Tag: sleep

This Magical Headband Could Help You Sleep Through The Night

When it comes to quality sleep, it’s not just the hours we spend in bed that count. It’s also about the time we spend in the stages of sleep that actually restore and energize our bodies. 

The most critical stage, deep sleep, is the one that leaves us feeling refreshed when we wake up. It also helps rebuilds muscle, improves mental reaction time and makes workouts more effective. But for insomniacs, this essential sleep can be elusive

That’s what the makers of a new sleep gadget, the Sleep Shepherd Blue, hope to address. While other sleep trackers record how much you slept or wake you up at a specific stage of your sleep cycle, they don’t directly intervene to support better sleep. But the Sleep Shepherd Blue uses brain-training sounds to help people get an extremely deep night’s sleep. 

Sleep Shepherd Blue
Sleep Shepherd Blue

Michael Larson, an entrepreneur and mechanical engineer, began working on the Sleep Shepherd after his 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a sleep disorder. When the only recommendations for treatment she was given involved pharmaceuticals, he decided to develop an effective tool that was drug-free. First came a Sleep Shepherd hat, and now the sleeker, smaller headband version called Sleep Shepherd Blue.

The Sleep Shepherd Blue plays sounds call binaural beats. These subtle humming noises — one playing in each ear of the headband — are said to lull the brain into a meditative sort of state and lower it slowly, slooowly into deep sleep. 

“(The beats) are like a hammock for your brain,” Larson told The Huffington Post. “They help your brain slow down, which is the very definition of sleeping.”

A number of apps and online streaming systems also play binaural beats to help you sleep, though unlike the Sleep Shepherd Blue, they don’t necessarily play the beats directly into your ears. Studies suggest these beats improve perceived sleep quality, though more research is needed to see if they actually cause you to fall asleep.   

The Sleep Shepherd headband measures your brain waves as well. If it senses them speeding up toward wakefulness, it will play beats designed to guide you back to sleep for the night.

It’s an all-natural route for anyone who wants to avoid sleep medicines, Larson said. The headband connects to an app that tracks your hours of sleep each night and shows you how long you spent in each stage, kind of like a revved-up FitBit

The Sleep Shepherd Blue is currently only available on Kickstarter for introductory prices of $119 to $199, depending on when you get in on the deal. Headbands will be ship out next month, Larson told HuffPost.

Sleep Shepherd Blue

We’re encouraged to see a drug-free sleep aid for those who can’t or prefer not to take medication. Now THAT’S a win all around. 

9 ways to fall asleep faster

(CNN)If you feel wide awake when your head hits the pillow at night, you’re not alone. Approximately 60 million Americans report having experienced insomnia in any given year, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Even worse, 40 million Americans suffer from long-term sleep disorders.

Missing sleep is nothing to yawn about. “Chronic sleep deprivation has lots of negative consequences,” says Sonia Ancoli-Israel, fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. She notes that the health risks associated with missed zzz’s can include poor cognitive function, problems with attention and concentration, dementia and an increased risk of heart disease.
Why every night of sleep matters
Are you getting enough shut-eye? Most adults need seven to eight hours of sleep a night, according to Dr. Ancoli-Israel. “People are so busy in their everyday lives and something has to give. They give up on sleep rather than something else,” she says.
Even if you don’t suffer from insomnia, odds are you’ve experienced nights when you’ve tossed and turned, wondering why you can’t drift off. “Everyone has a bad night now and then,” says Dr. Ancoli-Israel. But if you get tense and worried about not being able to sleep, your frustrated mindset could make it even harder to relax into slumber the following nights.
The consequences of missing even a few hours of sleep can be serious. Research shows that short-term sleep deprivation can cause you to crave high carbohydrate and high sugar foods. It can even make it harder to choose healthy options when grocery shopping. Plus, one sobering study revealed that drowsy drivers who had been awake for 18 hours were just as impaired as drivers who had been drinking.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to help ensure you’ll actually pass out once your head hits the pillow.

1. Do a 60-minute wind-down.

If you’re moving at full-speed all day, it can be tough to suddenly switch yourself “off” at night. “We are assaulted by information all the time and it’s really up to us to create routines that help separate the buzzing of the brain from our sleep routines,” says Janet Kennedy, Ph.D., clinical psychologist, founder of NYC Sleep Doctor and author of The Good Sleeper: The Essential Guide to Sleep for Your Baby (and You). She recommends giving your mind and body a full hour to wind down from work (or happy hour) before you try to fall asleep.

2. Take a warm bath or shower.

Spending time in a steamy shower could be beneficial even if you don’t need to rinse off. Dr. Kennedy points out that your body temperature drops rapidly once you exit the shower. Research shows that this decrease in temperature can trigger a sleepy feeling because your heart rate, digestion and other metabolic processes slow down. This can make it easier for your brain and body to power down, too.

3. Put on socks.

Showering isn’t the only trick in the book. When it comes to optimizing your temperature for sleep, the ideal balance is a cooler core and warmer extremities, says Professor Ancoli-Israel. One study revealed that wearing socks dilates your blood vessels and can help blood flow, leading to a more optimal temperature for snoozing.

4. Try the 4-7-8 exercise.

We’ve all been there: No matter how many times you flip over, you just can’t seem to find that sweet spot that will let you slip into slumber. But instead of trying to find the perfect position, concentrate on finding the perfect way to breathe.
By deliberately changing the pattern of your inhales and exhales, you can change your heart rate and blood pressure, two systems linked to sleepiness. Many relaxation specialists recommend inhaling through your nose, focusing on filling your chest and lungs (for about three to four seconds) and then exhaling slowly through your mouth for double the time you were inhaling. Another method, known as the “4-7-8 exercise,” involves inhaling for four seconds, holding your breath for seven seconds, and exhaling for eight seconds.

5. Don’t get in bed until you actually feel sleepy.

Trying to score some extra zzz’s by going to bed at 8 p.m. is a recipe for disaster. “If you aren’t sleepy, your body won’t settle down,” says Dr. Kennedy. And according to Professor Ancoli-Israel, your sleep will actually be worse the longer you stay in bed. “Eight hours of sleep is more efficient than nine to 10 hours in bed,” she says.

6. Practice calming techniques during the day, not at night.

Relaxation techniques like visualization or progressive muscle relaxation can help you unwind. But don’t wait until it’s dark outside to try these for the first time. “You don’t want to do it the first time when you’re anxious,” Dr. Kennedy says. “You want to start really getting the skill down when it’s easy for you, then try it in more difficult situations.” If you’re using an app to guide you, try to practice until you don’t have to bring your device into the bedroom with you (because that can mess up sleep, too).
Need suggestions? We’ve got our iTunes stocked with wacky wind chimes from Dreaming with Jeff, produced by actor Jeff Bridges, and iSleep Easy, an app with a variety of guided meditations.

7. Get out of bed.

Lying in bed and worrying about your inability to fall asleep will not help. “The second you start feeling tense, go into another room until you start feeling sleepy,” says Professor Ancoli-Israel. You want to condition your brain to associate the bed with sleeping and nothing else, she explains.
Feeling frustrated “creates a stress response where the body creates adrenaline,” says Dr. Kennedy. To combat this harmful feedback loop, divert your attention by reading, doing crossword puzzles, knitting, drinking tea, folding laundry or organizing closets until you start to feel drowsy. “It doesn’t matter, as long as it is relaxing to you,” she says.

8. Hide your clock.

Repeat after us: “I must stop staring at my clock.” You could be waking yourself up even more, says Professor Ancoli-Israel. When you’re constantly checking the time, you’re putting pressure on yourself and creating a more stressful environment. Plus, Dr. Kennedy points out that your phone can suck you back into daytime stressors with every text, email or app notification. If you need to use your alarm clock or phone to ensure you rise on time, put it under the bed or in a drawer so you aren’t tempted to glance at it every five minutes.

9. Vent on paper.

If racing thoughts keep you up, consider jotting down what’s on your mind before you head to bed. Processing your feelings (good and bad!) can help you relax into a sleepier state of mind. “When you’re thinking through that stuff and you’re laying down, it can become circular,” says Dr. Kennedy.
By writing things down or making a list of tomorrow’s to-dos, you’ll tame any bouncing thoughts and turn them into a more linear narrative. Instead of endlessly worrying about the next day’s workload, you’ll have already plotted out how you’ll get everything accomplished before you hit the hay.

Menopause, Sleeplessness Both Make Women Age Faster, Studies Show

Time to cue up a hot flash joke. Two studies out of UCLA have shown that menopause, and its partner in crime  the insomnia that comes with it  can make women age faster.

The dual findings, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and Biological Psychiatry, suggest that early menopause and insomnia could increase women’s risk for aging-related diseases and earlier death.

The studies hope to answer the age-old question of “Does menopause cause you to age or is the fact you are aging the cause of menopause?” Steve Horvath, professor of human genetics and biostatistics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and UCLA Fielding School of Public Health, and a senior author on both studies says this: “It’s like the chicken or the egg: which came first? Our study is the first to demonstrate that menopause makes you age faster.”

Horvath and his team of researchers tracked methylation, a chemical biomarker linked to aging and analyzed DNA samples from more than 3,100 women. The researchers found that menopause speeds up cellular aging by an average of 6 percent. Said Horvath in a press release: “That doesn’t sound like much but it adds up over a woman’s lifespan.”

Take, for example, a woman who enters early menopause at age 42. Eight years later, he said, her body would be a full year older biologically compared to a 50-year-old woman who entered menopause naturally at age 50.

The younger a woman is when she enters menopause, the faster her blood ages, noted the release. It’s significant because a person’s blood may mirror what’s happening in other parts of the body, and this could have implications for death and disease risk, said the study’s author.

And if that wasn’t enough to mess up your day, here’s what the insomnia study found: Not getting enough sleep does more than just affect how you function the next day; it also can influence the rate at which your biological clock ticks. “In the women we studied, those reporting symptoms such as restless sleep, waking repeatedly at night, having difficulty falling asleep, and waking too early in the morning tended to be older biologically than women of similar chronological age who reported no symptoms,” said the study’s author.

“We can’t conclude definitively from our study that the insomnia leads to the increased epigenetic age, but these are powerful findings,” said the study, which recommended carrying out additional research to determine a cause-and-affect relationship between biological age and sleep disorders.

In the United States, 1.3 million women reach menopause annually. Although most of them transition without experiencing psychiatric problems, an estimated 20 percent experience depression at some point during menopause. Opinions vary on the wisdom of taking hormone replacement therapy to treat menopausal symptoms.

In the meantime, let’s all just crank up the fan. 

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