L-Theanine Health Benefits & Cognitive FunctionCategoriesBlog

L-Theanine: Health Benefits and Cognitive Function

Ever wonder why a cup of tea is offered during stressful situations? Or why it seems to help us to wind down at night? It’s because tea contains the L-theanine compound. It is found especially in green tea and it can help our body to relax and calm down. 

What is L-Theanine?

L-theanine is an amino acid that is actually not essential for humans although it is known to provide certain health benefits. This amino acid was first found in tea by Japanese scientists in the mid-1900s. Because L-theanine is not essential for our bodily functions, the human body does not synthesize it and we don’t require it in our diets. 

L-theanine mechanism of action

L-theanine’s main mechanism of action is to increase the levels of inhibitory neurotransmitters and block the production of excitatory neurotransmitters. 

Because L-theanine is a glutamic acid analog, it is very similar to the neurotransmitter glutamate. This chemical resemblance means it is able to bind directly to postsynaptic receptors, inhibiting the binding of glutamate. It also binds to the glutamate transporter to prevent the reuptake of glutamate. 

This process results in an increased level of brain inhibitory transmitter GABA and increases dopamine levels. Anti-stress effects are felt due to the inhibition of excitatory neurotransmitters. 

Where is L-Theanine naturally found?

Where is L-Theanine naturally found
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The most common source of L-theanine is green tea. In fact, L-theanine makes up about 50% of the total amino acids in green tea. It is said that up to 3.1% of the dry weight of green tea is from this amino acid. 

However, L-theanine content varies according to specific types of green tea. Younger green tea plants also tend to have a higher amount of this amino acid. 

Because L-theanine is highly water-soluble, nearly all of it dissolves in water when tea is prepared. It is also believed that this amino acid is responsible for the slight savory umami flavor that is very unique to green tea. 

L-theanine foods

L-theanine can also be found in:

  • Black and white tea leaves but at a lower content than green tea leaves. 
  • Xerocomus badius, a brown, edible, porous mushroom species which is also known as bay bolete. Bay bolete can be found in Europe and North America. 
  • C. japonica and C. sasanqua, small shrubs that are sometimes used to make tea. 

L-Theanine benefits 

While L-theanine is not an essential amino acid that our body needs, it offers tons of great benefits. 

Stress and anxiety relief

Stress and anxiety relief
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L-theanine in tea is anxiolytic. It helps to reduce anxiety by promoting relaxation and stress without sedative effects. A hot cup of tea can help you keep calm while still being attentive. 

Studies show that L-theanine can significantly reduce stress and anxiety in people who are experiencing stressful situations. It can also be helpful with anxiety for people who are living with schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder

Increases cognitive function

Increases cognitive function
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A 2016 study found that L-theanine can improve brain function. It helps with attention, reaction time, memory, and learning. 

Hormones like cortisol and corticosterone are produced by our bodies when we are under stress. These hormones can inhibit brain activity, affect memory formation and learning. L-theanine counters this by lowering stress hormone levels and fostering a sense of calm. 

L-theanine is sometimes used with caffeine to enhance alertness, focus, and cognitive skills. It is said that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine can improve one’s ability to process visual information and number skills. 

In a study investigating this combination effect, young adults who were given 97mg of L-theanine and 40mg of caffeine had significantly improved accuracy during task switching. They also reported increase alertness and reduce tiredness. The researchers concluded that the combination of L-theanine and caffeine can help to increase focused attention for demanding cognitive tasks. 

Improves sleep

L-theanine helps people to fall asleep quicker during bedtime because it fosters relaxation and calmness. It also improves sleep quality as it lowers stress and anxiety levels. This is important as deep sleep itself has many health benefits. 

A 2018 study in which participants who were struggling with a generalized anxiety disorder reported better sleep quality after taking 450 to 900mg of L-theanine every day for 8 weeks

Increases immunity

L-theanine can also boost the immune system and has anti-inflammatory properties that help the body in fighting off illnesses. 

Research shows that L-theanine can help with upper respiratory tract infections and in preventing the flu. Studies also show that it can help reduce inflammation in the intestinal tract although more research is needed in this area. 

Anti-tumor effects

Studies have suggested that people who drink tea regularly have a lower risk of cancer. In fact, another study conducted in China found that women who drank green tea had 32% lesser chances of developing pancreatic cancer compared to no tea drinkers. 

It is also said that L-theanine is able to enhance the anti-tumor effect of certain chemotherapy drugs. While more studies are needed, this promising finding suggests that L-theanine will be able to improve chemotherapy’s effectiveness to fight cancer. 

Blood pressure management

A 2012 study found that L-theanine was effective in reducing increased blood pressure due to having to complete specific mental tasks. 

High BP is known to cause health issues like heart attack and strokes. L-theanine helps reduce high blood pressure during stressful situations by reducing stress. Lowering stress and increasing relaxation can decrease heart rate and thus, lower blood pressure. 

Helps with relaxation

There is evidence that suggests that L-theanine in green and black tea can help people relax by reducing their resting heart rate. This is why in some cultures a cup of tea is often offered during stressful situations. 

Weight loss

weight loss
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L-theanine in green tea creates a savory ‘umami’ flavor that can help reduce appetite. As such, having some green tea instead of a snack can result in weight loss.  

Additionally, the anti-anxiety and sleep-promoting properties of L-theanine can also help in weight management. Getting proper sleep and being well-rested instead of stressed is important when it comes to healthy eating and avoiding weight gain. 

L-Theanine and sleep

L-Theanine and sleep
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As mentioned above, L-theanine can be a great help for those who are suffering from sleep disorders such as insomnia. Here’s how L-theanine promotes relaxation and sleep:

  • L-theanine boosts calming brain chemicals such as GABA, serotonin, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters regulate our mood, emotions, appetite, energy, alertness as well as sleep. Increased levels of these chemicals in our brains help us to relax and sleep. 
  • L-theanine reduces ‘excitatory’ brain chemicals and chemicals that are linked to stress and anxiety. This results in calm and relaxation. 
  • L-theanine enhances alpha brain waves which are related to ‘wakeful relaxation’ and is present during REM sleep

Because L-theanine is generally safe, and supplementation does not cause drowsiness, dependence, or lead to adverse side effects, it is often used as a natural sleep supplement to improve sleep quality and promote relaxation

How long does L-theanine take to work?

Ingestion of L-theanine doses between 50 to 200mg can usually be felt within 30 to 40 minutes of consumption. As such, taking L-theanine supplements about an hour before bedtime will help you to wind down and relax as you prepare to go to bed. 

How long does L-theanine stay in your system?

The calming effects of a 50 to 200 mg dose of L-theanine can last 8 to 10 hours after consumption. This is perfect for a solid night’s sleep. 

Is L-Theanine safe? 

The Food and Drug Administration classifies L-theanine as ‘generally recognized as safe’. This means that L-theanine is for the most part a safe supplement or additive when it is used according to the suggested dose on labels and packaging. 

L-Theanine side effects and risks

While L-theanine is usually well tolerated by healthy adults and the side effects are very minimal, the following groups of people should check with their doctor before using supplements that contain L-theanine:

  • Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Young children
  • People who have low blood pressure

Besides this, another point to note is that both green and black tea contain caffeine. Consuming large amounts of tea can result in nausea, stomach upset, and irritability due to over-caffeinating. 

L-Theanine interactions

Although side effects are few, L-theanine may interact with certain medications and supplements. Effects of the interactions include increased or decreased sleepiness, and reducing the effectiveness of medication and supplements that are being consumed. 

Do check with your doctor before taking L-theanine if you are on any of these medications or supplements: 

  • High blood pressure medications
  • High blood pressure supplements
  • Supplements that contain caffeine
  • Stimulants, like those that are used to treat ADHD. 

L-Theanine dosage

While it is unlikely to overdose on this supplement, it is recommended that users begin with the smallest suggested dose. You can slowly increase the dose as required.

For sleep and stress, 50 mg to 400 mg is recommended. This supplement is often available in 200mg tablets. 

Conclusion

L-theanine is an amino acid that offers numerous health benefits, including relaxation, stress relief, and improved sleep quality. If you are having issues sleeping, Rilax is a natural, safe and effective sleep supplement that contains L-theanine, giving your body the healthy and restorative sleep that it needs. 

*Note: Rilax sleep supplement results may vary from individual to individual.

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Covid Insomnia: Is It Keeping You From Getting Quality Sleep?

Sleep disorders are not new. In fact, many people suffering from sleep deprivation already had a health issue before the Covid-19 pandemic took place. 

However, as the pandemic continues to increase anxiety levels in daily lives, more and more people are reporting sleep issues than ever before. 

This increase in sleep problems is so alarming that sleep experts have coined this phenomenon ‘Coronasomnia’. 

What is Covid Insomnia or Coronasomnia? 

Coronasomia or Covid insomnia is a phenomenon characterized by increased sleep issues as well as symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While stress and anxiety are often linked to insomnia, coronosomnia symptoms are considered as the ones that started or intensified during the global pandemic. 

In many cases, Covid-19 insomnia is directly linked to financial and emotional stress, uncertainty, and isolation due to this public health crisis. 

Symptoms of Coronasomnia

Various studies have shown increased rates of sleep disorders such as insomnia during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Sleeping patterns have also changed, with people sleeping less at night and napping more during the day. Sleep quality has also been affected when people go to bed later and wake up later. 

symptoms of coronasomnia

Covid insomnia symptoms include:

  • Insomnia symptoms, such as having great difficulty falling and staying asleep.
  • Delayed sleep schedules in which people go to bed and wake up later than normal.
  • Increased stress levels.
  • Increased anxiety and depression.
  • Increased daytime sleepiness.
  • Sleep deprivation symptoms such as feeling tired, moody, irritable, and unable to concentrate. 

 

Causes of Coronasomnia

To effectively deal with an issue, we must first determine its causes. Here are some common causes of Covid insomnia. 

Increased stress

Increased stress is one of the main causes of coronasomnia. Major stressful life events, such as the coronavirus pandemic can increase cortisol, the stress hormone that has the opposite function of melatonin, the sleep hormone. 

Under normal circumstances, cortisol levels rise in the early morning to energize your body for the day. Cortisol levels lower in the evening and melatonin levels rise to prepare you for bedtime. Stress disrupts this process, with cortisol levels remaining elevated even though it is time to sleep. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has introduced many stressors to our lives, including having to stay at home, increased work responsibilities, and parenting duties. 

Together with the uncertainties of this season, it is not surprising that the pandemic has played a role in the increase of sleep disorders, such as insomnia. 

Loss of routine

To prevent the spread of the coronavirus, lockdowns and social distancing guidelines have been implemented in many communities. 

As such, many people had their daily routines affected. Normal activities that served as time markers in our regular routine were suddenly gone. These changes make it harder to regulate the circadian rhythm, disrupting sleep and reducing sleep quality. 

Increased media consumption

Coronasomnia can also be caused by increased media consumption.  Frequently checking the news is related to higher levels of anxiety

As people want to keep up with the latest information on Covid-19, they spend more time watching TV or scrolling through social media to stay abreast with the latest updates on the pandemic. 

Increased screen time

Increased media consumption also leads to increased screen time. Exposure to blue light suppresses melatonin and elevates cortisol making it hard to fall asleep, and leading to more stress and anxiety. 

Additionally, having to stay at home also means that adults (and kids) are more likely to binge-watch shows to fill their time or to take their minds off the pandemic. 

Who is at risk of Coronasomnia? 

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine discovered recently that 60% of people said they struggled with falling and staying asleep because of the Covid-19 pandemic

While Coronsaomnia is a condition that can affect anyone, no matter what the age, there are certain groups of people who have an increased risk of developing it, including:

  • Frontliners
  • Essential workers
  • Unpaid caregivers
  • Young adults
  • Women
  • People of colour
  • Covid-19 patients

How to beat Coronasomnia?

While we cannot control the pandemic, we can take steps to promote our physical and emotional well-being. 

Here are some things that you can do to ensure that you still get good, restorative sleep even in the midst of uncertainty. 

Improve sleep hygiene

Sleep hygiene refers to the habits you have when it comes to sleeping. Improving your sleep hygiene will help to ensure that you get good quality sleep when your head hits the pillow at night. 

Following are some strategies that you can try to promote sleep hygiene. 

  • Have a regular sleep schedule. Go to bed and wake up at the same time every day, including weekends although it may be tempting to sleep in! Make sure that you have seven to nine hours of sleep per night. 
  • Keep your room dark and quiet when you are going to bed. Having lights on will disrupt your sleep. Your bedroom should be cool so that you can stay comfortable throughout the night. 
  • Clear your bedroom of things that may increase your stress levels such as work documents. Avoid working in the bedroom so that your brain associates the bedroom with rest and relaxation.
  • During your waking hours, get your daily dose of sunlight. Our circadian rhythms are regulated by light so spending time outside or near a window can help get you on a regular sleep-wake cycle. Additionally, sunlight is also a good source of Vitamin D. 
  • Limit caffeine intake as it can stay in your system up to 6 hours after consumption. As such, try to have your last cup at least 6 hours before you go to bed
  • Minimize alcohol consumption. While it can work as a sedative, alcohol can disrupt the quality of your sleep. Drinking alcohol can result in sleep being less restorative and may even cause you to wake up early. 
  • Dinner should not be eaten too late as it can cause stomach upset and disturbed sleep. 
  • Stop using mobile phones and other devices that emit blue light a minimum of one hour before bedtime. Blue light can disrupt sleep quality. 

Establish daily routines

Daily routines provide cues for when to eat, work, stay alert and wind down. They provide ‘time markers’ and give us a sense of control that can help to reduce stress. 

However, having to stay home for long periods of time due to the coronavirus can disrupt our usual routines. 

Establishing a daily routine will help to fight against coronasomia. Clear times to eat, work, take breaks, exercise, and work can help your body to regulate and reinforce the sleep-wake cycle. A clear separation between work and sleep time is needed to ensure a good night’s rest. 

Additionally, a bedtime routine can also help send signals to your brain that it is time to sleep. Unwind with the same set of activities every night. For example, a bath, some light reading, and listening to soothing music can help you to relax as you head for bed. 

Reduce stress and anxiety

A large part of covid insomnia is due to the stress and anxiety that the pandemic brings. 

Unemployment, changes in work schedules, dealing with kids and work during the lockdown as well as other uncertainties all take a toll on emotional health. 

Here are some things you can do to relieve stress and coronavirus anxiety.

Exercise daily

Studies show that exercising daily promotes restful sleep

It is also an excellent way to reduce stress and anxiety. Additionally, exercise also helps you to maintain a healthy weight range. Just remember not to exercise too near bedtime as it’s an activity that energizes your body. 

Journaling 

Putting our thoughts on paper can help process emotions, reframe negative feelings and replace them with positive thoughts and emotions. Journaling can help ease stress and anxiety by clearing our overloaded minds of stressful information. 

Meditation

Meditation can also help to ease stress and anxiety. It can help us to stay calm and relax, promoting a good night’s rest. 

Take a break from Covid-19 news

Sensational news on the pandemic can create unnecessary stress and anxiety. To avoid this, take a break from watching the news or scrolling through social media. Have a fixed time every day to catch up on the latest news if you must. 

For example, only allow yourself half an hour before dinner to catch up on the day’s news.

Focus on positive Covid-19 developments, such as the rollout of vaccines. Additionally, only trust reliable news sources so that you are not affected by misinformation.

Safe sleep supplements

GoodSleepNaturally1

Natural and safe sleep supplements can also help you get some good quality sleep. Rilax is a natural sleep supplement that promotes relaxation and reestablishes your circadian rhythm to help you get the healthy and restorative sleep that your body needs. 

 

Conclusion

Coronasomnia is not to be taken lightly. 

If you find yourself having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep due to stress and anxiety from the pandemic, do take the above steps to promote restorative sleep. 

Long-term sleep deprivation can result in more complicated health including heart issues and stroke. As such, it is best for both your physical and mental health to ensure that you get enough sleep every night. 

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Sleep Disorders: Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Ever have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep at night? 

Or do you wake up feeling exhausted and feel sleepy even before half the day has gone by? 

You may have a sleep disorder if you find yourself facing these problems frequently. 

Here’s all you need to know about the types of sleep disorders, symptoms as well as treatments that are available. 

What are sleep disorders? 

Sleep disorders refer to conditions that impact one’s ability to get good quality, restorative sleep

While many people experience difficulty sleeping once in a while, those who suffer from sleep disorders have regular issues that leave them feeling exhausted when they wake up. 

Trouble sleeping at night can result in daytime lethargy. It can be a debilitating experience that takes a serious toll on mental and physical health. It can lead to weight gain, memory problems, relationship issues, and even car and workplace accidents. 

According to the American Sleep Association (AMA), as many as 50 to 70 million adults in the U.S experience sleep disorders. As such, it is important to identify the causes of sleep disorders to ensure your good health and quality of life. 

Sleep disorder symptoms

Although symptoms differ according to the type and severity of the sleeping disorder, general symptoms include: 

  • Difficulty falling and/or staying asleep
  • Feeling fatigued or exhausted in the daytime
  • Wanting to sleep or take naps in the daytime
  • Unusual breathing patterns
  • Unusual movement when sleeping
  • Feeling irritable and anxious
  • Unable to focus or concentrate
  • Impaired work performance 
  • Depression
  • Weight gain

While sleep disorders need to be diagnosed by your doctors, here are some questions that you can ask yourself. The more you answer yes, to them, the more likely it is that you are dealing with a sleep disorder:

  • Do you have difficulty staying awake when sitting still, reading or when watching TV?
  • Do you feel irritable and/or anxious? 
  • Do you often feel sleepy during the day? 
  • Do you have trouble concentrating? 
  • Do you feel tired or fall asleep when driving? 
  • Do you have trouble regulating your emotions? 
  • Do you feel like taking a nap almost every day? 
  • Are your reactions slow? 
  • Do others tell you that you look tired? 
  • Do you need caffeine to get and keep yourself going? 

Types of sleep disorders

There are many types of sleep disorders. While each has specific symptoms, the inability to get a good night’s rest often results in fatigue and tiredness during the day. Here are some of the most common sleep disorders. 

Insomnia

Insomnia Sleeping disorder

Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or stay asleep at night. There are two types of insomnia – transient insomnia and chronic insomnia. 

Transient or short-term insomnia is usually due to a stressful life event such as the loss of a loved one. It can also be caused by jet lag or shift work. People who have transient insomnia often find themselves experiencing disturbed sleep and are unable to relax. 

People who experience chronic insomnia experience difficulties falling and staying asleep at least 3 days per week for at least one month. Sleep is not restorative and they often feel exhausted during the daytime. 

Chronic intermittent insomnia is characterized by a few nights of good sleep followed by many nights of sleeping issues. 

Sleep apnea

People who have sleep apnea experience pauses in breathing when they are asleep. Sleep apnea is a medical condition that causes the body to take in less oxygen, resulting in the individual waking up frequently at night.  

There are two types of sleep apnea – obstructive sleep apnea and central sleep apnea. 

Obstructive sleep apnea occurs when airflow stops because the airway is obstructed or too narrow. 

Central sleep apnea occurs when there is an issue with the connection between the brain and muscles that control breathing. 

People with sleep apnea may not remember waking up at night. 

However, they wake up feeling exhausted and may feel irritable and depressed. It is important to see a doctor as soon as possible if you suspect that you or your loved one is suffering from sleep apnea as this serious sleep disorder is potentially life-threatening. 

Restless leg syndrome

Restless leg syndrome (RLS) is a disorder in which there is an overwhelming urge to move your legs (and sometimes arms) at night, although they can occur during the day as well. The need to move is often accompanied by tingling, aching, creeping, or uncomfortable sensations. The exact cause of RLS is unknown. 

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders

Circadian rhythm sleep disorders are caused by interruptions to our internal biological clock based on the light that regulates our sleep-wake cycle. Our brain releases melatonin, a hormone that makes us sleepy when there is less light. 

In contrast, our brain tells us that it is time to wake up when the sun rises. Circadian rhythm sleep disorders include:

Jet lag

Jet lag is caused by temporary disruptions to the circadian rhythm when you travel across time zones. People with jet lag experience daytime sleepiness, insomnia, headaches, and sometimes stomach issues as well. 

Jet lag symptoms are usually more pronounced after long flights. However, it is usually gone once your body adjusts to the new time zone. 

Shift work sleep disorder

Shift work can mess up your biological clock. Many people who work at night, early morning, or on rotating shifts find themselves having a hard time adjusting to changes in their sleep schedule. 

Shift workers often have a negative impact on sleep quality, resulting in sleep deprivation and sleepiness. This can reduce productivity and safety at the workplace. 

The negative impact of shift work can be reduced by:

  • Regulating the sleep-wake cycles by increasing light exposure during work (even though it is nighttime) and minimizing light exposure when it’s sleeping time. Blackout shades or curtains can be used to block daylight from entering the bedroom. 
  • Request a shift that is later, rather than earlier when changing shifts. It is usually easier to adjust forward in time rather than going backwards. 
  • Minimize the frequency of shift changes, although this can be difficult if you’re not in charge of work schedules. 
  • Taking melatonin or natural sleep supplements. Rilax is a natural sleep supplement that contains Lactium, a bioactive peptide extracted from the milk of Holstein cows in France, and L-Theanine, an amino acid extracted from green tea leaves. 

It helps promote relaxation, re-establish the circadian rhythm, and results in one waking up refreshed. 

Delayed sleep phase disorder

Delayed sleep phase disorder occurs when there is a significant delay in a person’s biological clock. People who struggle with this disorder are not able to sleep earlier than 2 to 6 am, even when they try to do so. 

This causes them to go to sleep and wake up later than other people, making it difficult for them to keep to normal hours. For example, they find it extremely difficult to keep a 9 to 5 job or get to morning classes. 

Interestingly, people who have delayed sleep phase disorder do fall into a regular sleep schedule when they are allowed to keep their own hours. 

Narcolepsy

Narcolepsy sleeping disorder

People who suffer from narcolepsy experience excessive, uncontrollable sleepiness in the daytime and may fall asleep without warning. 

‘Sleep attacks’ can occur anytime. 

For example, it is possible for narcoleptics to fall asleep in the middle of talking or driving. 

Narcolepsy is caused by brain dysfunction and can also cause sleep paralysis, where an individual finds that they are unable to physically move right after waking up. 

Parasomnias

Paramonias are a group of sleep disorders that are characterized by abnormal behaviors or movement during or just before falling asleep. They are more common in children, although adults do experience them as well. 

Common parasomnias include:

  • Teeth grinding 
  • Jaw clenching
  • Sleepwalking
  • Sleep talking
  • Nightmares / night terrors
  • Bedwetting
  • Groaning

What causes sleep disorders?

There are many causes of sleep disorders, including stress, anxiety, circadian rhythm changes, and underlying health issues. 

Stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety can make it difficult for one to fall and stay asleep. The negative impact on sleep quality can in turn cause even more stress and anxiety because you’re tired, having trouble concentrating, and worried about not getting enough rest. 

Allergies and respiratory issues

Colds, allergies, and respiratory infections can cause difficulty in breathing, especially at night. The inability to breathe properly can make it very difficult to fall and stay asleep. 

Circadian rhythm disruptions

Disruptions to the circadian rhythm can make it hard to regulate the sleep-wake cycle, resulting in insomnia. This leads to excessive daytime sleepiness, exhaustion, irritability, and lowers work performance. 

Chronic pain

Chronic pain can be an underlying cause of sleep disorders such as insomnia. People who suffer from chronic pain may find it difficult to fall asleep. Pain may also cause people to wake up multiple times at night. Common causes of chronic pain include arthritis, fibromyalgia, back pain, inflammatory bowel disease, and migraines. 

Underlying medical issues

Sometimes, an underlying medical issue can be the cause of sleep disorders. As such, it is important to have a medical practitioner properly diagnose sleep issues to rule out any underlying medical issues. If it is indeed so, dealing with the issue will resolve the sleep disorder. 

Sleep disorder treatments

While treatments for sleep issues vary according to the type of disorder, it usually includes medical and lifestyle changes. 

GoodSleepNaturally1

Medical treatments

Medical treatments for sleep disorders include:

  • Natural sleep supplements
  • Sleeping pills
  • Medication for underlying health issues 
  • Cold or allergy medications
  • Breathing devices
  • Surgery
  • Dental guard for teeth grinding

Lifestyle changes

In addition to medical treatments, lifestyle changes can also work to improve sleep quality. 

Adjustments that you can consider include: 

  • Having a regular sleep schedule in which you go to bed and wake up at the same time every day including weekends. 
  • Limit caffeine intake especially from the afternoon onwards as caffeine can stay in your system for up to six hours.
  • Exercising to reduce stress and anxiety.
  • Have a balanced diet.
  • Decreasing the use of alcohol and tobacco.
  • Eating smaller meals before bedtime.
  • Maintaining a healthy weight.
  • Avoid watching TV and using devices that emit blue light before bedtime.

Conclusion

Sleep is important to your health and well-being. The inability to get good quality sleep can hinder you from living a full, good quality life. 

If you suspect that you have a sleep disorder, contact your doctor as soon as you can. 

Follow our blog on “How to improve deep, restorative sleep?” for more information. 

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How To Get More Deep Sleep?

While good nutrition and exercise are strongly associated with physical and mental wellbeing, we often neglect the importance of good sleep. Our body requires quality deep sleep in order to feel refreshed in the morning. 

Read on to learn more about deep sleep and how you can improve this stage of your sleep cycle. 

How much deep sleep do you need? 

deep sleep
Photo by Damir Spanic on Unsplash

It is recommended that adults get seven to nine hours of sleep at night. Although restorative functions occur in all stages of the sleep cycle, deep sleep and REM sleep are the most important for restorative sleep

Restorative sleep is vital for better body and mind health. It helps improve learning, decision making, productivity and memory. It also helps to increase creativity, energy, alertness and productivity. 

Of the seven to nine hours, average sleep cycles show that 20 to 25 % of it is REM sleep. While there is no official consensus on how much REM sleep one should get, this seems to be a healthy amount of deep sleep. 

Deep sleep should take up 10 to 25%, or 1 to 2 hours of an average 8 hour sleep duration at night. 

As for light sleep, there is no minimum amount that you should get. In any case, it is almost impossible to avoid light sleep as it is the default stage when you nod off. 

Basic anatomy of sleep

Let us start by understanding the basic anatomy of sleep. Our brain plays a large role when it comes to the sleep-wake cycle. 

The hypothalamus, located deep inside the brain is a peanut sized structure that is the control center for sleep and arousal. 

In the hypothalamus is a cluster of thousands of cells referred to as the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). The SCN’s role in sleep is to receive information on light exposure from our eyes to help control our circadian rhythms. 

Our brain stem, which is located at the base of the brain includes the medulla, midbrain and pons. It communicates with the hypothalamus on sleep-wake cycles. The brain stem is also important in regulating REM sleep as it signals muscles to relax during this stage of the sleep cycles to ensure that we do not act out our dreams. 

Other parts of the brain, such as the thalamus and amygdala are also essential during REM sleep. The thalamus sends information such as images and sounds that make up our dreams to the cerebral cortex while the amygdala helps to process emotions. 

The pineal gland, which is located within the two hemispheres of the brain also receives signals from the SCN. When the light goes down, the pineal gland produces the hormone called melatonin. Melatonin helps to establish our circadian rhythm and encourages sleep. 

Stages of sleep

There are a total of 5 stages in the sleep cycle. 

Stage 1

Stage 1 of sleep occurs when you move from being awake to being asleep. It is a light, non-REM sleep. During this stage, your body starts to relax. Your heartbeat, respiration, eye movements and brain waves start to slow down. Stage 1 lasts just for a few minutes. 

Stage 2

Stage 2 of the sleep cycle is still a part of light sleep, but you are sleeping a little steadier at this stage. Your body continues to relax, and your core temperature drops. Your eye movements stop and your brain waves are slow although there may still be small bursts of activity in this stage. Stage 2 sleep should account for about 45 to 55% of the sleep cycle.  

Stage 3 and 4

Stage 3 and 4 is when you get deep sleep, which is also known as ‘slow wave sleep’ or ‘delta sleep’. During these stages, your muscles are extremely relaxed, while your heartbeat, breathing and brain waves are at their slowest. You are most difficult to waken during this time in your sleep cycle. 

Tissues growth and repair, as well as cellular energy is restored during Stage 4 sleep. 

Deep sleep is longer during the first half of the night, becoming shorter and shorter in the following sleep cycles. 

REM Sleep

You move from non REM sleep to REM sleep about 90 minutes from when you first fell asleep. During REM sleep, your eyes move rapidly from side to side. Your heart rate, breathing and brain activity increases to near waking levels. 

Because you are most likely to dream during this stage, your arms and legs become temporarily paralyzed during the REM stage to ensure that you do not physically act out your dreams while you sleep. 

Benefits of deep sleep

The deep sleep stages are very important in the sleep cycle as it offers numerous health benefits. 

1. Boosts learning and memory consolidation

Deep sleep promotes glucose metabolism which helps with both short term and long term memory as well as overall learning. 

2. Growth and cell regeneration 

Our pituitary gland releases growth hormones during the deep sleep stage. This is also the time when our bodies repair muscles and tissues, thereby relaxing them. 

An increased flow of Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) into our bodies also occurs during deep sleep. CSF clears beta-amyloid, a protein linked to Alzheimer’s disease, from our brain. 

There is also an increased blood supply to muscles during deep sleep, which helps to strengthen and repair our muscles. 

3. Strengthens the immune system

Deep sleep strengthens our immune system, helping us to fight infections, inflammation and illnesses. 

4. Energy restoration

Deep sleep helps us to conserve energy and allows us to wake up feeling fresh and restored. This may be due to an increase in adenosine triphosphate in cells during deep sleep. 

What happens when you don’t get enough deep sleep? 

Poor sleep quality can have a negative effect on your physical as well as mental wellbeing. 

health issues
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Consider the following consequences of too little deep sleep or long term chronic insomnia: 

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Memory loss, Dementia
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Impaired growth in children
  • Immune system dysfunction
  • Risk of routine infections such as the common cold

Visible symptoms when not getting deep sleep

While the cumulative health and mental toll may take time to show, you may not be getting enough deep sleep if you have the following noticeable symptoms:

needing caffeine
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  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Frequent yawning
  • Daytime fatigue or reduced productivity
  • Easily irritable
  • Moodiness
  • Red eyes/eye bags/dark circles around the eyes
  • Needing caffeine
  • Unable to focus

What causes lack of deep sleep? 

It’s important to find out why you’re waking up feeling tired and being fatigued throughout the day. Here are some reasons for lack of deep sleep:

Stress and anxiety

Sleeping issues are frequently connected to stress and anxiety. 

Ruminative thoughts, excess worry and fear can make it hard for one to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. Lack of deep sleep due to stressful lives and worries can in turn, worsen anxiety, causing a negative cycle of anxiety disorders and sleeplessness. 

The Covid-19 pandemic has also exacerbated anxiety issues, leading to many people experiencing sleep problems. Lockdowns, job losses, isolation and dealing with sickness during this uncertain time has caused many to lose sleep. 

Anxiety is frequently connected to sleeping problems. Excess worry and fear make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep through the night. Sleep deprivation can worsen anxiety, spurring a negative cycle involving insomnia and anxiety disorders.

Circadian rhythm disorders

Our natural sleep rhythm is usually driven by our internal ‘clock’ which encourages us to sleep at night. Circadian rhythm disorders occur when there are abnormalities or disruptions to this ‘clock’. 

Jet lag, shift work, delayed sleep phase syndrome and advanced sleep phase syndrome can all cause circadian rhythm disorders. 

Delayed sleep phase syndrome occurs when you fall asleep and wake up too late, while advanced sleep phase syndrome refers to when you fall asleep and wake up too early. 

Insomnia

People who have insomnia may have issues falling asleep and staying asleep. They may wake up frequently during the night, causing interruptions to deep sleep. Insomnia can be caused by anxiety, depression, stress,  jet lag and poor sleeping habits. 

There is also a link between insomnia and Covid-19.

Snoring

Snoring occurs when the air you inhale rattles over the relaxed tissues of your throat, producing noise. 

While many adults who snore have no issues with sleep, snoring can be a problem because of the noise that it causes. It may even cause sleepless nights for your partner if he or she is a light sleeper. Snoring can also be a symptom of sleep apnea. 

Sleep apnea

Sleep apnea is a condition in which the upper airway becomes partially or completely blocked when one is sleeping. 

This causes breathing interruptions which cause the person to wake up. It certainly can be a disturbance to deep sleep and cause daytime sleepiness. Sleep apnea has been linked to high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.

Restless legs syndrome

In restless legs syndrome, people move their legs with rhythmic or cyclic movements when they are asleep. This can cause brief awakenings during sleep, thus, interrupt deep sleep. 

Old age

Older people may have trouble with deep sleep. Sleep apnea is not unusual for those who are older. 

Lifestyle

Your lifestyle can also be a factor affecting your sleep. Caffeine and alcohol intake can make it hard to fall and stay asleep. 

Illness and medication

People with heart or lung issues may find it difficult to sleep because they are not able to breathe properly when they lie down. Certain drugs can also make it difficult to sleep. 

Sleep study tests

If you’re having sleep issues, your doctor may recommend polysomnography, which is a comprehensive sleep test used to diagnose sleep disorders. 

This test records several aspects of your sleep, including brain waves, heart rate, breathing, blood oxygen levels, and eye and leg movements. 

Because you will be required to sleep during this test, it is usually carried out at night at a hospital or a sleep clinic. Once you are diagnosed with a sleep disorder, polysomnography can be used to adjust your treatment plan so that it is most effective. 

Sleep studies can also be carried out at home. For example, home sleep apnea tests that employ a limited number of sensors can be used to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea. It is best however, to visit your physician if you suspect a sleep disorder. 

How to improve deep sleep (tips)?

Here are some tips to help you get more deep sleep: 

1. Have a consistent sleep schedule

A consistent bedtime and wake time is one of the best ways that enable you to get more deep sleep per night. Establish a sleep schedule around your average bedtime. 

2. Increase total sleep

Your body needs to pass stage 1 and 2 of the sleep cycle before reaching deep sleep. If you are getting less than 6 hours of sleep each night, Increasing your total sleep time to 7 to 9 hours will help you to get more deep sleep

3. Have a relaxing bedtime routine

Take a warm shower, some light reading or meditating before bed can help you to sleep better. Ensure that your sleep environment is dark and relaxed. Electronic devices should not be used an hour before bedtime as the blue light that they eliminate can disrupt sleep. 

4. Be careful with caffeine

Most people probably know that caffeine can have a negative effect on sleep. However, do you know that caffeine can stay in our system for up to 6 hours after consumption? 

Caffeine can cause you to spend more time in Stage 1 and 2 sleep and decrease the hours you spend in deep sleep. To give yourself better chances of a solid sleep, take note of the time that you need to stop caffeine intake. 

5. Sleep supplements

Sleep supplements can help you to relax, fall asleep easier and have better slow wave and REM sleep. Rilax is a natural, safe and effective sleep supplement that can help you get the restorative deep sleep that your body needs. 

Natural ingredients in Rilax include Alpha S1-Casein Tryptic Hydrolysate (Lactium) and L-Theanine (Suntheanine). Extracted from the milk of Holstein cows in France, Lactium is a bioactive peptide that promotes slow delta brain waves and improves sleep quality. 

Suntheanine is a natural amino acid that can be found in green tea leaves. It is a natural sleeping aid that increases alpha brain waves, thus, reduces anxiety, improves sleep quality and enhances general wellbeing. Both these ingredients are recognized as safe by the FDA. 

6. Pink noise

Pink noise is random low frequency noises that can help improve deep sleep and even lead to better memory retention. A fan or an air purifier for their background noise as well as temperature control and purified air. There are also sound machines that feature pink noise that help you sleep. 

7. Exercise

Studies have shown that regular exercise helps with sleep quality. 20 to 30 minutes of exercise a day can help reduce stress and help you to feel good. Do keep in mind not to do strenuous exercise too close to bedtime as this can energize you and encroach on your bedtime routine. 

Certain forms of Yoga as well as meditation are also known to improve overall sleep quality in people. 

8. Hypnosis

If you are really having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, audio recordings with hypnotic suggestions promoting sleep may help your sleep quality. Ensure that you turn it off just before you drift off to set a timer to do the job. You don’t want the sounds to disrupt your sleep once you’ve nodded off. 

Conclusion 

Slow wave sleep, or deep sleep, is important for our bodies. Lack of it can result in grave health consequences. 

As such, it is recommended that you have enough rest each night. Do get professional help if you find that you are still fatigued and tired all the time even after doing all that you can to improve your sleep quality. 

Covid 19CategoriesBlog

Coronavirus and Anxiety: How To Cope With It?

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought shock, confusion, fear, anxiety, stress, and worry in everyday lives. While vaccines are being rolled out, the end of the pandemic still seems far away. The constant worry has put many on edge, increasing mental health issues.

Is the coronavirus pandemic affecting our mental health? 

Coronavirus
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It’s frightening to be in the midst of a global health crisis. Many places have been under lockdown, and now, a year into the pandemic, some are trying to reopen with safety measures in place. Many people across the world have also lost jobs and loved ones. 

The uncertainty brought about by Covid-19 means that we do not know what the future holds. We are still unsure how long the pandemic will last and how exactly we are impacted. 

Not knowing whether things will continue to get worse and having to deal with sudden changes can get incredibly overwhelming. It is easy to get anxious and panicky with all the unknowns that we need to face. 

Indeed, the pandemic has increased people’s anxiety. However, there are several things you can do to manage Covid-19 pandemic anxiety and fears.

Common reactions to Covid-19

The Covid-19 pandemic has far-reaching implications. 

It’s not unusual for people to experience a wide range of feelings and thoughts in the face of significant changes and uncertainties. Disturbing new updates, together with worries about health and safety can take a physical and mental toll. 

Covid19 anxiety
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Common reactions to Covid-19 include:

  • Feeling anxious, fearful, or worried
  • Feeling stressed and overwhelmed
  • Feeling sad, and tearful
  • Feeling frustrated, irritable, or angry
  • Feeling restless and agitated
  • Feeling helpless
  • Feeling disconnected from other people
  • Feeling apprehensive about going out to public spaces
  • Loss of interest in activities you usually enjoy
  • Racing thoughts
  • Physical symptoms such as increased heart rate, digestive issues, fatigue
  • Having trouble concentrating or sleeping resulting in insomnia
  • Having trouble relaxing

Coronavirus anxiety symptoms 

In addition to being a health crisis, Covid-19 has also brought about mental health issues.  Some anxiety symptoms can be short term, such as:

  • Rapid heartbeat/ palpitations
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Shaking and sweating
  • Difficulty swallowing

Symptoms of anxiety from the Covid-19 pandemic can also include:

  • Rumination
  • Sense of impending doom
  • Helplessness
  • Over focusing on the news
  • Avoidance by hiding from what is going on
  • Feeling tense, irritable, or impatient
  • Pacing or spacing out
  • Feeling like you’re on a spinning wheel
  • Inability to perform activities of daily life

Mental and psychological effect of Covid-19

The coronavirus pandemic can also have long-term mental health and psychological effects. Constantly being on high alert and experiencing fear and worry, as well as sudden disruptions can have far-reaching consequences. 

It can precipitate post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety and panic attacks, depression, substance abuse, and even obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD).

depression
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A study conducted in July 2020 identified symptoms such as avoidance, compulsively checking for symptoms of infection, worrying, threat monitoring, and inability to leave the house because of Covid-19 fears as part of Covid-19 anxiety syndrome

Those who experienced these symptoms were also more likely to suffer from anxiety, post-traumatic stress, general stress, and suicide ideation. 

Dealing with the Covid-19 related news

It’s important to stay informed about what is happening, especially in your community so that you can take the necessary precautions to stay safe. 

However, checking the news obsessively can have an adverse effect. Misinformation about what’s going on and sensational coronavirus news will only feed your fears and worries. 

Here’s how you can deal with Covid-19 news:

  • Stick with trustworthy news sources on the pandemic. 
  • Avoid checking for updates too often. Constantly checking for news on Covid-19 can fuel anxiety.
  • If you want to avoid the media totally, ask a reliable friend or family member to share important updates with you.
  • Limit media consumption to 30 minutes each day if you are dealing with anxiety. 
  • Verify the information that you receive before sharing it with others. Misinformation can cause anxiety and unnecessary panic. 

How to stay calm during the coronavirus pandemic?

With such uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic, feelings of anxiety and fear may crop up. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, here’s what you can do to stay calm. 

1. Focus on the things that you can control

We can’t control how long the pandemic will last or what is going on in our communities. You can, however, take steps to reduce your personal risk of catching the virus. 

2. Look for the positive

Seek out news that talks about the improvements in the pandemic, such as the vaccine rollouts and decrease in risk of death due to better treatment options. Be mindful of the social media and news reports that trigger anxiousness. 

3. Plan what you can

With the many changes happening – school and workplace closures, self-quarantine, social distancing – it’s natural to feel concerned about the situation. You can stay calm by planning what you can do. Plan your day or week by making a list of things that you want to complete.

4. Maintain a routine

As much as possible, maintain a routine. Knowing what comes next in the day will help you to focus and concentrate on the tasks at hand. 

5. Stay connected with friends and family

While social distancing helps keep us safe from the virus, it comes with its own risks. Isolation and loneliness can contribute to anxiety and depression. Staying in touch with loved ones via video chat or apps such as Zoom can help ease anxiety. You can also use this time to reconnect with old friends. 

Do be aware of what you are talking about. Take breaks from talking about Covid-19 and simply enjoy good company. 

6. Talk to a trusted person

If you’re feeling particularly anxious or worried, talking to someone you trust can help you calm down. Having a support system and staying connected can also help keep loneliness and depression at bay

7. Take care of yourself

Eating healthy, getting enough sleep, meditation, and other self-care techniques can help to manage stress. 

Exercising can help relieve stress and anxiety. 

Regular sleep and wake routine can also help if you’re having insomnia due to Covid-19 worries

8. Get into an exercise routine

A healthy body is a route to a healthy mind. Studies have proven that physical activity can have a positive impact on our psychological function. Many fitness instructors are now providing online fitness classes which you can join for a fee. There are also plenty of exercise videos available on YouTube that you can easily follow.

9. Meditate

There can not be a better time than this to get into a daily meditation practice. Meditation can ease anxiety and help you focus. If you’re new to meditation, here are some guided meditation videos that are available online:

10. Continue to practice safety measures

Wearing face masks, gloves and using hand sanitiser when you are out and about can help ease fears and worries about catching the virus. 

11. Take things slow

Allow yourself time to adjust to the ‘new normal’. 

If your community is returning to normalcy, allow yourself to ease back into ‘life before Covid’ at a pace you are comfortable with. 

12. Participate in virtual hobby/fun activities to keep your mind engaged 

If you’re stuck at home, virtual hobbies and activities can help to keep your mind off the pandemic. Here are some places that you can visit virtually:

Virtual Museum visits: 

Virtual Zoos and Aquarium visits

Virtual Theme Park visits

Check out other virtual resources like virtual libraries, cooking lessons, etc. 

13. Help others who are in need

It’s easy to get caught up in our own concerns during these times. 

However, focusing on others who are in need can shift our perspective and be good for our own mental health. Reaching out to those who need a hand can give you a sense of control and purpose for your life. 

14. Get professional help

If you find yourself unable to cope, get professional help. Your doctor may be able to recommend certain natural sleep supplements that can help you get a good night’s rest. 

Helping children deal with Covid-19 anxiety

Children are not immune to anxiety and worries brought about by the pandemic. Here’s how you can help them deal with it. 

help children
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  • Structure and Routine

Structures and routines are helpful for both parents and children. In fact, children thrive with a planned routine. Knowing what comes next will help them keep their minds off the pandemic. Alternately, an unstructured day can result in children being bored and fretful. 

You can include time for chores, schoolwork, play, and exercise in your children’s daily schedules. Many children around the globe are attending virtual classes. Ensure that you monitor your child’s involvement within these sessions to keep a tab on his daily learning. 

There are also various options to enroll your child in virtual hobby classes like music, art, foreign languages, etc which will help in creating a more fulfilling schedule for them.

Older children can have access to the internet to keep in touch with their friends via video chats or social media. If possible, include outdoor activities in their schedule. 

  • Focus on being in the moment

Children can feel stress, fear, and anxiety from the pandemic too. 

Encourage them to focus on being in the moment. 

Reminding them to do the things they can to take care of themselves, such as staying indoors, washing hands, and keeping clean can help take their minds off things that they cannot change. 

While kids are limited in their options outdoors, use this opportunity to engage with them, build friendlier connections, and create more fun moments together.

  • Stay calm

Children (even babies) can sense it when parents are stressed or anxious. Thus, find a way to ground yourself so that your kids do not pick up your worries. Model calmness and try your best not to share your worries with your children. 

  • Stay positive

Look for things to be positive about even if things are going haywire. As you stay positive and point out the good things that are happening, your children will be less anxious as well. Focus their attention on the positive things that are happening, rather than the uncertainties of the pandemic. 

  • Inculcate healthy habits in kids

Get your kids to develop healthy habits. While going out may not be an option for you, there are plenty of physical play-based exercises that you can do with your kids to get them moving. Exercise will help kids release stress, anxiety as well as pent-up energy. 

It’s also a good time to teach children about cleanliness and hygiene. For children who seem edgy, you can try teaching them meditation techniques to help them calm down. 

Conclusion

There is nothing to be ashamed of if you’re feeling stressed and anxious because of the pandemic. It’s important to take care of both your mental and physical health. 

Do seek professional help if you find that you are unable to cope with this season. 

Having certain levels of anxiety during the pandemic is normal, but remember that there are ways to beat it too!

covid mental health teaserCategoriesBlog

Covid-19 and Insomnia: Tips to Overcome Sleep Issues During the Pandemic

Adults on average need about 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Persistent lack of sleep, or insomnia can lead to a significant decrease in quality of life. It limits your focus and daily productivity, affects your mood and can lead to relationship problems. 

Although insomnia is not uncommon, the Covid-19 pandemic has taken a toll on many, causing a spike in sleep related issues.

Can Covid-19 cause insomnia? 

Insomnia
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The pandemic undoubtedly has taken a toll on mental health, preventing many from getting a good night’s rest. Sleep medication prescriptions in the US increased by 14.8% during the first few weeks of the 2020 lockdown

In fact, insomnia caused by the pandemic has become so widespread that it’s been dubbed as ‘coronasomnia’. 

Sleep related issues due to coronavirus anxiety (in anticipation)

Coronavirus anxiety has a negative impact on mental and physical health. It can result in many physical symptoms, including sleep related issues. 

Many people around the globe live in constant fear of contracting the infection. And various others have disturbed daily schedules while caring for their loved ones who’ve already been infected. 

Signs and symptoms of insomnia due to coronavirus anxiety include:

  • Having difficulty falling asleep
  • Having difficulty staying asleep during the night
  • Having difficulty sleeping long enough
  • Having difficulty waking up refreshed
  • Light shallow sleep/ failure to get deep sleep
  • Feeling stressed out and anxious
  • Sleeplessness due to shift work and changes in schedule

Insomnia while having Covid-19 infection

Some Covid-19 patients and survivors with long term symptoms have reported experiencing insomnia. However, insomnia is not usually listed as a primary Covid-19 symptom. 

It is rather a secondary problem, where other symptoms such as breathlessness, dry cough and fever make sleeping difficult. Other accompanying issues like increased heartbeat, body pain, etc can also lead to disturbed sleep. Fear of being sick with Covid can also put the body on high alert and make it hard to sleep. 

Insomnia after recovering from Covid-19

There are many who report a change in their sleeping patterns after recovering from Covid-19. Some  reasons that have been attributed to it include:

  • Being in a hospital setting can disrupt natural sleep cycles. Hospitals are busy and noisy places, and there may be a lack of natural daylight in hospital rooms. Additionally, medications can also have an impact on your sleep. 
  • If you had a distressing experience when you were sick, these fears can replay in your mind, making it hard to sleep. 
  • Anxiety and worry as a result of being sick from Covid can also jeopardize your sleep. 
  • Extreme weakness or persistent cough, even after you’ve recovered from Covid and finally tested negative may disrupt sleep.

Why is sleep important during the Covid 19 pandemic? 

Sleep has always been an essential biological process. 

sleep is important
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High quality sleep improves our well being and as such, is worthy of our attention especially during this pandemic when many things are out of our control. 

Here are some reasons why you should make sure that you get good, solid rest:

Reasons for insomnia and sleep disorders during the Covid-19 pandemic

Insomnia is not a new condition. However, the pandemic has multiplied the challenges that come with it. 

The economic, mental and emotional consequences of the pandemic can be extremely stressful, especially for those who have lost their loved ones, their jobs, are in isolation or have had to adapt to new routines and environments. 

These challenges are a threat to good sleep even for those who previously did not have sleep issues. 

Broken routines

To combat the coronavirus pandemic, many changes and regulations have been put in place. Social distancing, quarantines, school closures, working from home, and limited travel have caused profound changes to schedules and routines for everyone. 

It is not easy to adjust to new routines and without time ‘anchors’ such as arriving at the office or picking kids up from school, it can be hard to keep track of time. 

Having to stay home may reduce light-based cues for our sleep and wake cycle, interrupting our circadian rhythm and causing insomnia. This is especially true for homes with low levels of natural light. 

Sleep issues can also be caused by oversleeping. Staying home and not working because of the pandemic can tempt you to sleep during the wrong hours. 

However, oversleeping can cause you to feel groggy, lethargic, moody and unfocused for the rest of the day. Falling asleep at night and getting up on time the next day will thus be much harder. 

Anxiety and worry

The Covid-19 pandemic comes with a whole lot of uncertainties. Many are worried about catching the coronavirus and are anxious about going out. Many are also concerned about their family who are older and in high risk groups. 

With economic activity stalling, a large number of people have lost their jobs and are worried about their income and anxious over how to make ends meet. 

Not knowing how long lockdowns will last, how to manage to stay home and whether the healthcare system will crumble can also bring anxiety and worry. This anxiety often disrupts sleep and causes many to suffer from insomnia. 

Depression and isolation

The pandemic lockdowns to keep everyone safe trade social contact for isolation. Being alone for long periods of time can take a toll and result in depression. The isolation is even worse for those who have lost loved ones due to the coronavirus. 

One study shows that depression rates are 3 times higher during the pandemic and another showed that depression rates spiked with the onset of Covid-19 due to the lack of sleep and increased consumption of alcohol and tobacco

The uncertainty and worries of the pandemic can weigh us down and in turn, disrupt normal sleep patterns. 

Greater work and family stress

As a result of the coronavirus, many families are having to stay home to keep safe. Working from home while managing a household of children and cooking every meal can be indeed stressful for parents. 

The situation for those who have lost their jobs while still having to provide for their family is even worse. This stress and worry can be a great threat to getting solid rest. 

Increased screen time

Staying at home can mean an increase in screen time. While the internet has enabled us to work remotely, it also means having multiple Zoom meetings or conference calls and staring at the computer screen to get the work done. The extra screen time can also come from binge-watching Netflix or just checking the news or social media on your phone. 

Being on the phone, or other digital devices constantly means extra exposure to blue light. As blue light suppresses melatonin, a hormone that helps us to sleep, this can have a negative effect on sleep.

Chronic stress

The continuous stress of having to live through the pandemic can manifest in physical symptoms such as headaches, digestive issues and sleep problems. 

In fact, stress-related fatigue is not uncommon in those who are stressed out over the current situation. 

Being constantly worried will reduce your energy, motivation as well as concentration. It can also cause disrupted sleep, leaving you tired when you wake in the morning. 

Tips to help you overcome insomnia due to Covid 19

Although getting a good night’s rest can be challenging during these uncertain times, there are some steps that you can take to promote better sleep. 

It might take some time for you to adapt to these changes so don’t get discouraged if you do not see an immediate improvement in your sleep quality.

1. Get into a routine

Establishing a schedule and getting yourself into a routine can help you to avoid major changes in your daily sleep times. Ensure that you have a consistent wake up time, wind downtime and bedtime.

Wake up time should be fixed. It might be tempting to hit the snooze button in the morning but try your best to get your day started as soon as the alarm rings. Wind downtime can help you get ready for bed. You can do something relaxing that will get you ready for bed. Similar to wake up time, bedtime should also be fixed. Turn off the light and try to fall asleep at the same time every night. 

Besides this, getting showered and dressed for the day, setting aside specific time for work and exercise as well as incorporating consistent meal times can also help with establishing a daily routine. 

2. Your bed is for sleep

Experts recommend that your bed should only be used for sleep. Working from home doesn’t mean working from bed. Avoid bringing your laptop into bed for work or to watch movies. 

Clean sheets on a made up bed with fluffy pillows can help make your bed inviting for rest. If you find it hard to fall asleep, don’t stress yourself out by tossing and turning in bed. Get up and do something relaxing in a low light environment. Once you feel more relaxed, head back to bed and try falling asleep. 

3. Spend time in natural light

Light is important when it comes to sleep regulation. Because our body’s circadian rhythm takes cues from natural daylight and is positively affected by it, it’s good to spend some time outdoors if you can. 

If you can’t go outside, open windows so that there is some daylight in your home. It’s also a good opportunity to let some fresh air circulate in your home. 

4. Be mindful of screen time

Electronic devices such as laptops and mobile phones produce blue light, which can disrupt sleeping patterns. It’s best to avoid these devices at least one hour before bedtime. If you must use your devices before bedtime, adjust your screen settings or use special apps to help reduce blue light and its effects. 

5. Napping schedules

It can be tempting to take a nap when you are home the whole day. However, you may find yourself having difficulty going to bed at night if you nod off in the afternoon. If you must nap, consider having a napping schedule. Ensure that your naps are intentional and no longer than 20 minutes. 

6. Get some exercise

Regular daily activity doesn’t just help you to stay fit. It also reduces stress and helps our bodies to regulate sleep. However, try getting the exercise in a few hours before bedtime so that it does not have a reverse effect. 

If going outdoors or to the gym is not an option for you during this pandemic, there are plenty of resources online that can help you stay active. In fact, many fitness classes now have live-stream classes that you can join. Choose one that suits you and get moving. 

7. Have a healthy diet

A healthy diet helps to promote good sleep. While it’s tempting to snack on sugary and fatty foods when staying home, it is important to aim for a nutritious, well-balanced diet. If you must snack, choose healthy snacks such as fruits and nuts. 

Additionally, monitor your intake of alcohol and caffeine as they can disrupt both the quality and quantity of your sleep. 

8. Use relaxation techniques

The coronavirus pandemic can cause both anxiety and stress and disrupt our sleep. Deep breathing, stretching, meditation, and calming music can help us to relax and get better sleep.

Another strategy that can help prevent sleep disorders during these times is keeping yourself from being overwhelmed by news related to Covid-19. You can try bookmarking trusted and reliable news sites and limit your time spent reading corona related news. 

9. Use natural and safe sleep supplements

Natural sleep supplements can improve sleep quality and promote relaxation so that your body is able to wind down and get some much needed restorative sleep. Dietary supplements can help fight insomnia by reestablishing your circadian rhythm, allowing you to wake up feeling refreshed. 

Conclusion

Insomnia due to Covid-19 can lead to numerous health issues. While many people try to self medicate by taking over the counter sleeping pills or having that extra glass of wine, sleep is incredibly important and insomnia should not be taken lightly. 

Rilax, is a natural, effective and safe sleep supplement that promotes relaxation and helps you get quality sleep that your body needs.

MedicinesCategoriesBlog

10 Types of Meds That Can Cause Insomnia

Having trouble getting a good night's sleep? One of these drugs might be the problem

The older you are, the more likely you are to have insomnia — a disorder that can make it hard to fall asleep, stay asleep or both. Older adults wake up more frequently during the night, wake up earlier and are more likely to report feeling unrested on awakening.

Older people are also more likely to have medical conditions that can cause pain or discomfort that disturbs their sleep. (Some studies, in fact, have found no significant increase in insomnia in older adults who are healthy.) These conditions include gastrointestinal distress, frequent urination, lung disease and heart conditions. Neurological disorders, such as restless legs syndrome (RLS), Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease, can also affect sleep patterns.

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Tired of tossing and turning? The medication you're taking could be to blame.

Insomnia not only saps your energy and affects your mood, but also can put your health, work performance and quality of life on a downward spiral. Insomnia can be short-term (up to three weeks) or long-term (four weeks or more). Sleep deprivation can lead to irritability, depression, and memory and attention problems. It also has been linked with diabetes, obesity and heart disease, in addition to increased risk of automobile-related accidents and falls.

The Top 10

Here are 10 types of medications that can cause insomnia. If you’re taking any of them and having sleep problems, you should talk with your doctor or pharmacist about adjusting the dosage, changing to another type of medication, or trying an alternative treatment or therapy.

Meds That May Cause Insomnia

1. Alpha-blockers
2. Beta-blockers
3. Corticosteroids
4. SSRI antidepressants
5. ACE inhibitors
6. ARBs
7. Cholinesterase inhibitors
8. H1 antagonists
9. Glucosamine/chondroitin
10. Statins

1. Alpha-blockers

Why they’re prescribed: Alpha-blockers are used to treat a variety of conditions, including high blood pressure (hypertension), benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and Raynaud’s disease. These drugs relax certain muscles and help keep small blood vessels open. By keeping the hormone norepinephrine (noradrenaline) from tightening the muscles in the walls of smaller arteries and veins, they improve blood flow and lower blood pressure. Because alpha-blockers also relax other muscles throughout the body, they can help improve urine flow in older men with prostate problems.

Examples: alfuzosin (Uroxatral), doxazosin (Cardura), prazosin (Minipress), silodosin (Rapaflo), terazosin (Hytrin) and tamsulosin (Flomax).

How they can cause insomnia: Alpha-blockers are linked to decreased REM (rapid eye movement) sleep — the stage of sleep when people dream — and daytime sedation or sleepiness. The proportion of REM sleep drops markedly in old age, and people deprived of REM sleep can experience memory problems.

Alternatives: For older people, benzothiazepine calcium channel blockers, another form of blood pressure medication, are often safer and more effective than alpha-blockers. If the alpha-blocker has been prescribed to treat BPH, talk with your doctor about the possibility of switching to a 5-alpha-reductase inhibitor such as dutasteride (Avodart) or finasteride (Proscar), which are safer and generally better tolerated by older patients.

2. Beta-blockers

Why they’re prescribed: Beta-blockers are typically prescribed to treat hypertension (high blood pressure) and arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms). These drugs slow the heart rate and lower blood pressure by blocking the effect of the hormone adrenaline. Beta-blockers are also used to treat angina, migraines, tremors and, in eyedrop form, certain kinds of glaucoma.

Examples: atenolol (Tenormin), carvedilol (Coreg), metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol), propranolol (Inderal), sotalol (Betapace), timolol (Timoptic) and some other drugs whose chemical names end with “-olol.”

How they can cause insomnia: Beta-blockers have long been associated with sleep disturbances, including awakenings at night and nightmares. They are thought to do this by inhibiting the nighttime secretion of melatonin, a hormone involved in regulating both sleep and the body’s circadian clock. Low levels of melatonin have sometimes been observed in chronic insomnia.

Alternatives: For older people, benzothiazepine calcium channel blockers, another form of blood pressure medication, are often safer and more effective than beta-blockers.

A nightly dose of melatonin may also help. A small study published in the journal Sleep in 2012 found that patients on beta-blockers who also took melatonin fell asleep sooner, had more restful sleep, and slept longer — an extra 36 minutes a night, on average — than patients taking an inactive placebo. (This was determined with polysomnography, an overnight sleep test that records brain waves, muscle tone, heart rate and eye movements.)

3. Corticosteroids

Why they’re prescribed: Corticosteroids are used to treat inflammation of the blood vessels and muscles as well as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, Sjögren’s syndrome, gout and allergic reactions.

Examples: cortisone, methylprednisolone (Medrol), prednisone (sold under many brand names, such as Deltasone and Sterapred) and triamcinolone.

How they can cause insomnia: People often ask why a drug that reduces inflammation would keep them awake. The answer lies in the adrenal glands, which are responsible for regulating the body’s fight-or-flight response. Too much stress can keep the body awake and the mind stimulated by exhausting the adrenal glands; corticosteroids can do the same thing, wreaking havoc on all the systems that allow you to relax and sleep, causing insomnia and unpleasant dreams.

Alternatives: Ask your doctor or pharmacist whether you can take your medication in a single dose early in the day.

4. SSRI antidepressants

Why they’re prescribed: SSRIs (selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitors) are used to treat symptoms of moderate to severe depression. SSRIs block the reabsorption (reuptake) of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain, which may help brain cells send and receive chemical messages, easing depression. They’re called selective because they seem to primarily affect serotonin, not other neurotransmitters.

Examples: citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac, Sarafem), fluvoxamine (Luvox), paroxetine (Paxil, Pexeva) and sertraline (Zoloft).

How they can cause insomnia: Just as it isn’t known exactly how SSRIs work, it isn’t known exactly how these drugs interfere with sleep. Studies have shown, however, that SSRIs cause agitation, insomnia, mild tremor and impulsivity in 10 percent to 20 percent of the people who take them.

Although about half of people who take SSRIs say that the drugs make them feel better, many continue to struggle with symptoms that can make life miserable, especially insomnia. We know this from researchers at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, who combed through data from the STAR*D trial, the largest and longest study ever done on depression treatment, and published their findings in 2011. Almost all of the subjects in the Star*D trial, which was funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, said they continued to have problems with insomnia, with 81 percent reporting being unable to sleep in the middle of the night.

Alternatives: If you are experiencing anxiety or insomnia while on an SSRI (or any other antidepressant, for that matter), it’s important to tell your prescribing doctor right away. Sleeplessness — in itself a marker of depression — can make you even more depressed.

Because antidepressants vary in their side effects, a change in dosage or switching to another medication may help you feel better without causing insomnia or other sleep disturbances. A selective serotonin/norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSRI/SNRI), a newer-generation antidepressant, offers some advantages in improving relaxation and sleep. Of the three drugs in this category (clomipramine, duloxetine and venlafaxine), I find venlafaxine to have the least adverse side effects in older patients and to be easier to dose to a therapeutic level.

Many people find that cognitive behavior therapy works just as well as medication. (Cognitive therapy aims to help people overcome their difficulties by changing their thinking, behavior and emotional responses.) Others report success with such approaches as acupuncture, exercise, changes in diet, meditation, relaxation therapy and the like.

5. ACE inhibitors

Why they’re prescribed: Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors are used to treat high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and other conditions. These drugs help relax blood vessels by preventing the body from producing angiotensin II, a hormone that causes blood vessels to narrow and, in turn, blood pressure to rise.

Examples of ACE inhibitors include: benazepril (Lotensin), captopril (Capoten), enalapril (Vasotec), fosinopril (Monopril), lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril), moexipril (Univasc), perindopril (Aceon), quinapril (Accupril), ramipril (Altace) and trandolapril (Mavik).

How they can cause insomnia: ACE inhibitors boost the body’s levels of bradykinin, a peptide that enlarges blood vessels. Bradykinin is thought to be the cause of the hacking, dry cough that up to a third of all patients who take an ACE inhibitor develop. This chronic, round-the-clock cough can be severe enough to keep anyone awake. ACE inhibitors can also cause potassium to build up in the body (another type of electrolyte imbalance) and lead to diarrhea, as well as leg cramps and achy joints, bones and muscles — all of which can disturb normal sleep.

Alternatives: If you’re taking an ACE inhibitor for a cardiovascular problem, talk with your doctor or pharmacist about possibly switching to a benzothiazepine calcium channel blocker, another form of blood-pressure medication that is often better tolerated by older adults. This is especially important for African Americans and Asian Americans, who, because of differences in their renin-angiotensin systems, have much higher incidences of adverse side effects.

If your condition is accompanied by fluid retention, your doctor may consider adding a low dose of a long-acting loop diuretic, such as torsemide.

6. Angiotensin II-receptor blockers (ARBs)

Why they’re prescribed: ARBs are often used to treat coronary artery disease or heart failure in patients who can’t tolerate ACE inhibitors or who have type 2 diabetes or kidney disease from diabetes. Instead of blocking the body’s production of angiotensin II, ARBs prevent it from exerting its blood vessel-constricting effects.

Examples of ARBs include: candesartan (Atacand), irbesartan (Avapro), losartan (Cozaar), telmisartan (Micardis) and valsartan (Diovan).

How they can cause insomnia: Like ACE inhibitors, ARBs frequently lead to potassium overload in the body, causing diarrhea as well as leg cramps and achy joints, bones and muscles — all of which can disturb normal sleep.

Alternatives: As with ACE inhibitors, I’d recommend you consult with your health care provider about the advisability of switching to a benzothiazepine calcium channel blocker, which is often better tolerated by older adults. This is especially important for African Americans and Asian Americans, who because of differences in their renin-angiotensin systems, have much higher incidences of adverse side effects.

A low dose of a long-acting loop diuretic such as torsemide may also be desirable.

7. Cholinesterase inhibitors

Why they’re prescribed: Cholinesterase inhibitors are commonly used to treat memory loss and mental changes in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia.

Examples: donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Razadyne) and rivastigmine (Exelon). The main side effects of these drugs include diarrhea, nausea and sleep disturbances.

How they can cause insomnia: These drugs are thought to work by inhibiting the enzyme in the body that breaks down acetylcholine (a neurotransmitter that’s important for alertness, memory, thought and judgment) and thus boosting the amount available to brain cells. This, in theory, slows the patient’s loss of memory and helps him or her perform daily activities with fewer problems. But blocking the breakdown of acetylcholine — which is everywhere in the body, not just in the brain — can interfere with all kinds of involuntary body processes and movements, including those related to sleep.

In addition to insomnia and abnormal dreams, the identified side effects of cholinesterase inhibitors include serious changes in heart rhythm, diarrhea, nausea and vomiting as well as leg cramps and muscle spasms — all of which can interfere with normal sleep patterns.

Alternatives: It’s important to remember that cholinesterase inhibitors cannot reverse Alzheimer’s disease or slow the underlying destruction of nerve cells. And because the Alzheimer’s-afflicted brain produces less acetycholine as the disease progresses, all medications in this class eventually lose whatever effectiveness they may be presumed to have.

For these reasons, it may be worthwhile to talk with your doctor (or the doctor treating your loved one) about whether the adverse effects of the drug prescribed outweigh its possible benefits. In my experience, that’s nearly always the case.

8. Second-generation (nonsedating) H1 antagonists

Why they’re prescribed: H1 antagonists, which are in a class of drugs commonly known as antihistamines, inhibit the body’s production of histamine — the chemical that’s released when you have an allergic reaction. Elevated histamine levels cause such common allergic reaction symptoms as itching, sneezing, runny nose, watery eyes, nasal congestion and hives.

Second-generation H1 antagonists, also known as nonsedating antihistamines, do not have the same side effects as first-generation antihistamines, such as diphenhydramine (Benadryl), which suppress the central nervous system, causing severe drowsiness.

Examples of second-generation H1 antagonists include: azelastine (Astelin) nasal spray, cetirizine (Zyrtec), desloratadine (Clarinex), fexofenadine (Allegra), levocetirizine (Xyzal) and loratadine (Claritin).

How they can cause insomnia: In varying degrees, all H1 antagonists block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, and thus can cause anxiety and insomnia.

Alternatives: Since these second-generation antihistamines are typically active in the body for around eight hours, you may find that taking your daily dose in the morning may be all that’s needed to resolve any sleep-related problems it may be causing.

9. Glucosamine and chondroitin

Why they’re used: Glucosamine and chondroitin are dietary supplements that are used to relieve joint pain, improve joint function and lessen inflammation. (Both are found naturally in the human body.) Many arthritis supplements contain glucosamine and chondroitin, both of which are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration as a food rather than a drug.

How they can cause insomnia: Researchers aren’t sure exactly how glucosamine and chondroitin work, but studies identify a range of gastrointestinal side effects, including nausea and diarrhea, as well as headaches and insomnia.

Alternatives: While many people take glucosamine and chondroitin, alone or together, for osteoarthritis, they may not help at all. A recent analysis of many studies of these supplements failed to find evidence that they slow joint destruction or relieve pain.

A 2010 survey of Consumer Reports subscribers found that among those who identified osteoarthritis as one of their most bothersome conditions, yoga and massage were rated twice as helpful as glucosamine and chondroitin.

If you choose to use one or both of these supplements, you should be aware that glucosamine has a longer half-life (the time it’s active in the body) than chondroitin. So if glucosamine is part of your medication regimen, taking your daily dose in the morning should prevent problems with insomnia.

You may also wish to consider asking your doctor for a prescription of tramadol 50mg tablets and taking one with an acetaminophen 325mg tablet two to three times a day. This should work well to relieve pain.

10. Statins

Why they’re prescribed: Statins are used to treat high cholesterol.

The top-selling statins are atorvastatin (Lipitor), lovastatin (Mevacor), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor).

How they can cause insomnia: The most common side effect of all types of statins is muscle pain, which can keep people who take them awake at night and unable to rest. In the worst cases, the pain caused by statins can be immobilizing.

Studies show that statins can interfere with muscle growth by inhibiting the production of satellite cells in the muscle. Muscle weakness and aches throughout the body can be symptoms of statin-induced rhabdomyolysis, a breakdown of skeletal muscle that causes muscle fibers to be released into the bloodstream, sometimes harming the kidneys.

Researchers have found that fat-soluble statins — which include Lipitor, Mevacor, Vytorin and Zocor — are more likely to cause insomnia or nightmares because they can more easily penetrate cell membranes and make their way across the blood-brain barrier, which protects the brain from chemicals in the blood.

Alternatives: If you’re among the millions of older Americans who haven’t been diagnosed with heart disease but are taking these drugs to lower your slightly elevated cholesterol, ask your doctor or other health care provider about making changes to your diet and getting regular exercise instead of using statins. You also might try lowering your blood levels of homocysteine — which is linked to high cholesterol — by taking a combination of sublingual (under-the-tongue) vitamin B12 (1,000 mcg daily), folic acid (800 mcg daily) and vitamin B6 (200 mg daily).

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How Sleep Deprivation Affects Your Heart

Sleep is essential for a healthy heart. People who don’t sleep enough are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease—regardless of age, weight, smoking and exercise habits. One study that examined data from 3,000 adults over the age of 45 found that those who slept fewer than six hours per night were about twice as likely to have a stroke or heart attack as people who slept six to eight hours per night.

It’s not completely clear why less sleep is detrimental to heart health, but researchers understand that sleeping too little causes disruptions in underlying health conditions and biological processes like glucose metabolism, blood pressure, and inflammation.

sleep heart

REM sleep begins with signals from an area at the base of the brain called the pons. These signals travel to a brain region called the thalamus, which relays them to the cerebral cortex — the outer layer of the brain that is responsible for learning, thinking, and organizing information.

One of the reasons we know how vital sleep is to the heart is that patients with sleep apnea (which causes them to wake frequently throughout the night) often have compromised heart health. This is because without long, deep periods of rest, certain chemicals are activated that keep the body from achieving extended periods in which heart rate and blood pressure are lowered. Over time, this can lead to higher blood pressure during the day and a greater chance of cardiovascular problems. Many studies have shown the relationship between sleep apnea and cardiovascular disease. One found that over an eight-year period, men with severe sleep apnea were 58 percent more likely to develop congestive heart failure than men without the nighttime breathing disorder. But it doesn’t take a severe underlying sleep disorder to see effects on the heart. Poor sleeping (as a result of changing work schedules or poor sleep habits, for example) can put you at risk as well.

Heart health isn’t just a concern for older adults.

Recent research has shown that too little sleep earlier in life could take its toll as well. For example, in one study, adolescents who didn’t sleep well were at greater risk for developing cardiovascular problems. Those teens had higher cholesterol levels, a higher body mass index, larger waist sizes, higher blood pressure, and an increased risk of hypertension. It’s easy to see how these alterations in childhood health could snowball into major concerns later on, and why it’s important to protect sleep at every age.

Reposted from https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-news/how-sleep-deprivation-affects-your-heart

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What Do Your Dreams Say About Your Sleep Quality?

good night’s sleep is far more nuanced than simply putting in your seven to nine hours and calling it a day. Good, healthy sleep means feeling rested upon waking. It means not having chronic bad dreams or nightmares. And it turns out that the difference between a smile-filled slumber and a fearful one isn’t entirely up to chance.

According to a group of French researchers writing in the Journal of Sleep Research, all people dream when they sleep, even people who think they don’t. But is there a correlation between good sleep and good dreams? We partnered with Sleep Number to dig into this and other dream-related questions: Does sleeping well lead to more — or more pleasant — dreams? Does sleeping poorly lead to bad dreams? The answers to each of these queries, we discovered, are yes … and no.

Clinically speaking, a “good night’s sleep” is considered one that consists of seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted snooze time — barring the simple activities that wake us during the night like using the restroom, getting a glass of water or even turning over.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine describes the experience of sleep as unfolding in four phases, culminating in REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. The stages repeat in order every 90 to 110 minutes on average. Stages 1 and 2 are characterized by a progression from light sleep through a gradual slowing of brain waves. Stage 3 is the period of sleep when we’re the most conked out. If you’ve ever had a hard time waking someone up, he or she was probably in this third stage of the sleep cycle. The fourth stage, REM sleep, is when our breathing rate quickens and our eyes move under our eyelids. This is the stage during which most people dream, especially when it occurs in the latter half of the night. We can also dream in the other stages of sleep, but scientists don’t have a good idea of how often or how much.

Good night sleep

What Do Dreams Do for Our Health

Studies show that dreaming is good for us. Rubin Naiman, a sleep and dream expert on the clinical faculty of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, says, “Good dreaming contributes to our psychological well-being by supporting healthy memory, warding off depression, and expanding our ordinary limited consciousness into broader, spiritual realms.” A study at Harvard Medical School concluded that dreaming also helps us consolidate memories and retain information.

In the book The Mind in Sleep, Arthur M. Arkin cites a study in which subjects were deprived of REM sleep intermittently over a period of time. The study concluded that there is a “close association between REM sleep and dream recall” and a “positive correlation between REM density and the subjects’ active involvement in dramatic dreams.” In other words, the longer your REM cycle, the more intense your dreams.

“If you have very poor sleep, you may not even dream at all,” says John S. Antrobus, a professor of psychology and sleep research at the City College of New York, now retired. “But it depends on why you’re not having a good night’s sleep.” According to Antrobus, factors that can lead to poor sleep include consuming alcohol before bed, experiencing stress and having a disturbing day. Other causes include keeping electronics like cell phones, televisions or computers in the bedroom; eating, exercising or consuming caffeine too late; having an uncomfortable bed or sleeping environment; and keeping an inconsistent sleep schedule.

So, “good” sleep — or sack time that includes REM sleep — leads to an active dream life, and in turn an active dream life is good for us. But when it comes to the relationship between getting a good night’s sleep and having good dreams, or remembering our dreams better, the science gets murky.

Healthy dream

What Things Can Impact Our Dreams?

Several factors influence our ability to remember our dreams (also known as lucid dreaming or dream recall) — from age and gender to specific personality traits — but there is no hard evidence explaining why some people remember their dreams better than others. Often, it seems as if we only remember the dreams we were having right before we wake up. Antrobus, the former sleep researcher, explains that this is related to another cycle of brain activation on which the sleep stages rely. “That larger cycle starts before you fall asleep and leaves you feeling sleepy and wanting to go to bed at night,” he says. That cycle winds down in the hour or so before we wake up, when our brains are most active and we’re having more dreams, “and that’s why you tend to remember more of them.”

Timing, in other words, is everything. “A lot of people only remember their dreams if their alarm clock wakes them up right in the middle of it,” adds Dr. Shalini Paruthi, director of the Pediatric Sleep and Research Center at SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri. A study conducted at the Lyon Neuroscience Research Center in France supported this theory, concluding that “high dream recallers are more reactive to environmental stimuli, awaken more during sleep, and thus better encode dreams in memory than low dream recallers.”

Likewise, there is no evidence-based research as to whether sleep quality affects our ability to remember dreams or control the tenor of dreams. Rather, Paruthi says, “Whatever people are exposed to during the daytime will have an impact on their dreaming at night.”

This is the premise for a technique called imagery rehearsal therapy, which involves visualizing alternate endings to bad dreams 10 to 15 minutes before a person goes to bed each night. “Even thinking about good things to dream as you’re drifting off to sleep can impact [the] dreams that you have that night,” Paruthi explains. “So, you can have a negative impact on your dreams if you’re surrounded or getting exposed to negative things throughout the day. But, on the flip side, you can also have [a] positive impact on your dreams if the last things that you’re thinking about are positive things.”

Deirdre Barrett, author of The Committee of Sleep: How Artists, Scientists and Athletes Use Dreams for Creative Problem-Solving –And How You Can, Too and an assistant clinical professor of psychology at Harvard Medical School, is a firm believer in our ability to influence our own dreams. “The details of how to do it are very different depending on whether you’re trying to induce lucid dreams, whether you’re trying to dream about particular content, or whether you’re trying to dream a solution to a particular personal or objective problem,” she said in an interview with Scientific American.

Whether your goal is to dream about a particular topic or person, change the outcome of your dream, remember your dream, or problem-solve in your dream, Barrett suggests to “first of all think of the problem before bed, and if it lends itself to an image, hold it in your mind and let it be the last thing in your mind before falling asleep.” She also recommends not jumping out of bed right away upon waking up. “Almost half of dream content is lost if you get distracted. Lie there, don’t do anything else. If you don’t recall a dream immediately, see if you feel a particular emotion — the whole dream would come flooding back.”

Things that can impacts our dreams

What Control Do We Have Over How And What We Dream?

Getting a good night’s sleep, Paruthi says, “is the most important thing” we can do to ensure that we dream. First and foremost, that means sleeping in a room that’s dark, quiet and cool (65 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit). Other things we can do to help us sleep better include taking a bath and reading a book before bed; practicing relaxation exercises; avoiding stressful or stimulating activities before sleep; napping early in the day (or not at all); exercising earlier in the day; avoiding alcohol, sugar and large meals before sleep; maintaining a regular sleep schedule; and, as simple as this might sound, going to bed when we’re tired.

While we can’t have 100 percent control over our dreams, there are things we can do to influence them in a positive direction, experts say. Among them: exposure to pleasant smells and sounds while we’re sleeping; avoiding spicy foods; not smoking; eating healthy and exercising regularly; and improving our daytime thought patterns. In simplistic terms, if you want good dreams, sleep well and think happy thoughts.

Just like diet and exercise, sleep is unique to each person and important for optimal health. Sleep Number® beds adjust on each side to your ideal level of firmness, comfort and support— your Sleep Number® setting—for your best possible sleep.

Reposted from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/11/30/dreams-sleep-quality_n_8513908.html

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Join Us in Our World Sleep Day 2016 Project!

SleepJournal1 1

In order to sleep better, you must first get to know your sleep habits. We at Rilax advocate a good night’s sleep, and most importantly we advocate healthy sleep habits that are natural and sustainable.

A good night’s sleep could be just a pillow-pat away, and sleep journaling is the best first step we could make towards getting better sleep!

HOW IT WILL WORK:

Step 1:
Send us your name, age, email address and number to let us know you are interested to participate.

Step 2:
We will get in touch with you, and send you a template of our Sleep Journal to help you track your sleep habits.

  • It will only take you a few minutes to answer a few easy questions before bed and when you wake up in the morning, easy-peasy!
  • It’s important that you live your life as normal as possible, and that you don’t change your daily sleep routine while participating in the journal. The objective of this project is simply to observe the sleep habits of different people, and how daily habits affect sleep quality.

Step 3:
At the end of 2 weeks, we will gather the info you have kindly shared with us, and let you know of any key and interesting findings!

We’ll even throw in a few samples of our award-winning, all-natural sleep supplement Rilax for you to try.

If you’ve ever wanted to improve your sleep habits, there’s no time like the present! Join us as a ‘Sleep Journalist’ and let’s talk about sleep!