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48 Words: Rx for Health

Thank you to Yoni Freedhoff, MD, an associate professor of family medicine at the University of Ottawa, for providing us with a simple recipe for health. Just 48 words. Freedhoff’s 48 words eschew “fad diets and fitness gimmicks. Just stick to the basics,” he writes in an op-ed piece in the New York Times on January 3. With such a sparse list, I was happy to see that “nurture sleep” was included as one of the most important actions we can take to maintain our best health. The importance of sleep is so underestimated in our society. I am guilty of (in the past) boasting about how little sleep I need—as have so many other people. If you’re like me, I suggest you try sleeping more for a few weeks. It will probably surprise you just how much getting a few extra hours of sleep can do for your general health, happiness and work productivity. Freedhoff’s advice for improving sleep includes the usual suspects: light and noise control in the bedroom, maintaining a consistent sleep schedule, decreasing caffeine intake and taking steps to be sure you don’t suffer from sleep apnea, a life-threatening sleep disorder (snoring being just one [...]

By |2020-01-07T07:40:33-05:00January 7, 2020|

5 Ways Adults Can Achieve A Safer Night’s Sleep

There’s a lot of information available about safe sleep for babies—which is so important—but what about safe sleep for the rest of us? After all, when you’re asleep, it’s a potentially vulnerable time. But it turns out there are concrete steps we can take to sleep more safely—and that can help us sleep more soundly. 1. Sleep with your bedroom door closed Sleeping with your bedroom door closed buys you critical time in the event of a fire. Whether from candles, clothes dryers, faulty wiring or countless other causes, many fires start at night while people are sleeping. It’s sobering to know that you are more likely to die in a fire at home, than anywhere else, according to FEMA. Decades ago, you had 17 minutes to get out of your house alive. Today, because of open floor plans and other factors that make residential fires burn faster, you have 3 minutes or less, according to extensive testing by Underwriters Labs. Fortunately, closing your bedroom door each night is a simple, yet little-known measure that can save your life. A regular wooden door is remarkably effective at keeping the heat, smoke and flames at bay, giving you extra time [...]

By |2019-09-30T12:28:17-04:00September 23, 2019|

What’s Lurking in Your Pillow?

Have you ever struggled to get comfortable on a pillow that’s too hard, soft, full, flat, lumpy or well past its prime? As someone who’s very particular about my own pillow, I certainly have! A pillow can make the difference between a restful night’s sleep or tossing and turning and possibly waking up with neck and back pain. Back, side and stomach sleepers may have very different needs and preferences. The right pillow for you is a magic combination of variables—composition, firmness, contour, coolness, etc. Sleep experts recommend we replace our pillows every year or two, since flattened pillows can exert strain on your neck, shoulders and back—and because pillows harbor bacteria and dust mites from the accumulation of hair and body oils. Gross, right? When the CertiPUR-US® program was first established, we only certified what in the industry is called “slabstock”polyurethane foam—that is foam that is manufactured in huge (like the size of a football field) buns and then cut for shipping and later further cut or fabricated as needed. Many pillows use foam made this way, but many are made with “molded” foam, which is when foam is poured into pre-made molds that are shaped to fit [...]

By |2019-09-09T11:47:11-04:00August 29, 2019|

Couples Sleeping Together on TV

Valentine’s week is a good time to reflect on the history of couples sleeping together on TV. Times have changed. “The Flintstones,” an animated series in the 1960s about a cave-dwelling prehistoric family, may have been among the first to show a couple, Betty and Fred, together in bed (albeit a bed made of rock). For live-action couples on TV shows, the “one-foot rule” was said to have existed. You could show a couple in their bedroom, but at least one person had to have one foot on the floor! On “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” there was a nightstand between Laura and Rob’s twin-size beds. The same was true of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on “I Love Lucy” in the 1950s (and reruns forever)—and they were married in real life! Florence Henderson, playing Carol, the mother (and stepmother) on “The Brady Brunch” (1969–1974), once suggested she and TV husband Peter were the first to sleep in the same bed on-air, but that’s widely disputed. The not-quite-human family in “The Munsters” (1964–1966) are often cited, but TV history trivia experts are more likely to give the honors to Mary Kay and Johnny (1947–1950), which was set in Greenwich Village, New [...]

By |2019-05-16T11:11:22-04:00February 10, 2019|

The Sleep Science Paradox

A fascinating, perhaps life-changing, article in the August 2018 issue of National Geographic magazine presents an in-depth account of each sleep stage and its significance. The article makes the case for prioritizing sleep in your daily life, pointing out that sleep can have a profound effect on your productivity and your ability to cope with trauma and ward off disease. Ultimately, sleep affects the overall quality and longevity of your life. Take time to read “While We Sleep, Our Mind Goes on an Amazing Journey.” It’s mind-blowing! The paradox? Just as humans are gaining a deeper understanding about sleep and its critical role in repairing and replenishing our bodies for both mental and physical health, we live in a time when most of us suffer from sleep deprivation.  “A full night’s sleep now feels as rare and old-fashioned as a handwritten letter,” notes writer Michael Finkel. “Before the industrial revolution, which brought us alarm clocks and fixed work schedules, we could often counteract insomnia simply by sleeping in. No longer.”  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that more than 80 million U.S. adults are chronically sleep-deprived, routinely getting less than the recommended minimum of seven hours a [...]

By |2019-05-14T09:35:57-04:00August 10, 2018|

Bad Back, Bad Mattress?

Research shows that 80 percent of us will experience a back problem at some time in our lives, according to the American Chiropractic Association. Half of all working Americans admit to having back pain symptoms each year, and worldwide back pain is the single leading cause of disability. How much of that is bed-related? It’s hard to confirm, but in a three-month study of 313 patients suffering from lower back pain, the majority reported experiencing less pain—both while lying in bed and long afterward—when they slept on “medium-firm” rather than “firm” mattresses. An old or unsupportive bed can wreak havoc on your sleep—and your body—but there is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mattresses. What works for one person may not work for another. And, although many people still believe that firm is best, the term applied to bedding is really a holdover from decades ago, when a bed had to very hard to be supportive. However, with advances in technology and sophisticated engineering, mattresses can now have a comfy, softer top layer and still be highly supportive. What’s more, firmness is subjective. One person’s firm might be another person’s medium-firm or soft. That’s why it’s a good idea [...]

By |2019-05-30T15:49:34-04:00July 17, 2018|

Poor Sleep, Poor Work Performance

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to be productive at work when you haven’t gotten enough sleep?The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has joined the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the National Safety Council and the Sleep Research Society to improve education and awareness about the importance of sleep.These groups have established the “National Healthy Sleep Awareness Project.” The initiative focuses not only on getting employers to encourage their employees to develop better sleep habits, but also on high-school students, who generally get far less sleep than their still-developing bodies need.Getting enough sleep is not always an option, especially in work cultures that view long work days and minimal sleep as a sign of commitment. The statistics are eye-opening:One survey shows that 37 percent of today’s workers are sleep-deprived, which increases both the risk and incidence of employee accidents, vehicle crashes and other severe consequences.According to the National Safety Council, fatigued workers cost employers about $1,200 to $3,100 per employee in declining job performance each year, while sleepy workers are estimated to cost employers $136 billion a year in health-related lost productivity. Check out the organization’s Cost of Fatigue calculator.Driving to and from work can be [...]

By |2019-05-14T09:38:06-04:00May 23, 2018|

How Long Can You Live Without Sleep?

How long can you live without water? About a week. How long can you live without food? About 40–70 days. How long can you live without sleep? About 11 days—and even then, researchers say during that long a period, you would probably nod off without even knowing it, getting a moment here and there of microsleep. How do we know 11 days is the maximum humans can be sleep deprived and survive? In 1965, Randy Gardner was a high school student in San Diego figuring out what to do for a science fair. He decided to set a world record for going without sleep. He did – and lived to tell the tale. Water. Food. Sleep. This is the triad of what is needed for physical survival. The Better Sleep Council, the group that established Better Sleep Month in 1985, recommends five ways to focus on sleep this month and get a better night’s rest: Avoid eating too much or drinking alcohol before bed. If you eat too much, an active digestion system sabotages sleep. And while wine or a cocktail can seemingly help you fall asleep, sleep experts say it  may rob you of the deep quality sleep [...]

By |2019-05-31T09:58:14-04:00May 3, 2018|

Happy National Sleep Awareness Week

March 11–17, 2018 -- It’s National Sleep Awareness Week! Sponsored by the National Sleep Foundation (NSF), this special week Is a good time to focus on strategies for getting a better night’s sleep. I believe you need to build a good night’s sleep from the bottom up—starting with what you are sleeping on. Think of your mattress and foundation as sleep equipment. As in any endeavor, the quality of your equipment matters. Tennis pros invest in just the right racket. Golfers on the PGA Tour care deeply about the clubs they use. I don’t recall a NASCAR driver winning a major race in a clunker! According to the Better Sleep Council, if your mattress is more than seven years old, it’s probably time to consider a new one —or at least try some new mattresses to see if they feel more supportive and comfortable than what you are used to sleeping on. With so many manufacturers and retailers today offering mattresses containing CertiPUR-US® certified foam, it's easy to find a mattress (and topper and pillow) that will make you comfortable physically, but also mentally, by giving you the peace of mind that comes with knowing more about the products [...]

By |2019-05-14T09:40:37-04:00March 13, 2018|

Poor Sleep Can Ruin Relationships

Lack of sleep can hurt your relationships—and your health, according to new research conducted by The Ohio State Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research. People who don’t sleep well or don’t get enough sleep tend to be grouchier, moodier and more likely to pick a fight. The study analyzed couples’ behaviors—particularly how they handled disagreements—based on how well they slept. This video provides a short overview of the study results. As Tara Parker-Pope writes in her New York Times Well column, “A large body of research suggests that sleep-deprived people are more unpleasant and even hostile in their social interactions than those who get adequate sleep. People tend to use more negative words when they are sleep deprived than on days when they have had a full night’s sleep. A 2010 survey found that men were more likely to fight with their wives after a night of disturbed sleep. In a 2014 study, couples who reported poor sleep during a two-week period reported more daily marital conflict than those who got better sleep.” In this new study, participants also gave blood samples before and after they fought with their partners. Those who got less sleep and fought more were also [...]

By |2019-05-14T09:52:53-04:00October 11, 2017|

Sleeptember: What’s Your Snore Score?

Despite all the jokes, cartoons and comical depictions of snoring in pop culture, snoring is a symptom of a potentially life-threatening disorder called sleep apnea. The annual Sleeptember® campaign of the American Sleep Apnea Association (ASAA) is helping bring attention to this often chronic, debilitating and overlooked sleep disorder.Let’s break some myths. You don’t have to be overweight, male or an adult to suffer from sleep apnea. ASAA says only a small percentage of those who have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) get treated, yet if untreated, OSA can contribute to potentially fatal medical problems.The National Sleep Foundation warns that “sleep apnea can cause fragmented sleep and low blood oxygen levels. For people with sleep apnea, the combination of disturbed sleep and oxygen starvation may lead to hypertension, heart disease and mood and memory problems. Sleep apnea also increases the risk of drowsy driving.”Here’s one self-test offered by ASAA to determine if you or a family member might be at risk:Are you a loud and/or regular snorer?Have you ever been observed to gasp or stop breathing during sleep?Do you feel tired or groggy upon awakening, or do you awaken with a headache?Are you often tired or fatigued during waking hours?Do you [...]

By |2019-05-14T09:59:12-04:00September 14, 2017|

Morning Lark or Night Owl

It comes down to this: If you have a party on a Saturday night, do you clean up right after the last guest has left—or do you leave the dishes until the morning? Read on for a link to a quiz which might surprise you in its assessment of your sleep habits. I’m a night owl. In fact, I tell friends that 6:30 only comes once a day for me—in the evening. You won’t find me awake at 6:30 a.m. unless I have an early plane to catch, something I try to avoid! Whether you do your best in the morning sun or when the moon is high can affect romantic relationships, job performance, school achievement and more. There’s science behind this, and genetics plays a role. Your sleep-wake patterns are affected by circadian rhythms, which the National Institute of General Medical Sciences (part of the National Institutes of Health) defines as “physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a roughly 24-hour cycle, responding primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment.” Can a night owl and morning lark find happiness in a romantic relationship? It may be one of the questions couples should ponder before getting hitched. [...]

By |2019-05-14T10:03:38-04:00June 29, 2017|

Sleep Games for Insomnia

During my decade working with the Better Sleep Council years ago, our spokesperson was Dianne Hales, a prolific writer and author of the wonderful sleep book “How to Sleep Like a Baby.” There’s an entire chapter in the book devoted to cognitive-focusing exercises (aka mind games) that, in essence, bore you to sleep by using the left and right spheres of your brain simultaneously. It works! Counting sheep is the most famous example—your left sphere is occupied counting and the right sphere is busy visualizing sheep. Serta’s long-time advertising campaign is based on sheep for this reason. The idea is that Serta’s mattresses are so comfortable and sleep-inducing you won’t need to count sheep to fall asleep. Here are three sleep mind games that work for me: Think of famous people (your choice: celebrities, athletes, artists, musicians) whose first and last names begin with the same initial and go through the alphabet, letter by letter. For instance, Alan Alda, Benjamin Bratt, Charlie Chaplin, Danny DeVito, Emilio Estevez, Farrah Fawcett, Greta Garbo... you get the drill. I never get too far past Marilyn Monroe before falling asleep. Don’t want to do double initials? Go through the alphabet sequentially naming athletic teams, [...]

By |2019-05-14T10:01:20-04:00May 17, 2017|

Can Stress Make You Sleep Less?

It’s Better Sleep Month. This is a good time to focus on what’s standing in the way of getting your best rest. In our fast-paced, 24/7 world, with smartphones notifying us of every text and email, it isn’t easy to turn off the noise—literally and figuratively—and get to sleep. And, the cruel joke is that the less you sleep, the less likely you are to be able to cope with the problems creating stress in the first place. Talk about a vicious cycle. Now is a good time to re-evaluate and try some strategies to reduce stress and get the sleep you need. Here are a few tips to break the cycle: Don’t bring work into your bedroom. Make the place where you sleep a safe haven from the day’s angst. Turn off your phone. OK, maybe that’s impractical if you need to be available for a family emergency, but most phones can be set to ring only for designated callers. Get into a bedtime routine. Whether it’s a book, a warm shower, hot cocoa or gentle stretches, try to do the same things in the same order each night as a way to train your body to wind down. Take a [...]

By |2019-05-30T15:56:24-04:00May 1, 2017|