Calming down your buzzing brain (DW#711)

Do you have nights when you toss and turn and are unable to switch off your mind? Nights when your mind keeps nagging you with to-do lists, with next tasks from unfinished projects, with worries, plans, doubts and replays of what you should not have said or even jingles and songs that stuck in your head in a never ending loop?

I find that when I am juggling too many things, when I have too many balls up in the air, my brain simply refuses to wind down in the night. In fact, the more exhausted I feel, the more alert it seems to get. Sigh.

Even though on nights like these, it seems that the entire world is asleep but me, it turns out that struggling to shut your brain down for the night is actually very normal.

After all, our brain is designed to be buzzing all the time to help us remember, anticipate, analyze, plan, problem-solve, and do all the things that make us productive humans. And of course, since we live in a society which seems to be on 24/7, it makes sense that our brain...

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How about a nappacinno? (DW#710)

Yesterday we talked about how some of us may need to forgo that shot of afternoon caffeine if we want to sleep well at night.

Today, I want to introduce a VERY interesting idea from the book Whenby Dan Pink. The book, which is about the science of perfect timing also talks about how to manage the energy variations we experience throughout the day.

He is a great believer in the power of power naps and calls them "Zambonis for our brains". A Zamboni (had to look that one up J) is a machine which is used to resurface ice and make it smooth so that it can be played on.

Here is what he says about the power of naps: "A large body of research shows that naps improve cognitive performance and boost mental and physical health. In many ways, naps are Zambonis for our brains. They smooth out the nicks, scuffs, and scratches a typical day leaves on our mental ice."

He calls these power naps "Nappaccinos" and lays out a 5 step process for the perfect "Nappaccino"

1. Figure out when your energy...

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The cost of Starbucks (DW#709)

Isn’t it amazing how much a cup of coffee can cost these days in a fancy coffee shop?

Well, it turns out that shot of expresso is costing you more than money.

Caffeine does not actually give us energy. What it does do is mask our fatigue. It basically deactivates that part of the brain which tells you that you are tired. What this means is that you are not "getting" new energy from caffeine. You are simply ‘borrowing energy’ from your future self.

Plus caffeine stays in your body for a long time. It has a "half-life’ of 5 to 6 hours which means that if you have 100 mg of caffeine at 4:00 pm, around half of that caffeine is still bouncing around in your brain at 10pm. Half the caffeine is STILL with you even 6 hours later. No wonder you cannot sleep.

Now many people firmly swear that caffeine does not impact them and that they can sleep like babies even after several cups. Are you one of those? If so, great. If not, consider a caffeine curfew.

Stop drinking...

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Four ways technology is making us lose sleep (DW#708)

To recap our discussion about technology and sleep, here are the four ways that our screens are keeping us awake at night:

1. They Suppress Melatonin.

2. They Keep Your Brain Alert.

3. They Wake You Up.

4. They are hard to control especially when you are tired

So what are we to do?

To start with, let us consider setting ourselves a "tech curfew" at the very least an hour before bedtime. In other words, we stop using all screens an hour before we plan to sleep. This is also called a "digital sunset" when all technology around us goes to sleep well before we do.

For parents of young children, I really hope are already doing this for our children. And that we will consider doing this for ourselves as well.

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Binging on technology (DW#707)

Have you noticed that your willpower wanes along with your energy throughout the day?

Recent research has clarified that willpower is a finite resource and that we have less willpower as the day wears on and we get tired (ever been mindful of what you eat through the day and then completely let go from late afternoon onwards?)

When we combine the decrease in willpower along with the addictive nature of technology, we have a perfect storm for sleepless nights:

• "One more level" turns into another hour of hunting orcs in a favorite game.

• "One more episode" becomes finishing a season from favorite streaming services.

• "One more text" becomes an all-night comfort session when a friend needs a shoulder.

• "One more email" becomes a late-night work session to iron out problems with a presentation.

In other words, "one more minute" – when it comes to screen time at night – can easily turn into several hours.

In other words, we are much more likely to...

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The iPhone effect on sleep (DW#706)

while ago, we talked about how having a cellphone within view (even when we are not checking it) impacts the quality of conversation and communication we are having.

It turns out that something similar is true for sleep.

Even if you are not checking your phone at or just before bedtime, having a phone within view orwithin reach can still impact the duration and quality of your sleep.

Studies on youth have found that sleeping with electronic devices within reach resulted in nearly an hour’s worth of difference in sleep for teens and preteens. It appears that youth (and presumably adults as well) are unconsciously "tuned in" to the sounds their devices make – even when they are set to vibrate.

The world of social media and WhatsApp we know, does not sleep, especially for those of us who have family and friends spread out all over the world.The chimes and notifications can obviously interfere with switching our brains off since we are left wondering what notifications we...

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Winding down your brain (DW#705)

In the days before technology (not that long ago), we used to unwind for the evening by following some basic bedtime routines: praying, taking a shower, brushing our teeth, putting on sleep clothes, reading or chatting perhaps. This routine would signal to our brain that it is time to go into sleep mode.

Things are quite different in most households today. When we include screen time during this critical "unwinding" period, we are filling our minds with information, knowledge, and thoughts. This often leads to information overload because we are filling our minds with information that our brain must process before it will allow us to sleep. In a sense, this is like drinking an energy drink or an espresso at bedtime!

So while it may seem harmless to knock out a few emails before bed, or have a short (or long) check in with social media, we are keeping our minds engaged and the message that our brains get is that it needs to stay awake and alert.

Of course, if we are watching the news...

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How much light is too much? (DW#704)

Yesterday we talked about how bright light from devices can delay the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin.

It is not only technology that is to blame. Artificial light of all types can have this impact.

(Although all wavelengths of light have this effect, blue light is particularly problematic. Blue light is so good at helping us feel awake, it's used in places like factories to help night workers stay alert)

Light is usually measured by the lux (symbol: lx) measuring luminous flux per unit area. It is equal to one lumen per square metre. It is a measure of the intensity, as perceived by the human eye, of light that hits or passes through a surface.

Matthews says: "Even a hint of dim light–8 to 10 lux–has been shown to delay the release of nighttime melatonin in humans. The feeblest of bedside lamps pumps out twice as much: anywhere from 20 to 80 lux. A normally lit living room, where most people reside in the hours before bed, will come in at around 200 lux....

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Devices and the production of melatonin (DW#703)

How exactly does our cell phone interfere with sleep?

In many ways, it turns out. Let’s explore the major ones:

The blue light from technology such as phones, computer screen and televisions suppresses the production of melatonin.

Melatonin is the hormone that controls our sleep/waking cycle or circadian rhythm. In other words, melatonin signals the brain that it is time to sleep.

When our eyes absorb the bright blue light from the devices around us, the release of melatonin is delayed, making it more difficult for people to fall asleep. Reduced melatonin also makes it harder for us to stay asleep. The exposure to light basically wires our brains, increasing alertness rather than relaxation.

It is well documented in research studies that the bright light from phones, tablets and computers blocks the production and release of Melatonin after about 90 minutes of technology use in the evening.

What may be even more alarming is the finding that after five nights of exposure to...

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Let’s talk tech (DW#702)

One of the biggest thieves of sleep is technology.

Our cell phones, tablets, computers and other electronic gadgets have become such a huge part of our daily lives that it’s often really hard to put them down—even at bedtime.

We are so used to keeping our phones besides our bed that we do not consider it to be a big deal.

But it is.

Technology affects our sleep in many more ways than we realize. Whether we are surfing the web, watching a YouTube video, or even just using our phone as an alarm clock, it is impacting the duration and quality of our sleep.

So if you, like many of us, look at your phone the last thing at night, and you are not satisfied with the quality of sleep that you are getting, make the connection between your use of technology and the quality of your sleep.

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