Monday, August 3, 2015

Sleep Matters - The 1-Minute Method to Help You Fall Asleep Easily

We may understand the idea that people should get a good night's sleep academically, but for many of us that realization doesn't translate to changes in our own behavior.

Typically, we continue "muddling through", working late into the night and even on weekends. Too wound up to relax properly in the evening, we may try to medicate the day's stress by watching late-night TV, having a few drinks, or spending hours surfing Facebook to learn what our "BFF" had for dinner.

Some recent studies may help remind us that choosing to get our optimum number hours of sleep nightly can make a positive difference in our professional and personal lives.

Recent Studies:

In a recently released University of California, Berkeley study, researchers found sleep deprivation negatively affects our ability to accurately read facial expressions. This reduced ability could potentially reduce our awareness of non-verbal cues from family members suggesting they are experiencing pain, illness, or emotional upset.

Likewise, failure to perceive subtle facial clues from our boss or co-workers means we're missing important information in the workplace. Even our physical safety could be affected if we fail to notice subtle facial and physical behaviors by potential criminals as we move about in public.

In an earlier UC Berkely study, researchers found a lack of sleep can play a key role in activating regions of the brain that contribute to excessive worry. This was found to be the case in healthy adults as well as people who regularly experience anxiety.

In yet another UC Berkely study, researchers discovered that during dream phases of sleep - also known as REM or rapid eye movement periods - stress chemistry changes and the brain can process emotional memories in ways that reduce the psychological impact.

Dr. Matthew Walker, associate professor or psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkley, and the senior author of this study, commented,

"The dream stage of sleep, based on its unique neurochemical composition, provides us with a form of overnight therapy, a soothing balm that removes the sharp edge from the prior day's emotional experiences".

Poor Sleep Patterns and Our Genes:

In addition to affecting our emotional and cognitive wellbeing, research suggests poor sleep patterns can have a negative effect on gene expression. Swedish researchers at Uppsala University and the Karolinska Institute discovered that genes controlling our biological clocks in cells throughout the body may be affected with the loss of even one night of sleep.

Jonathan Cedemaes, a researcher at Uppsala University and the study's lead author, comments,

"Previous research has shown that our metabolism is negatively affected by sleep loss, and sleep loss has been linked to an increased risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Since ablation of clock genes in animals can cause these disease states, our current results indicate that changes of our clock genes may be linked to such negative effects caused by sleep loss."

How to Fall Asleep Easily:

So if sleep is so important, how can we get more of it?

1) Make relaxation and sleep a priority. If sleep and energetic renewal aren't important priorities, you will find excuses to stay up "just another few minutes" to watch television, surf the web, read Facebook and other social media, or otherwise give attention to activities that keep you up and awake.

2) Close down the computer at an hour before bed. Staring at a monitor and engaging in emotionally charged brain stimulating activities don't support sleep.

3) Shut off the television at least an hour before bedtime. As with computer activities, much of television content stimulates brain activity in ways that keep us wired. This is particularly true with the "if it bleeds, it leads" stories on the evening news.

4) Stop consuming stimulants such as sodas, coffee, or tea several hours before bedtime. Sensitivity to stimulants can vary. Some people may experience the effects of caffeine many hours after caffeine and other stimulants are consumed. Know your tolerance and act accordingly.

5) Use the "4-7-8" method to help you fall asleep. Follow Dr. Andew Weil in the short video as he leads us through the simple method.

Of course, if you believe there may be a medical condition affecting your ability to fall and stay asleep, consult your doctor.


Steve Carter

Stephen Carter
Stress Solutions, LLC

Important Note: This and all other postings to this blog are for informational purposes only. This and all other posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or otherwise recommend any treatment for any medical or psychological condition. Anyone using any of the information contained in this or any other posting on this website does so at his or her own risk. You are urged to seek competent medical consultations with appropriate licensed medical professionals for any and all medical, psychological, or physical conditions.

For more information about the articles mentioned above, click the article links below.


Sleep Loss Recent Studies:

The sleep-deprived brain can mistake friends for foes:

Tired and edgy? Sleep deprivation boosts anticipatory anxiety:

One night of sleep loss can alter clock genes in your tissues:

Dreaming takes the sting out of painful memories: study:

Resources & Guides:

National Sleep Foundation Guide to Sleep

Center for Disease Control Guidelines on Sleep

How Much Sleep Do You Need? Health?


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