The Cost of Cutting Sleep

The Cost of Cutting Sleep

An hour shaved from shuteye here, twenty minutes there. What are the dangers of insomnia? The cost might be larger than you think. When a team at the Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar evaluated the sleep patterns of over 500 participants over the course of a year, they calculated that those with sleep debt were 72% more likely to be obese than their counterparts. Their chance of developing type 2 diabetes jumped by 39%. These findings are consistent with numerous other studies mapping the effects of sleep insufficiency with insulin resistance. But what’s surprising about this particular study is even seemingly small losses add up. With only half an hour less sleep a night, the likelihood for obesity went up a surprising 17%.1 In addition to insulin resistance and diabetes, insufficient sleep has been tied to higher rates of hypertension, heart failure, stroke, and depression. And that’s just one set of costs. Poor sleep can also take its toll on your physical safety, your work productivity, and even your personal relationships. Playing it Safe Some experts suggest that driving while drowsy can be as hazardous as driving while drunk. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 15 to 20% of all fatal vehicular accidents are tied to sleepy drivers. In one study overseen by a group of neurology researchers in Switzerland, the rate of car accidents among those who suffer from sleep apnea syndrome was over four times higher than that of the general population. Among participants with the most severe apnea, the rates were as much as 13 times higher still.2 Short-term tactics like turning to caffeine,...
The Right Way to Boost Sleep with Supplements

The Right Way to Boost Sleep with Supplements

Certain herbs and tinctures have long been associated with relaxation and improved sleep. While modern science has explained the mechanism behind some of these remedies, others remain elusive; but in either case, countless people have found they can make a positive difference in the timing and the quality of their sleep. When a group at the Department of Psychiatry at the University of California at San Diego conducted a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of common herbal sleep supplements — including valerian root and chamomile — they found that subjects fell asleep faster and reported better sleep overall.1 That said, vitamins and herbal treatments are supplemental. There are no magic cure-alls for fixing poor sleep habits; however, combining a more regular sleep schedule and a more relaxing sleep environment with the short-term or long-term use of some of these dietary supplements can be a great way to reinforce better rest. Make sure to introduce new variables slowly, one at a time, and observe how you feel over a period of a week or two before changing anything else. And as always, check with your primary care physician before starting any new medication or supplement. Even seemingly harmless herbs can interact with prescription medications or have unintended effects on certain medical conditions. A Matter of Timing Some supplements are best suited for half an hour to an hour before sleep. Others help you relax any time of day and can be especially potent when taken at night. Still others have an energizing effect and should be avoided near bedtime. For example, many health care specialists suggest that you relegate vitamin C and...
Does Losing Sleep Mean Losing Strength?

Does Losing Sleep Mean Losing Strength?

Sure, one late night might make you groggy, but here’s something we weren’t expecting: According to a study published in Biological Rhythm Research, when a group of football players reduced the number of hours they slept, their physical performance — including peak strength and reaction times — went down after just one late night. On the other hand, caffeine was shown to not only improve reaction times but also improve the athletes’ strength during workouts. That tells us two things: If you’re an athlete or have a job that depends on you being in top physical shape, losing sleep at night could hurt your career more than you’ve ever realized. Caffeine can have surprising benefits for physical performance beyond the usual heightened awareness and energy levels. How will this new information impact your exercise routines?  I’d love to hear back on how you’ll use this research in your daily life. For more of the latest sleep research, Click Here to Subscribe to our Optimal Sleep newsletter. We’ll discuss practical approaches to increasing your energy and focus and you’ll never miss insights from the newest studies. Featured Image is Climbing Rope by Emilien ETIENNE. CC BY-ND...
Getting Better Sleep with a Bedroom Makeover

Getting Better Sleep with a Bedroom Makeover

Stress can rob us of our most precious sleep. But what if the bedroom — where we supposedly go to try to relax and escape the daily grind — is actually a source of some of that stress? Whether you’re looking for quick, affordable sleep makeover or full on feng shui is more your speed, today’s focus is on reducing stress (and upping the relaxation factor!) in the bedroom. But first, what’s the big deal? So you’re stressed during the day. If you’re one of those who crashes into a deep slumber at the end of a long day, you might think you’re in the clear. But science suggests that may not entirely be true. When a group of researchers at the agency for Innovation by Science and Technology monitored sleep patterns in a group of subjects, they found that stress could impact sleep in a variety ways. Individuals who were going through stressful life events had more fragmented sleep, waking several times during the night; spent more of their time in REM sleep and a lower percentage of their time in a more restorative deep sleep; and needed a larger quantity of sleep in order to make up for the poor quality of sleep they did get. The list of issues goes on.1 Stress can be compounded by a number of factors, some of them unavoidable. And while tips for good stress management can be helpful for better sleep in general, the truth is, we could all benefit from a more restful and relaxing sleep environment.   The Bed as a Refuge Our ancestors had more tangible night threats to contend...
Q&A: How can I fall asleep easily when I’m stressed out of my mind?

Q&A: How can I fall asleep easily when I’m stressed out of my mind?

One of the big questions I’ve heard from readers is this – how can I fall asleep quickly and easily? I’m going to dig a bit here, because if you have this problem, then sleep must be a source of stress and anxiety for you. How did that happen? See if this sounds familiar…   It’s going to be a long day. Your child wakes you up early complaining of a fever. But you’ve got a huge deadline at work, you have to at least go in for the morning. You have a frantic conversation with your spouse trying to figure out how to split the work day. On your way out the door, you notice the dog had an ‘incident’ on the carpet. You clean it up, but now you’ve lost your head start on traffic – it’s bumper to bumper all the way to the office. You arrive at work flustered and combative, but you get all your deliverables in. Except that one form Mary from accounting told you she’d take care of. She didn’t, and you only find out as you’re rushing out the door to relieve your partner from sick child duty. You run in the door late – hot, flustered, defensive. Your spouse is upset but doesn’t have time to talk about it. Your child looks even sicker. You scrounge some snacks together for the two of you to hold you over ‘till dinner. Wait, dinner? Don’t you usually pick up a pizza on the way home this night every week? Hey, that’s what delivery is for. Except it takes twice as long to...
Get More Sun – Why Indoor Light is Ruining Your Sleep

Get More Sun – Why Indoor Light is Ruining Your Sleep

Do you feel groggy in the mornings but still struggle to fall asleep at bedtime? Do you often have trouble sleeping through the night and then suffer for it the next day? Since the advent of electricity, scientists have studied the effects of light on sleep. Electric lights — particularly the blue light emitted by computers and other electronics — interfere with the chemicals that regulate our circadian rhythms or sleep cycles. Anyone who has worked a night shift or flown across time zones can attest to this. Long after the sun has set, these lights trick the brain into thinking it’s still daylight. Happily, new evidence suggests it doesn’t take long to reset misaligned sleep cycles. Resetting Your Sleep Cycle Sleep scientist Kenneth Wright and his colleagues at the Sleep and Chronobiology Institute at the University of Colorado at Boulder1 sent eight test subjects packing for seven days in the woods away from all other artificial light sources. The campers went about their business and slept when they chose, all while wearing special devices to monitor their sleep patterns and melatonin levels — one of the primary chemicals responsible for triggering sleep in humans and other animals. After just one week, the campers returned to the lab for assessment. Each camper’s data was compared to pre-experiment data taken during a week of normal activity. Across the board, researchers noted an increased melatonin production at nightfall and lower levels of melatonin during the day, helping the subjects sleep better at night and be more alert in the morning. Self-proclaimed night owls saw the most dramatic shift, going to sleep an average of...