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Posts tagged ‘Sleep’

Is your smartphone ruining your sleep?


New technology such as smartphones and tablets could be affecting how much sleep people get, a survey suggests.

More than three quarters of those surveyed use devices with screens before going to sleep. The blue light they emit disrupts the body’s natural processes.

Professor Richard Wiseman, a psychologist at the University of Hertfordshire who was behind the survey, says six out of ten people are now getting less than seven hours sleep a night.

via BBC News – Is your smartphone ruining your sleep?.

A new mattress may help to make up for lost sleep


Are you having sleepless nights? Do you suspect that you are suffering from insomnia?

Before you start popping those pills to help you sleep, consider changing to a new and bigger mattress.

Just like the fairy tale by Hans Christian Andersen, The Princess and the Pea, sleep researchers at the Hôtel-Dieu Hospital in Paris revealed the quality and size of the mattress we sleep on can greatly affect our sleeping patterns.

This is especially so for those in the intensive growth phase of adolescence.

Their studies revealed the teenagers’ average sleep per night has declined by 50 minutes over the past 25 years.

While the causes of this decrease are often hard to pinpoint, the researchers found one way to remedy the problem: newer, bigger mattresses.

Professor Damien Léger, director of the Centre du Sommeil et de la Vigilance, the Parisian hospital’s sleep research center, partnered with the founder of the European Sleep Center, Doctor François Duforez, to study the effects of high-quality bedding on teenagers’ sleep.

The two researchers were motivated by recent studies on the question, which show that French teenagers are not getting their recommended eight to nine hours of sleep per night.

According to the country’s National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), subjects aged 15-19 slept just seven hours and 37 minutes per night on average.

Nearly one third of the study’s participants had accumulated a “sleep debt,” while 17% said they were dissatisfied with their sleep.

More troubling, 7% of the teenagers in the study reported taking sedatives to help them sleep.

“The quality and quantity of sleep depend among other factors on the synchronization of the body’s internal clock with a sleeping and waking schedule.

But teenagers have a tendency to delay going to bed, particularly at the start of the week when they feel less tired.

And on the weekends they tend to shift their sleep schedules and sleep more (for example, 15-year-olds sleep one hour and 41 minutes longer on average when they don’t have school the next morning).

This de-synchronization can be the cause of a sleep debt in the mid to long term,” the INSEE study states.

A high-quality mattress to help make up for lost sleep.

While making sure your 16-year-old goes to bed at the same time every night is no easy task, Léger and Duforez have found one way parents can ensure they are doing what they can for their teenagers’ sleep: give them a large, unused mattress.

The researchers found that teenagers’ mattresses were often too small to accommodate their rapid growth.

Moreover, they were often worn out or of poor quality, having been inherited from another family member.

Specifically, the study showed that teenagers could gain an extra 31 minutes of sleep by upgrading to a newer, larger mattress, which would reduce the time they spend falling asleep by half.

Teenagers would gain 22 extra minutes of slow sleep phases, which contribute to physical recovery and growth, and 8 minutes of REM sleep, which is essential to memorization and learning.

Finally, teenagers with a new, high-quality mattress also have less waking episodes lasting more than 15 seconds.

Whether or not you may be that secret royal who can feel a small pea through 20 mattresses and 20 feather beds, consider changing your mattress often for a peaceful night’s rest.

via A new mattress may help to make up for lost sleep | Astro Awani.

Sleep ‘cleans’ the brain of toxins

The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day\’s thinking, researchers have shown.


The US team believe the “waste removal system” is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep.

Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.

They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators?

It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that “housework” may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.

“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up,” said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard.

“You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can’t really do both at the same time.”


Their findings build on last year’s discovery of the brain’s own network of plumbing pipes – known as the glymphatic system – which carry waste material out of the brain.

Scientists, who imaged the brains of mice, showed that the glymphatic system became 10-times more active when the mice were asleep.

Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which keep nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep. This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and wash the toxins away.

Dr Nedergaard said this was a “vital” function for staying alive, but did not appear to be possible while the mind was awake.

She told the BBC: “This is purely speculation, but it looks like the brain is losing a lot of energy when pumping water across the brain and that is probably incompatible with processing information.”

She added that the true significance of the findings would be known only after human studies, but doing similar experiments in an MRI machine would be relatively easy.


Commenting on the research Dr Neil Stanley, an independent sleep expert, said: “This is a very interesting study that shows sleep is essential downtime to do some housekeeping to flush out neurotoxins.

“There is good data on memory and learning, the psychological reason for sleep. But this is the actual physical and chemical reason for sleep, something is happening which is important.”

Dr Raphaelle Winsky-Sommerer, a lecturer in sleep at Surrey University, said: “It’s not surprising, our whole physiology is changing during sleep.

“The novelty is the role of the interstitial space, but I think it’s an added piece of the puzzle not the whole mechanism.

“The significance is that, yet again, it shows sleep may contribute to the restoration of brain cell function and may have protective effects.”

Many conditions which lead to the loss of brain cells such as Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease are characterised by the build-up of damaged proteins in the brain.

The researchers suggest that problems with the brain’s cleaning mechanism may contribute to such diseases, but caution more research is needed.

The charity Alzheimer’s Research UK said more research would be needed to see whether damage to the brain’s waste clearance system could lead to diseases like dementia, but the findings offered a “potential new avenue for investigation”.

via BBC News – Sleep ‘cleans’ the brain of toxins.

Sound sleep

Have a sleep schedule

Lack of sleep could lead to obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Kasmiah Mustapha suggests ways to ensure a good night’s sleep

1. Have a sleep schedule

Try to go to bed at the same time every day, even on weekends and holidays.  When your body is attuned to relaxing at the same time every night, you will be able to enjoy quality sleep even if you can’t manage eight hours at a time. When your sleeping schedule keeps changing, you may experience insomnia.

2. Bedtime ritual

Do things that help your body wind down such as listening to music or reading a book. Once your body is  comfortable, it is easier to fall asleep. Try to limit the time to unwind and don’t force yourself to finish a book.

3. Be comfortable

Choose the correct mattress to ensure you get a good night’s sleep.  According to WebMd, one way a mattress affects your sleep has to do with the network of fine blood vessels, called capillaries, that run underneath your skin. Ideally, a mattress which reduces the pressure points on the body gives you a better night’s sleep.

4. Avoid stimulants

Caffeine will increase alertness, cause insomnia, headaches, nervousness and dizziness. Alcohol reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep which may cause poor concentration and disrupt your sleep. Nicotine  speeds up your heart rate, raises blood pressure and stimulates brain activity which causes insomnia.

5. Clear your mind

Keep your mind clear of anything that’s stressful. If you are upset about something, leave it at the bedroom door and deal with it the next day. Harvard experts recommend deep breathing, meditation or progressive muscle relaxation.

6. Bedroom is for sleeping

Do not have  items in the bedroom that can distract you, such as a TV, computer or laptop. Make sure your room is dark enough as it helps your mind and body to relax. If you need some light to fall asleep, get a night light, dimmer, or a switch-controlled lamp.

7. Clutter-free room

Your bedroom should be tidy and free from clutter. A cluttered room leads to a cluttered mind. Even the bed should be free of clutter.

8. Avoid napping

Daytime naps can interfere with nighttime sleep, especially if you are having problems  trying to sleep. If you really need to have a nap,  limit the time to about 10 to 20 minutes, and preferably during mid-afternoon.

9. Limit food and beverage intake

There is a reason why you should not have your dinner after 7pm. If you go to bed with a full stomach, acids in the stomach will level out, causing heartburn and indigestion which will disrupt your sleep. If you are hungry, have a light snack at least one hour before you go to bed. Also avoid drinking too much water closer to your bedtime to prevent disruptive trips to the toilet.

10. Aromatherapy

Studies have found that aromatherapy can reduce stress, improve the mood as well as quality of sleep. Lavender, marjoram, lemon, valerian and sandalwood are good for improving sleep.

via TOP PICKS: Sound sleep – Health – New Straits Times.

Study explains how sleep loss can make you fat

File illustration photo of an overweight man. (AFP/Paul Ellis)

Scientists said on Tuesday they had found evidence that a lack of sleep causes changes in brain activity that lead to people feeling hungrier and craving more fattening foods.

PARIS: Scientists said on Tuesday they had found evidence that a lack of sleep causes changes in brain activity that lead to people feeling hungrier and craving more fattening foods.

Researchers have long pointed to a correlation between a steep rise in obesity in industrialised nations and a decline in sleep duration.

A causal link was suspected, but science has not been able to explain the mechanism, until now.

A team from the University of California said they used MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scans to spot changes in the brain activity of sleep-deprived test subjects.

“These findings provide an explanatory brain mechanism by which insufficient sleep may lead to the development or maintenance of obesity,” they wrote in the journal Nature Communications.

Twenty-three participants had their heads scanned twice; once after a full night of sleep and once after being deprived their shut-eye for a night.

Their brain activity was measured the next day as they selected items and portion sizes from pictures of 80 different food types.

Among the fatigued individuals, the researchers noted impaired activity in regions of the cortex that evaluate appetite and satiation. Simultaneously, there was a boost in areas associated with craving.

“An additionally interesting finding was that high calorie foods became more desirable to the sleep-deprived participants,” said study co-author Matthew Walker of the psychology department at the University of California in Berkeley.

“These findings of impaired brain activity in regions that control good judgement and decision-making together with amplified activity in more reward-related brain regions fit well with, and potentially explain, the link between sleep loss, weight gain and obesity,” he told AFP by email.

“Our findings indicate that (to) regularly obtain sufficient amounts of sleep may be an important factor promoting weight control, achieved by priming the brain mechanisms governing appropriate food choices.”

According to the World Health Organisation, more than 1.4 billion adults aged 20 and older were overweight in 2008 — a figure that had nearly doubled since 1980.

More than a third of adults were overweight in 2008, 11 percent obese, and at least 2.8 million adults die every year as a result.

– AFP/nd

via Study explains how sleep loss can make you fat – Channel NewsAsia.

Top Picks: Get through in fine form

Eat before visiting

Festive celebrations can be hectic and take a toll on our overall health. Sushma Veera offers some prudent tips for the weekend ahead.

Eat before visiting

1 – Eat something healthy before you leave home. It will not only stop you from eating excessively oily food later but also stop you from overeating at homes you’re visiting.

Manage your indigestion

2 – Don’t rush to finish your food. Take your time and chew each mouthful properly to combat indigestion. Rich foods, eating on-the-go and festive stress can all be overwhelming for your digestive system, and that means you pile on the calories. Stick to protein-rich snacks such as peanuts, rather than bread-based ones to prevent feeling bloated.

Rehydrate before bed

3 – Drink plenty of water. Hot weather can dehydrate you if your fluid intake is not adequate or too many caffeinated drinks are consumed without replacing the fluids lost. Always keep a water bottle with you — either in your car, handbag or in the living room. Seeing it will constantly remind you to drink up.

Remove your makeup

4 – No matter how tired you are, never neglect your skin. Be sure to remove makeup as it gives your skin a chance to rest, breathe and repair. Use a good skin cleanser to gently remove dirt, excess oil and make-up.

Sleep well

5 – Prioritise quality sleep by relaxing before bedtime. Lack of sleep can actually increase appetite and cravings so aim to go to bed by 10pm and enjoy eight hours of restorative sleep. Set aside some time in which you can lounge around with a good book, or soak in a lavender bubble bath.

De-puff your eyes

6 – Late nights will take a toll on your eyes. Cut a cold cucumber and put two slices on your eyelids. Keep them on for a couple of minutes — it helps to ease skin inflammation and irritation as well as reduce water retention.

Don’t neglect your feet

7 – During this festive season, people will be on their feet for extended periods. Don’t let sore, achy feet ruin your festive celebration. Show your feet some love by applying a good moisturiser to prevent blisters. If you want to wear high heels, invest in gel cushions.


8 – Exercise will make you feel better. It’s the best way to relieve stress and boost your energy. If possible, go for an evening walk in the neighbourhood or play some backyard game in between feasting.

Manage your stress

9 – So there’s cooking, shopping, cleaning and some office work pending. Set your priorities  and eliminate superfluous activities. At home, try to delegate errands among family members.

Protection from the sun

10 – Sun exposure provides vitamin D but overexposure to UV radiation can also have adverse health effects. Make it a habit to wear sunscreen. If you are going to be outdoors for a long period of time, wear protective clothing. Wear a shade and be sure to carry an umbrella.

Read more: Top Picks: Get through in fine form – Health – New Straits Times

via Top Picks: Get through in fine form – Health – New Straits Times.

Sleep like a log



Tossing and turning in bed? Meena Sreenivasan has some tips to help you sleep better

1. Have a cuppa
Drink warm plain tea before you retire for the night. This may be the key to sweet dreams.

2. B boost
Vitamin B can play a role in regulating sleep so try taking a daily supplement of B12 (consult your physician before doing so) to help with insomnia. It is said to improve sleep quality and to reduce leg cramps at night.

3. Bedtime bath
Take a long soak in the bath before bedtime with some bath salts as it boosts circulation and will help you relax and sleep better.

4. Stick to a routine
Try to change irregular bedtime habits and follow a routine. Get up at the same time every morning and go to bed at the same time every night. Sticking to a regular bedtime will help you get quality sleep.

5. Avoid caffeine
Even if you are addicted to coffee, try cutting down on caffeine after lunch as it may keep you up till the wee hours. Avoiding stimulants such as caffeine before bedtime helps you sleep better.

6. Cool down
Switch on the air-conditioner a few minutes earlier to cool your room before you go to sleep. This will prepare your body to reduce its temperature so you can sleep better.

7. Lights off
Avoid watching television or using your mobile device in your bedroom. It not only disrupts sleep but the “blue light” from your mobile phone, electronic gadgets or even your clock digital display will prevent you from falling asleep.

8. Take a walk
Taking a stroll in the evening not only helps you to control stress but will also enable you to sleep soundly.

9. Skip the pills
Try not to take sleeping pills or antidepressants before you sleep as it can cause tiredness and a heavy head the next day.

10. Wear socks
The instant warming up of the feet allows your body to transfer heat and cools you down. This induces sleep.

Read more: TOP PICKS: Sleep like a log – Health – New Straits Times

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