Monthly Archives: August 2014

Regulating Sleep Through Food

Everyone knows that certain foods promote sleep. From drinking a glass of warm milk right before bed to avoiding caffeine anytime after lunch, there is plenty of advice on foods you can eat (or not eat) to get a good night’s sleep. What we put into our bodies can have significant impact on mood and behavior and the key to enjoying a restful night of sleep can be found through your stomach.

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Tryptophan containing foods are first on everyone’s list of foods that make you sleepy. It stands to reason: everyone knows that turkey has tryptophan and after that third serving of sweet potato casserole (don’t judge: marshmallows and sweet potatoes are heaven!), a snoozy drowsiness sets in. Unfortunately, while turkey does contain some tryptophan, it is far from the richest source and that post meal crash is more due to your stomach full of carbohydrates than it is to the relaxing benefits of tryptophan. Tryptophan is a precursor to serotonin, a neurotransmitter well-known to regulate mood. It also regulates sleep, and a whole host of other things that keep us functional human beings—basically serotonin is awesome! Eating foods rich in tryptophan is believed to increase serotonin production, which will help regulate your sleep cycle. It also functions in the production of melatonin and niacin, two more things which help regulate sleep cycles. Eat eggs, bananas, peanuts, honey, and milk for an extra hit of tryptophan.

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Melatonin is a hormone that helps regulate circadian rhythms—it helps you sleep when you’re supposed to and feel awake when you’re not. Available in supplement form, melatonin can also be found in cherries, bananas, and citrus fruits. Eating tryptophan or calcium-rich foods can also boost melatonin production: snack on spinach, almonds, or cheese.

Magnesium and potassium are two minerals that promote muscle relaxation (and overall muscle health), which means they are great for priming your body to sleep soundly through the night. Try bananas, avocados, spinach, peanuts, and whole grains to get these.

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Try to incorporate some of these foods into your dinner, or have a snack at least an hour before you go to bed—this gives them time to work and prevents a too-full stomach from keeping you awake. Select foods that are rich in protein or complex carbohydrates for extra sleepy-goodness: the longer your food takes to digest, the more stable your blood sugar remains and the less likely you are to wake up feeling hungry. Many of the above foods can provide more than one benefit, so eat more of those! Try whole-wheat toast with peanut butter and banana, or a salad with spinach, vegetables, and nuts. Or a handful of cherries with some slices of cheese or almonds. Try to avoid excess sugar and alcohol, which can interrupt sleep, as can very spicy foods right before bed. Why not snack your way to a better, more restful, night of sleep?

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The Power of Sleep Technology

Getting quality sleep has been a major problem for many people. Sure, old school tricks like warm milk before bed or adding more magnesium to your diet do help you sleep better, but this is the technology age, so I’m going to focus on sleek gadgets and even phone apps that will have you waking up ready to go in the morning. Sleep technology is usually hit or miss, but these devices and apps are fantastic for getting that quality night’s sleep that you deserve.

GLO TO SLEEP MASK

One of the biggest problems when falling asleep at night is an overactive brain. When your brain is in the beta state, you have no chance of drifting into a blissful sleep. The Glo To Sleep Mask made by Sound Oasis helps your mind transition from the beta state to the relaxed alpha state. The mask works by combining a meditative idea with modern technology. Inside the mask are blue lights that you charge by holding the “points of glow” to a light source for about 30 seconds. Once fully charged, you slip on the mask and lay down for bed. While you’re lying in bed, you take deep breaths and either stare at the glow lights or close your eyes until you drift into deep sleep. The mask blocks out all surrounding light and is breathable so your face doesn’t get too hot or moist. The blue lights glow for a certain amount of time, and are designed to gradually fade allowing you to fall asleep naturally. The great thing about this mask is that it gives you a chance to clear your mind and cuts off all outside light that stops melatonin production. It’s a nice alternative to your standard eye cover, and comes at a great price – $30.

 

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BEDDIT

If you don’t like wearing anything while you sleep, Beddit may be your preferred option.  Beddit is a thin film sensor that tracks useful data by simply placing it in your bed under your sheet. It collects data from four major factors that reflect the type of sleep you’re getting: heart rate, respiration, sleep cycles and sleep time. Your resting heart rate is an important indicator of recovery and stress level. Your respiratory rate is tracked to follow your stress levels and also if you snore during the night. Beddit tracks your sleep cycles by movement during sleep and recognizes which sleep stage you are in. Beddit also recognizes when you are asleep by absences from your bed, times you’re awake at night and even problems related to your sleep cycle. After the data is collected at night, Beddit sends all the information to your smart phone via Bluetooth. The app is super customizable, so after you see the graphs and data of your night’s sleep you can go in and set sleep goals and personalize your profile so the app gives you suggestions on how to improve sleep quality.  The kit is a bit pricey ($149) but it’s one of the higher end gadgets

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INSOMNIA CURE

Most apps you find for your phone are going to be full of “soothing sounds” that are supposed to help you sleep, but how often do they really work. The Insomnia Cure app is one of the more helpful apps you can download for your iPhone. The app was designed by Max Kirsten who is internationally renowned for his highly acclaimed apps for weight loss and help stop smoking. This app comes with hours of audio content to help transition into natural sleep, as well as 40+ pages of insomnia tips and sleep learning tools. The app is $2.99 and extremely useful for those who have trouble falling asleep every night.

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SLEEP TALK

Just for kicks, sleep talk is a fun app that actually records you while you sleep to see if you’re in the 5% of adults that sleep talk regularly. You open the app before bed, and it records you while canceling out all external noise. You will wake up and either here nothing, loud snoring, or hilarious conversations you are having while you sleep. There’s even a place where you can share your sounds and listen to other people’s funny sleep commentary. The app is only $1 on iTunes, so give it a try for pure amusement purposes.

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Good sleep is something most people don’t get on a night to night basis. Sleep is important to your overall health and mental state, so it is essential to get quality rest every night.  Comfortable bedding is always helpful, but for those who need extra help sleeping most certainly can turn to technology. These gadgets and apps may not be for everyone, but they are beneficial and are great options for a healthier lifestyle and improved sleep.

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The Truth About Snoring And What You Can Do To Stop It

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Snoring: The noise that keeps everybody awake but you…

According to WebMD, approximately 45% of the adult population snores, and studies suggest that men make up the majority of this group. While this might seem trivial, snoring can have grave repercussions both directly and indirectly. Not only does snoring cause spouses and other family members to have interrupted sleep cycles, but failure to seek treatment can cause marital/relationship issues, including couples sleeping in separate bedrooms. Furthermore, snoring can also be a warning sign for more serious health issues, such as obstructive sleep apnea, obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and more.

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So, when should you seek treatment for your (or your spouse’s) snoring? Well, that depends. (However, seeking professional medical advice is almost always the best answer). But, if you’re in relatively good health and you suspect your snoring may be habit related, there are a few subtle changes that you can make to help eliminate snoring.

These changes include the following:

  1. Change your pillows – No really, we’re not just saying that. Over time, dust mites can accumulate in pillows causing allergic reactions that sometimes lead to snoring.

 

  1. Don’t allow pets on your bed – We know this is a tough pill to swallow, but pets, particularly those with long hair, frequently shed and inhaling these particles can heighten symptoms of snoring.

 

  1. Drink Water – Hydration is a key requirement to help avoid snoring. When your nasal passages are dehydrated, secretions in the nose become stickier. This stickiness can lead to closed nasal passages ultimately causing you to snore.

 

  1. Use a humidifier – Much like drinking water and staying hydrated, using a humidifier can put more moisture in the air allowing for less dryness in the nose leading to snore-free sleep.

 

  1. Sleep on your side – If you normally sleep on your back, sleeping on your side can help reduce snoring as it decreases the chances of obstructing the airway.

 

  1. Avoid alcohol and smoking – Although some people find alcohol helps to induce sleep, rarely is this REM sleep, the deepest stage of sleep. Furthermore, alcohol consumption before bed causes throat muscles to relax which can obstruct breathing passages. Smoking can cause inflammation leading to blocked nasal and throat passages, also leading to snoring.

 

  1. Develop consistent sleep schedules – While it might seem being “too tired” would help you sleep better. Extreme fatigue can cause you to sleep heavy. Heavy sleep is associated with snoring. Thus, going to bed and getting up around the same time every day is ideal to combat snoring.

snore2 Following these tips can greatly improve your sleep as well as help combat snoring. And, while these tips may work for some, we can’t stress enough the importance of seeking advice from a medical professional to help ensure your case of the “snores” isn’t something much more serious.

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