Tag Archives: Sleep

The Zzzzzzs Have It


Tips for Getting a Good Night’s Sleep

Restful Sleep

The weather changing usually helps me sleep like a baby, but the last few nights my body has had a rough time deciding if it is hot or cold, most often, switching back and forth between the two – causing me to sleep restlessly. And I’ve noticed the difference in the way I get through my days because of it, so it has me thinking.

With the hustle and bustle of life and the constantly quickening pace all around us, you may feel as if you truly don’t have enough time to do everything you need to do in a day. And if you’re like me, one of the first things that you compromise when this happens is your sleep. The type and amount of sleep we get impacts how we function throughout our day. It affects our mood and our attitude and over time, it can impact our relationships with others and with ourselves.

We’ve Heard it Before – and it is True

Develop your own sleep regiment. There are ways to learn to avoid sleep destroyers and develop a variety of healthier behaviors that help promote sleep. By experimenting with different sleep strategies, you can determine what works best for you.

To begin with, get a realistic assessment of how much you currently sleep. There are always some exceptions to the rules, but the average adult requires at least eight hours of sleep each night to be their best during their waking time.

Keep it Regular

Sleeping Baby

When it comes to sleep, consistency is key. Developing and maintaining your own body’s cycle for sleeping time and waking time is one of the most important ingredients in healthy sleep. This means going to sleep and waking up at the same time every day. It may not be easy to achieve, but the reward for your effort is feeling more refreshed and being more productive.

• Bedtime – Start off by picking a time when you are normally tired. This will help you avoid having to toss and turn and fight falling asleep. It may be a bit more difficult to stick with the same time frame on weekends, but it is important to keep it consistent. If you need to make an adjustment to the time, make the change in small, manageable increments no larger than 15 minutes.
• Wake up time – One way to check if you are getting enough sleep is to put your body to the wake-up test. When we get the right amount of sleep, we should be able to wake up without the aid of an alarm or another person. Try to resist the temptations to sleep in on weekends. Keep wake-up time the same all week long.
• Recharge with naps – If you need to ‘catch up’ on sleep, try napping to make up a few hours rather than sleeping late. Early afternoon naps are the best to assure you avoid insomnia. Also, keeping naps to no more than thirty minutes at a time can help you recharge without making insomnia worse.
• Avoid the dinner drowsies – Many of us get sleepy before bedtime and since we are relaxed on the couch, fall asleep for a while before ‘lights out.’ Fight it by moving around. Use a few minutes to get yourself ready for the next day or to take the dishes out of the dishwasher. It is smarter than giving in, waking up later at night and then fighting to get back to sleep.

Alarm Clock

A sure-fire way to learn your best schedule
Hide the alarm clock and make sure you go to sleep the same time every night. Trust your body to wake you up naturally. It may take a week or two at the most, but you will learn your body’s sleep-wake rhythm.

Respect yourself with the right amount of sleep and reap the benefits of the most productive you ever!

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Zzzzzs Have It

Sleeping Baby

Sleeping Baby

We hear it all the time. Make sure you get enough sleep. But so many of us don’t follow this advice and most often, it is not because we are not aware of how much sleep we should get. It is because we don’t pay enough credence to the warning about how important proper sleep truly is.

Fact: The way we feel during the waking hours throughout our day depends on how well we sleep at night. Getting the right amount of sleep is essential for energy, health, productivity and emotional balance. And yet, we still don’t do what we need to do to assure that we get enough sleep. Even minimal sleep loss takes a toll on your mood, energy, and ability to handle stress. There is no other activity that we have that provides so many benefits for so little effort. Improving the quality of our resting time improves the quality of life that we have. It is that important!

One of the myths about sleep is that most people believe if they get extra sleep at night, it can help them with excessive daytime fatigue. However, these people are more than likely placing too much emphasis on the quantity of sleep they get and not enough emphasis on the quality of sleep. The truth is that the quality of sleep is at least as significant, maybe even more so. Getting eight or nine hours of sleep but not feeling rested upon waking due to poor sleep quality, is of no benefit.

Sleeping Kitty

Sleeping Kitty

Most of us also believe if we only lose a single hour of sleep per night, it won’t make much difference in our ability to function during the day, but this is also false. Many people won’t noticeably feel much sleepier during the day if they only lose one hour of sleep at night, but over time, it impacts our ability to respond quickly and think properly. It also impacts cardiovascular health, energy balance, and the ability to fight infections.

It also is not entirely true that we can make up for lost sleep during the week on weekends. There is some relief provided by increasing sleep this way, but it does not completely make up for the loss of sleep. This type of routine will disturb your sleep-wake cycle, making it more difficult to go to sleep at the right time when the weekend is over and getting up early when Monday mornings come.

If you’re a jet-setter and you travel across time zones frequently, the truth is it can take your body more than a week to adjust to the changes. Most people can reset their biological clocks, but only by an hour or two per day.

The Star Trek Enterprise

The Star Trek Enterprise

I’m not a super psy-fi type of gal myself, but almost every guy I’ve ever known is a Trekkie with a capital T. I remember one episode in which the entire crew was not able to sleep (I can’t remember why). As the days increased in which the crew did not sleep, the troubles increased proportionately. Relationships suffered, production decreased, physically people began to get sick, and eventually the ability to tell the difference between reality and imagination blurred, creating total chaos.

If you are an adult over the age of 18, it is recommended that you get between seven and nine hours of quality sleep per night. I’m throwing down the gauntlet. Try and commit to that over the next week (if you don’t already) and see if you feel as if your life is more balanced and joyful.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

What is Generalixed Anxiety Disorder (GAD)


Many can say: You Worry too much, just relax” which might frustrate the worrier: “If it only was that easy” or “The thoughts are uncontrollable”. Some might even find it useful to worry, because one feels more prepared if something unexpected happens. More information about those who worry so much that they satisfy the diagnostic criterias for GAD (Generalised Anxiety Disorder)

What keeps you up at night?

How to avoid bedtime struggles


How to Avoid Bedtime Struggles



How to Avoid Bedtime StrugglesMother of two young kids, Molly Skyar, interviews her mother, Dr. Susan Rutherford, a clinical psychologist, about best strategies for enforcing bedtime with young kids and how your parenting decisions today may affect your child as an adult.

Molly: I received this question from another mom who was wondering if I knew of any good strategies to help her enforce bedtimes. She feels that no matter what time she starts, something always comes up and her kids go to bed too late. They’re hungry, or they have to go the bathroom… She knows she has to be more structured or have a better routine, but she’s a self-described “softie” so it’s hard for her to do.

Dr. Rutherford: I think this mom’s idea about having a firmer, stricter routine is a really good starting point. Those children are obviously manipulating their mom and she, for whatever reason, is not able to set limits.

Suppose the children’s bedtime is 7:30pm. And they bathe before they go to sleep. They are going to have dinner first, so shortly after dinner I would start bath time (if this is part of the routine – or whatever else is part of the routine) and then read a story.

Molly: Or maybe she could do the bath before dinner if it’s making the process stretch out too long.

Dr. Rutherford: That’s right. That’s a good idea. And then she’s going to read her children a story and make sure they go to the bathroom, et cetera. She’s right that she needs to have a routine.

Children actually love routines. They brush their teeth, go to the potty, read a book, maybe talk about their day a little bit with mommy… and then it’s night-night time. Having a routine helps them transition over to this stage of the day.

Children who leave their bedrooms at night saying they’re “hungry”… Well, most of the time it’s a manipulation tactic. Most of the time when kids get up at night, I think that the kid is having trouble with that transition from wakefulness to sleep and is wanting attention from the parent. If a child emerges after being put to bed, you can escort him or her back to bed saying, “You know that we don’t get out of bed after we’ve read stories.” You shouldn’t do this with anger, but we should be firm in our resolve.

A parent can reinforce this resolve by assuring the child that the next time they will talk together will be in the morning when everyone wakes up and we have breakfast. Remind the child that if we don’t go to bed now, everyone is going to be cranky and tired tomorrow, and we don’t want that.

If the child is one of the kids that is always coming out asking for water, think about that ahead of time and prepare to leave a cup of water or a water bottle next to the bed.

As a parent, your life will run more smoothly if you can think ahead and anticipate what the child might need or want at bedtime. It’s reasonable for a child to want their transitional object like a blanket or stuffed animal, for example, so make sure that is in the room before you say goodnight.

Molly: One thing that we do at my house is that, as we leave the kitchen to go upstairs to bed, we say, “That’s it, the kitchen is closed. If there’s anything else you want, now is the time because we’re not getting up after you brush your teeth and go to bed. There’s no more eating tonight.”

Dr. Rutherford: Perfect. That’s a perfect way to do it.

Molly: But we’ve had to be really strict about it. The first three nights, my five-year-old daughter really tested us; she even went so far as to claim she was “starving” after she had eaten a large dinner. And then we had to say, “We already put you to bed tonight. If you get up again, you’re going to lose your privilege for watching your television show tomorrow.”

Dr. Rutherford: You really had to do some behavioral modification intervention.

Molly: We also did a chart. Every night that she didn’t get up, she got to put a sticker on the chart in the morning. I think this is the thing that actually worked the best.

Dr. Rutherford: You offered a reward for staying in bed. That’s employing positive reinforcement as a motivation for behavioral change. Positive reinforcement is a good way to set patterns for a child. Behavior is all about patterns. If a child gets up once, saying he’s not feeling well, that’s not a big deal. When he or she starts doing it regularly, as a pattern, that’s when you absolutely must intervene. The sooner, the better.

Molly: Are there any possible long-term effects of not dealing with this?

Dr. Rutherford: There can be short-term effects and long-term effects. The short-term effects become long-term effects. For instance, if this isn’t dealt with when it first starts, it can go on for years and the child may have real difficulty in moving from the awake state to a sleep state. An example of this might be when the kid is old enough and goes on an overnight to a friend’s house, she might have a lot of trouble falling asleep and will keep her friend up because she hasn’t really learned how to transition from wakefulness to sleep.

As the child becomes an adult, these kinds of issues can easily continue. They often take the form of having trouble falling asleep and may manifest in eating at bedtime, needing the television to fall asleep, or maybe even alcohol or pills — all because that adult never learned how to move from wakefulness to sleep in a timely manner as a child.

Molly Skyar and Dr. Rutherford are behind the blog “Conversations With My Mother”, a blog about raising kids and how our parenting decisions now can have long term effects. Dr. Rutherford is a Clinical Psychologist in practice for over 30 years. She has her undergraduate degree from Duke University, a Masters from New York University (NYU), and a Doctorate in Psychology from the University of Denver.

3 Ways to Sleep Better


3 Nutrients To Help You Sleep Better

Posted: 08/01/2013 8:23 am EDT

Share on Google+
nutrients sleep

By: By Deborah Enos, CN, LiveScience Columnist
Published: 07/28/2013 09:55 AM EDT on LiveScience

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the U.S. seems to have become a nation obsessed with pills. If something doesn’t work right, no worries, there’s a pill for that.

So when we have trouble sleeping, naturally, we go see the doctor for a prescription. Who cares that we might try to sleepwalk our way behind the wheel of a car? At least we’re sleeping, right? Wrong!

If you ask me, prescriptions, especially those with severe and dangerous side effects, should always be a last resort.

There could be many reasons for not sleeping well, and stress often plays a role, but quite a few studies have shown that getting the right nutrients can help you get a good night’s rest. Why not try eating right, before popping an Ambien?

Here’s a look at three common sleep problems that have been linked to vitamin or mineral deficiencies:

Trouble getting to sleep: Magnesium plays a key role in the bodily function that regulates sleep. Insomnia is one of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency, and in fact, a 2006 analysis in the journal Medical Hypothesis suggests that such a deficiency may even be the cause of most major depression and mental health problems.

Bottom line: magnesium is an extremely important mineral. You’ll find it in dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and Brazil nuts, beans and lentils and some types of fish.

Trouble staying asleep: Potassium supplements may be helpful to those who have trouble sleeping through the night, according to a 1991 study in the journal Sleep. Of course, although potassium is available in pill form, I prefer to get most of my nutrients directly from their sources by eating a healthy diet.

When most people think about potassium, they think bananas. Bananas do contain a fair amount of this mineral (about 10% of the daily value), but they aren’t the best source. Beans, leafy greens and baked potatoes are the best sources. Avocados are a great source too — good news for the guacamole lovers!

Tired during the day: There is a strong correlation between excessive daytime sleepiness and vitamin D deficiency, a 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found. The sun’s rays are the best source for this vitamin, but not everyone can get the necessary sun exposure due to climate or skin cancer concerns.

There are a few food sources of vitamin D, such as swordfish, salmon, tuna and fortified foods, but this is one case where I would suggest supplementation. It’s not likely that you would get enough of the sunshine vitamin from food alone.

Healthy Bites appears on LiveScience on Wednesdays. Deborah Herlax Enos is a certified nutritionist and a health coach and weight loss expert in the Seattle area with more than 20 years of experience. Read more tips on her blog, Health in a Hurry!


Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. ]]>

What Caffeine really does to your brain



What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain

Post image for What Caffeine Really Does to Your Brain

Some of it is what you think, a lot of it isn’t. See what is fact and what is all in the mind.

“Legend has it that an observant goatherd named Kaldi discovered coffee in Ethiopia somewhere between about 300 and 800 A.D. He noticed that his goats did not sleep at night after eating coffee berries. He took the berries to a local abbot, who brewed the first batch of coffee, noting its effects on arousal and cognition.” (Smith et al, 2004)

Ever since then humans have been fascinated with caffeine, and rightly so.

Some of its effects are strange and contradictory. In many ways caffeine’s effect on your mind is much more about what you expect than what it actually does.

Hopefully you’ll find at least one or two things here to surprise you…

1. Caffeine doesn’t stop most people sleeping

The goatherd Kaldi may have been right about his goats, but not necessarily about humans. Despite all the fuss made about caffeine and sleeping, there’s little evidence that it’s a problem.

The research finds that the vast majority of people have worked out how to use it. It’s not that complicated: don’t have a double espresso at midnight. Duh.

Even then, there are studies where they give people caffeine secretly before they go to bed. Surprise, surprise it doesn’t generally affect their sleep that much!

2. People blame caffeine for anything and everything

It’s not just poor sleep, because people think caffeine is at least a bit bad for them, they blame all kinds of non-specific problems on it: headaches, bad night’s sleep, feeling jittery, and so on.

Researchers sometimes give people placebos and tell them they’ve had caffeine. People subsequently claim to have slept badly, developed headaches and all the rest.

But it can’t be due to caffeine, because they haven’t had any. So it must be down to what we expect caffeine to do to us.

3. Coffee plus nap?

It might seem mad to have a cup of coffee and then go for a nap. But if you’re sleep deprived, this may be the answer.

Studies have tried giving tired people 200mg of caffeine (a cup or two of instant coffee), then telling them to take a nap.

The caffeine plus the nap often has an additive effect on performance. In other words the caffeine improves performance above the nap on its own.

Try it: have a coffee and a nap of around 5-15 minutes and see you feel. Even people who don’t normally nap can find this beneficial.

4. Boosts in sustained attention

Most people feel more alert after a coffee, but are they any sharper when scientifically tested?

The answer is: in some ways yes, but in many ways not.

The strongest positive finding is that caffeine increases sustained attention and vigilance. This is the kind of attention you need to keep doing a relatively routine task that is unchallenging. That’s why it’s often so good at work: it keeps us plodding on through boring stuff that we’ve got to get through.

This finding is particularly strong for people who haven’t had enough sleep, which is most of us nowadays.

When we stray away into other psychological areas like reaction times, learning and memory, things become much less clear. Sometimes caffeine improves them, sometimes it makes them worse and sometimes there’s no difference.

In general, though, there’s little evidence that caffeine makes much difference on tasks that require pure thought.

5. Two cups good, five cups bad

Like everything in life, you can have too much of a good thing. And caffeine is no different.

In the studies mentioned above, when people have around 200-300mg of caffeine, they get the benefits mentioned. That’s around three espressos or 2-3 cups of instant coffee.

Upwards of 500 mg, though, and there’s no increase in performance and people start to experience negative effects.

Naturally, though, this will depend on your usual level of intake; as the body and mind gets used to caffeine, like any drug.

6. No withdrawal symptoms when giving up?

If you fancy giving up caffeine then prepare for withdrawal symptoms between 12 and 24 hours after your last cup of coffee. Then you may start to develop a headache and feel irritable, tired and anxious.

Or will you?

Even withdrawal symptoms may be at least partly down to our expectations about the effects of caffeine. It’s little studied, but there’s a suggestion that if you don’t expect to get withdrawal effects, then you won’t actually get them.

That’s probably why some people report having no withdrawal symptoms when they give up caffeine. So giving up may not be as hard as you think.

7. Feeling good

No caffeine drinker needs me to tell them that some coffee makes them feel better and too much makes them feel bad.

Moderate doses are the key. What counts as a moderate dose will depend on your usual intake and your genetic susceptibility, which is inheritable. So if your parents can take a triple espresso without their heads exploding, then you probably can as well.

But even an inherited sensitivity to caffeine can be overcome with real dedication to the cause.

8. Coffee kills pain

There is some suggestion in the research that caffeine can help reduce pain.

If you’ve got a tension headache, for example, then studies suggest that acetaminophen (paracetamol) plus caffeine will provide better pain relief than acetaminophen alone.

Rather than causing non-migraine headaches, caffeine has been shown in one study to cure them!

9. Caffeine sharpens the senses

Caffeine ramps up the senses a little in all sorts of interesting ways. Here are a few:

  • Studies find that after a cup of coffee or two people can actually see better in the dark. The boost is between 20 and 38%.
  • People can discriminate between colours better when they’ve had some caffeine.
  • Caffeine helps people ignore distracting stimuli in the environment.

10. Caffeine probably isn’t addictive

Technically caffeine is not really addictive because of the way it works in the brain and because many people don’t suffer withdrawal symptoms when they give up.

However a small number of people do look like they’re addicted to it. But when you compare caffeine to the drugs that are really addictive, like cocaine or heroin, it’s pretty clear that caffeine is not properly addictive.

[Studies described here are cited in Nehlig (2004)]

Image credit: Eric

Share this:

Making Habits, Breaking Habits

In his new book, Jeremy Dean–psychologist and author of PsyBlog–looks at how habits work, why they are so hard to change, and how to break bad old cycles and develop new healthy, creative, happy habits.

→ “Making Habits, Breaking Habits”, is available now on Amazon.

Join PsyBlog’s 71,074 readers now: