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We’re all looking for things we can do to improve our health that are so easy, you can do them with your eyes closed. Unfortunately, that’s almost never the case, but today is a little different. Using napping as a way to improve your overall well-being sounds like, well, a dream come true, but the truth is that sleep is hugely important to many different areas of health and wellness.
Don’t settle in for a power nap just yet, though. Here are seven sleep breakthroughs you need to know about.
Medical Daily recently reported on a study that found taking a short nap can help reverse the damage of a poor night’s sleep. Plus, it may give your immune system a boost, too.1 It’s easy to scoff at the trendy idea of a 20-minute “power nap”, but it could be just what you need to clear your mind and get productive again.
These short naps can help lower levels of stress hormones, promote healthy blood pressure, and – if you sleep on your side – help clear waste products from your brain more quickly. More specifically, it can help get rid of the beta-amyloid proteins linked to brain fog and memory issues.
A 2016 study shows that a lack of sleep damages your selective attention. So, if you have trouble focusing on one thing at time, don’t be so quick to blame yourself - take a look at your sleep habits first.
In the study, sleepy volunteers had difficulty focusing on one of two stories being told at the same time, with their brains showing activity indicating that their attention was divided between both stories. People with adequate sleep show a different pattern of activity, however. Their brains are able to suppress one story while focusing on the other.2 In more practical terms, selective attention lets you keep your mind on the task at hand despite distractions, and better sleep can help improve it.
We’ve known for years that sleep deprivation affects thinking, but now we may finally understand why. Doctors theorized that the brains of people who were sleep-deprived weren’t getting enough oxygen, but, when a University of California team tested this theory, it didn’t pan out. What they found was that confusion and forgetfulness linked to poor sleep was also linked to high levels of cortisol, a major stress hormone.3
This study ultimately suggests that lowering levels of this hormone may help improve sleep and mental clarity. Physical activity, mindfulness meditation, and yoga are all known to be great ways to reduce your cortisol levels.
A lack of sleep can lead to much worse things than just feeling tired and irritable. Falling short on sleep can lead to all kinds of negative health effects, but one of the most dangerous consequences is one most of us hardly ever think about.
We’ve all been guilty of driving tired at some point or another, and the disturbing truth is that new government estimates blame 1 of every 5 fatal car crashes on drowsy driving.4
Forty million Americans have clinical sleep problems, but government safety experts say that 84 million drowsy people get behind the wheel every day. In fact, the problem is so widespread that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officially classifies drowsiness as a driving impairment, right alongside drugs and alcohol.
Sleep experts at Vanderbilt University say that controlling your exposure to light is a key to better sleep. Light, the experts explain, is the main trigger for your internal clock. Doing something as simple as taking a brisk morning walk rather than sleeping in will help wake you up and regulate that internal clock by encouraging the release of cortisol.
At night, one of the biggest keys is avoiding bright light, especially the blue light emitted by electronic devices.5 This light has the same effect on your body as sunlight, and delays the release of the melatonin you need to get to sleep.
Doctors used to think that you needed less sleep as you got older. By the time one reached retirement age, 5 or 6 hours was considered plenty. But, now we know that’s not true.
The average adult needs 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night. Even at retirement age, that requirement doesn’t change by much.6 Chronic sleeplessness can make you irritable, impair creativity, slow your reflexes, and simply just leave you dragging all day. It can also lead to high blood pressure, metabolic disorders, and interfere with healthy digestion.
If you’re struggling to get all of your hours in, just try making some minor changes. Take a warm bath before bed, replace television with a good book, and avoid eating or exercising too close to bedtime. None of those sound all that bad, do they?
According to researchers, going to bed late is linked to poor diet and inactivity. All other things being equal, people who go to bed and get up at later hours eat more junk food and fewer vegetables, and get less physical activity.7
Benjamin Franklin’s been saying it for years: early to bed, early to rise. If you have trouble getting to sleep at that earlier hour, though, there’s also an herbal approach to better sleep.
There’s more to natural sleep remedies than your run of the mill melatonin. One of the most effective herbal sleep boosters is a combination of lemon balm and valerian, both of which gentle, and seem to work remarkably well together.
Several studies have shown that this combination can be a big help for people struggling with sleep problems.8,9 You’ll find both lemon balm and valerian in Best Life Herbals’ Delta-Som, along with low-dose melatonin and more than a dozen other calming herbs and nutrients. If you’re looking for a good night’s sleep every night, exploring these herbs is a must.
The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. They are not intended to treat, diagnose, prevent or cure any disease.