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Athletes stretch before competing to improve performance, enhance flexibility, and place their bodies and minds in a relaxed, prepared state. Why don’t we take the same approach to bedtime? Quality sleep is only possible with a solid nighttime routine that helps us wind down, ground ourselves, and relieve tension and pain that may otherwise keep us up at night. Plus, stretching is just plain good for you! Meditative movements are not only known to enhance sleep quality – but they’re also proven to relieve stress, prevent injury, boost mobility, and increase circulation. Furthermore, simple stretches may even help prevent sleep disorders or lessen symptoms of existing ones. Yoga for sleep apnea, for example, is thought to tone, open, and strengthen upper airway muscles to prevent them from obstructing our breathing at night. In summary, you can stretch your way toward a better night’s rest all while enjoying additional benefits associated with taking a few minutes to hold relaxing poses each evening. That’s why we’ve gathered the most effective stretches to try before bed for boosted sleep quality.
Vitamin D deficiency plagues many adults across the globe. In fact, approximately 42 percent of US adults suffer from vitamin D deficiencies known to cause fatigue, muscle aches, and even depression. Low vitamin D and insomnia are also closely linked, meaning that most of us might struggle with getting quality rest due to low levels. As you may know, vitamin D is derived from both sunlight exposure and supplementation. But is one better than the other? While vitamin D supplements may not elevate levels at as steady of a pace or for as long of a duration as sunlight-derived vitamin D, many people prefer supplements out of concern for their skin. Even just minutes of sun exposure when the UV index is high can cause sunburns, which are known for increasing the risk of skin cancer. That said, sunlight exposure offers other benefits aside from vitamin D production. Sitting out in the sun in the morning is known to help regulate our sleep-wake cycles by keeping levels of melatonin, the sleep hormone, in check. If you’re unsure about whether you should supplement vitamin D or sit out in the sun to boost your levels, we’ve broken down the benefits of both sources.
Have you ever been unable to sleep, only to lay in bed for hours restless? Even worse, have you ever laid awake for so long that you begin to hear chirping birds outside? Although the sound of morning bird song is beautiful, there’s nothing more daunting than insomnia that lasts all night long. Sometimes, anxiety about insomnia and being unable to sleep only worsens the issue. Other times, medication or a pre-existing condition may be to blame for your sleepless nights. Half of all adults struggle with insomnia, and identifying which kind you’re dealing with is half the battle. Once you uncover whether or not your anxiety is based on short-term environmental factors or a long-term, serious condition, you can seek the proper lifestyle changes and treatment to finally achieve the quality sleep you’ve been dreaming of.
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.
Have you ever told someone to have “sweet dreams” before bed? We all would prefer to have blissful, enjoyable dreams over terrifying, peculiar nightmares. If you want to have a nice dream over a bad one, research suggests that a couple of lifestyle changes just might do the trick. While we still have a lot to learn about the science of dreams, bad dreams are linked to our brains either preparing for stressful situations in our waking lives or trying to process traumatic memories we’ve already experienced. Moreover, the more relaxed and calm we are before bed, the greater our chances of experiencing soothing dreams that match our mood. That’s why it’s vital to avoid distressing media or conversations before sleep, along with stimulants like caffeine or food that boost metabolism and brain activity. Alcohol is known to fragment sleep and induce bad dreams, too, so opting for your evening cocktail with any early dinner rather than drinking into the night is best. More research may be needed to reveal the true science of dreaming, but bad dreams don’t have to be a nightly occurrence.
Some days you wake up ready to conquer the world, while other days your feet drag the floor and you just can’t seem to get going. Your choices from the day and night before directly influence how you feel upon waking.The world of sleep tracking can feel overwhelming, though, as so many options are available. From expensive, sophisticated wearable devices to free smartphone apps to a simple, DIY bullet journal sleep tracker, there is an option available for your lifestyle and sleep tracking needs.
Like many, you may think that oversleeping is “healthier” than undersleeping. Nonetheless, science suggests otherwise: oversleeping is just as harmful as not getting enough rest. Hitting snooze in the morning often feels euphoric, relaxing, and blissful. However, getting an extra few winks of harmless shut-eye can quickly turn into an extra few hours of sleep. This throws off our sleep patterns and is even thought to cause a handful of health problems that can quickly become life-threatening. Too much REM sleep is known to cause obesity, heart disease, and more. You’re likely wondering, “How much REM sleep should you get, then?” Or: “How much deep sleep do I need?” Research suggests that between 7 and 8 hours every night is the sweet spot. Any more than 9 hours, though, and you’re doing more harm than good.
Grogginess upon waking is normal. However, if it lasts for most of your morning or disrupts your productivity, it quickly becomes a problem. Intense grogginess and confusion upon waking is called sleep inertia. While we aren’t completely sure what causes it, many researchers theorize that sleep inertia is the brain’s way of preventing us from waking up at every little sound or disturbance throughout the night. In extreme cases of sleep inertia, sometimes called sleep drunkenness, this phenomenon quickly becomes dangerous, putting you and everyone around you at risk of injury due to delayed reaction times. High sleep debt caused by sleep deprivation worsens sleep inertia. Moreover, your sleep chronotype influences whether or not you’re likely to experience it. High adenosine levels that build up due to lack of sleep are also to blame, which lower as you pay down sleep debt and establish a consistent sleep routine.
Does it seem like you just can’t get going in the morning? Or do you have no issue rolling out of bed? Some people hit the ground running as soon as they wake up,  prepared to conquer the day with a smile. Others have to ease into productivity, ramping up their energy as the day goes on. Beyond that, certain people find it hard to wake up and even harder to fall asleep at night. Are these people just night owls or early birds? Science says it’s much more complex than that. In fact, modern research has proven that there are at least four different types of sleep chronotypes that determine the time of day we’re biologically the most productive and focused. You’re either a bear, wolf, lion, or dolphin sleep chronotype – and you may even be a mix of more than one. If you’re not sure which chronotype you most closely identify with, certain online quizzes can help you determine yours.
The early bird gets the worm, while the night owl is usually framed as less productive. But is this really true? As it turns out, night owls are typically more creative than early birds, but not without sacrifice. Night owls are statistically at a greater risk for health issues like diabetes, mental health challenges, and metabolic issues. Moreover, as the onset of your sleep routine becomes delayed, your chances of developing harmful sleep disorders like sleep apnea rise. This worsens the problem – but can you break the cycle? Or is being a night owl just a biological predisposition that you can’t change? While certain pre-existing conditions may cause you to feel more creative and active during the wee hours of the night as opposed to the morning time, tidying up your circadian rhythm and sleep cycles can help you become the early bird you’ve always dreamed of being. By paying closer attention to your sleep hygiene, light exposure, caffeine intake, and more, you can shift your sleep cycle forward each day until you reach the routine you’ve always desired.
We spend a large portion of our lives sleeping or trying to fall asleep. If you experience a bad night’s rest, you know how it interferes with your life at work and home. However, sleep deprivation quickly turns from irritating to dangerous. Over time, poor sleep hygiene wrecks the brain’s ability to restore itself. In fact, our brains run on sleep. Without it, we can’t process memories, retain information, or harness creativity in the same manner as we can when we’re well-rested. Our brain’s ability to heal wounds, revitalize the skin, and manage hunger dramatically decreases when we’re tired. Certain brain waves for sleep help to carry out revitalizing processes we need to stay healthy. Moreover, poor sleep habits cause plaque buildup in the brain known to increase the risk of memory-related illnesses like Alzheimer’s and dementia. Proper sleep hygiene ensures that your brain has its best chances at processing new information, maintaining a healthy appearance, and keeping you at the top of your game.
Good dreams are blissful and exciting. Have you ever woken up from a great dream only to wish you could go back to sleep to relive it? What about a nightmare? Most of us not only never want to relive our nightmares, we’re happy to wake up from them. For some people, nightmares become so frequent and distressing that sleep becomes anxiety-inducing. So why do we have nightmares at all? Turns out, there is a need for them. They help us prepare for life-threatening scenarios. However, sometimes recurring nightmares are the result of a mental health condition like post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Unprocessed trauma leads to bad dreams that disrupt and diminish our quality of life. Sleep apnea is another potential cause, as this sleep disorder causes a blocked airway and lowered oxygenation during sleep. No matter the reason for your nightmares, rest assured that their occurrence is caused by your brain trying to process memories and protect you from danger.