The Connection Between Writing and Sleep

People who regularly have trouble falling asleep at night might try just about anything to cure their insomnia, but a new study published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology suggests that writing in a journal for five minutes before bed might help one fall asleep faster. Interestingly enough, this journaling seems to be the most effective if the writer writes down a list of things they plan to do the next day instead of things they did that day.

In the study, 57 young adults were told to write a to-do list of things they needed to do the following day and fell asleep an average of nine minutes sooner than they normally do at night.

There have been many studies in the past that have shown that writing in a journal can help relieve a person’s anxiety, and it makes sense that this writing can help a person sleep. When people are awake, there are countless things going through their heads that might increase their anxiety, and the act of physically writing those things down on paper seems to offload it from their minds a bit. It decreases what researchers call “cognitive arousal,” the sense of anxiety that a person feels when they have something important on their mind. It similar to the way we feel better when we can talk to someone about something that is bothering us. A page in a journal seems to become a surrogate of that someone we talk to when we want to get something off of our chest.

Why Write a To-Do List?

The reason why writing a to-do list seems to help people fall asleep faster at night is because people are writing down tasks that are left unfinished. These tasks always weigh heavily on a person’s mind, so committing them to paper and decreasing cognitive arousal is far more useful than simply writing about things that have already happened and things that no longer need to be done. Writing doesn’t change the fact that the tasks themselves are left unfinished, but it might help take someone’s mind off of them just long enough to get a good night’s sleep. Of course, waking up in the morning and having a clear plan for the day doesn’t hurt either.

Should You Sleep With Your Pet?

Pets often seek the comfort of their owners by climbing into their bed and wiggling their way under the sheets at night. According to a survey by Novosbed, 71 percent of owners sleep with their pets. Bed-sharing with pets is typically harmless, but there are a few things owners should know before inviting their furry companion onto their sleeping space.

Relaxation

Sleeping with a pet can help owners relax. Research shows that physical contact with pets promotes higher levels of oxytocin and lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The combination of these biochemical processes is reduced stress and anxiety. If an owner is unable to sleep because of stress, perhaps sharing the bed can help them get a peaceful night’s rest.

Security

Dogs also make owners feel more secure when sleeping by their side. A study cited by the DailyMail found that owners who sleep with their pets feel safer and more secure, which leads to higher-quality sleep.

Sleep Disturbance

On the other hand, sharing the bed with a pet may disturb an owner’s sleep. If a dog jumps on the bed in the middle night, it may wake his owner. The Center for Sleep Medicine says that 10 percent of the clients who visited its practices in 2013 experienced disrupted sleep because of a pet. It’s safe to assume, however, that smaller breeds are less likely to create a disturbance than larger breeds.

Allergies

There’s also the issue of allergies when sleeping with a pet. Statistics show that roughly 10 percent of the population are allergic to pets. When exposed to pet allergens — pet dander, saliva or urine — these individuals may experience an allergy attack consisting of symptoms such as sneezing, runny nose, itching and watery eyes. Of course, owners who sleep with their pets are more likely to experience these allergy attacks because of the close proximity to their four-legged companions.

Tips for Sleeping With Pets

Owners who are thinking about sleeping with their pet should consider the effect it has on their sleep quality. If they are unable to fall asleep or stay asleep, they should consider making their pet a bedding area on the floor instead.

Owners who suffer from pet allergies should invest in a high-efficiency particulate arresting (HEPA) air filter. These air filters capture a greater amount of dust, dander and other debris from the air, thus protecting against allergy attacks.

The Pros and Cons of Melatonin

Ever wondered why one feels sleepy during the night and not the day? The answer is the magic of melatonin. It is a hormone that controls the body’s sleep and wake cycle. Darkness triggers the pineal gland in the brain producing the hormone in the bloodstream. Scientists believe that melatonin decreases as people age and it also controls the female reproductive hormones. However, there are some instances when the natural hormone fails to accomplish the above role.

Instances when individuals require a melatonin supplement

  • Elderly people having trouble sleeping
  • People with Insomnia and delayed sleep phase disorder
  • Shift workers who have to change their sleeping schedules
  • An individual under anesthesia during surgery
  • Blind people or those with poor vision

What are the major pros of Melatonin?

It is effective in preventing and reducing jet lag as it regulates the body’s hormonal clock. This makes an individual more productive upon reaching their destination. The hormone has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory effects and hence boosts cardiovascular health. Melatonin reduces regular cluster headaches and can be used to combat tumor cells. It helps in the management of multiple sclerosis, bladder dysfunction and minimizes fibromyalgia and menopause symptoms. The hormone has had a great outcome for children with sleeping disorders due to conditions such as autism and ADHD. It is important to note that the melatonin supplements are not addictive.

The major cons of Melatonin

The use of the hormone in children is discouraged as it can impede the normal hormonal development and affect the menstrual cycle and puberty. In males, it can trigger overproduction of prolactin which may cause kidney and liver problems. Using the hormone for a long time upsets body’s natural sleep patterns. This can lead to dizziness, nausea, irritability, and headaches. Prolonged use may alter the patient’s reaction hence amplify insomnia. It may cause a decrease in sex drive and fertility.

When to avoid using melatonin

Individuals who have sleep difficulties due to stress or depression should avoid using the hormone as it may worsen the depression symptoms. Pregnant, breastfeeding mothers and those who want to be pregnant should avoid it. People with schizophrenia, diabetes and autoimmune issues should stay away from it.

More studies and research on melatonin are ongoing to help people better understand the benefits and disadvantages of the hormone. There are many individuals who advocate for the controlled availability of the supplements insisting they should be taken under professional supervision.

Common Misconceptions about Sleep

Sleep is essential for a person’s health and wellness. It allows the body to reset, both physically and mentally, while promoting proper hormone and biochemistry processes. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions surrounding sleep, leading many individuals down the wrong path.

 

Sleeping Pills are Safe

Just because they are sold over the counter doesn’t mean they are safe. One study found that over-the-counter sleeping pills increased the risk of stroke. Prescription sleeping pills are even worse, with research showing a direct correlation between their usage and an increased risk of early mortality.

 

There’s No Such Thing as Too Much Sleep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that more than one-third of Americans don’t get enough sleep. Too much sleeping, however, can also cause health issues. Research cited by the HuffingtonPost found that people who oversleep on a regular basis have higher rates of diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Therefore, most experts recommend adults get between seven and nine hours of shut-eye at night.

 

It’s Okay to Catch Up on Sleep During the Weekend

Many people struggle to sleep during the week because of work, school and other responsibilities. As a result, they sleep more during the weekend, believing this will counter the effects. But there’s no such thing as catching up on sleep. Sleeping less during the week and more during the weekend disrupts the body’s circadian clock while preventing the individual from getting into a normal sleep schedule.

 

Snoring Is Harmless

Everyone snores on occasion, and normally it doesn’t pose any health risks. If a person snores every night, however, it can cause a myriad of problems. For starters, snoring is often a sign of nasal obstruction, meaning the person isn’t getting enough air when he or she breathes. Secondly, research has shown that people who snore regularly are more likely to suffer from carotid atherosclerosis, which can lead to stroke.

 

Body Position Doesn’t Matter When Sleeping

This couldn’t be further from the truth. The position in which a person sleeps can affect his or her health. Sleeping on the stomach, for example, bends the spine while contributing to back pain whereas sleeping on the side places pressure on the stomach and lungs. Therefore, most experts recommend sleeping on the back.

Sleeping does more than just protect against fatigue; it promotes a healthy body and mind.

How To Handle A Sleepwalker

Depending on the age of the sleepwalker, there may be different causes of the condition. In young children, it’s believed that sleepwalking occurs when the brain hasn’t learned to differentiate between the sleeping and waking states. In older adults, sleepwalking can be an indication of an underlying problem, such as excess stress or the onset of other sleep disorders.

 

How Can You Help a Sleepwalker?

If you know a person who has begun sleepwalking, there’s no reason to be alarmed. It’s a harmless event in itself and may cease naturally over time. Depending on the individual’s actions in this state, you may be more concerned that the person will harm themselves, while in the sleepwalking state.

While consulting a doctor may be wise to determine the causes, there are things you can begin doing immediately to help reduce the likelihood of future sleepwalking episodes. For instance, making sure the person is getting quality sleep and enough of it each night is important. Instead of letting the individual take sleep medications, try to make his or her bedroom as quiet and dark as possible.

It’s also important to make sure everyone else sleeping in the house knows of the sleepwalking incidents. This will prevent frights in the middle of the night.

You should also take steps to ensure the sleepwalker’s safety, such as locking all of the doors and windows and putting gates at the top of any staircases. Additionally, guns, knives, and car keys should all be out of reach of the sleepwalker. Children who sleepwalk should not be allowed to sleep in the top bunk of a bunk bed.

 

If You Need to Wake a Sleepwalker…

If it’s at all possible, try to avoid waking the sleepwalker. Instead, gently guide him or her back to bed with a very gentle hand. Once you turn the individual, try not to touch him or her at all. Instead, walk near the person, only touching enough to guide them back to their bedroom and into bed.

If that’s not possible and you have a reason that the sleepwalker needs to be awakened, it’s important to do it the right way. First, back away from the sleepwalker, so neither you or the sleepwalker will be injured. Create loud and sharp noises that can be used to startle the individual out of their sleep. If you stand close and shake the sleepwalker, it may cause a violent reaction that could cause unintentional injuries to either one of you.

Sleepwalkers rarely know that they’ve been doing anything unusual. Whether you return them to bed or awaken them, you should take the time to explain the incident in a calm and consoling manner. They’re likely to be disoriented and frightened, so they will need your support.

What Is The Ideal Bedtime Routine for the Best Sleep

What Is the Ideal Bedtime Routine For Sleep

If you find yourself struggling to fall asleep, it may be because your bedtime routine doesn’t prime you enough for a quality night of rest. Establishing the ideal bedtime routine or ritual can be the key to you falling asleep quickly and staying asleep throughout the night. Now, the idea of having a routine before bed might sound a bit juvenile and only necessary for a young person, but it can also significantly improve the sleep of adults as well. Experts of sleep recommend establishing a bedtime routine can help calm and relax you as you prepare for sleep. There is always a lot of information about the ideal morning routine to get your day off to the right start. But, what about the ideal evening routine? This routine is just as important. Crafting such will help you fall asleep in no time whatsoever.

A lot of what your bedtime routine is will base off of what you do throughout the day. Of course, you don’t want to stress yourself out all day about trying to fall asleep at night, but there are a few things you will want to keep in mind to ensure that you will have a better sleep at night. For instance, you will want to plan the meals in your day so that dinner will fall in the early parts of the evening. The rule of thumb is that you want to give yourself about 2-3 hours between your last meal and when you decide to go to sleep. Health sites like Helpguide.org have revealed that fatty foods take a lot of work for the stomach to digest, making it harder to fall asleep. However, that is not to say you can’t have something small to eat before you sleep. There are a few foods that are fine to eat before bed and can even help you sleep better. Amongst these foods are bananas, oatmeal, and whole wheat bread.

Staying active is another bucket you will want to check off your list. Getting in a regular workout, regardless of the time of day can help you sleep better at night. According to the National Sleep Foundation, exercising in the afternoon can help deepen shut-eye and reduce the time it takes to fall asleep. Although, it is important to note that you don’t want to have any vigorous exercise leading up to bedtime as that can cause reverse effects. Another study in 2003 found that a morning fitness regimen led to better sleep at night. So it is essential to find some time to get some exercise in, just so long at it is not too close to your bedtime. Doing so will aid in your attempt to fall asleep faster.

Now that you have primed yourself with a proper eating schedule and some daily activity, it all comes down to what you do just before you shut your eyes. One thing you want to figure out is the perfect bedtime. It is crucial that you get anywhere from 7-9 hours of sleep for optimal health and performance. Try going to bed at the same time every night and waking up at the same time every morning because this will help you build your body’s natural clock (circadian rhythm). You also want to find a relaxing activity to do before bed that doesn’t involve looking at a screen. Bright screens such as your TV or your phone will suppress melatonin, the hormone that encourages your body to go to sleep. So trying reading a book or doing some nighttime yoga. Finally, you need to create the right environment for sleep. That means you want to make sure your bedroom is dark and quiet and well ventilated to allow for better sleep. Figure out what works best for you as it pertains to room temperature, and light and noise levels. Putting these foundations in place will make it very easy for you to hop in bed and fall asleep a lot quicker.

How Sleep Can Lead To Better Skin

How Better Sleep Can Lead To Better Skin

Getting your beauty sleep isn’t just an old saying. It is a must have to maintain proper skin health. Many studies have shown that there is a negative correlation between lack of sleep and skin health. The reason for this is that when you are sleep deprived, your body creates more cortisol, the stress hormone. These increased levels of cortisol lead to higher stress and inflammation in the body which decreases the quality of your skin. Quality sleep might be the closest thing you have to a fountain of youth. It is also a noticeable difference that occurs quickly. If you are able to add one to three more hours of sleep, you will see improvements in a little as a day. Take a look at some of the benefits your skin will see with better rest.

 

Fewer Wrinkles

As you sleep, your skin creates new collagen which prevents sagging. Patricia Wexler, MD, a dermatologist in New York calls this part of the repair process. With more collagen, your skin will be plumper and less likely to wrinkle. According to Wexler, getting 5 hours of sleep leads to double the number of fine lines you would see if you were to get 7 hours of sleep. Less sleep also causes dry skin making the lines more visible.

 

Glowing Skin

More sleep also prevents your skin from looking dull. Michael Breus, MD, and author of Beauty Sleep says, “When you’re tired, blood doesn’t flow efficiently.” When you are asleep, your body is boosting more blood flow to the skin to allow you to wake up to a healthier glow. Your body is churning out the human growth hormone which is a crucial ingredient for the production of collagen. As Wexler mentioned, the hours of sleep you receive each night is part of the repair process. So without the deeper phases of slumber, it causes the small daily breakdowns to accumulate rather than reverse overnight.

 

Brighter Eyes

One of the first things you notice when you don’t get enough sleep are puffy eyes. By getting enough sleep at night, you can prevent this side-effect. You will also avoid the possibility of dark circles under the eyes. When you are low on rest, your blood does not flow properly causing it to collect under your eyes and become visible due to the thin skin. Sleep deprivation can also cause pre-existing eye issues to get worse.

Living with Narcolepsy: The Trouble of Staying Awake

Individuals suffering from narcolepsy are all too familiar with the inconveniences this sleep disorder poses, as well as the danger it can bring in certain situations. Narcolepsy is a chronic neurological disorder that results in a person’s brain being unable to regulate normal sleeping patterns, which a surprisingly common irregularity, affecting roughly 1 in every 2,000 Americans. What’s even more troubling is that fact that approximately 25% of these patients go undiagnosed, and therefore do not receive treatment; a danger to themselves and those around them.

People with narcolepsy experience chronic daytime fatigue, in addition to a sudden loss of muscle control. More often than not, narcoleptic episodes are caused by emotional distress, which includes working, exercising, and even more dangerously, driving. This can put a severe strain on the lives of those suffering from this sleep disorder, as nearly every activity they take part in now becomes a possibility to sustain an injury.

Narcolepsy is typically evident at a young age, with some people experiencing it earlier than others. The most common ages to see their first bouts of the disorder are between 10 and 25. Though symptoms can vary from person to person, the most common are, as mentioned before, daytime fatigue, sudden loss of muscle control, hallucinations, and sleep paralysis. It can also result in poor quality of sleep during the night, preventing certain people from entering the REM stage.

The causes of this interesting disorder are still somewhat unknown, but genetic makeup is likely a large reason why some individual’s brain chemistry is “off.” Research has shown that people suffering from narcolepsy have a lower secretion of hypocretin, which is a chemical in the brain that can regulate sleep. While there is no cure for narcolepsy at the moment, there are precautions that patients can take to effectively live a normal lifestyle.

Healthy changes in one’s life can aid in managing symptoms of narcolepsy. Of course, you’ll want to consult your doctor beforehand when seeking forms of treatment, but adding exercise and dieting can be very beneficial. Some other helpful strategies include scheduling periods throughout the day where you can cap for just 10-15 minutes, resisting caffeine or stimulating medications, taking regular breaks when undergoing larger tasks, and managing your emotions through meditation.

 
Counseling and support groups exist throughout the country for those suffering from this complicated disorder, as it can cause a great amount of emotional turmoil, depression, and overall difficulty in life. Working alongside a psychologist, counselor, or even an individual also suffering from narcolepsy can help you cope.

The Dangers Of Sleeping Pills In Seniors

Many people have advice on things that can be done to improve sleep. Getting exercise, avoiding caffeine and alcohol, and turning off the television are some of the things that are recommended in order to get a good night’s rest. People recommend doing these things because they really work.

However, the problem is many people do not try to fix their sleeping problems on their own. Most people go to their doctor and get a sleeping pill before trying a natural remedy. They do not want to change their lifestyles. They want a quick fix.

Many people do not have realistic expectations about their sleep. An example of this is a 77-year-old patient. He wanted to sleep until 8 a.m., but he kept waking up at 5 a.m. He goes to bed at 8 p.m. because he gets tired around that time. He wants to sleep for 12 hours, but this is not realistic. The average person needs to get seven to eight hours of sleep.

This patient is likely bored or suffering from depression or other mental health issues. He did not need a sleeping pill. It is important to note that some people suffer from sleep disorders such as sleep apnea. Many patients with sleep apnea have had been able to improve their sleep quality and quantity by using other, more proven methods.

Psychiatric disorders can also have a negative impact on sleep. Getting these conditions treated can improve sleep. However, sleeping pills can be dangerous for the elderly to use. They can increase the risk of dementia and falls. They can also slow down the respiratory rate, which can lead to death. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to become psychologically and physically dependent on the substance.

A major problem is that sleeping pills are often promoted as being harmless. The risks of medications are often minimized. You can naturally improve your sleep by learning from our ancestors. They spent the day being active and eating modestly. They did not spend their day in front of the television with little physical activity. If we want to improve our sleep, then we will need to get back down to the basics.

It is easy for healthcare providers to offer the easiest solutions. Doctors and patients alike need to know if they have unrealistic expectations. They also need to know about ways that they can naturally improve their sleep quality and quantity. They have to know that a pill is just a temporary solution that can have detrimental side effects in the long run.

Sleep Apnea and Tooth Extraction: The Root of the Problem

R. Kirk Huntsman

Following a tooth extraction or root canal, so long as the dental professional performing the procedure has done the job correctly, patients typically experience pain that can be managed with standard painkillers. However, in rare cases, there have been recordings of people experiencing sleep disorders and general sleeping complications following a dental extraction.

To begin, it’s important to know exactly why tooth extractions are performed. Depending on just how crooked an individual’s teeth are, either braces or extractions are necessary for straightening. However, if someone has a decaying, damaged, or infected tooth, that calls for an immediate extraction, so long as the damage is extensive enough to bar repair.

The argument afterwards then becomes whether or not this standard procedure is capable of disrupting one’s sleep. To many people, it may seem unlikely that oral health and sleeping patterns are so closely connected. But, the two are very much related. Extractions specifically, on the other hand, are widely debated as to whether or not they are contributors to sleep disorders.

According to SleepApnea.org, roughly 80% of Americans suffering from sleep apnea are undiagnosed. This poses a problem for professionals wishing to study this specific case, as the results may be heavily skewed one way or the other. For now, researchers must pay attention to why the subject has even been brought to light.

Following a tooth extraction, it is possible for an individual to experience a decreased size in airways; something that is known to worsen sleep apnea. A study conducted in 2016 found that adults between the ages of 25 and 65 had an increased chance of developing obstructive sleep apnea by 2% with every tooth lost. Though a small, find this is another possible factor for the development of sleep apnea post extraction.

A common symptom experienced after having wisdom teeth removed is looser facial muscles. Patients may experience an increase in drooling throughout the night because of this, and, when lying on one’s back, sleep apnea. With the relaxed muscles pushing the tongue further back into the throat, the partially blocked airways can cause snoring, and constant periods of stopped breathing altogether.

While any study has yet to yield concrete evidence that tooth extraction does indeed cause sleep apnea, there are numerous findings that suggest this. Many dentists may agree that the fewer extractions an individual endures, the better. Again, this is not to say that the more teeth removed one has, the higher chances they have of sleep apnea, but the subtle clues pointing toward this do suggest that it is a possibility. For now, anyone suffering from this sleep disorder should work closely with their doctor, sleep specialist, or dentist for insight as to why they may have developed it.