Sometimes it's difficult falling asleep for almost an entire night. You might feel like getting up and being productive instead, or 'pull an all-nighter'.
Or you can try to simply lay in bed to relax and rest, even though sleep does not kick in. In this situation, you may eventually fall asleep, only to be woken by your alarm just an hour or two later. Upon waking from such short sleep you can feel completely wrecked.
It leaves me wondering if you would feel more rested if you didn't sleep for just one hour. Maybe if you could relax throughout the night without really sleeping, you'd feel more rested by the time your alarm goes.
But is it physically possible to recharge as if you were sleeping without actually sleeping?
No, you cannot. Although we don't know how sleep works, we know that lack of sleep is very devastating to the body, and nothing (including laying in bed relaxed but awake) can replace it. If a rat experiences 100% lack of sleep (somebody keeps it awake all the time), this will kill it sooner than 100% lack of food would. There are no wake-until-you-die studies in humans, but even reduced sleep has very bad effects, both cognitive (it impairs you similarly as if you were drunk) and physiological (metabolic changes: you need more energy for the same actions, and food intake increases disproportionally).
If you have insomnia (and yours sounds severe), you need to get it treated. There are different options depending on whether an underlying cause is found, and whether behavioral therapies turn out to work for you. There are no alternatives which replace sleep.
The above is just a summary. For a dry but very reliable source on sleep, see Principles of neural science (ed. Kandel et al), Chapter 51 written by David McCormick and Gary Westbrook. For a very good popular science book on the subject, see Sleep thieves by Stanley Coren, I can recommend it for anybody with insomnia.
8 Ways to Unplug and Recharge Your Brain
Do you feel stressed, tired, fatigued, rushed, drained, zapped? Join the club. Add an economic crisis to multiple jobs, kids, elderly parents and a body-crushing lifestyle, and lots of Americans feel whacked-over-the-head overloaded.
What's the antidote? Simple: use your body the way it's built. If you want your brain to work well you first need to know how your brain works. Hint: it's not a machine. It is a living, wondrously inventive, rapidly renewing organ. You see your hair grow, your nails grow, but do you see your brain grow? That's what your brain does during rest -- it's your body's rebuild and renew program. To get your brain to work better, here's rule number one: rest for success.
Ask the rats at University of California, San Fransisco. Researcher Loren Frank found, as described in the New York Times, that rats sent out exploring need to stop and rest in order to develop long term memories. If you want to learn, you need to rest and that's not including people's first definition of rest -- sleep.
When I ask humans about rest improving their brains, I get different answers. One reporter in Dallas explained, "I can't rest, I'm in the newsroom." A news editor in Sacramento told me the opposite. She said she was so wiped by working early morning hours, two jobs and a two-year-old that she forced herself to rest for an entire weekend to really sleep, and not do any work. Afterward she felt rejuvenated, filled with new ideas and new energy. In other words, she felt rested.
So here are just a few simple ways to get your brain in full working order and have fun:
Walk It -- Even a 20-30 minute walk can grow you new brain cells, in sleep, in memory areas. Can your computer do that? No. It's you who gets to rebuild and rewire every day.
Sleep It -- You need REM sleep and deep sleep to learn, and perhaps around seven to eight hours total to prevent heart disease and support a strong immune system. Like food, rest is required for your survival. Every sleep deprived animal eventually dies. If you know what you're doing, like adding pre-dreaming to your pre-sleep rest time, you can improve brain function plus make sleep fun.
Get It Out in Nature -- Cognitive psychologists still feel stumped as to why people learn better walking in nature rather than in a mall. They shouldn't. Getting out in nature improves mood, resets immunity and increases vitamin D (through sunlight). And natural settings provide huge amounts of unconscious information the brain can then use to make better decisions.
Make It More Creative -- New ideas often arrive by adding different experiences to the old ideas in our storehouse of memories. So stroll out of your comfort zone. Writers can read children's books teachers and parents can watch a group of playground kids handed a new toy any cook can visit a grocery and try new vegetables and sauces.
Use Quick Active Rest Techniques -- Very few know that spiritual rest techniques in under a minute can provoke senses of awe and transcendence. I believe that that there are four different kinds of active rest -- physical, mental, social, and spiritual -- and that they can be played together through the day like music, really cutting back on stress.
Use Your Body Clocks -- Your computer doesn't care if it's 4 p.m. or 4 a.m., but you do. Short term memory is best in the morning, long term memory in the evening. Lots of people feel most creative in the morning, though overall alertness often peaks in the evening, a great time to visit with family and friends -- asking them all kinds of sometimes far-out questions, which can boost your creativity.
Pay Attention to Attention -- All your brain really has is attention, your ability to focus, concentrate and think. The brain only does one thing at a time. Distract it, overload it, do too many things at once and your productivity, mood and creativity will suffer. Take breaks or you'll make mistakes.
Enjoy Sex -- Walks can grow brain cells, but in rats, so does sex. What better way to grow new memory cells than to be with someone you love, who cares about you, who you feel understands you (sex is also a great way to obtain social rest, with its many benefits for heart, brain arteries, and mood.)
So don't believe Woody Allen in the movie Sleeper when he says the brain is his "second most favorite organ." Make it your favorite organ. Treat your brain as the creative, wondrously renewing center of your mind and it will treat you well, working better and letting you laugh a lot more. When you use your body the way it's built you'll change your appearance, your productivity, and your pleasure. Change your brain, change your life.
Could You Be Getting Sleep Without Knowing It?
Many of us have had a sleepless night at least once in our lives. Some people, however, suffer this chronically, or at least think that they do. People with sleep misperception, also known as paradoxical insomnia, truly believe that they are laying awake all night on a regular basis. However, they often do not show the mental and physical effects of these sleepless nights.
When monitored in sleep labs, people with this disorder can be seen to be sleeping. They are lying still with their eyes closed and breathing in a manner consistent with sleep. In addition, EEGs, polysomnography, and other tests show them to have brain activity consistent with sleep. Although some people with this disorder do indeed suffer insomnia to some extent, many of them show sleep behavior similar to people with no sleep disorder at all.
Not all insomniacs have this disorder. In fact, it is relatively rare, affecting less than five percent of people who report insomnia. Some researchers believe that this disorder may be related to anxiety. However, there is another explanation that is beginning to show promise in new studies: many with sleep misperception are somehow still consciously aware of their environments while sleeping. That is, their conscious brain does not shut down when they go through sleep as ours do.
Imagine the surprise of undergoing testing to identify the cause of your insomnia and finding out that you do not have insomnia at all. While this is rare, it must be a shock to those who have sleep misperception. It is important to note that these people are not faking. They indeed believe that they are experiencing laying awake all night even while they are sleeping soundly at the same time.
Feeling Drained? Here are 16 Ways to Build a Recharge into Your Day
You wake up to yet another day of work and log on to your computer. The first thing to pop up on-screen: your lengthy to-do list. Seeing this immediately zaps what little energy you might’ve had for the morning.
Now, you’re grasping for what might help. You don’t really have time to make breakfast. Coffee isn’t working. You don’t know how you’re going to make any real progress. Where is that darn charger?
Feeling drained may be related to sustained mental, physical, or emotional stress. During times of stress, high cortisol levels can interfere with the function of your whole body. But no worries — there are plenty of work-arounds!
Research indicates that restorative activities like meditation, exercise, and spending some time in a natural environment can improve physical and mental energy while reducing the risk of developing diseases that are associated with stress.
Here are some practical ways to give yourself a recharge and identify some of your main battery drains.
When your mental or physical battery is dead, you need to unplug from draining activities and plug into recharging activities.
|Unplug from (negative –)||Plug into (positive +)|
|8+ hours sitting at a desk||Exercise: Go for a quick walk during your lunch break or after work to keep your body loose. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate activity a day.|
|Staring at screens||Nature: Get grounded outside. Looking at green spaces could help you recover from stress.|
|Sensory overload from ambient noise, bright lights, and scratchy clothes||Aromatherapy: Research suggests that inhaling essential oils is beneficial for stress, anxiety, and sleep quality.|
|Tension||Progressive muscle relaxation: A 2019 study of veterinary students found that this technique improved relaxation.|
|Shallow breathing||Deep breathing: Take in more oxygen to signal to your nervous system that things are calming down.|
|Afternoon coffee(s)||Nap: A coffee nap can actually improve your memory, mood, alertness, and motor performance.|
|Sitting for long periods||Meditative movement: For a double charge, try meditative activity like yoga or tai chi.|
|Cutting corners on bathing and grooming||Hydrotherapy (a fancy word for a bath or shower): Luxuriate in it, exfoliate, and emerge as if you’re being reborn.|
|Unplug from (negative –)||Plug into (positive +)|
|Tough conversations at home or at work||Music: Throw on the headphones and let your favorite playlist wash over you for an hour or two.|
|Analytical and repetitive tasks||Art: Take a creativity break. Sketch, color, or grab a glue stick and make a collage.|
|Isolation||Friends and family: A quick video chat could be the boost you need to get through your day.|
|Ruminating on worries||Meditation: Research suggests that regular meditation decreases anxiety and fatigue while improving attention and memory.|
|Focusing on problems||Gratitude journaling: Take a minute to make note of what’s going well.|
|To-do lists||Fun: Play shouldn’t wait until all the work is done, because all the work is never done. Recharge with a fun activity so you can work better.|
|Imagining the worst case scenario||Creative visualization: Imagine your day going just right to train your mind to expect the best instead of the worst.|
|Pessimism and mistakes||Accomplishments: Start a brag list. Make a big deal of even the small wins to remind yourself that you’re not defined by your mistakes.|
Everyone gets depleted at times, but what drains and recharges each of us is highly personal. Start noticing which activities leave you exhausted so you can choose the best activity to counteract the drain.
If participating in Zoom meetings makes you feel ready to collapse, maybe solitude outdoors is your personal energizer. If sitting all day puts you in a slump, schedule regular breaks for stretching or working up a sweat.
No single recharge works for everyone, and your solutions may vary from day to day. Charge up with a marathon of your favorite TV show today and a nature walk tomorrow. Focus on what feels right for you.
The goal shouldn’t be to eliminate draining activities altogether but to build restorative ones into your routine so you don’t hit the “shutdown” stage. If you know the week is full of meetings, scatter your favorite recharge activities throughout the schedule.
Don’t let long stretches of depleting activities dominate your week and then try to recharge all weekend. You’ll certainly feel the imbalance.
Draining activities aren’t necessarily unhealthy or bad, but if you’re too overwhelmed to figure out how to unplug, it’s time to think about modifying the big things for more balance. That might mean having a vulnerable conversation with your boss, your partner, or a therapist to brainstorm new options and get you out of the low battery rut.
Once you start paying attention to what drains you and what fuels you, you’ll notice right away if things are out of balance.
Your ability to rest can be a great gauge of how well you’re coping with daily strains. Adults need 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting enough sleep and still feel drained, it’s a good sign you need to move some plugs around in your day.
Sleeping too much or too little can also be a sign you need more restorative activities.
If recharging doesn’t seem to work, an underlying medical condition could be slowing you down. Conditions that cause fatigue include:
- sleep apnea
- chronic infection or inflammation
- heart disease
- persistent pain
- chronic fatigue syndrome
A doctor can diagnose and treat these and any other issues that could be contributing to fatigue. Seeking help for your low energy may be the most powerful step you can take toward feeling better.
When you can’t recharge your batteries alone, contact your doctor or therapist or dive into one of these resources:
It takes time to figure out exactly what’s draining you and to experiment with ways to recharge. Give yourself a pat on the back for taking the first step: noticing where your energy leaks are.
If consistent self-care habits don’t give you the boost you need, look a little deeper. Talking to a doctor or therapist about how you feel is not a sign of weakness — it’s a great step toward helping yourself live and work better.
This Is What Actually Happens To Your Body When You Don’t Get Enough Sleep
There’s no question that sleep deprivation is an American epidemic, with a third of the country getting less shut-eye than the recommended 7 to 9 hours per night, according to recent research from the Centers for Disease Control. And it’s not like this an old thing: “The average adult is getting one and a half hours less of sleep per night than the average adult did 100 years ago,” Yelena Pyatkevich, M.D., director of the neurology clerkship and associate director of sleep disorders at Boston Medical Center, tells SELF.
And since all it takes is shaving one hour off of the recommended sleep time per night to cause a slew of health problems—never mind a prolonged period of insomnia—we checked in with Dr. Pyatkevich and Dianne Augelli, M.D., a sleep expert at New York Presbyterian Hospital and Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City to find out what happens when we’re less than rested than we should be.
The effects of poor sleep on cognition, memory, learning and processing can be seen with just one night of tossing and turning, says Augelli. “We need sleep as a part of memory consolidation and learning, so when you don’t get enough sleep—even for one night—that’s impaired,” Augelli tells SELF. Keep in mind this effect is short term, meaning if you spend a few nights getting back into the swing of things your brain’s executive functions will return to normal.
Spending one night entirely without sleep will make you feel drunk—and your brain behaves actually if it is drunk, says Pyatkevich. In fact, 24 hours without sleep equals the equivalent of a blood alcohol level of 0.1 percent, which means you’re more than legally drunk. (I shudder to think about the all-nighters I pulled before finals in college now.) That makes it particularly unnerving to think about all the doctors pulling daylong shifts. A January 2016 study published in the Journal of Medical Decision Making found that pediatric residents, whose shifts can run between 24 to 36 hour shifts, made riskier clinical decisions (on cognitive tests, not on actual patients) if they didn’t get at least an hour of nap time.
“We know that decreased sleep leads to things like depression and anxiety in the long term,” says Augelli. But interestingly, missing a night’s sleep doesn’t induce an immediate depression rather, “there’s almost a sense of mania,” first says Pyatkevich. Augelli agrees, noting it’s very transient, but that the first day of two without sleep can improve mood. “The elevated mood may be because certain neurotransmitters and other hormones were released to keep one awake,” she adds. The borderline-euphoric feelings won’t last, both doctors caution.
Meanwhile, your ability to determine what’s important to you and what’s not—especially within an emotional context—is greatly reduced when there’s a lack of sleep, a 2016 study from the University of Tel Aviv found. Published in the journal Neuroscience, lead researcher, Professor Talma Hender and her team found that “we lose our neutrality. The ability of the brain to tell what's important is compromised. It's as if suddenly everything is important," Hender said in the study. That might explain why, when you’re tired and cranky, your roommate failing to take out the trash is the worst thing that ever happened to anyone ever.
While both Augelli and Pyatkevich note that there’s extremely limited research about sleep and skin (yet both agree it would be fascinating to find out more), there was a 2013 study conducted at the University Hospital of Cleveland. While it is worth noting that the research was funded by skincare giant Estee Lauder, the results found that there was a correlation between sleep deprivation and skin aging (think: wrinkles, dark spots).
In addition to cosmetic concerns, Augelli is careful to point out that there are certain skin disorders that can be made worse by a lack of sleep, like atopic dermatitis and psoriasis—in the long term. It’s not like you’re going to wake up scratching everything after a poor night’s rest.
What you will see with just one night’s bad sleep, though, are dark circles and bags under your eyes, says Augelli. (But we’ve got a fool-proof plan for covering those bad boys up.)
If you’ve ever pulled an all-nighter, you may notice the first thing you reach for is a basketful of greasy French fries. That’s exactly what Pyatkevich also craved when she was in her sleepless residency. “Sleep deprivation effects can show up pretty quickly as appetite changes,” says Augelli, who too talks of her food cravings during her own residency. “Your levels of ghrelin, a hormone responsible for letting your brain know you’re hungry, goes up when you’ve had insufficient sleep,” says Augelli. What’s worse is that levels of ghrelin's complementary hormone, leptin—which signals to the brain that you’re full—drops without solid rest. So not only are you having signals sent to your brain to keep on eating, but there are also no signals going to your brain that you’re full. Meaning you’ll just keep. on. eating.
Plus, Pyatevick says we tend to reach for fatty, salty foods—just like the French fries she loved—when we’re under-rested, though she’s not exactly sure of why we crave those types of foods.
A new study might give us a clue. These food cravings sound like the same munchies you get from smoking weed—and brand new research from the University of Chicago has found they may just be the same thing. The study findings, published in the journal Sleep, show that both marijuana and not getting enough sleep activate the body’s endocannabinoids, which cause people to overeat, even when they’re not hungry. And the cravings tend to be for what the study author Erin Hanlon describes as “yummy, fatty foods.” So maybe that explains our hankering for French fries.
As if your increased appetite wasn’t already contributing to weight gain, a slowed metabolism can also result when you lose sleep. “Long term, your body’s metabolism changes because it doesn’t intake food the same way, creating insulin resistance. This is when your body tends to store more of what you eat instead of processing it normally,” Augelli tells SELF.
Insulin resistance may also put you in a pre-diabetic state, a dangerous spot to be in. “Your body’s ability to store the glucose is impaired, which over time could lead to diabetes,” Augelli adds. “This is why it’s so important to get enough sleep as a part of a healthy weight-loss routine”—or to maintain your current, healthy weight.
Reminder: sleep is a time for your body to reset. Our blood pressure and heart rate drop as our body repairs itself from the day before and gets ready for the day ahead. Losing out on quality hours means missing out on this downtime for your ticker and “can lead to overall worsening of your cardiovascular health," particularly when it comes to raising your blood pressure, says Pyatkevich. That’s due to the body’s increased production of the stress hormone, cortisol.
Additionally, inflamed blood vessels near the heart will see plaque build-up over time, “which obviously increases your risk for heart attack and stroke,” Augelli tells SELF. “Plus, you’re making your heart work harder when you’re not getting enough sleep—the body will produce adrenaline, which in high doses can be taxing to your heart.”
You could argue that exhaustion from missing a night’s sleep could cause a whole bunch of side effects, like a non-existent sex drive (not tonight babe, I’m too tired) or a bad mood (after the possible euphoria explained above), but it can also cause whatever your workout is to suffer the next day, too. Augelli says “we haven’t found big correlations between somebody not sleeping one night and an athletic performance the next day,” but long-term, it’s extremely important for both pro athletes and regular folk to get ample rest. “Otherwise, your reflexive time will decrease with the degree of sleep deprivation,” she explains. For competitive athletes, sleep is extra important for performance—so much so that extra snooze time will improve performance, according to a 2011 study in Sleep.
When I would pull all-nighters in college for Finals week, I’d almost always come home for break with some sort of illness. Turns out for good reason. “Your immune system is compromised when you don’t get enough sleep,” says Augelli, even for one night. Similarly, Pyatkevich notes that we’re more likely to have a decreased ability to fight the common cold and more likely to develop pneumonias from simple viral infections.
“You may not have some of the same blood cells and other factors that would attack bacteria and viruses to keep those types of infections away,” Augelli tells SELF. “Your body just can’t mount as good of a response to an invader.”
All of this, unfortunately means that a lack of sleep is inextricably tied to a higher rate of mortality, which increases with less than seven hours of regular sleep (but more isn’t necessary better, sleeping more than eight hours a night regularly is also associated with a greater risk of death from any cause). Scary, right? So maybe next time skip the party and get into bed. It’s so much cozier there, anyway.
Why can you only recharge lithium-ion batteries? Why can't you recharge alkaline batteries?
What is preventing the opposite redox reaction from occurring in alkaline batteries in order to restore their chemical potential energy? Any links to articles are also helpful.
You actually can recharge alkaline batteries a few times, but they have an annoying tendancy to blow up, and you can only do it a few times anyway (with rapidly decreasing capacity each time).
Most chargers won't do this correctly, though - You want a NiMH charger for (roughly) the right voltage, and want as little current as possible (under 100mA ideally). Then just let it trickle overnight, and (if they didn't blow up), voila, you have another 1000-1500mAH in your battery .
Edit: I just discovered that chargers specifically for alkaline batteries do exist. If you really want to get the most out of that .50 battery, probably best to use a charger designed not to accidentally blow them up. :)
It is worthwhile to note most batteries can blow up, not just alkaline ones. Batteries are really scary, don't mess with them too much
why do alkaline batteries blow up when charged but not lithium-ion?
An alkaline battery cannot be recharged because the reaction that takes place in non-reversible. Specifically, the net overall reaction is Zn + 2MnO2 = ZnO + Mn2O3 The zinc is at the negative anode while the MnO2 is the positive cathode. It gets the phrase "alkaline" because potassium hydroxide or the hydroxide ion, OH- is used as the electrolyte to transfer ions to complete the electrochemical reaction in the battery.
In contrast, in a lithium ion battery, the lithium ion itself is used to complete the the electrochemical reaction. The composition of these electrodes tend to be lithium-transition metal oxides. The transition metals will undergo redox reactions where they will change valence state by fluctuating between +2 to +4 valences. Due to the movement of the lithium ion, these batteries are more dangerous and one has to be careful to not overcharge or overheat them.
im confused, could you elaborate on why having the lithium ion as the electrolyte makes the reaction reversible, and why batteries are more dangerous due to the movement of the lithium ion but not the hydroxide ion? besides that, the explanation was very solid.
bull stuff. There are alkaline battery rechargers available for years. They are expensive but they work. A friend of mine knew enough to recharge his batteries off his car battery. It took some skills and there was a risk of explosion, but he could do it by avoiding too much heating. The problem is they don't recharge very many times, anyway unlike Li+ batteries and the even better, Vanadium alloy batteries. Some of those can be recharged 1000's of times without much loss in energy storage. V is expensive and heavier, but durable. Li+ is lighter as well.
The reason why you can't really recharge an alkaline battery is due to the construction and chemistry of the battery. The reaction in an alkaline battery is that of metallic zinc and manganese (IV) oxide, forming manganese (III) oxide and zinc oxide and generating a current. This reaction can be reversed by driving a reverse current, however due to the construction of the battery, issues arise. Here is a diagram from wikipedia showing a cross section of an alkaline battery. As the discharge occurs, the zinc anode will be converted to zinc oxide, but this will not be a uniform process, nor does zinc oxide take up the same space as zinc metal. As a result, if you try to recharge this, converting the oxide back to zinc, again with a non-uniform process, you'll likely have crystals (called dendrites) of zinc growing outwards and probably reaching the manganese oxide cathode (which by the way, also is now much more randomly distributed.) If the zinc meets the manganese oxide, you'll create an electrical short, generating heat which will result in the electrolyte swelling then exploding (from boiling I think).
Lithium battery chemistry is different. While using lithium metal in a battery would be much more effective, lithium is a highly reactive metal, and would also have similar issues with dendrite formation (actually current batteries can have this too, but clever charging and design schemes minimize this). Instead, lithium metal is intercalated into two different electrode materials (graphite for the anode, a metal oxide like cobalt oxide for the cathode), and current is generated by moving this lithium between the cathode and anode (fully charged has all of the lithium in the graphite material, and next to none in the cobalt oxide). As I said before, dendrites can still form here, through improper charging, and an electrical short here will result in swelling, boiling and then additionally burning of the electrolyte used.
America Wants a Beer
Expect the Unexpected From the Delta Variant
I Know the Secret to the Quiet Mind. I Wish I’d Never Learned It.
“This period of silence and hyperpolarization of the cell membrane is probably related to the restorative function of sleep,” Cirelli told me. “The fact that there are these periods of total silence, that’s very typical and unique of sleep relative to wake and there might be something related to that.”
To understand the value of total neural silence, let’s look at another kind of sleeping animal—dolphins. Dolphins, along with whales, some sharks, and a variety of other underwater critters, need to stay moving to breathe. It follows that these animals can’t go completely unconscious like humans can—otherwise, the dolphins couldn’t come up for air, and oxygenated water would stop flowing over the sharks’ gills. And the research seems to bear that out: Brain scans show that dolphins never go into a full sleep state instead, they turn off half of their brain for about eight hours a day, leaving the other half alert. This kind of rest has come to be called “unihemispheric sleeping.”
The closest humans ever get to unihemispheric sleep is when a person who’s extremely sleep-deprived shows signs of what Cirelli calls “local sleep in wake,” in which a few neurons turn off by themselves. The effect is unnoticeable from the outside, because the sleep-deprived subject is still awake and moving, but researchers are able to record the changes using deep-scanning technology that measures individual neurons.
But it’s not until we get access to real, deep sleep that we get a cognitive boost from rest. In other studies, test subjects who were made to identify letters flashed on a screen for several hundred milliseconds at a time generally did worse at the exam over the course of a day. Those who got to take a nap halfway through showed more cognitive recovery than those who simply rested quietly, suggesting that there’s a unique benefit to sleep that you don’t get with quiet wakefulness, microsleep, or unihemispheric sleep.
“This function is only happening when there is a real nap with real sleep as measured with EEG,” Cirelli said.
Lying down isn’t completely useless—it does help your muscles and other organs relax. But you’d get the same results just from reclining on the couch. So sleep is still your best friend.
The useful takeaway is that your best move, if you’ve been in bed for 20 minutes and still aren’t dozing off, is to get up and engage in a low-light, low-stress activity like reading until you begin to feel tired. Taking your mind off of Why am I not sleeping?! I need to sleep! is crucial. When you do get up, though, don’t use your computer or phone or watch TV—the blue-colored light from the screens tricks your body into thinking it’s daytime and not releasing melatonin. Sweet, sweet melatonin.
Effects of Insomnia
"We are all familiar with the short-term effects of sleep deprivation — it makes you feel crummy, grumpy, and sleepy," Dr. Neumeyer says. "The long-term effects can actually be pretty serious and can include obesity, depression, loss of memory, and serious accidents.”
Sleep deprivation can cause these additional negative consequences:
- Mood changes from sleep deprivation include irritability, lack of motivation, and anxiety.
- Performance effects include inattention, inability to concentrate, longer reaction times, and poor decision making.
- Long-term physical effects may add to your risk for high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.
How Camping Helps You Sleep Better
S pending time in nature can work wonders for human health, from lowering blood pressure and stress hormones to sparking feelings of awe. Growing research suggests it may also improve sleep by resetting our internal clocks to a natural sleep cycle. A new study released in the journal Current Biology adds to that evidence by showing the sleep-promoting benefits of the great outdoors.
Kenneth Wright, a researcher at the University of Colorado Boulder and author of the new study, embarked on his camping research back in 2013, when he sent people on a week-long summer camping trip to understand how their internal clocks changed without electronics and only natural light. Before and after the trip, he measured their levels of the hormone melatonin, which alerts the body when it’s time to prepare for bed and helps set a person&rsquos internal clock. Wright found that people&rsquos internal clocks were delayed by two hours in their modern environment&mdashwhich isn’t a good thing, since an out-of-whack sleep cycle has been linked to health problems like sleepiness, mood problems and a higher risk of being overweight. But they were able to recalibrate after a week in nature.
Now, in the new study, Wright set out to better understand how long it takes for people to recalibrate their internal sleep cycles and whether it also works in winter.
In the first part of his study, Wright equipped five people with wearable devices that measured when they woke up, when they went to bed and how much light they were normally exposed to. Wright also measured their melatonin levels in a lab. After that, everyone went on a week-long camping trip&mdashbut this time, it was during the winter.
Wright found that people&rsquos internal clocks were delayed during their normal schedules&mdashthis time by two hours and 36 minutes&mdashcompared to when they were exposed to only natural light on their camping trip. They also had higher melatonin levels, which signals that it’s a person’s biological night. &ldquoWe don’t know what this means, but we do know some humans are sensitive to seasonal changes,&rdquo says Wright. &ldquoSome people get winter depression or may gain weight a bit more.&rdquo
In the second part of the study, Wright wanted to see what happened when some people went camping for just a weekend and others stayed home. Most who stayed home stayed up later than usual and slept in, and their internal clocks were pushed back even further. But on the two-day trip, campers’ internal clocks shifted earlier. &ldquoThat says we can rapidly change the timing of our internal clock,&rdquo says Wright.
Fun as it may be, camping isn’t the only way to get similar results, Wright says: Exposing yourself to morning light, cutting down on electrical light from smartphones and screens in the evening and even dimming the lights at home can help.
As for Wright, he sets his internal clock by hiking in the morning, then waking up and going to sleep at the same time every day. It appears to be working: he doesn&rsquot even need an alarm clock anymore.
Got 60 Minutes for a Nap? How About 6?
It's 2 p.m. and you're tired. You've been busting your you-know-what since midmorning, and even though you have hours left in your day, you're mentally and physically exhausted. But what if we told you there was a way to refresh and recharge -- that taking a nap could help perk you up, plus it could boost your memory, creativity and even lower your blood pressure? So could you spare 90 minutes? No? What about 60 minutes? Or 25, 10, or 6? Yes, really -- six minutes. And there's no hard-and-fast rule for how long you're out. Napping for almost any amount of time has its benefits, so check out this guide (and your schedule) to see what nap length will best work for you and when.
Ninety-minute naps are great -- if you can afford to take the time. Sleep cycles run in 90-minute patterns, taking us back and forth between lighter and deeper sleep. Most of us have between four and six sleep cycles a night, so if you can manage to take a 90-minute nap, you're getting an entire sleep cycle. After awakening from one of these epic naps, you'll likely be more mentally focused and productive, plus you'll probably notice a boost to your physical energy and feel more balanced emotionally.
Unlike hour-and-a-half-long naps, 60-minute naps don't allow you to finish a complete sleep cycle, so they can leave you feeling a little weary. But if you have the time (lunch break, anyone?) they're usually still worth it. According to Michael Breus, a fellow of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and one of upwave's sleep experts, 60-minute naps can help improve memory-related tasks. "Sixty-minute naps improve memory," he says, "though because they can make you groggy, taking a shorter nap is usually a better option."
In a 2008 study, 45-minute naps helped lower the blood pressure of patients of participants facing psychological stress. But there's a downside. "Naps longer than 30 minutes will likely cause sleep inertia," says Russell Sanna, Ph.D., the executive director at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School and an upwave sleep expert. "Scientists tell us longer naps can cause grogginess."
This is arguably the most effective nap length (unless you have an hour and a half to spare, of course). Ten- to 20-minute naps will help you perk up with little to no grogginess, so you can rally throughout the afternoon and don't have to worry about crashing later. In a study of first-year medical students, brief afternoon naps improved the mental acuity and alertness of participants, which are benefits we could all use a little more of.
Breus is a fan of 25-minute naps. "Twenty-five-minute naps work best," he says, "because you get actual rest, which reduces the body's need for sleep without causing the sleep inertia that comes with 30-minute and longer naps."
If you're flagging in the afternoon, taking a six-minute snoozer will likely perk you up, as super-short naps are thought to improve alertness and memory. One study found that "a sleep episode as short as six minutes was enough to significantly boost memory performance." And we're talking declarative, or long-term memory, meaning that you'll have an easier time tomorrow remembering what you did today. All after just six minutes of shuteye.
But it's important to remember that a six-minute nap can't take the place of a proper night's rest. "Six-minute power naps are helpful if you're getting enough sleep," Breus says, "but if you're sleep deprived, they probably won't be enough. Your body needs more rest."
So if you're getting sleepy-eyed, take a short (or a long) snooze. We'll still be here when you wake up, and you'll probably feel better for it.