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zzzZZ Ultimate Guide to Sleeping ZZzzz
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Red sheep, blue sheep
Why the hell can I not sleep?!?!
The purpose of sleep is still not fully known, since most research on sleep has gone towards sleep disorders. More recent research does seem to indicate that it is more for the mind than for the body.
Negative effects of not sleeping
~ You will be more vulnerable to infection. The immune system produces fewer infection-fighting antibodies.
~ Chronic sleep loss could both hasten and increase the severity of diabetes, high blood pressure, and obesity.
~ Sleeping too much or too little increases the risk of heart disease, especially in women.
~ After about 18 hours without sleep, your reaction time will slow from a quarter of a second to half a second. At 20 hours, your reaction speed is more or less equivalent to someone with a 0.08% blood alcohol level, which is enough to get you a DUI in 49 states.
~ Other side effects include: Mood deterioration, reduced alertness and concentration, memory problems, and lowered creativity.
Positive effects of sleeping
~ Your body and mind get to repair itself. While you sleep, your body is working on restoring your body and mind after a hard days work. Just like you need to get the oil changed in your car ever few months, you need to sleep every night or you won’t operate effectively.
~ It helps your memory. The mind creates memories by strengthening the connections among networks of brain cells. This strengthening occurs the most during sleep, especially during REM. So college students: Cramming is not that helpful. "If you reviewed your notes and then slept, you'd achieve as much ... as if you'd pulled an all-nighter!" - Prof Michael Stryker, UCSF
~ It aids in detoxification. Many free radicals, which are very harmful to your body, are destroyed as you sleep.
~ Increase your eureka moments! A lot of your best thinking is done during your sleep. The saying "sleep on it" is actually quite good advice. The mind sorts things out and will often figure out problems as you sleep.
If you wish to learn more about the processes involved in memory consolidation:
When we learn or experience something, certain neurons in our brain form specific connections with other neurons. These chains of neurons, called neural networks or memory traces, are spread throughout the brain and are repositories for our knowledge. It is during REM sleep that much of the growth of specific neural connections to physically hold memories in the brain takes place. REM-sleep neuronal stimulation causes strengthening of memory circuits and is vital to memory consolidation.
In order for long-term memory to take hold, the brain must organize and reorganize ideas for maximum storage efficiency. It is likely from the evidence we have that during REM sleep, ideas are organized into neural networks of associated ideas already in the brain, efficiently connecting new learning to older information. This reorganization may also be responsible for the phenomenon of people solving problems in their sleep and waking up with an answer they had not previously thought of.
Memory prioritization also takes place, with important memories being strengthened, and trivial events discarded or simply not stored, making room for new information to be absorbed the next day. REM is also vital to new learning and retention, because the neurotransmitters necessary to these functions are replenished during REM sleep.
Getting enough REM sleep is clearly vital to many of our most important brain functions, and that means getting enough continuous sleep so that the REM cycles can occur and lengthen over the night.
The amount of necessary sleep varies from person to person. How much sleep do you personally need? Try this test:
Select a bedtime when you are likely to be able to fall asleep easily. Settle on a time at least eight hours before you need to get up. Maintain that bedtime for a week, and keep track of the time you wake up. You might wake up too early if you've been getting less than the optimal amount of sleep, but that will change over time. If you need an alarm clock to awaken you, or if you find it hard to get out of bed, or if you're tired during the day, you haven't slept enough.
If you aren't sleeping enough, even with the eight-hour period, then go to bed thirty minutes earlier for one week. Add fifteen to thirty more minutes each week until you wake without an alarm clock and feel alert all day. That amount of time will be your individual sleep requirement.
SETTING UP THE SLEEPING ENVIRONMENT
:*. Avoid reading or doing homework in bed. You should only use your bed for sleeping and sex. That way, the body will interpret the bed as a place to relax.
:*. Make sure the room is completely dark. Try to cover even those small lights that may come from you clock, computer, or TV. Lights will distract you during your sleep and stop the secretion of melatonin (the sleep-inducing hormone) – on a side note, having lights on when you sleep also inhibits growth and can be detrimental to your eyesight.
:*. Make sure you’re warm enough. Keep some extra blankets on hand. (Note: The ideal room temperature for sleeping is 65 degrees Farenheit - 18 Celsius)
:*. Put on something comfortable (or take off anything that’s not
). Don’t wear uncomfortable clothing to bed even if you look cute in them. And always, take off your socks. Your feet need to be able to “breathe”.
:*. Use your pillows. You should have one under your head and put one between your legs when sleeping on your side. This keeps your body straight and comfortable. You’ll put less pressure on your body and thus help eliminate aches and pains in the morning.
-For sleeping on your back: Have your head on the higher end of the pillow. This position is good for your organs, but can also cause sleep apnea.
-For sleeping on your side: Make it so that only the top of your head is on the pillow. It is better to sleep on your right side since sleeping on your left puts pressure on your heart.
-For sleeping on you stomach: It would be best not to use a pillow at all or use a very small one. Using a pillow could cause neck and upper back problems. This position is not recommended since it puts pressure on all your internal organs and can cause shallow breathing.
:*. Keep your room well ventilated. You can open a window or turn on a fan. Use those extra blankets if it gets too cold.
However, if you have allergies, I suggest keeping the window closed. Plants usually pollinate at night and your allergic reactions could disrupt your sleep.
:*. Take a warm bath. If you have time, this is a great way to relax your body for sleep. But for those with a busier schedule, a useful shortcut is to put your feet in warm water.
:*. Try not to eat for at least an hour before going to bed. But if you must have something, eat foods that provide you with the chemistry which encourages sleep. Foods containing melatonin may be helpful: oats, sweet corn, rice, ginger, tomatoes, bananas and barley all contain melatonin (oats contain most, barley least). Also, turkey and most carbohydrates affect the production of tryptophan which is what affects the levels of serotonin in the brain.
:*. Do not drink alcohol. Although it’s sedating, it disrupts normal sleep patterns (especially important deep sleep and REM) and leaves you awake later in the night. It can also aggravate sleep apnea. Also, keep away from caffeine. Caffeine can stay in your body for up to 12 hours, so if you have a hard time sleeping, try to avoid caffeinated coffee, tea, soft drinks, and chocolate after noon. If you’re thirsty, drink warm milk or have decaffeinated herb tea.
:*. Do not smoke. Nicotine stimulates brain-wave activity and increases blood pressure and heart rate - it is an even stronger stimulant than caffeine. It disturbs sleep and can cause insomnia. I'm sure this is obvious, but just avoid all "uppers" - Caffeine, Nicotine, Tobacco, Ritalin and diet pills, Cocaine/Crack, Amphetamines (Speed), Methamphetamine (Crank).
:*. Exercise for at least 15 minutes. Do not exercise right before you sleep. Give yourself at least an hour before resting and if you are doing vigorous workouts, give yourself three hours. 3-6 hours before bedtime is ideal. Your body needs a chance to unwind. However, exercising during the day will help you fall asleep much faster. At the end of the day, you might be mentally tired, but if you’ve been sitting around all day, your body will still have stored-up energy. Exercising for at least 15 minutes will give your body the oxygen it needs. Regular exercise also strengthens your heart, lowers your blood pressure, and reduces stress and anxiety through the release of endorphins, all of which promote sound sleep.
:*. Keep regular sleeping schedules. Your body has its own internal clock that knows when it’s supposed to eat, sleep, etc. By sleeping at odd hours, you confuse your body and it is no longer prepared at a certain time to sleep, and you waste time every night lying awake in bed. Go to bed and wake up at the same times every day. Even if you must go to be at a later time, stay on schedule for waking up and catch a nap later in the day. If you do catch a nap, make sure you nap a minimum of one hour in order to give your body enough time to enter REM. (Note: Your internal clock is actually set on a 25-hour schedule, but by sticking to a schedule for sleep, it works fine in our 24-hour days.)
:*. Reduce stress! Many people lie awake at night and have disturbed sleep because they are stressed. Try not to dwell on stressful ideas while you're in bed. Avoid working or avoid watching/reading disturbing material (including the news) right before bedtime. Spend your last hour awake relaxing and preparing your mind and body for a good night's sleep.
:*. If you’re still awake after 20 minutes, get up. Go to another room and do some relaxing and quiet activity.
:*. Orgasm. This not only relieves stress, but also releases calming endorphins that are conducive to sleep.
:*. And a helpful hint: Relaxing your tongue is an effective way of allowing your body to relax. It may sound weird, but it works for most people.
Q: What do you mean by "Have your head on the higher end of the pillow"?
A: Put your head on the pillow so that your neck and maybe even your shoulders rest on the lower end of the pillow. If you have it the middle or lower end of the pillow, it tilts your head forward, which misaligns your spine.
Q: Are there any side effects to keeping the hand under my pillow under my head?
A: No. By putting your hand there, you're making minor adjustments to your position that increase comfort. It's a good thing.
Q: Ahhh! Now I'm afraid to sleep on my left side!
A: While sleeping on your back is ideal for your organs (and sleeping on your right side is better for your heart), the harm is insignificant and nowhere near as important as getting a good night's sleep. Sleep in the position that is the most comfortable to you.
Q: How do you reduce the amount of sleep you need without too much negative side effects?
A: The most important thing you need to do to reduce the amount of sleep you need is to sleep on a strict schedule. By keeping to the schedule, your body will be able to prepare itself to fall asleep at that time every night, greatly reducing time wasted lying there awake. I do not recommend getting less than 8 hours of sleep if your body is still growing. If you are 23 or older, you should be able to reduce your sleeping time to 6 hours by sleeping on schedule and ensuring that those 6 hours are quality uninterrupted sleep.
*Ultimate Guide to Dreams*
If you're still having trouble sleeping, you may want to talk to your doctor about sleep disorders. Sleep apnea is the most common one, but you can take a look at these links to find out more information:
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