Sleep is as important to health as diet and exercise and, thanks to new technology, tracking sleep is now routine in monitoring overall well-being. But are the devices used to do this actually useful, or have we simply found a more sophisticated way to clock watch?
Lots of people say they have trouble sleeping. And 1 in 10 Americans has chronic insomnia.
Most often, sleep disorders are treated with medication. Between 6 and 10 percent of adults in the U.S. use sleeping pills. But a review of the medical evidence has found that therapy might help people with chronic sleep troubles just as much — or even more — than pills.
Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is effective for primary insomnia. That is, insomnia without medical cause. With primary insomnia, there is often some event that caused the individual to begin having trouble sleeping (e.g., a newborn). However, over time the brain starts to associate bed with a stressful place where no sleeping happens. The objective of CBT-I, then, is to reset this negative association and create a positive one.
A friend and co-worker in high school was trying to work full time, school full time, and still keep an active social life. They fell asleep at the wheel, went off the road, crashing (in both senses of the word). Injuries were severe – when I last saw them, they had intelligence and vocabulary but struggled to say the words. I haven’t seen them in years, but do remember seeing them on Facebook. It was really rough, getting the news about the crash while at work.
Please don’t let that happen to you or someone you know. I’ve had close calls, stupidly thinking I could “push through it”. Even today, I have time where I learn that I haven’t been sleeping as much or as well as I should be.
Try doing some low-impact exercise. Exercise that doesn’t so much get you pumped and ready to do anything, more exercise that exhausts you. Things like just keeping yourself in a tense pose, or slow exercises like yoga.
You can even do it in bed to take your mind off thinking, a common cause of staying awake. Doing simple tensing exercises, like your arms and legs – easy, passive… It can be very calming.
It’s the middle of the night and you know you should be sleeping, but you can’t. Something is keeping you up: Maybe a coworker tried to throw you under the bus, or your friend said something rude. Whatever it is, you can’t get it out of your head, and you need to sleep for work tomorrow. It sucks.
I’ve had my share of those nights, and they’re the worst. It doesn’t even have to be something serious that’s keeping you awake, either. Sometimes it’s small; a snide comment or the assertion that you’re not doing your job well. Other times it can be serious, like hearing through the grapevine that someone important said something off-color about you. Combine this with even a little stress and anxiety, and your brain is off to the races at the worst of times—the middle of the night. I’m willing to bet you’ve been there too.
They say that the night before a race doesn’t matter – it’s the sleep the night before that which matters.
For those devices that can’t run f.lux without a jail break, consider purchasing orange safety goggles. They’re extremely cheap and work wonders and are not that uncomfortable. I’ve fallen asleep with them on. They’ll also help block out the light of your television or your blue-colored lighting around your home. You really don’t want any blue light in your eyes past sundown.
Diphenhydramine can have a sort of stimulatory rebound effect in some people and give them restless leg syndrome. This could mean falling asleep in a drug-induced haze and waking an hour or two later unable to sit or lie still, which makes the night so much worse. If this has ever happened to you, it’s probably not worth the risk.
Your usual sleep hygiene stuff is still helpful here, including temperature. Your body temp goes down when you’re asleep, and most people sleep best under warm blankets in a cool room. Taking a hot bath or shower can be soporific because exiting the hot water produces a perceived drop in temperature. Cracking a window in autumn can keep the room cooler.
I struggle with anxiety-induced insomnia, and ultimately I often rely on something to listen to to keep my mind quiet. It’s hard to ruminate when you have input. If white noise works for you, great. But if you end up needing a dull free access lecture or something to fall asleep, just go for it. I sleep with headphones a great deal of the time because I’ve been stressed lately. I’ll listen to Netflix episodes of things I’ve heard dozens and dozens of times, so it’s not that interesting, but it’s light and just enough for my brain to listen to to keep me from thinking about anything. Whatever works. The goal is sleep, period. You can be an A+ sleeper after you graduate/finish that project/reach that deadline.
In grade school, we were told that “You snooze, you lose.” Now as adults, we know sleep is important, but when life gets hectic it’s often the first thing we cut out. That’s truly our loss. In fact, crappy z’s could be a big reason you aren’t losing weight. Here’s why.
One thing to keep in mind, though, is that despite an awful lot of money thrown at this by pharmas (it’s potentially the holy grail of a weight loss pill) while we have some interesting correlates on leptin and ghrelin and sleep and appetite, we haven’t really begun figuring out their mechanisms yet.
In fact, one of the more interesting bits of research that came out after that Chicago study was that that a population with untreated obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) has levels of leptin far above what their BMI should indicate, yet they are entirely resistant to its effects on appetite.
It’s also why any study involving leptin or ghrelin should be screening participants for potential sleep disorders, as the latter can wildly skew data. Unfortunately, almost nobody does that.
Q: Does this mean if I sleep too little, I can get by with less food?
Other studies have found that when people are subjected to sleep deprivation, they increase consumption of foods that we associate with fat storage (calorically dense and high in saturated fat and sugar). As impulse control is reduced when an individual is under stress, such as when a person is sleep deprived, the ability to restrict calories is reduced. On top of this, the body tends towards fat storage when the metabolic rate is compromised. This short term study only highlights the first in a chain of concerning physiological changes that damage energy regulation during sleep deprivation. The overview (that builds off of other studies) is that when subjected to sleep deprivation, impulse control decreases and the tendency to store fat increases.
Q: Consequences of [Long] Shift Work?
If you’re really wondering what the long-term consequences might be, here’s some of them.
Keep in mind that this is not a guarantee that these issues will/won’t happen. They are just probable, and lifestyle choices make them more or less probable.
Hypertension (high blood pressure)
Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol)
Diabetes Mellitus (diabetes type 2)
Cardiovascular disease (heart disease)
Fatty liver disease
The problem with having these diseases isn’t just that they kill you early (which sometimes they do) – the more significant problem is they take years off your quality of life. Modern medicine is very good at handling these diseases. But, it takes a handful of pills daily, sometimes multiple times daily, to keep diseases like this from killing a person. Do what you can to be kinder to your future self: Sleep more, eat healthier, and try to relax. Even a bit will help.
Sleeping late on days-off—and other sleep-time adjustments—are linked to metabolic problems, including insulin resistance and a higher body mass index, according to a new study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. The finding suggests that regular sleep shifts could rouse long-term health problems such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes, the authors conclude.
Though other research has connected sleep disruptions to poor health, the new study is the first to specifically link shifts in dozing times to metabolic problems. Those problems were independent of other factors such as sleep disorders, smoking, and socioeconomic status.
I don’t care if it shaves 5 years off my life. You can pry me early from my bed on Saturdays and Sundays when I’m dead (which again, may come early)! For anyone looking to avoid sleeping in on weekends, I suggest having small kids. …or you could just go back to working all day, every day.
Every year hundreds of thousands of people head to conventions to talk tech, gaming, geek culture, even knitting! By the end, attendees walk out with swag, intel, and sometimes a rather nasty cold. Protect yourself from the infamous “con crud” and leave these gatherings scot free.