Tag Archives: sleep

Meet Us at the Bus Stop

So . . . how many of you are driving to work at 6:30ish? Ever see a kid suddenly caught in your headlights as they are waiting for the bus?

Over the last months the Start School Later movement has been gathering steam as almost 3,000 people across the nation have signed the petition, and the media has discussed the research showing that students do better when school starts later.

This week, on Thursday January 26th, the Meet us at the Bus Stop event is happening across the country to highlight how early children have to get up for school, so early that they are often waiting in the dark, on cold winter mornings, to catch the bus. Please join in by posting photos or video interviews of your children as they are waiting for the bus on Thursday morming. You can post them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/events/279393105455960/

See video from the previous Winter Solstice 2011 event at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rl0zvs43wjQ&feature=youtu.be

Sign the Start School Later petition at http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139

Sleep ‘Fixes’ Negative Emotions in Your Mind

We’ve talked in other posts about sleep and emotional well-being. It’s well established that sleep problems contribute to depression, anxiety, anger, poor ability to read other’s emotions, among other contributions to emotional well-being. We also know that REM sleep in particular consolidates memories. Bring these two areas together, and now new research is showing that sleep right after a negative experience ‘fixes’ that memory and emotion in your mind.

The new study, reported in the Journal of Neuroscience, had people look at disturbing photographs then rate arousal (calm/excited) and emotional response (happy/sad). After 12 hours, the participants saw a mix of the same photos with some new ones. The photos were rated again, and categorized as old or new. Some people first saw the photos in the evening so they slept between viewings, and others saw the photos in the morning and again in the evening after their regular daytime activities.

The big difference between how the photos were remembered was whether the person had slept between viewings. Those who had slept reported similar negativity and emotional charge, while those who had stayed awake rated the pictures as more neutral. There was also a trend for those who had the most REM sleep to have the least amount of change in negativity and emotional charge.

So what does this mean for us? First off, probably none of us should be watching the scary 10 o’clock news. Going to sleep right afterward is going to help us remember anything upseting, and also lock in those negative emotions. We also want to have that hour of quiet wind-down before sleep that we’ve talked about before. And forget discussing any bad news or addressing any conflicts with our spouse during that time, unless we want the bad feelings to linger in the morning. These are all things we knew to avoid on some level before, but now science is backing up common sense.

Your Bedroom – A Perfect ‘Sleep Cave’

Remember the ‘Man Cave’ which was popular a few years back? Well, think of creating a ‘cave’ at home to sleep in, because the ideal sleep environment is indeed cave-like. Below is a check-list to work through as you design the perfect sleep environment. You can also see this month’s issue of SHAPE magazine, with tips from designers and yours truly.
http://www.shape.com/lifestyle/mind-and-body/how-give-your-bedroom-better-sleep-makeover

To make a perfect ‘Sleep Cave’:
1. Dark. Should be as dark as a cave, this allows your natural melatonin levels to soar at night and help you sleep.
2. Quiet. Ever sleep in a basement and have a better night’s sleep because it was so quiet? Turn off everything that makes a sound, thus asking for your attention. Do what you can to keep the dog from barking, or his collar from jingling. If there are irregular sounds, a soft white noise machine might be helpful.
3. No electronics. Did a caveman have little lights flashing, or sales texts chirping in the night? Research this last year shows that many people are woken multiple times each week by the phone. Make sure you are not one of these folks by putting your electronics to bed in another room.
4. Comfy. Sleeping surfaces vary widely around the world. What’s most important is that the bed is comfortable for you. Unfortunately bedpartners can prefer different firmness in the mattress. Modify it with extra padding so it’s softer for one, or put a firm board under the mattress so it’s firmer for the other person.
5. Cool. People sleep better when it is cooler than 65, or even cooler at 60 degrees. Adjust both the temperature of the room, and the covers so you aren’t waking up too hot. Many patients tell me they like the bed to be warm when they get into it in the evening, but then get too hot in the night. You can use a heating pad, electric blanket, or hot water bottle to warm the bed beforehand, but then turn it off once you are in bed.
6. Minimal ‘stuff’. Back to those cavemen, they didn’t have so much stuff in their sleeping quarters, did they? Remove all the things from your bedroom that are thought provoking or call for action. You want the bedroom to be a place that you are ‘off-duty’ from the responsibilities of the day.

Although none of these recommendations are high tech, they are based on solid research, and make a huge difference in how well you sleep. Making these changes will be worth it as you get optimal sleep and all its’ daytime benefits!

Better School Start Times

Over the last several months national efforts to start school later have been growing, and it’s about time! For over 2 decades it’s been well established by medical research that there is a shift of the internal body clock during puberty. This causes teens to become sleepy later than younger children, and wake up later. This is a physiologic change, and not simply a preference for later socializing or “laziness” in the morning as was sometimes described.

Terra Snider, PhD, has created a national petition calling for legislation to prevent high schools from starting before 8am. When students go to school at times when they are most alert their performance improves, including improved test scores, decreased absenteeism, and increased graduation rates.

This issue is very close to my heart, and of utmost importance. Right out of college, in the early 1990’s, I worked in the research lab of Dr. Mary Carskadon, the leading researcher on children’s sleep/alertness patterns. After a couple years my impression was that a lot was known about this among researchers, but wasn’t being used to make children’s lives better. So although I’m interested in research, I decided to become a physician and help people with sleep problems. Now in my private practice it is striking how many adults say their sleep problems started as teens. For this reason I love to help children with sleep problems in hopes of improving their sleep before they’ve had problems for 20+ years.

Please sign this important petition, then ask your circle of friends to sign it too. http://signon.org/sign/promote-legislation-to.fb1?source=s.fb&r_by=1521139.   As of this writing there are 1466 signators across the nation, and growing each day.

There is a wonderful website by Dennis Nolan, JD, summarizing the impact of school start time on student’s well-being at http://schoolstarttime.org/.

If you are inspired to lend your talents to improving student’s lives in this way please let me know, or contact organizers directly.

Neurotransmitters: Brain Chemicals of Sleep

Over the last newsletters we’ve talked about many behavioral skills and strategies to help ourselves sleep well naturally. Sometimes though, we do everything in our power to sleep well, but without success. At that time, other therapies are in order.

One of the options is supporting neurotransmitters with specific nutrients. Neurotransmitters are brain chemicals which help us sleep at times and be alert at others. Some of the ones we think of which promote sleep include serotonin, dopamine, GABA, histamine, glutamate, and norepinephrine.

In the clinic, neurotransmitter levels can be tested by doing urinary analysis. This test has been used by holistic physicians for the last 12 years.

When neurotransmitter levels are out of balance, the nutrients which are their building blocks can be used to increase their levels. These are primarily amino acids (parts of proteins) and the vitamins and minerals to help form the neurotransmitters. This can be a very effective treatment for people whose sleep hasn’t improved with other strategies.

Because this is a powerful therapy, it is not a treatment to try on your own. If you would like to try amino acid therapy for yourself, go to a licensed holistic healthcare provider. They will get a detailed history of your sleep problem and current medications, do testing as appropriate, then recommend the right combination of amino acids and other nutrients.

Sleep Health in ‘Whole Living’

Recently I spoke with journalists at ‘Whole Living’ along with other sleep specialists. It’s a great article, filled with information and skills that adults need to sleep well. Here’s a few highlights:
– Go to bed at your ideal bedtime
– Create a great place to sleep
– Avoid alcohol, the snooze button and oversleeping
– Learn to calm yourself back to sleep
More information on the many ways sleep impacts your health (think weight gain, heart disease, and wrinkles) can be found in the full article in the October issue. http://www.wholeliving.com/

Teen Sleep

Remember your sleep in high school? Staying up late, then sleeping late on weekends is what lots of people remember. Unfortunately, another common memory is struggling to get out of bed for school.

It all happens because during puberty, our intrinsic body clock shifts later. Our body clock sets the rhythms in many of our systems, from when our melatonin and cortisol peak, to when we are most mentally sharp and physically coordinated. New research has shown that this swing to later timing is actually one of the first things that happen in puberty, even before physical changes can be observed.

Impact of teens sleep

The difficulty comes when teens (and tweens) need to be on an earlier schedule than their body is programmed for. When school starts early, students are in class, trying to pay attention and learn while their body and mind are asleep. Challenging, eh? Teens’ sleep basically gets squeezed between their later body clocks, and their early schedules. When high school start times were moved on hour later in Minnesota, there was an increase in amount of nightly sleep and subsequent improvement in school success: with improved attendance and most importantly increased graduation rates.

Other studies have looked at the amount of sleep teens get and many health parameters. Teens who get less sleep are:

Less motivated to exercise, contributing to the epidemic in childhood obesity
Get lower grades
Are more depressed
Many other negative effects
How to improve student sleep

The basic principle is to sleep and wake in accordance with the intrinsic body clock. So first of all, honor that teens are on a later schedule, and then set routines that help them be on as early as possible.

Avoid scheduling early morning activities when possible. Advocate for your children when parents and coaches are scheduling events.
Set a sleep / wake schedule, and stick with it.
Get bright light, preferably outdoor light, soon after waking each morning. This is most important in setting the body clock.
Sometimes these measures won’t have a big enough impact. There are medical interventions that can help teens sleep and wake on their early school schedule.

Sleep Class for New Families

With a new child in the family, sleep becomes a major issue, both for babies and for parents! If you are one of the many parents who need more good information about sleep, this is the perfect class for you.

In this interactive class you will learn:
– about normal sleep and naps in infants and toddlers up to 3 years
– how sleep impacts babies’ development and growth
– the strategies to help your child learn to sleep on his / her own, from ‘cry it out’ to the ‘no cry sleep solution’ and everything in between
– how to set your lifestyle, and bedroom, for good sleep
– how parents can still get the sleep they need despite parenting in the night

Most importantly, each family will develop their own custom sleep plan over the course of the class, a plan they will benefit from immediately.

Here are the details:
Instructor: Dr. Catherine Darley, naturopathic sleep specialist
Two Dates: Friday June 17th or Saturday June 18th, 10a to 1p
Location: 1904 3rd Ave, Seattle WA, 98101, 2rd floor
(next to Bed, Bath & Beyond in downtown Seattle)
Cost: $65
Register: www.naturalsleepmedicine.net

Sleep In America Poll – Using Technology

The new Sleep In America Poll came out today, the first day of National Sleep Awareness Week 2011.

This poll was all about our use of technology during the hour before bed, our nightly sleep, and daytime function. Here are some of the highlights:
– 63% say that during the week their sleep needs are not met
– 60% say they have a sleep problem almost every night
– 95% of us use technology during the hour before bed a few nights a week or more
– 20% of 13-29 year olds say they are awoken by a text, phone call or email several nights a week
-22% of 13-18 year olds are clinically sleepy
– About 10% of 13-45 year olds say they drive drowsy 1-2 times a week

Even the light from your TV or laptop is enough to suppress melatonin. During the hour before bed your melatonin should be increasing, allowing you to become sleepy and fall to sleep easily. The time for bright light is in the morning to get energized.

Want a Better Social Life? Then Sleep Well

So, what has to happen to have a good social life? People need to think you are somewhat attractive, you need to be able to read others’ emotions, and you need to be a pretty good person.

All these aspects of a good social life are impacted negatively if you don’t sleep well. Research this last year has shown that when people are sleep deprived they:
A) are considered less attractive than when they are well rested
B) are less able to discern happy and angry emotions from anothers’ facial expression
C) are more likely to put their own interests above others when making moral or ethical decisions.

So, we already knew the many ways poor sleep or sleep deprivation impacts our physical health and performance. Now we’re starting to learn how our social abilities are impacted too.

My next thought is about the high number of children who are sleep deprived (80% of highschool students). Since this is a time when they are learning social skills, what is the long-term impact of being sleep deprived at this critical time?