Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Ben Knew

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.

Benjamin Franklin
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, & printer (1706 - 1790)

Ben Franklin, one of the wisest Americans, got it:  Sleep is good!  If you have read our previous blogs, you would see us promoting regular sleep patterns, and getting enough sleep. 

It was easier in the 1700's, the electric light bulb didn't exist.  TV didn't exist.  The Internet didn't exist.  There were no smart phones.  Life was a bit less hectic.  When the sun went down, most people went to sleep.  Oh there was Paul Revere who rode at night, and there was some activity.  But that activity was put in perspective.  The important things in life were just that, and sleep was important.  Let's dissect this saying.

Early to bed:  To make sure you get the proper amount of sleep, and remember, with no electricity, there were no clock radios, they would arise when their bodies were ready, or a noise would startle them.  Going to bed early insured that they would get enough sleep.

Early to rise:  Because they went to bed early, they would naturally wake with the sun.  Having a full days sunlight insured maximum productivity.  Maximum productivity could help move their lives along, out performing others who did not get up so early.

Makes a man Healthy:  Yes sleep does influence health.  In our modern day we have looked at sleep deprivation and found some of its detrimental effects on our bodies.  The stress caused by too little sleep can cause obesity, lower immune function and lower productivity.  Proper amounts of sleep reverses this, and we find ourselves more likely to exercise, less sick time, and higher productivity.

Wealthy:  Yes, its still true today.  Productivity is tied directly to wealth.  The most productive people in our society generally will also be the wealthiest.  It is simple economics, of course talent is important, but having the proper amount of sleep will make us....

Wise:  With wisdom comes ability.  Wisdom allows us to work smarter, like tying a key to a kite and exploring science of electricity.  It is wisdom that ties back to productivity and produces wealth.  Wisdom is something most of our founders had in abundant amounts.

In our hectic 24 hour world, we have sometimes forgotten that sleep is important.  Sometimes we even raise people up on a pedestal who can sleep less.  Less sleep will not insure higher productivity.  Less sleep can harm our career paths.  Less sleep can hurt our pocket book.  Not to mention that America today has an obesity problem, we wonder if it is because we don't sleep enough.  We are living longer today.  In the 1700's life expectancy was just 35 years, medicine has expanded that considerably.  And now its our turn, by taking care of ourselves, we can enhance the quality of that life.  Its the only wise thing to do.

Sleep Well!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Sleep Friendly Bedrooms

So you need to get some Zs.  One way to improve your sleep time is to have a sleep friendly bed room.  But what is a sleep friendly bedroom?

If you live on a busy street, or there is a barking dog in the neighborhood, it can disrupt your sleep.  We can't move our bed room off the street, so what do we do?  Insulated drapes, wall insulation, noise deadening materials can all help.  There is also white noise, which can mask the bad noise we need to avoid.  White noise can be generated with a fan, its hum may be enough to drown out the offending noises.  You could tune a radio between stations to generate a consistent hum.  Or there are white noise generators available for sale.  What ever works for you is important, because noise can disrupt the sleep cycle.  Also be sure to turn off computers and phones so their alerts do not interrupt the sleep cycle.

Sounds are one disruptive sleep destroyer, but there are more.  Light is an issue as well.  Our bodies regulate our sleep cycle partially with the sun.  That is why when darkness hits, we tend to get sleepy.  Having too much light in your bedroom can cause your body to assume its day light, and disrupt the sleep cycle.  Things like computer monitors, TVs, cell phones can all put off light in sufficient quantity to affect sleep.  Curtains can keep external light out, turn off screens at night to maximize healthy sleep.

To that end, reserve your bed room for sleep and sex.  Try not to turn it into a communication center or home theater.  Use other rooms for that.  Charge cell phones away from the bedroom, if you must have a computer or TV in the bedroom, make sure it is turned off at least a half hour before you intend to sleep.  Besides, by removing clutter, it will make the room more attractive, and less dangerous to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Friendly bedrooms are cool, no really, the bedroom temperature is important as well.  The generally accepted sleep temperature is 65 degrees.  Bedrooms that are too hot or cold can disrupt the sleep cycle.  Make sure there is adequate ventilation as well.

Sleep in a comfortable bed.  Your bed should be large enough to be able to turn easily.  It should support, but support does not mean hard.  Your bed should contour to your body, maintaining proper spinal alignment, or posture.  70% of the market sleeps on an innerspring bed.  Innerspring beds should be replaced every 7 to 10 years.  The springs will wear out causing the surface to not offer the best support.  If you consistently awake with lower back pain, and there is no medical reason for it, your bed is probably worn out.  There are other types of beds that you may want to consider.  From the 1960's we have the water bed, from the 1980's we have foam, and air supported technologies.  Try them all, as we age we should look for better support, to help our body sleep better, to improve our overall well being and health.  Here is the shameless commercial, but this blog is sponsored by a business that supplies Comfortaire beds, which we believe are the best available sleep system, check it out here.

And try to establish a sleep ritual.  Find activities that help your body wind down, and your brain as well.  a few minutes of soft music, a warm bath, or even meditation can help.  If you sleep better, you will experience better well being.  You might find yourself more productive when awake, and it can even help your fitness routine be more effective.

All this from just a sleep friendly bed room, is it worth the try?

Sleep Well!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome

Looking for the different, we have found an area of life where sleep deprivation may be useful.  Our hope is that you never need to avail yourself of this treatment.  It seems that roughly 20% of people experiencing a traumatic event, like war, terrorism, or even a bad car wreck, benefit from sleep deprivation for 6 hours after the event.

It is hard to forget these events, they stay with us for years.  But we organize our brains as we sleep.  By postponing sleep for hours after an event, it may help our minds get a handle on that event prior to sleep, which then can assign to the proper place in our memory.  It may also show why amnesia can develop in certain people, perhaps their brain's way of dealing with the event. 

Putting the event in long term memory, may be a way to battle PTSD.  In an experiment with rats,  Those that were sleep deprived seemed to show less memory of a traumatic event, than the control group that was allowed to sleep immediately after the event.  Now rats are not humans, so we want to be careful in the interpretation.  However, it seems that the way to deal with trauma is to not sleep, but rather stay awake and allow our brains to adjust to the trauma first, then when we sleep, our brains can put the proper perspective on the event and reduce PTSD.

PTSD has been in the news for a while now, because of its attack on our fighting men and women, but this can happen even in civilian life as accidents happen.  A car wreck is an example, but even natural disasters can cause trauma.  This area of study deserves more time to fully understand how to best serve those who have experienced trauma.  The information for this story came from psychcentral.com, and is certainly worth the read.  So if you experience trauma, wait 6 hours and then...

Sleep Well!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Children, Sleep, and IQ

Researchers at the University of Virgina have found a correlation between sleep issues in children and their measured IQ.  When the child snores every night, his or her vocabulary (the way they judged IQ) was less when measured against the control group.  Perhaps children are more susceptible to sleep disorders because they need more sleep.  And sleep is the way that they grow their brains and process information.  Children in general need more sleep than adults, so it stands to reason that interruptions to sleep can harm the development of children.

So as parents, we need to pay attention to our kids as they sleep.  Do they snore?  Toss and turn?  Sleep too little?  Do they seem tired when they shouldn't be tired?  All of these and more need a parents attention.  Maybe even a doctors attention if it is prolonged or seemingly unchangeable by mom or dad.

And we need to enforce good sleep hygiene on our kids.  The pre-teen child needs more sleep than adults, so an appropriate bedtime must be set.  Consistent sleep hours as well, going to bed at the same time nightly and waking at the same time every day (even weekends, arrgh).  And that is what we see as an issue.  Talk to retailers at malls, ask them how many little children they see in the halls after 8 PM.  It is appalling.  Strong activity, things like simply spending time on a playground will do two things, wear them out so they sleep better, but also build their bodies and prevent obesity.  A lot of sleep apnea (snoring is the prime indicator of sleep apnea) would go away with good wholesome activity.  TV, computers, and video games are nice, but encourage, or even demand physical activity, it is good for their brain!

We have spent our treasure on things like hooked on phonics, or flashcards, or anything that we think might help them do better than us.  Maybe, just maybe good sleep and physical activity can do the trick easier and more economically.

Sleep Well!

Monday, July 2, 2012

The Summer Heat and Sleep

Wow, it seems as though our thermometers are just not long enough this year!  June in our part of the country is relativewly mild.  Some heat, but certainly not all month.  What does this kind of heat do to our sleep?  Seems you can feel the heat even in an air conditioned enviroment.  It is permeating everything.  Even our dogs do not want to stay out long. 
Sleep can be disrupted by this kind of heat, and frankly there is little we can do about it, except sleep in A/C and on a bed that sleeps at a relative regulated temperature.  It is important to try to maintain a regular schedule, and try to cool down prior to bed time.  But what if the power goes out and the A/C goes off?  Even then there are a couple things that might help. 

Sleep in an area with the most ventilation.  If you visit any city and go into neighborhoods that were built prior to about 1955, you may notice some differences in the way houses are laid out.  A lot of them will have big porches on the front.  And those porches often have an area that is relatively secluded by the wall or building.  Yes, our grandparents would sleep on the porch when the heat got to this point.  Why?  Because of the ventilation, heat rises, so if there is a slight breeze it will take the hottest air away, however, be prepared to sweat anyway.  Air temperature can still be hot, even though the hottest is leaving, but a few degrees can make a difference.

Another thing we can do is enhance our body's cooling system.  Our body uses evaporative cooling to help keep our core temperature regulated, which is a weird way of saying we sweat.  The point is to get the sweat off our skin, which is how the body will cool itself.  or to cool down the sweat so that it will cool our body.  Now some might think, I'll sleep in the bathtub...  Not the best idea, but consider this:  use cool water to heavily dampen a bed sheet, then sleep under that.  In extreme heat you might have to rewet the sheet a few times, but it should cool.  If you have any battery powered fans, consider putting them under the foot of the sheet, so it keeps an air pocket between you and the sheet.  That will also encourage the evaporative cooling. 

The only other suggestion I have is to drive north, until you find cooler days!  If you have any suggestions, just make a comment on this blog,  we all need help!  And looking towards the future, consider the bed you sleep in, and your bedding.  Natural fibers, like cotton or bamboo (which is the top of our Comfortaire beds), may offer some respite.  For now...