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Naps are a seemingly regular part of childhood. But for many adults, there just isn’t enough time in the day to nap. Despite that, the majority of adults across the globe are seriously sleep-deprived. Napping is a quick, simple way to fill in some of the gaps and pay off sleep debt. In fact, a NASA study found that napping improves working memory performance, helping to reduce workplace errors while enhancing focus and attention. That said, the timing and duration of your nap matter. If you nap too long, you might wake up in the middle of a sleep cycle. This leads to grogginess upon waking, often called sleep inertia. Whether you’re interested in short cat naps or longer naps (like a 45-minute nap or 90-minute nap), rest assured that there are benefits to both. If you only have 15 minutes to snooze, you should utilize it and attempt to rest. However, if you can swing a nap that’s an hour and a half long, go for it! Just be sure to wake up at the 1.5-hour mark, or you may be left feeling groggier than before you laid down. Consuming caffeine before napping may help you feel more alert upon waking regardless of nap duration - as long as caffeine doesn’t affect you negatively in general.
Being a student quickly leads to overwhelm and stress due to a heavy workload. With so much to accomplish each day, sleep may take a backseat to other tasks. If you’re not making sleep a priority, you’re not alone. More than half of all college students admit that they’re chronically sleep deprived. However, the dangers linked to a lack of sleep are no joke. And even more concerning, running short on sleep can seriously harm your memory and concentration, leading to poor academic performance. Therefore, skipping sleep means that you’re lowering your ability to achieve your highest success as a student. That’s why we’ve rounded up sleep hacks to help build the best night routine for students that promotes academic excellence. For example, that all-nighter that you think will help you get a better score on tomorrow’s exam may actually decrease your score. And that evening coffee that you rely on to get through homework? It’s keeping you awake at night and throwing off your sleep patterns.
Everyone wants to be debt free. But many people have racked up a dangerous amount of sleep debt without even knowing it. Like any debt, sleep debt is easy to acquire and difficult to pay off. As a result of high sleep debt, you may find yourself still tired after 8 hours of sleep. It takes multiple days to pay off even one hour of sleep debt, and fully paying off chronic sleep debt can take more than a week. However, it’s important to pay off sleep debt as soon as possible - the long-term effects of sleep debt are detrimental to our health. Over time, sleep debt increases our risk of inflammation and infection while weakening our immune response. Processing issues like brain fog and poor memory arise as a result of sleep debt, too. Even worse, sleep-deprived individuals experience a higher risk of developing cardiovascular issues like high blood pressure, heart disease, and even heart failure. Our modern lifestyle seemingly promotes sleep debt buildup with shift work, long commutes, and digital distractions. Luckily, sleep debt can be lowered with lifestyle changes that promote healthy sleep patterns.
Breathing exercises have gained popularity in recent years, but they’re actually rooted in ancient cultural practices centered around deep, controlled breathing. When we use our abdomen, or diaphragm, to breathe instead of our chest, our breathing transforms from shallow, fast breaths to slow, deep inhalations and exhalations. As a result, our bodies and brains shift out of a state of stress and into a state of relaxation. Countless abdominal breathing benefits follow, including improved mood, lessened pain, and even better digestion. Moreover, the more often you practice abdominal breathing, the stronger your lungs become. As the lungs strengthen, oxygenation improves, and boosted productivity and performance follow. If that wasn’t already exciting enough, deep breathing is linked to improved immunity and better sleep. Long story short, abdominal breathing is the quickest, most effective way to shift your mindset and physical body into a state of greater well-being.
Light helps regulate our circadian rhythm and sleep patterns by sending signals through our eyes to suppress the sleep hormone melatonin until nightfall. In contrast, sun exposure during the day ramps up the production of feel-good hormones like serotonin and vitamin D, helping us feel energized. Without this daily light exposure, we’re sure to feel groggy, grumpy, and gross. Neuroscientists say that unfiltered morning light exposure is best – that means no hats, sunglasses, or windows. However, too much unprotected sunlight leads to sunburns and fatigue that may leave you asking yourself, “why does sunlight make me sleepy?” Light exposure late in the evening is also bad news, as it prevents melatonin production from causing sensations of drowsiness that help us drift off. There’s just one problem: our electronics emit tons of blue light known to partially mimic sunlight and throw our sleep patterns off by confusing our brains. Therefore, our circadian rhythm relies on morning sunshine and limited electronic use before bed to function properly.
Sometimes dreams are better than reality, causing feelings of letdown upon waking. But what if we could control our dreams so that every dream is a good one? Science says we can. Lucid dreaming refers to gaining awareness that one is in a dream while asleep. Some lucid dreamers can even control their experiences, surroundings, and actions within their dreams, leading to literal out-of-this-world experiences. While we’re just beginning to delve into the science behind lucid dreams, philosopher Aristotle was one of the first to describe it. Researchers believe that lucid dreaming may even offer potential benefits for our waking lives, like improved self-reflection, problem-solving, and creativity. Some people may be pre-disposed to experience lucid dreams more than others. However, some say that certain techniques and tips help evoke lucid dreams, such as waking yourself up in the middle of the night, using smartphone apps designed for lucid dreaming, and even using special sleep masks like the NovaDreamer.
Anxiety has many causes. However, shallow, rapid breathing is proven to intensify it. That said, shallow, rapid breathing typically follows feelings of anxiousness. Therefore, in order to shift your mind into a calm state, you have to shift your breathing into a calm state. Deep breathing exercises for anxiety shift your focus to your breathing patterns, forcing you to take slow, calm breaths. This activates the parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system, taking the body and mind out of the sympathetic (fight or flight) state. Deep, easy breathing sends signals to the brain that it’s safe to relax; being on high alert isn’t necessary. As a result, anxiety levels drop. Like many mindfulness or meditation practices, it can be intimidating to know where to start when it comes to breathwork. Quick and easy practices such as the physiological sigh, humming breath, or alternate nostril breathing are simple to learn and easy to remember, helping you shift into a state of calm anywhere, anytime.
Want to re-center your sleep habits? Re-center your mind. The popularity of meditation is rising higher each year, and for good reason. Guided meditations offer visualization and imagery that eases us into relaxation, releases stress, and is proven to boost mood and improve sleep. Establishing a meditation practice for better sleep may sound intimidating, but many free resources are available that allow you to ease into a daily practice without any extra stress. Guided meditation features  instruction that eases you into every session (and all you have to do is follow along!) Many guided meditation resources exist, but a large library can be found on YouTube, such as Jason Stephenson’s guided meditations. Meditation apps also feature a large selection of meditation music, guided sleep meditation, body scanning practices for progressive muscle relaxation, and more. Take it a step further with Non-Sleep Deep Rest, or NSDR.
Imagine it: you’re in bed trying to relax, but your eyes burst open and your heart feels like it's beating out of your chest. There’s no experience more unpleasant than waking up with anxiety in the middle of the night or feeling impending doom and panic first thing in the morning. Although anxiety has many potential causes, certain lifestyle choices can fragment sleep and certain mental processes that lead to a racing heart upon waking. Controlling anxiety that wakes you from sleep requires uncovering the potential causes to lower overall stress. As a result, overall well-being improves and you’ll instead wake up with ease feeling calm and relaxed. Moreover, the potential causes of morning anxiety may surprise you. For example, skipping out on breakfast or choosing the wrong foods for breakfast (along with too much caffeine) creates the perfect recipe for an anxious morning.
It’s estimated that millions of adults have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) – but they don’t know it yet. This may explain why so many of us face trouble falling asleep, as at least three-fourths of adults with ADHD experience chronic sleep problems. The most popular of these sleep problems? Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome (DSPS). Understanding the link between ADHD and DSPS is key to building a plan for improved sleep quality and overall well-being. DSPS is a circadian rhythm disorder that causes the delayed onset of sleep, making it difficult to go to bed at your desired time. As a result, you may wake up groggy and down caffeine to boost focus, only to find it has no effect. If you find yourself asking, “why does caffeine not affect me?” It could be due to the difference between how caffeine stimulates an ADHD brain in comparison to ADHD medication. Cutting back on caffeine dependence is key to treating DSPS, along with correcting sleep patterns with tried and tested methods.
There’s nothing worse than being unable to get the quality sleep you need before a big day. Waking up tired throws off your entire day, and it can start a chain reaction that leads to a bad week. Common signs of a lack of sleep include grogginess and irritability. But sleep deprivation is more than just an annoyance, it’s dangerous. Did you know that a lack of sleep also depletes cognitive and bodily functions? Lack of sleep causes anxiety, heightened emotional reactivity, increased forgetfulness, chronic pain, and more. And it may be easier than you think to fall behind on rest - just losing one or two hours of sleep each night can impact the body and mind just as severely as skipping out on one or two full nights of sleep. If you find yourself losing your cool, experiencing more anxiety or depression than usual, or getting sick more often, your sleep patterns may be the main culprit. That’s why it's vital to address and correct our sleep patterns to protect the body and brain from further harm.
Have you ever felt paralyzed upon waking up in the middle of the night? Maybe you want to speak but can’t, or even worse, you feel a presence in your bedroom but you’re unable to do anything about it. Did someone break in? You feel unsafe, completely unable to move. Finally, you fully wake and look around, feeling immediate relief that the experience may have just been a bad dream. But what if it wasn’t a nightmare? These episodes are known as sleep paralysis, caused by REM sleep sensations and wakefulness overlapping as you rest. These terrifying experiences can feel like they last for a lifetime. If you’re wondering, “how long does sleep paralysis last?” the answer is just minutes. However, it feels longer due to the in-between state of consciousness your brain experiences during these episodes. So why does sleep paralysis occur? While we still have much to learn, it could be due to sleeping position, a sleep disorder, severe sleep deprivation, or certain mental conditions like panic disorder.