Monthly Archives: November 2012

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Seasonal Affective Disorder: Fighting Winter Depression with Sleep

seasonal affective disorder

I live in New York and right now, the days are abysmally short. It starts getting dark around 4 PM, and that’s about when I start feeling blue. It’s hard to stay upbeat when the weather is so cold and so much of your life is spent under artificial lights. I can only imagine what it must be like in Alaska! Seasonal Affective Disorder runs rampant through the population during the northeast’s winter. In some people, it’s a mild feeling of dysphoria, just feeling down in the dumps. This is called sub-clinical SAD. In others, it’s a full-blown depression—the kind where you can’t get out of bed and can’t find pleasure in normal everyday activities. Severe SAD can be debilitating. Of course, like with most emotional disorders, sleep plays an important role—perhaps more than most in this case, since daylight is so closely linked to circadian rhythms. There’s a spring/summer version of SAD too, characterized by anxiety and restlessness, but we’ll be focusing on the winter variety here.

Do You Care About Your Relationship? Try Sleeping

Happy Couple

Romantic relationships are wonderful—without my husband, I’d be adrift, lonely, and decidedly unhappy—but that doesn’t mean marriage isn’t hard. I’m very proud of my relationship but that pride as much the result of hard work, compromising, and talking things out, as it is a result of the innate chemistry between the two of us. After ten years, I think the compromising and talking is even more important. And I’ve noticed, without fail, when one of us is sleep deprived, compromising and talking gets a whole lot harder. As much as we love each other, as committed as we are, we’ve had some truly difficult times. Almost all of them have involved a lack of sleep. As it happens, a new study has shows that relationship quality is directly affected by quality of sleep, and vice versa.

Preparing for Exams? New Study Says Skipping Sleep to Cram Will Lower Your Grade

 

fall asleep while studying

As the end of the fall semester looms ever larger, students across the country are hunkering down for the dreaded all-nighters: the non-stop cramming sessions that typically precede final exams. It’s a college tradition, one that many students consider a badge of honor. Staying up all night is a feat of endurance only the young relish. Unfortunately, all that extra studying is for naught. It turns out, cramming aside, a lack of sleep is the single best predictor of poor performance on exams. Dr. Philip Alapat, medical director of the Harris Health Sleep Disorders Center and assistant professor at Baylor College of Medicine, suggests that students study throughout the semester instead of cramming at the last minute. Sure, and pigs should fly, Dr. Alapat.

Can’t Sleep? Insomnia Costs Us Billions

 

insomniac

Insomnia is one of the most common ailments in adults. A full ten percent of the population suffers from it. Despite all of the sleeping pills on the market, that number isn’t going down. We live in an anxiety-driven, caffeine-fueled culture, and that’s just the beginning. Considering the economic situation in the United States over the past few years, people have a lot to worry about, and worrying and sleep don’t mix. For many of us, bedtime is the only time of day we really stop and think. It’s the first quiet moment we’ve had since we woke up, and our brains take full advantage. But at what price? The science is definitive: poor sleep means poor health and when you’re tired you aren’t at your best. Your job performance suffers, your relationships suffer, and your health slowly deteriorates. What’s really going on here?

The Best and Worst Sleep Positions for Your Health

 

sleeping on back

Do you wake up with heartburn, a cricked neck, and a backache? Or maybe it’s more subtle: you wake up feeling tired, like you haven’t really slept. Surprising new research suggests your sleeping position may be to blame. Most people have a preferred position, a default that feels the most natural. But just because something feels natural doesn’t make it healthy. Here’s a run-down of the best and worst sleeping positions, and what you can do to make them more comfortable.

How Different Lighting Effects Your Brain Chemistry and Sleep

moon light

Human beings are built to respond to the natural light and dark cycle of the day. It makes sense that we would have evolved this way. After all, unlike cats, our eyes aren’t equipped to see very well in the dark. So, we had to do our hunting in the daytime and, the earlier we started looking for food, the more food we’d find before the day was over. As a consequence, our brains are more alert during daytime hours. As the sun sets, we start to slow down. Even if you consider yourself a night person, your productivity still wanes with the loss of daylight. Of course, nowadays we are surrounded by artificial light. It makes sense that this light might wreak some havoc on our sleep/wake patterns.

Sex or Sleep? Stop Sacrificing One for the Other!

couple snuggling

In the past few years there has been a huge increase in the number of consumers buying memory foam mattresses (almost 20% of the mattress market). This makes good sense: they’re comfortable (especially in the first year), lightweight, and readily available online. However, what many people don’t realize is that memory foam mattresses can really affect the quality of their intimate lives. There are a lot of things people do in bed, and sleeping is just one of them. For those other things, having a surface with traction is critical. Otherwise, maneuvering can be akin to walking in mud… difficult and tiring. Expending this kind of effort when you’re trying to be intimate can really kill the mood. Your bed should make your bedroom life easier, more pleasant, and more fun. It shouldn’t be making things more complicated.

Can’t Sleep a Wink? Eliminate the Drink… and Other Sleep Inhibitors

glass of wine

People who sleep soundly often take the ubiquitous activity for granted. They are unfamiliar with the endless wakeful nights of the tormented insomniac. But most people have experienced insomnia at least once in their lives—a terrible night when no amount of tiredness can shut down an active brain. I’ve had many of these nights in my life. They often happen in times of stress, when my troubles occupy my thoughts. It took a few years of regular insomnia before I started really researching possible causes, from my diet to my brand of foam mattress. I was surprised to find some clear criminals among the commonly-used substances in my daily life. I didn’t realize that my lifestyle choices were sabotaging my sleep! They may be sabotaging yours too. Here are some common culprits.

Don’t Lose Sleep Over Black Friday: 5 Important Shopping Tips

Black Friday Sale Sign

Black Friday (and/or Cyber Monday) may be the best days in the whole year to buy a deluxe memory foam mattress… or anything else for that matter. The discounts are deeper than at any other time. Retailers are frantic about moving merchandise, so frantic that they might even be willing to haggle over already slashed prices. It’s a shopping bonanza! Of course, along with the frenzy of consumerism comes sleep’s number one nemesis: anxiety. Americans are already an anxious people. According to the World Health Organization, we’re the most anxious population of any country on Earth. It’s no secret that anxiety is dangerous—in addition to affecting sleep (or perhaps because it does), anxiety can lead to heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and depression. And the holidays are notoriously high-anxiety times already. So, before Black Friday washes over you in all its sale-y glory, protect your nerves with these five easy tips.

Impaired: How Burning the Candle at Both Ends Affects a College Student’s Intellect

burned out student

Anyone who is or who has ever been in college knows it’s not the most restful place in the world. There are a million reasons why college kids sleep poorly: loud raucous dorms, late-night study sessions, parties that never end, board-like twin beds, early morning classes, caffeine, nicotine, all of the other illicit drugs in the world, stress, homesickness, and heartbreak, to name a few. It’s a time when sleep seems like the least important thing in the world and yet it’s probably the most important time for a young person to sleep. Intellectually, college is endlessly demanding. It requires focus, determination, and organization—skills that don’t necessarily come naturally. Then there are all of the emotional and social demands of college life: the new friends, romantic entanglements, and the inevitable dramas of both. Unfortunately, a lack of sleep can cause problems across the board. Here’s how.