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Sleep — the most basic of things to do to keep your body healthy and your mind sharp. But it seems that even this is as difficult as pushing ourselves to go to the gym every week. There are many reasons why sleep is difficult for us like a condition that prevents us from doing so, or due to mountains of work that needs finishing.
Regardless of the reason, not getting enough sleep exposes us to serious illnesses like high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease. For this reason, tracking devices for sleep are becoming increasingly popular. In a fast-paced world where sleep has become a privilege, it is important that we consciously keep track of it.
Tracking devices like the FitBit Versa, is equipped with technology that can help us get the best sleep possible. It seems you will not be getting one just to count your steps for the day, but to track your “ZZZs” at night too.
How does the FitBit Sleep Feature work?
When you consult a sleep specialist, you will be asked to stay in the hospital so they can measure your stages of rest. They will use an instrument called an electroencephalogram which measures brain activity and muscle movements.
The FitBit technology works mostly in the same way as the electroencephalogram. What it does is measure your heart rate and movement all night. Based on those the data gathered, it will make intelligent guesses on your sleep cycle.
Of course, this does not mean a FitBit is a viable replacement for a sleep doctor. But it can give you a general idea on how often you get to the deep sleep level and for how long.
Different levels of sleep
To give users a better picture of what their sleeping cycle looks like, FitBit worked with the National Sleep Foundation to show the four different stages of sleep. These are what you will expect to see when your FitBit shows you your sleep data.
Awake – Waking up in the middle of the night is completely normal, especially if you are going to take care of bodily needs such as peeing or drinking water. It is also normal to wake up from a dream or move around a few times.
Light Sleep – This stage is when you are still aware of your surroundings even if you are asleep — the early stage of the sleep cycle. You can still be easily woken up in this stage, and may still even lose sleep. Light sleep already has the capacity to re-energize your mind and body, which is why power naps are helpful at times when you cannot sleep for long.
Deep Sleep – In deep sleep, you will become less responsive to outside stimuli because your body is in its most relaxed state. This is when your body starts healing and recovering from the day’s activities. While sleeping patterns are different from person to person, as observed, we get lesser deep sleep when get older.
Rapid Eye Movement (REM) – This is the second stage of deep sleep where you brain becomes active even when you are sound asleep. Dreams happen in this stage, but your muscles are inactive so that you will not act out what you are seeing. Additionally, this is when your brain starts storing your memories in your long-term memory bank.
When you access the sleep cycle data on or FitBit Versa, these are the four stages you will be seeing. Pay close attention to how long it took you to get to deep sleep and REM, because that will determine whether you will need to consult with a specialist or just need to take a leave from work to get a much needed rest.
Feeling relaxed in the morning seems to be an asset which only a few people get to experience. Most individuals protest because they don’t get enough sleep at night and feels exhausted when they wake up.
Despite the fact that sleep deprivation can be a medical condition, in many cases, insomnia is the outcome of living in inefficient environments. It means that the atmosphere in your bedroom may be keeping you from sleeping.
With hectic and stressful lives, our emotional, physical, and mental health depend on our sleep. If you are not getting enough Zs, here are some bedroom decorating ideas to help you get back to the time when sleeping was a satisfaction, and waking up was invigorating.
Remove the mess to have yourself some clear mind. Remember that at night, a filthy bedroom will have an effect on you. Even if you don’t notice it, you know the mess is there. Don’t leave items around or under your bed, and allow the area to breathe. Throw away those things that don’t do a real purpose and get rid of distractions such as overflowing dressers and open closets.
Place your bed against a solid wall and face away from openings such as windows and doors to feel balanced and centered on sleeping. And use a well-built headboard to establish a sense of stability in your bed.
A relaxing and serene ambiance uses quiet and muted colors. These colors are soothing and can boost sleep and relaxation. Apply warm and cool shades and utilize neutrals to form a balance. Soft hues of blue, green, peach, and yellow are ideal.
No More Bright Lights
A comforting room that helps you sleep faster must be dark or with a soft lighting. Get dimmer switches that will enable you to manage the light in your room and switch it off when you’re getting ready for bed. Diminish lighting coming from the outside. Incorporate blackout liners on draperies to impede light from interrupting your sleep.
Lose the Electronics
You always bring your phone with you even you’re on your dining tables eating your meal, but you should keep any distractions away by eliminating all electronics inside your bedroom.
There might be cravings for using your laptop, watching television, and having your smartphone in the room, when in fact, they only make problems worse. If you need to have a television, conceal it in an armoire. As for your smartphone and laptop, you should only use them outside the bedroom.
All About You
You can design your bedroom with style and still stick to the ideas provided in this article. Opt for colors that soothe you and aspects which relax you. Use decorations that serve their purpose, but they shouldn’t interrupt your sleep.
The bedroom can be a multifunctional room because you can use it as a library or office, but in the end, it is a haven for sleep. Your bedroom should be the most luxurious and personal area in any home, and a soothing sanctuary that is beneficial to comfort and relaxation. Style does not hinder your sleep, and that’s because of a solid headboard against a solid wall, no clutter, and subtle colors.
Sleep is one activity that many people find is hard to get enough of on a regular basis. Although experts recommend for the average person to aim for eight to 10 hours of sleep each night, many people who are able to achieve that still find themselves struggling to stay awake during the daytime. Others can’t seem to incorporate that much sleep into their schedules. No matter which side of the equation you fall on, here are eight actions you can take to wake up feeling more refreshed and rejuvenated.
1. Get in Shape
People who are overweight and out of shape often have trouble sleeping. The more a person weighs, the harder their body has to work to perform its normal functions. People who are sleep deprived are also more likely to gain weight. Get active and in shape so that it’s easier for you to tone your body and get down to a normal weight. Maintaining a healthy weight increases the chances of you sleeping better and longer at night.
2. Improve Your Mental Health
Sometimes it can be a challenge to wind down after a really busy or stressful day because your mind is simply too active. It doesn’t matter if your bed time is early in the evening or late at night, meditating and listening to soothing music can help to slow down the gears in your mind and make it easier for you to drift off to sleep when you are ready to and stay sleep.
3. Change Your Schedule
Although there are many reasons why you may have the work schedule you do, sometimes it is necessary for you to make adjustments to it so you can better manage your sleep schedule and health. If you work nights and have trouble getting to sleep, talk to your boss about switching to the daytime shift. No work schedule is worth sacrificing your sleep habits and health.
4. Get Off the Couch and Get Active
If you tend to live a sedimentary lifestyle and struggle to get eight to ten hours of sleep at night, it may be time for you to get busy. Get some hobbies, join some clubs, and go out more. Keep yourself mentally and physically engaged in activity so you can burn off excess energy and regulate your body’s function.
5. Just Lounge Around
When you find yourself tired and unable to shut your mind off after a long day, don’t get up. Just lay there. Sometimes resting can be just as restorative as sleeping. Turn on the radio, dim the lights, and simply breathe in a meditative manner while you clear your mind as you lie in bed. As your body adjusts to this new method of relaxation, it will become much easier for you to drift off to sleep at night.
6. Add a Nap Time or Two Into Your Day
Sometimes no matter how hard you try, it may not be possible for you to modify your schedule the way you want. Setting aside as little as 15 to 20 minutes each day so you can stop what you are doing to take a nap can be very beneficial for your health. You’ll feel more rested and rejuvenated throughout the day.
7. Eat Better Foods
The foods you eat can really do a number on your body and interfere with the way it functions. Foods that are high in fats and unhealthy substances can slow down digestion and nutrient absorption making it uncomfortable and harder for you rest and sleep. Before bedtime, eat lighter meals and avoid alcoholic beverages. Incorporate more unprocessed and plant-based Hampton foods into your diet like their eggless mayonnaise.
8. See Your Physician
Sometimes, even with your best efforts, sleep may still be elusive. It may be necessary for you to seek out medical attention. Your sleep cycle may be off and you may need a little medical intervention in the form of supplements or medication. Before starting any medication and supplements for sleep disorders or regulation don’t forget to inform your physician about any other medicines you are taking to prevent complications.
Depending on your situation, you may be able to combine several of the above suggestions so you can get the sleep you need. There may also be other ways you can improve your sleeping habits. By adding more sleep into your life, you can improve your moods, overall health, and well-being.
Scientists have discovered the mechanism by which a good night’s sleep improves learning and memory.
The scientific team in China and the US used advanced microscopy to witness new connections between brain cells – synapses – forming during sleep.
Their study, published in the journal Science, showed even intense training could not make up for lost sleep.
Experts said it was an elegant and significant study, which uncovered the mechanisms of memory.
It is well known that sleep plays an important role in memory and learning. But what actually happens inside the brain has been a source of considerable debate.
Sleep plays an important role in memory and learning (photo Tumblr)
Researchers at New York University School of Medicine and Peking University Shenzhen Graduate School trained mice in a new skill – walking on top of a rotating rod.
They then looked inside the living brain with a microscope to see what happened when the animals were either sleeping or sleep deprived.
Their study showed that sleeping mice formed significantly more new connections between neurons – they were learning more.
And by disrupting specific phases of sleep, the research group showed deep or slow-wave sleep was necessary for memory formation.
During this stage, the brain was “replaying” the activity from earlier in the day.
Further tests showed how significant sleep was.
Mice doing up to an hour’s training followed by sleep were compared with mice training intensively for three hours but then sleep deprived.
The difference was still stark, with the sleepers performing better and the brain forming more new connections.
Withings unveiled the Aura “smart sleep” system on the eve of the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) 2014 in Las Vegas.
The maker of the set of communicating bedroom sensors that control a changing-color lamp claims to be able to wake sleepers at the best moment.
One part slides under the mattress to study the dozing owners while another screens their bedroom environment.
It is the first of more than a dozen sleep-related gadgets set to be launched at the event.
However, one expert warned it was too soon to know how much difference such devices could really make to purchasers’ health.
The Aura system consists of three parts:
- A soft padded sensor that is slipped under the mattress. The firm says it is able to record body movements, breathing cycles and heart rates.
- A device that should be placed next to the bed. This includes sensors to study noise levels, room temperature and light levels. In addition it contains a clock, a speaker that plays alarm sounds and a circular LED (light-emitting diode) lamp.
- A smartphone app that controls the system and provides feedback about the sleepers’ night.
Withings bedroom kit Aura promises smarter sleep
The light changes color from blue to yellow and red across the course of the night on the basis of research that different light wavelengths can affect the secretion of hormones.
Studies have suggested that blue light stimulates melanopsin – a pigment found in cells in the eye’s retina, which send nerve impulses to parts of the brain thought to make a person feel alert.
Blue light is also believed to suppress melatonin – a hormone made by the brain’s pineal gland which makes a person feel sleepy when its levels rise in their blood.
By switching from blue to red light – via an intermediary yellow or white stage – this process should be reversed, encouraging a feeling of sleepiness.
Space agency NASA has previously studied the phenomenon and has announced plans to install a light-color changing system of its own into the International Space Station (ISS) in 2016.
Withings’ system is being launched at a cost of $299.
Philips recently announced a competing product at the same price. Its Wake-up Light system mimics the changing conditions created by a sunrise, turning from red to bright yellow over the course of half-an-hour before sounding an alarm. However, it does not monitor the sleepers themselves.
Other sleep-related technologies on show at CES 2014 include:
- Sensible Baby – a sensor put in an infant’s night clothes that tracks their temperature, orientation and movement. It sounds a smartphone app alarm if it detects a problem.
- Sleepow – a pillow that plays tones at slightly different frequencies for each ear, which its maker claims promotes relaxation.
- Basis – one of several new smartwatches that can monitor sleep data, in this case by studying the wearer’s heart rate, perspiration and skin temperature.
According to a new study, the brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day’s thinking.
The US team conducting the new research, believe the “waste removal system” is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep.
Their study, published in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean.
They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.
It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that “housework” may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.
The brain uses sleep to wash away the waste toxins built up during a hard day’s thinking
“The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states – awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up,” said researcher Dr. Maiken Nedergaard.
“You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can’t really do both at the same time.”
Their findings build on last year’s discovery of the brain’s own network of plumbing pipes – known as the glymphatic system – which carry waste material out of the brain.
Scientists, who imaged the brains of mice, showed that the glymphatic system became 10-times more active when the mice were asleep.
Cells in the brain, probably the glial cells which keep nerve cells alive, shrink during sleep. This increases the size of the interstitial space, the gaps between brain tissue, allowing more fluid to be pumped in and wash the toxins away.
Dr. Maiken Nedergaard said this was a “vital” function for staying alive, but did not appear to be possible while the mind was awake.
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US researchers have found that brain scans of people who say they have insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep.
Researchers at the University of California, San Diego, said the poor sleepers struggled to focus part of their brain in memory tests.
Brain scans of people with insomnia have shown differences in brain function compared with people who get a full night’s sleep
Other experts said that the brain’s wiring may actually be affecting perceptions of sleep quality.
The findings were published in the journal Sleep.
People with insomnia struggle to sleep at night, but it also has consequences during the day such as delayed reaction times and memory.
The study compared 25 people who said they had insomnia with 25 who described themselves as good sleepers. MRI brain scans were carried out while they performed increasingly challenging memory tests.
One of the researchers, Prof. Sean Drummond, said: “We found that insomnia subjects did not properly turn on brain regions critical to a working memory task and did not turn off <<mind-wandering>> brain regions irrelevant to the task.
“This data helps us understand that people with insomnia not only have trouble sleeping at night, but their brains are not functioning as efficiently during the day.”
It isn’t easy to ascertain when Margaret Thatcher first referred to her minimal sleep schedule, but the figure of four hours has passed into lore
Part of Margaret Thatcher’s fearsome reputation came from how little she slept; she could get by on four hours a night, it has often been said.
Former British PM Margaret Thatcher would keep her officials up working on a speech until two or three in the morning and then be up by five in time to listen to Farming Today (a BBC Radio 4 programme running every day from 5.45 a.m.).
“She slept four hours a night on weekdays,” said Sir Bernard Ingham, her Downing Street press secretary.
“I wasn’t with her at weekends. I guess she got a bit more then.”
It isn’t easy to ascertain when Margaret Thatcher first referred to her minimal sleep schedule, but the figure of four hours has passed into lore.
People use it as a benchmark of endurance, often jokingly referring to those who need much more.
Margaret Thatcher’s close friend and former Conservative Party treasurer Lord McAlpine stayed with her at Chequers during the holidays.
“She worked right through Christmas. When everyone else went off to bed she went off to work.”
Baroness Thatcher’s biographer John Campbell, author of The Iron Lady, said her late-to-bed, early-to-rise routine made her the “best informed person in the room”. Occasionally husband Denis Thatcher would snap. “Woman – bed!” he is reputed to have shouted on one occasion.
Margaret Thatcher’s frugal sleep pattern created a problem for her successor John Major.
“He found it difficult coming after her because the civil service had got used to a prime minister who never slept, and he used to sleep eight hours a night,” John Campbell said.
Sleep comes to be seen as part of a leader’s character. When Napoleon Bonaparte was asked how many hours sleep people need, he is said to have replied: “Six for a man, seven for a woman, eight for a fool.”
For the Iron Lady four hours was a badge of almost superhuman strength.
Winston Churchill survived on four hours a night during the war. But what is less often noted is that he had regular afternoon naps in his pyjamas.
Margaret Thatcher was not one for these afternoon sleeps.
“No, she wasn’t a napper,” Bernard Ingham said.
But is the four-hour measure something ordinary people should aspire to?
In the world of business it is certainly something people strive for. High-profile chief executives from Marissa Mayer at Yahoo! to Pepsi’s Indra Nooyi get by on four hours a night, while Donald Trump claims to survive on three.
Geraint Anderson, author of City Boy, who worked as an analyst and stockbroker for 12 years, recognizes the phenomenon.
“There was a real macho competition in the City about sleep. One of the ways of getting respect was bragging about how little you got.”
The hours were long – from 6.30 in the morning to seven at night. Socializing might mean staying out till three in the morning. And this was just the analysts. The corporate financiers were the real hard workers.
“They’d work into the early hours, get a couple of hours’ kip at the office and start again.”
To admit needing sleep was a sign of weakness: “After the Christmas or summer party you’d make sure you stayed the latest and came in a little earlier than normal the next morning.”
Lady Thatcher was not the cause but her name was regularly invoked by his bosses.
“They’d say she can get by on four hours to run the country. And she’s an old lady.”
As well as business, there have been military leaders who eschewed the eight hours and opted for the Spartan Thatcher credo.
General David Petraeus ate one meal a day and slept only four hours a night, it was reported.
There’s no correct amount of sleep, said Prof. Kevin Morgan, of Loughborough University’s sleep research centre.
The only rule is to sleep long enough to feel refreshed when you wake up.
For about 1% of people – probably including Margaret Thatcher – this will be as little as four hours a night, said Kevin Morgan.
“You can’t just suddenly become someone who sleeps this little,” he argued. It’s likely to have been a pattern common to her life before becoming prime minister.
It is a big advantage for visionary or creative people to be part of this so-called sleep elite. And for a statesman attending all-night summits it might be a huge advantage.
“The people around you are flagging. When people get tired the quality of their decision-making is compromised.”
Prof. James Horne, also at Loughborough’s sleep research centre, says that mood is critical. Soldiers high on adrenalin can function on little sleep: “It all depends if one gets a buzz out of what one’s doing. If you’re despondent, you tend to sleep more; if you’re excited you need less. Margaret Thatcher was someone who felt on top of things.”
The average adult sleeps seven hours a night but many sleep considerably less than this, especially people over 50. So it’s possible that Margaret Thatcher fell within the range of normality rather than the 1%, James Horne argued.
“She may have sometimes slept four hours and made up for her deficit by sleeping a little longer on other nights.
“You tend to attribute great things to great people, that they need no sleep or no food and have superhuman qualities.”
Matthew Parris, who was a fellow Conservative MP of Margaret Thatcher’s during the 1970s and 1980s, says it was probably more like four to five hours rather than the three to four that some have suggested. It took its toll and may have led to poor decisions, he believes.
Despite her toughness, Margaret Thatcher was often tired out, he remembers.
“When we were jammed into the lobby I would be looking at her from six inches away. I would often see the eyes of an exhausted woman.”
Recently there has been a move away from ostentatious sleeplessness. Burning the midnight oil in Gordon Brown’s case was perceived as evidence of obsessive worrying and weakness.
The work-life balance has arrived, even in Number 10. Tony Blair slept longer than Margaret Thatcher and Gordon Brown but made an exception to get up at night for baby Leo. George W. Bush was in bed by 10, unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton, who worked late and got by on four or five hours.
For artists, sleep deprivation carries a whiff of creative drive and raucous hedonism. Keith Richards, the Rolling Stones guitarist, once stayed awake for nine days – when he fell asleep, he fell down so quickly that he broke his nose.