are not recovery. Modifiable risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease is not enough sleep!

As you rest, your body and brain are preparing and rebuilding themselves. Growth hormones, which promotes cell reproduction and regeneration, is released into the bloodstream and the production of certain types of immune cells peaks. Sleep also helps to regulate hormones associated with weight gain. A study on sleep deprived men found that when they got less sleep, levels of gherkin (the hormone that increases appetite) rose. Lack of sleep can result in weight gain. Woman who sleep five hours a night were 15 percent more likely to be obese than those who slept seven hours. Being sleep deprived contributes to weight gain and makes weight loss difficult.

Good nutrition is amazing. Meditation is amazing. But nothing makes up for lack of sleep, nothing.

Sleep slows your heart rate and breathing and causes your blood pressure to drop. It also changes the frequency of your brainwaves. Delta waves (the slowest frequency brainwaves), which are linked to deep healing, only occur during the deep part of your sleep cycle. These are the same brainwaves experienced in a meditative state. Production of delta waves is associated with a drop in the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Lack of sleep have an aging impact on the brain and skin.

Some tips to create a sleep friendly bedroom:

  1. Black out curtains, the darker the room the better.
  2. Keep your bedroom decor simple and calm, clutter free, work papers out of sight.
  3. Blue walls perhaps or blue in your room.  Gentle blue tones are widely believed to have a calming effect.
  4. Keep a notepad by your bed so you don’t have to worry about staying awake because you don’t want to forget something, just write it down and go back to sleep.
  5. Pre sleep meditation and calming music.

Some tips for quality sleep:

  1. Institute a tech curfew. The light radiating from TV, phones, computers, iPads can disrupt the circadian rhythm. A study at Harvard University Medical School found particular frequencies of light disrupted the sleep inducing hormone melatonin. Turn off all devices at least an hour before bedtime. If you must read on your laptop or iPad before bed, download the blue light filter app. The more amount of screen time used, the less sleep. The circadian clock regulates our sleep; using technology near bed time interrupts the natural circadian rhythm clock and negatively impacts sleep. The top 25% of social media users were 2-3 times more likely to have disturbed sleep than those in the bottom 25%.
  2. Alcohol. You fall asleep more quickly, but the quality of sleep is poor, and REM sleep is decreased.
  3. Exercise regularly. Just not right before bed — that can have the opposite affect.
  4. 65 degrees is the optimum temperature for a good night sleep. If you are too hot, you are more likely to feel restless.
  5. Try herbal tea with chamomile and or valerian root.
  6. Imagine a tranquil natural scene, this visualization could make you relax. Studies at Oxford University showed that those who used this technique would fall asleep twenty minutes sooner than those who did not picture the tranquil scene. Avoid counting sheep — the study showed it took people longer to fall asleep!

Restful sleep is key ingredient to living a miraculous life. Real sleep!

“Lack of sleep is another way we block our power, creativity, and intuition.”
–Huffington Post President and Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington.

We often measure how productive we are based on how hard we work and how little sleep we get. This mentality is negatively affecting our health and overall well-being!


Charleene O’Connor is a a biomechanics specialist, TPI Level 3 Golf Fitness Trainer, Egoscue Postural alignment therapist, Meditation teacher and SUP instructor. Visit her website, charleenesfitness.com