The cure to insomnia is sitting in the sky

 

Modern times have ushered forth some new and very exciting prizes. Camera’s, iPhones, digital music, online payment, TV’s, microwaves, etc. But one thing modern times has not unlocked is the cure to insomnia. Yes, there are chemical supplements available to knock you out whenever you wish, but these aren’t always very reliable.

Let’s take melatonin for example. I’ll take melatonin before bed every night for a month. The first night I fall right asleep and stay asleep all night. But by day 30, my body has become accustomed to the drug and it no longer has the same effectiveness.

Then I try a new drug, and then another one, and another one. Not only is this ineffective but it’s also incredibly frustrating. If only I could gaze into the sky and find an arrant solution to my problem.

Oh, wait.

For all who have come here searching for the end to your sleep problems, I will tell you that your answer could indeed be in the stars. It seems absurd that the cure for your nighttime sleeping problems is only available during the day, but hear me out.

Biological clock

Also called the circadian clock, this bodily instrument tells your body when it’s time to wake up and when it’s time to sleep. Exposure to sunlight early in the morning (between 6:30 and 8:30 am) will work to reset your clock so you wake up and go to sleep at strict intervals. By lying in bed restless every night, you are losing a lot of sleep you might not be able to get back. Most people have to get up for jobs in the morning which help set their circadian clock. It’s not that easy though. Many behaviors contribute to how our clock is functioning. For example, how late do you stay up on the weekends?

If the answer is 2 or 3 am, you could be messing up your body clock for during the week.

By going to sleep late every night — or getting up late, you cause your body to undergo what is called “drift”. To counter this drift, you need to expose yourself to as much natural sunlight as possible in the morning. Artificial lights(any light that is not the sun) will not have the same effect.

Let me give you an example from my own experience.

Experiment

For two years I worked in an office with no windows — aka no natural sunlight. Many nights I would stay up late — mostly doing homework — but my body clock would not reset when I awoke in the morning. Over that time, I began to experience restlessness whilst trying to sleep which eventually progressed into habitual sleeplessness (aka insomnia). One summer, I took a trip to a country where I was outside in the sun all the time.  For two weeks, I spent very little time indoors and absorbed more vitamin D than I did in months back home. I slept very well those two weeks, and I attributed that to the weariness I experienced from being in the sun all day. However, when I got back I noticed how much quicker and easier I would fall asleep.

Now fast forward to now — I still fall asleep quite easily. But why is that? Certainly two weeks in another country didn’t magically cure me.

Upon returning, I naturally began settling back into my old routine. And over those next few weeks, I noticed that same restlessness starting to creep back in before I went to sleep. With an idea of what might be causing it, I decided to do a little experiment.

Every day upon waking up I would go outside and sit in the sun. This happened before anything else in my entire day — even before I ate breakfast. I had to work it into my schedule to wake up a bit earlier for this, but the results made it worthwhile. I’d relax outside for 15-30 minutes each time and then go about my day like normal.  If it was a cloudy day, I would take a short walk for the same amount of time. The objective was to get as much direct sunlight as possible in the morning, resetting my circadian clock to compensate for my late bedtime. After a week of this experiment, there were obvious improvements in my dozing off-speed as well as my quality of sleep through the night. And the best thing was — I stopped waking up absolutely exhausted. It was an awesome feeling.

My conclusion is we are meant to get up with the sun and go back to sleep when the sun disappears. This experiment is clear biological evidence of that.

If you’re hassled by sleeplessness, think in terms of how your circadian clock is working. Determine how much you are sleeping, how well, and when. Then try this experiment for yourself and watch your clock correct itself using the most natural approach to insomnia there is.

Feel free to attempt this experiment yourself and comment your results!

Subscribe below for updates!

5 tips to fall asleep on a plane

Falling asleep on a plane

Traveling out of the country is one of the most exciting things that 66 million Americans do every year. Unfortunately, traveling abroad often times requires long and excruciating plane rides.  They are hours of boredom during a time that you planned on living it up with beach days and lattes. The best way to pass the time though is just to sleep through it.

And thus we have our problem.

If you’ve ever tried to sleep on a plane before, you know the struggle. The turbulence makes you feel like someone is shaking you endlessly, and altitude changes can feel like a punch to the stomach.

But there are ways to overcome these difficulties. Here are 5 of my favorites!

Get a window seat

Window seats are always nice because you can enjoy the great view while flying. But they also have some somnolent advantages.

Place your pillow between you and the side of the plane and rest up against the window. This way you won’t need to sit upright the entire time, which we all know is a difficult position to sleep in.

Sleeping during a daytime flight can be especially difficult because all the open windows will bring a ton of light into the cabin. Having a window seat allows you to control the light intensity in your immediate proximity. If everyone around you has their windows open, a simple sleep mask will solve that problem.

A bonus to the window seat is that it will help with motion sickness!

Don’t look at your phone

As if there aren’t enough distractions while flying, we like to look at our phones in the middle of trying to sleep. If you want good quality sleep, stow away any electronic devices. The blue light emitted from phones and tablets, similar to sunlight, reduce melatonin levels — making it much more difficult to sleep.

On many international flights, there are TV’s on the back of every seat for in-flight entertainment. They are actually very tempting because they’ve got many of the newest movies and some really fun games on there. But the same goes for these. Don’t mess with them unless you’re not trying to sleep.

 

Stretch before boarding

I tried this one out for myself on a recent trip to Europe. Before I left for the airport, I stretched profusely until I felt really loose. After getting off the 9-hour flight, I felt just about good enough to do it again!

I also took measures during the flight to reduce any pain afterward. Sitting without twisting my body too much, keeping my legs straight with a slight bend at the knee,  relaxing my arms by my side, and leaning my seat back all helped to decrease any uncomfortability.

On the way back, I didn’t stretch at all — and I certainly felt the difference. Aches in my back and legs were bothering me during and a few hours after the flight.

Sleep on the pullout tray

This is another alternative to sleeping while sitting straight up. While it might be tough for some to bend down enough to rest on the pullout tray, if you’re short then it will work. You can bring a pillow to put on it, or simply flip around your neck pillow and use it that way. It’s very similar to laying your head on a desk when you sleep in class.

By the way, I’m not advocating sleeping in class, nor am I saying that I’ve ever done it.

But it’s a lot like that.

I also tried this one on my recent trip and it seems that simply getting horizontal after sitting vertically for so long will help you doze off easier.

 

Listen to soothing music

once you get up in the air, you’ll quickly notice that the sound of the engine stays very loud and annoying. It’s tough to sleep with that constant noise unless for some reason it soothes you. This was the case for my friend who enjoyed the white noise type buzzing sound of the engine. Myself and many others I’ve spoken to do not find it soothing and would rather pop in headphones to drown it out. If you’re trying to sleep, listen to something with a soft slow beat. This will mix with the engine sound in the background to create a soothing white noise.

Don’t forget, these aren’t the only things you can do. Many people have personal preferences when it comes to getting comfortable on a plane. For example, I like to wear a hoodie and tie the hood closed around my head.

I may look weird but I don’t care because I’m asleep.

Don’t ignore the troubles that come along with an extensive plane ride. Take these tips into account and make your travel as comfortable as possible.

Also, let me know how these work for you and if there is a good one I left out!

This technique is designed to help you fall asleep in 100 seconds

Falling asleep quickly is all about clearing your thoughts enough to let your body drift into the subconscious. In a life that is always moving at 100 mph, it seems we — as a society — have lost this art. But I’m going to show you how — with a little practice — you can learn it and use it whenever you wish.

There are multiple ways to do this actually.

You can get up at 4 am every morning and do manual labor for 15 hours. I guarantee you will fall asleep right away. But if you’re doing that already, you probably don’t have an issue falling asleep quickly.

The way I’m going to show you doesn’t require that kind of commitment — although it does require dedication nonetheless. You will need to take the time to train your brain in order for this method to be fully effective.

 

Read before moving on

If you’re a coffee drinker, seriously consider cutting it out if you want to see this work. Coffee — and other types of caffeine — are stimulants which will keep you awake even if you only drink a little bit in the morning. I strongly propose getting off coffee for at least a week before you try this. After you have successfully learned this method, you can phase it back into your diet. Check out my other post on How Coffee Affects Sleep to learn more about that.

This method focuses on training your mind to sleep, even when it may not want to. There are many factors that contribute to how quickly one can fall asleep. For this method, we are going to assume that you have proper sleeping conditions every time you train. That means a dark, quiet room, still, with a temperature that you find comfortable. Please note this is not some quick melatonin pill that will knock you out whenever you want. You must learn this. The technique takes practice, so do not be discouraged if you can’t get it right away. It may take weeks, months, or even years to do it well. You may be able to do it in less, but it will still take much practice.

Typically, I can fall asleep in under 30 seconds — sometimes 1 minute. If I have a lot on my mind at the time, it may take longer. Normally, I won’t be able to force myself asleep if I’m 100% awake. I need to be at least somewhat sleepy in order for the practice to really count.

If you do this training for a while, you will start seeing improvements on how quickly you can drift off. Eventually, you won’t even think about it because it will be automatic. Don’t worry if it seems to be taking forever though — consistency is key.

The Reasoning

Your brain knows what it is like to fall asleep quickly. You’ve done it before at some point in your life. Whether it was right after lunch on Sunday, or while watching a movie late at night. You have the ability to enter sleep mode quicker than you think. You’re just out of practice.  Take this to heart as you train — convince your mind that it does, in fact, know how to do this. At all times, your brain is performing a dozen different processes. It is thinking about multiple things all at once.  In order to fall asleep on command, you must train your brain to block out all activity and transition into sleep. This is — at the core — exactly what you are doing every night when you go to sleep. When you lie in bed trying to sleep, you’re waiting on your brain to switch modes of consciousness.   The brain can take a long time to make this transition, which is why you sometimes just lie there with your thoughts running everywhere. People are different as well. Some might learn this method easily and be falling asleep in under a minute very soon.

And some will take months to learn it. That’s how it was with me.

It’s also important to note that diet always plays a significant role in the success of any sleep changes. A healthy, more balanced diet will assist you in adapting easier. If you eat a lot of processed, fatty foods, you may find yourself having a ton of difficulty. Avoid this beforehand by improving your diet for at least a week before starting to train.

Whatever the difficulty, don’t give up on yourself. You can do this.

The subconscious mind is in charge of switching to sleep mode. Without efficient control of it, sleep will not come easily — even if your conscious mind is demanding it. The method I’ll show you will train your subconscious to listen to the commands of your conscious mind without hesitation.

The Method

Ok so here is the part you’ve been waiting for. If you skipped down to this point, I’d encourage you to read the above sections.

The method includes frequent, timed naps in order to teach yourself to fall asleep quicker. If you have time during the day, start to take short naps each day. Get a timer — it can be on your phone or elsewhere — and set it for 10 – 20 minutes, depending on how much time you have. Most people don’t have 20 minutes in the middle of the day, but if you can find the time anywhere in your schedule, take it. Try to choose a time during the day when you are a bit sleepy. For me, this is usually around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. You want to make sure you are at least a little bit tired, or else you’ll be training your brain to sleep when it doesn’t need to.

Set the timer, lie down, and attempt to fall asleep like you normally would. Try to think about nothing. Have your mind be absent of focus so that it drifts out of consciousness. When your timer runs out, get up and resume your day like usual. Do not hesitate to get up and do not continue trying to sleep, no matter how much longer your schedule will allow you to lay there. This is critical. It’s not easy to do especially if you were just about to fall asleep. But it is important that you obey the timer and move on with your day. While the goal is to fall asleep during this short nap time, don’t worry if you end up just lying there for the whole time. You must train your brain to obey whether you tell it to sleep or get up. It’s okay to do this in the evening too. A good time would be after dinner(6 or 7) — just make sure you don’t accidentally sleep through the night.\

The Method(continued)

The next part involves training your body to get up at the same time each morning. Set your alarm clock for the same time — say 7 am — and get up right when it goes off. No pressing snooze; no laying there until you feel like getting up. You want to make your brain associate being awake with being active. Correspondingly, you want your brain to associate lying down and closing your eyes with sleeping. Go to sleep at the same time every night too, whether that is 8 pm, 11 pm, or 2 am. Make sure you get enough sleep to keep your body rested.

The point is to take out any transition time that often comes along with sleeping or waking up. Condition your brain to recognize sleep as a limited thing. Not something you can just make up whenever. By not wasting time with these transitions, you train the brain to do the same.

Don’t try to compensate a lack of sleep by going to bed earlier. Stay faithful to your schedule even if it’s difficult.

And DO NOT sleep in. At least until you have become good at falling asleep on command.

I know that sounds horrible. But trust me, if you stick to it you will appreciate your newfound skill much more than sleeping in. Personally, I used to rely on Saturday morning to catch up on sleep. Now I don’t even need to.

Needless to say, I have much more productive Saturdays now.

You’re probably thinking — wow this is really strict. And you’re right. It is that way because your brain needs to see this adaptation as a  necessity. Allowing your brain to slack off will only result in more difficulty.

After a while — or however long it takes — you can drop the alarms and sleep whenever you want. If you’ve truly taught your brain to do this, it will stay with you after you stop. The most important thing to remember is to not revert your brain back by falling into old habits. Playing on your phone for an hour, or lying in bed and thinking will only cause your brain to adapt back. You don’t have to be as strict as you were during the training, but still be aware of these things.

Now go. Put this into practice and make the quality of your life better 🙂

 

5 tips to remember your dreams tonight

Dreams are such a mystery. They come and go, night after night, with little to no recollection of their contents or significance. Everyone dreams, but not everyone remembers what their dreams were about. What would happen if we started to remember the things we dream about? What experiences would we have? Would we learn more about ourselves, or would we simply open up another door to an exceedingly vast sphere of mystery? I guess you never know unless you try.

Here are 5 tips to remember your dreams more clearly tonight:

1. Sleep More

This may sound obvious, but there is research that backs it. On average, we dream 4-6 times each night. The y can be long or short, detailed or dull. The goal of dream recall is to remember more of the details to even the dull dreams.

 

After 8 hours of sleep, we often experience up to 45 minutes of dreaming. That’s why we often have long and detailed dreams right before we wake up. Our minds are most likely to have dreams when we enter REM(rapid eye movement sleep). In the last minutes before we wake up, our body has entered a very deep REM cycle that prompts some awesome dreams.

Most people don’t get 8 hours of sleep every night. I don’t either. But if you want to have more REM cycles, you need to sleep more. It’s that simple.

 

2. Wake up in the middle of the night

Set an alarm for 5 hours after you go to sleep. You’re first REM cycle typically starts 4.5 hours after you actually fall asleep — so you should have gotten a solid 30 minutes of quality dreaming in. When you wake up, immediately start recalling what you remember. Take note of images, colors, sounds — and especially dialogue. The more you intentionally recall your dream details, the better you train your brain to do it naturally. Researchers suggest it’s easier to remember a dream when we wake up directly from it. This means that more often than not, you’ll be waking up in the middle of the night.

I know what you’re thinking — that sounds achingly unattractive. Who wants to disrupt a good night sleep halfway through? I understand.

But if you are serious about digging into your subconscious and remembering your dreams, you’re going to have to get a little uncomfortable.

3. Write it down

I’m sure you’ve heard of a dream journal. Many people do it simply because they love journaling, and their dreams give them something to journal about. But the main purpose of writing down your dreams is so that you can refer back to it later. Referring back to past dreams could help produce some reoccurring ones. Dreams that replay over and over again — or have a recurring aspect — are easily identified by the dreamer, making them a key piece in recalling dreams.

Keep pen and paper next to your bed. When you wake up from a dream — either in the middle of the night or in the morning — write down everything you remember about that dream. And I mean EVERYTHING. Where were you? What were you doing? Who was there? Try to recall specifics and rebuild the dream again in your head and on paper.  You can even take it a step further and write down specific things from your dreams on your bathroom mirror, in your car, or on the ceiling above your bed.

If you want, you can work on your memory recalling skills by remembering things you did in the waking day. Write down what you ate for breakfast or what color your best friends lunchbox was. Recreate real-life situations on paper, and you will learn to do the same thing with your dreams.

 

4. Instruct your brain to remember your dreams

When you lie in bed at night, your brain is playing a slideshow of the day’s activities. It makes a note of everything you’ve gotten done during the day and puts more things on the to-do list. What you want to do is put ‘remember my dreams’ on the night’s to-do list.

It turns out that our subconscious minds are highly suggestive. While you are drifting off, repeat something like “I remember all my dreams” over and over again. Use the present tense — instead of saying something like “I recalled my dream yesterday” — because you’re trying to convince your mind to think a certain way.

What this does is send a command to your brain instructing it to remember the dreams you have. And while you won’t be consciously remembering, your subconscious will hear the command too and act accordingly. It sounds quite elementary, I know, but it works!

 

5. Don’t drink alcohol or caffeine before sleep

As you can guess, these depressants — or stimulants — restrain your body from entering REM sleep, the type of sleep where dreams occur most frequently. Alcohol can also suppress your memory which will obviously affect your dream recall. If you can avoid coffee or alcohol for the entire day, that would be ideal. But if you can’t go without and still want to remember some dreams, just make sure it’s been 8 or so hours since the last sip. For more on how coffee affects your dreams, check out my other post: How does caffeine affect dreams?

Remembering your dreams isn’t an easy task. That’s probably why you looked up how.

Try using all of these tips collectively and watch the dreams start flooding in like the Mill River:)

Also, make sure to comment and tell me how they worked for you!

 

6 reasons you’re having night sweats

At some point in life, everyone experiences night sweat. Let’s begin by differentiating between night sweats and hot flashes. You may experience the latter when you are wearing too many layers, or when the temperature is too high.  If you wear heavy clothing, use a thick comforter, or make your room hot when you sleep, it is normal to sweat at night. Unrelated to an overheated environment, actual night sweats will soak your clothes and be incredibly irritating to deal with.  They can come from a variety of different causes including:

  • Infection

  • Anxiety

  • Spicy Foods

  • Low blood sugar

  • Hormone Disorder

  • Sleep Apnea

 

If you only deal with light sweating while you sleep, try wearing some deodorant to bed. The antiperspirant on clean skin should stop the sweating as long as you’re in a cool environment.

Infection

Illnesses such as the flu, tuberculosis, and even HIV are often accompanied by night sweats. Other bacterial infections such as inflammation of the heart valves and bones will cause them as well. Once your body has rid itself of the infection, the sweats should also stop. If they continue after the infection, consider another reason.

Anxiety

If you suffer from sweating due to stress during the day, the same thing is likely to happen at night. Unfortunately, emotional problems don’t disappear when we go to sleep.  Fears and anxieties still make their presence while we are sleeping through our subconscious. Treatments for anxiety can help eliminate this type night sweat.

Spicy foods or Hot drinks

Many people will be able to self-diagnose themselves for the first two on this list. But this one is slightly less known. There is a chemical common to peppers — and other spicy foods and drinks — known as Capsaicin. This chemical activates particular receptors in your body that make it respond like it were in a hot environment. These receptors send a signal to the brain to indicate that your body is feeling a heat-related pain. Drinking a ton of water after eating a spicy food will help you stop sweating because you are neutralizing your body’s initial reaction to the chemical.

Low Blood Sugar

Also called Hypoglycemia, low blood sugar is a leading cause of night sweats. A variety of different conditions can contribute to an incident of low blood sugar. Eating or exercising differently than normal can throw your body’s blood sugar levels off. A more common cause is taking an incorrect amount of insulin. If you’re suffering,

If you’re suffering night sweats for this reason, there are a couple things you can do. First, try eating a snack — something high in protein so your blood sugar can remain stable for the next few hours while you sleep.  Second, consider taking less blood sugar medication in accordance with how much physical activity you did during the day.

Hormone Disorder

Very common in women, hormone imbalances can result in a range of different issues with even the slightest change. Sweating is only one of the many symptoms that occur from sudden fluctuations in hormones. There are a number of hormone therapies you can try to get rid of the problem, but seek additional counsel before you take that path. Talking to your doctor concerning your night sweats is the best option if it may be due to a hormone imbalance.

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is essentially when your body stops breathing while you’re asleep. Scary right? The major reason it causes sweating is because — when you stop breathing — your body goes into panic mode fighting for air. The lack of oxygen makes your body aggressively struggle for air — and thus causes you to start sweating. if you’ve read this far and not found your cause for night sweats, consider the possibility you might have sleep apnea.

Hopefully, you’ve been able to diagnose the source of your night sweats. If not, the problem may be more serious and you should seek the help of a doctor ASAP.

What have you done to end your night sweats?

Sleep in easier by doing this one thing

Sleep in

I know the feeling. It’s Friday night and you fall in bed wanting nothing more than a full 12 hours of sleep. But when you wake up in the morning, it is still early and you’re even more tired than when you fell asleep. It seems impossible to sleep in!

Our society is all about the nightlife. Even after the sun goes down, our eyes are bombarded by a profusion of artificial light. Night after night, we stay up after hours to engage in the thousand different activities available — or maybe you’re part of those activities because you work the late shift at your job. Regardless, this repeated behavior has caused our body clocks to go completely haywire, resulting in fatigue at times when we need to be alert. But all hope is not lost for that much needed Saturday morning snooze.

I do want to take a moment to point out that sleeping in is not wrong. People tend to get a lot of flak these days for wanting to sleep more. In our culture, sleeping seems to be equated with laziness. This makes sense in the case of someone who sleeps all day and behaves sluggish when they are awake, but for those seeking a few extra — much needed hours of sleep, there’s nothing wrong with that. Scientists have concluded the optimum amount of sleep per night is 10 hours. The average sleep per night for an adult is only 6.8 hours. So we could all use a couple more hours here and there.

 

Blue light

The percentage of sleep disorders and sleep studies has exploded since the early 2000’s. The problem has a lot to do with what they call ‘blue light’. It’s the culprit who steals your sleep right out from under you. It’s your phone, laptop, and TV which you use to entertain you at all hours of the day. This kind of artificial light reduces your melatonin levels to the point where, even if you’re tired, you won’t be able to fall asleep. Studies show that blue light can cause damage to your eyes over time.

blue

Timers

Our bodies are timers. They use a range of chemicals and hormones to tell us when to get up, go to sleep, eat, poop etc. The name for our body clock that informs us when to go to sleep and wake up is called the circadian clock. When our bodies become tired, it is because our melatonin levels have risen — which usually starts a few hours before sleep —  and our body begins to feel sleepy. Waking up is even more of a process for our body. About an hour before we wake up, our body temperature begins to drop and we begin to gain consciousness — gradually. Eventually, our body ‘s becomes fully alert and we wake up. If this happens to you early on a Saturday morning, it is pretty much too late. Of course, you might be able to fall back asleep but it will require not alerting your body further. You can’t make any noise (or hear it), move anything, or have any light shining in your eyes. I’m sure you’ve tried this — as I have — and noticed how ineffective it is. I wish there was a way to reset my body clock so that I can sleep when I’m tired, and be alert when I’m awake. Thankfully, there is a way.

 

Circadian Clock

The Circadian Clock is just one aspect of a vastly complex biological clock inside all of us. For a person’s body clock to be healthy, their melatonin levels need to rise enough to induce sleep, stay that way during the night, then decrease when the morning comes. Our clocks aren’t functioning properly if we are tired during the day and completely alert at night.  These circadian timers are highly influenced by both sunlight and artificial light — this certainly includes blue light. However, our body rhythm is also affected just as equally by our genes. 15 of them to be exact. This explains why some people are night owls and others are early birds.

Reset your clock

There are a number of different methods used for re-dialing an out of rhythm circadian clock. Among these are light boxes and hormone supplements such as melatonin. Unfortunately, these approaches don’t address the underlying problem. There is a quite obvious solution, although it is widely unpopular. If we woke up and went to sleep with the sun, our body clock would readjust themselves accordingly. The artificial light we expose our eyes to at night — and during the day as well — are to blame for our ‘out of whack’ circadian clocks. Research done at the University of Colorado suggests the solution is simply a weekend camping trip. In their study, the people who had gone camping fell asleep 1.8 hours earlier than those who had not. For a week after they returned, the participants continued to fall asleep up to 1.4 hours earlier. Although the results do fade away over time, the principal of this short term solution gives way for a more long term answer. What is the principal? The people on the camping trip rose and rested with the sun, and did not use phones or any artificial light!

Conclusion

For those who already enjoy camping, this solution will be welcomed. If you’re thinking about it, I urge you to give it a try. Go on a little weekend camping trip somewhere and just enjoy the outdoors. It may not be attractive for some, but I would venture to say that — based on these results — restraining ourselves from blue light will do wonders for our sleep. Even if we only lose our electronics for half the day — or a few hours at dusk — major revisions in our body’s circadian clock are sure to happen.

Try this out for yourself and tell me how it works for you!

Use this sleep position for a better nights rest

I bet those of you who have trouble sleeping have scowered and tested every possible sleep position, in order to fall asleep easier at night.  It’s so tough to find that perfectly comfortable position to sleep because, as we lay there unable to sleep, it becomes uncomfortable again. Today, I want to through the best position to fall asleep easier. I aim for this exact position every time I go to bed because it has worked so well for me.

 

Don’t lie on your back

Especially if you suffer from neck pain or trouble breathing when you sleep, don’t fall asleep on your back. Unless you own a pillow that perfectly forms to your neck, this can be a bad idea as you will put a strain on your neck and wake up in the middle of the night. Additionally, lying on your back causes your soft palete to collapse into the back wall of your throat — causing snoring.

The Side

The best way to sleep seems to be on your side — with a few modifications. Side sleeping is known to be good for overall health. It is a good position if you suffer from neck and back pain or sleep apnea. It is much easier to breathe if you are laying on your side because there is no pressure on your lungs. You might not notice this unless you’re experiencing some sort of breathing problem due to a sickness or existing condition. When I am sick with the flu or a cold, I’ll experience an increase in trouble breathing due to the phlegm build up in my chest. This is exaggerated when I lay on my back, especially for longer amounts of time.

Sleeping on your side keeps your body in a regular position — similar to if you were standing up — and keeps your spine stretched out. This position avoids any unnecessary strains in your body and will help you fall asleep quicker and stay that way through the night.

Some will say sleeping on you back with a slight incline is the best for acid reflux, but in my experience, sleeping on the side has practically the same effectiveness.

Neck Curve

In our battle to get comfortable for the night, many times we compromise our posture in order to fall asleep. We will straighten up too much or maybe curve our neck too severely. It is important to maintain a healthy curve in the neck. Doing so won’t only help you sleep at night, but also improve your posture for during the day. For sleeping on your side, try to find a short pillow — without a lot of bulge — that will form slightly to the shape of your neck. By doing so, you avoid the tightening of your neck muscles throughout the night; if your neck is tight for the entire time you’re in bed, you will likely have a stiff neck or feel sore when you wake up.

Quite obviously, this pain can easily disrupt sleep. If you suffer from back pain when you lay on your side, you might want to put some support under that side to alleviate it. Whatever slight modifications you can make that will help minimize your individual pain will help you sleep better. Many people, including myself, roll around everywhere while sleeping. If you’re one of these people, but you suffer from neck pain, consider a neck pillow to keep your neck supported no matter the position you are in. A healthy C shaped curve in the neck will help curb that neck pain.

Back curve

It’s natural for a good side position to easily turn into a fetal position without much thought. But a fetal position is basically only good if you have intestinal problems. You want to keep your back relatively straight while you sleep. Doing so will keep your spine elongated, your back straight, and your neck and head in a better position.

The more you sleep like you’re a fetus, the more you’re going to be hunching as you walk around during the day. A good posture when you sleep is crucial for a good day time posture. Particularly if you suffer from scoliosis, keep your spine straight and your head aligned with your body to decrease pain and allow for good air flow. I often want to move my legs around to get more comfortable, however, it’s best to keep the pelvis in a straight line to prevent abnormal twisting. Research has discovered a number of sleep benefits for hammocks, so act as though you are laying in a hammock when you go to sleep. That is, get into a position on your side where your body is curved equally around.

Other benefits of side sleeping

Sleeping on one’s side has also been found to improve waste clearance from the brain. It’s possible that our bodies have adapted to a lateral position as the best one in clearing out metabolic products that build up as we go about our day. Better clearing of this waste as we sleep can also help reduce the likelihood of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s. Research has shown how sleeping on your left side can help reduce acid reflux while sleeping on your right aggravates symptoms. Whether you struggle with heartburn or not, choose your side accordingly. Also, sleeping on your side — particularly the left side — can increase blood flow to and from your heart and aid digestion.

If you are trying to get the best sleep possible, the best place to start is your sleeping position. Don’t accept a bad sleeping position just to get to sleep faster because musculoskeletal pain may begin to develop. Once you start experiencing pain, sleeping will become exponentially more difficult. Lack of sleep then is linked to hundreds of different detrimental health issues.

It never hurt to get more sleep. I hope these tips gave you a good idea of what to do and what to look for as you doze off tonight. 🙂

5 Snacks to Stay Asleep

Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night feeling hungry? You could get up and grab a snack, but you don’t want to cheat on that diet you’ve been so faithful to. So here are 5 foods that will help you stay asleep during the night without jeopardizing your diet plan.

Learn to fall asleep in 100 seconds or less here

1. Turkey

If you’ve had a traditional Thanksgiving meal, you know how ready for a nap you are afterward. Turkey is very filling and also has tons of tryptophan — an amino acid that helps you fall asleep by triggering production of melatonin. You don’t need to fill up on turkey ever night to sleep though. A couple other foods that are high in tryptophan include eggs, salmon, and pineapples.

 

2. Tart Cherry Juice

The science on this one is mostly the same. Eating tart cherries(or tart cherry juice) boosts your melatonin levels to help you sleep. In a study done involving tart cherries, the researchers found that those who consumed them twice a day stayed asleep and took fewer naps. If staying up in those hump hours of the day are a problem for you, maybe try a cup of tart cherry juice in the morning.

 

3. Almonds

If trail mix is one of your favorite snacks, you will love this one.  Almonds contain a ton of magnesium, a chemical that regulates reactions in your body that help you sleep. It will help improve the quality of your sleep and keep you from waking up in the middle of the night. However, be careful because taking too much magnesium can cause a reaction with some medications.

Fall asleep easier using this sleep position

4. Raisin Bread

Never mind regular bread — raisin bread is where it’s at.  Not only does it taste better but it can also help you sleep. Raisin bread is very filling but also safe to eat because it’s filled with plenty of healthy fats and carbs. Since you are less hungry, you won’t wake up as much during the night. The raisins also help lower orexin levels. Orexin is a neurotransmitter in the brain that causes you to get up and get more food. By taking that out of the equation, you will be able to stay asleep longer.

5. Yogurt and Strawberries

Yogurt is known to contain a load of calcium. Disturbances in sleep have been closely associated with calcium deficiency. Research has shown that calcium levels are higher in deeper stages of sleep. Most berries —including strawberries —  contain the vitamin B6. A deficiency in B6 has been found hinder the production of melatonin, causing lower quality sleep. To stay asleep and get much-needed rest, eat some yogurt with strawberries mixed in sometime during the day.

Check this out for more on Calcium and Magnesium: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/163169.php

If you know any other foods that aid sleep, make sure to list them in the comments below!

Also, check out this other post on how to sleep in easier on Saturday morning!

How does caffeine affects dreams?

For all of those avid coffee drinkers out there, this question has probably come up. What effect, if any, does caffeine have on my dreams?

A good majority of coffee drinkers will tell you that caffeine produces no detrimental sleep problems; they have built up a tolerance to caffeine which allows them to drink it whenever they want, and still fall asleep without much trouble. But if we look deeper we will find some underlying effects.

Caffeine is known to increase the production of a hormone called cortisol. It’s often created by the body in high-risk situations because it enhances alertness/awareness. A person not in a stressful situation when producing extra cortisol will experience negative effects like stress and anxiety. Of course, the most popular example of a low-stress situation that we engage in all the time is sleeping. For a person attempting to sleep with high levels of cortisol, the best case scenario would be a very light sleep while the worst case would be the development of insomnia.

Studies show a decrease in the quality of sleep for those who drink coffee regularly —which is definitely the case for most.  But it doesn’t always mean they don’t sleep through the night. Caffeine is a stimulant, which means it can abstain your body from entering deeper stages of sleep. For example, a coffee drinker could fall asleep quickly and stay asleep throughout the night, but they might only be in a very light stage of sleep. So naturally, their 8 hours of rest might only feel like 5, and their body will feel extra tired during the day in order to revert back to normal sleep patterns.

 

But what does this have to do with dreams? Well, there is a stage of sleep where you are most likely to have dreams — especially ones you recall. This stage is called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and, naturally, it’s the deepest stage of sleep. Coffee drinkers — and particularly those who drink coffee right before bed — have not given their bodies a chance to get rid of the stimulant which causes their body to stay in light stages of sleep. If the body can’t enter stage 3/Delta sleep, then it won’t be able to enter REM, thus causing dreams to be prevented.

For those who take a break from coffee for a few days, vivid dreams could occur because there is no longer a stimulant blocking their passageway into REM sleep.
Has coffee effected the way that you dream in any way?

What is a dream?

Ever wondered what a dream is? What is my mind doing as my body spends hours in bed? Where does this nightly plunge into the realm of our inner unknown really take us? We’ve all experienced a heap of crazy, scary, or enjoyable dreams. These dreams give some flavor to the otherwise quiet and boring hours where your body is completely inactive. Or is it?

By definition, dreams are thoughts, images, sequences and sensations experienced during sleep. They could include a wide range of activities, from eating cereal to going skydiving, and may mirror people or events in your real life. Some believe dreams to be a direct or indirect indicator of what’s going on in our unconscious mind, as did Sigmund Freud who called dreams the “royal road” to the unconscious.

 Inside the brain

Our dreams are electronic impulses being detected and deciphered by the cortex of our brain. These impulses could be memories of something in the past days, weeks, or years, even something as simple and mundane as eating breakfast. When our brain receives these electronic signals, it attempts to make sense of them, organizing them into a kind of story. These stories(or dreams) are usually random sequences and don’t make any sense to us — and are really not supposed to.
SMLXL

At several intervals in a night, we enter what is called REM sleep, or rapid eye movement sleep. In this stage, we experience more bodily movement (including rapid eye movements duh), faster breathing, and we are in our most likely state to have a dream. While this stage only lasts for a short time, it is the most important stage when it comes to dreaming.
Have you ever woken up in the middle of the night, and you feel so tired that you easily fall back asleep after a few seconds? This is because you were in REM sleep when you were awoken. When we are asleep and dreaming, our brain ceases the production of several chemicals that tell our body to move, so that we don’t act out our dreams. This is referred to as REM A-topia.If the body does not achieve REM A-topia, the body could wake up and start moving around without the person being aware of it. This is why people can sleep walk around and not remember anything when they eventually wake up.
Another phenomenon that’s possible while in REM sleep is called lucid dreaming. You’ve probably heard of it. Simply put, a lucid dreamer is a person who is dreaming and knows they are dreaming. They are awake all while they are dreaming, and thus able to make conscious decisions inside the dream.
Cool, right?
But there are still so many unanswered questions about how dreams are made, what causes them, and what their contents mean. Although new scientific discoveries are being made all the time regarding dreams, we still have a long way to go before we have a comprehensive understanding of this phenomena.
Tell me what you think about dreaming. Do you enjoy it? Think it’s weird or scary?