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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.
Your lunch break is over, and you’re over it! Tiredness after eating can throw a huge wrench in your productivity. Post-meal fatigue is a common experience, but that doesn’t mean it’s a normal one. The post-meal slump you may feel after eating has many potential causes, including hidden food intolerances, poor blood sugar regulation, and the types of foods you choose to reach for. Extreme fatigue after eating may also be tied to high alcohol consumption with your meal or extensive sleep debt. Therefore, putting an end to your post-meal exhaustion depends upon ruling out food intolerances (such as gluten intolerance), checking in on blood sugar regulation, and monitoring the types of foods you eat often to ensure they don’t increase drowsiness. Moreover, building a solid bedtime routine full of consistency and low on alcohol is key to controlling and managing daytime fatigue.
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.
Many of us suffer from a lack of sleep. Aside from causing extreme grogginess, insufficient sleep is known to cut our life span short. When you’re sleep deprived, your brain becomes just as impaired as it does after drinking a few beers. That means that everyday tasks like driving become increasingly dangerous if you didn’t get enough rest the night before. Military personnel face many challenges with achieving quality sleep, especially when faced with the stress and challenges associated with such a high-stakes work environment. It’s not surprising, then, that different branches of the military around the world have developed military sleep systems and hacks to help personnel fall and stay asleep. From “The Military Method,” which claims to induce sleep within two minutes, to unique acupressure points, we’ve rounded up sleep hacks tested and approved by the armed forces that you can implement into your daily life to achieve your most restful sleep yet.
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.