Lana Camiel
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Practical lessons from the latest sleep research

If I recommended you one thing that would help you to be calmer, more relaxed and focused, would you try it?

What if it also helped you to control your weight, make your heart healthier and boosted your immune system?  

What if in the process you became more grounded and had better relationships with the people you love? If your answer is yes, you want to read on.

Last year I asked over 200 of my students, and more than a half said they have trouble falling asleep.

Another third struggled staying asleep.  Unfortunately, these are growing numbers.

In 2014 an article on bedtime procrastination caught my attention.

If you are wondering, yes, I am a bedtime procrastinator.

It amazes and frustrates me how often I feel ready for bed.  Yet, I sit and watch mindless TV.  Or click on a Facebook link even if I am tired. Has it ever happened to you? Some time ago I’ve decided to learn more about sleep, so I can break my bad habit.

Guess what? Nothing persuades me better than research.

And the science of sleep is a large and growing area. Let’s look at 4 main categories of sleep discoveries from 2015.

1. Sleep is connected to obesity/weight gain and the food choices you make.

In two studies young male college students and healthy volunteers who experienced lack of sleep, ended up gaining weight.  

One of the studies clearly shows that people were choosing to eat more junk food if they were not sleeping enough.

Another study found that if you’re already sleep deprived, eating less at night may help to be more focused and alert.

2. Sleep has a connection to your emotions and your immune system.

I thought this was a big one.  In an animal research scientists found that our brain uses a lymphatic system (something they could not clearly explain before).  

During sleep, just like a good janitor, lymphatic system removes the waste products from the brain to prepare us to think clearly and function well the next day.   

This study also showed that our brain and immune system are connected.  Now you understand why you more likely to get a cold or flu if you are not sleeping well.

Another study showed a connection between our emotions and prolonged lack of sleep.  So, if you want to be happier and less cranky, you have to sleep!

3. Sleep duration and cycles are important to understand.

‘Social jet lag’ is a trend scientists studied where you get more sleep on the weekends. Does that describe you?  Well, they found that it’s not actually good for you.  The risk of diabetes and heart disease go up in people that do that.

Hopefully, by now you are convinced that sleep is important for you, but this study actually compares sleep quality with its’ quantity.  

Frequent sleep interruptions are actually worse for you than getting less sleep. What might surprise you at this point, is that getting too much sleep is not good either.  

Researchers believe that longer sleep could be connected to increased risk of stroke in healthy people.

At last, if you like to add a bit more sleep through napping (I personally struggle with that), recent discoveries suggest that naps can help you to be less frustrated and impulsive.

4. There are research-proven ways to improve your sleep.

If you are a parent, you probably know this.  Kids do well with smart routines, and bedtime is no exception.  Recent findings support that. If you are thinking that adults who have trouble sleeping should give these bedtime routines a try, I am with you on that.

It also looks like adults who try mindfulness meditation can improve the quality of their sleep, and even attention and focus for days when you are sleep deprived.

In another post, I shared with you herbs and foods that work well for bedtime rituals.

Questions: Have you noticed how the lack of sleep affects you? Do you have a successful bedtime routine? If you are a bedtime procrastinator, what works well for you?

About the Author Lana Camiel

I’m a college professor, drug information pharmacist and herbalist. I teach young professionals and students how to be less stressed and more focused with the right herbs and food.

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