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Alcohol, Sleep & Caffeine: How do they mix?

Can alcohol really help you sleep better at night?

NO, it affects the deep sleep cycle and causes the sleeper to have a more fitful night of sleep. This is due to the fact that the body is processing and metabolizing the alcohol. During this processing, ones’ sleep becomes lighter and more distressed. The notion that drinking alcohol before bed can help you sleep better seems to be widespread in part because in some cases people have believed it can help one fall asleep more quickly. However, it does not actually help you stay asleep or give you the greatest quality of sleep. Concentration of alcohol in the blood is usually highest one hour after ingesting the drink, so drinking too close to falling asleep (even just one drink) can decrease your chances of having a good nights sleep by a significant amount!
It’s also unwise to drink before sleeping, especially the night before a big test or presentation.

Fun Fact: A great deal of memory formation and retention happens while sleeping. If you’re not getting a good quality and a substantial amount of sleep then the memory retention occurring at night is not to its’ best ability. Binge drinking, drinking 5+ drinks for men and 4+ drinks for women in the course of two hours, can affect the brain and body’s functions for up to three days; add that to not getting enough sleep and one’s overall functioning is looking pretty dim.

What less sleep can be doing to you:
1. Increasing episodes of depression
2. Difficulty performing everyday tasks and increased irritability
3. Decreased motivation, memory, and concentration
4. Impaired social functioning
5. Lowered mental stamina
6. Decreased creativity and spontaneity

Can Caffeine really keep you up at night?

Unlike alcohol, caffeine is a stimulant which in turn reduces the flow of sleep inducing chemicals in the brain while also increasing adrenaline production. Caffeine can have stimulating effects as soon as 15 minutes after consuming the beverage and it shortens the deep sleep cycle. It takes around 6 hours for half of the caffeine ingested to be eliminated from your body. Therefore, it is best to curb drinking caffeine at about 6 hours before going to bed. However, at that point only half of the caffeine would be fully processed and eliminated by your body. So maybe it’s best to stick to that one morning cup a day rule.

Fun Fact: It is possible to be physically dependent on caffeine just as it is equally possible to be physically dependent on alcohol. There is a disorder in which many people dependent on caffeine are susceptible to, known as Caffeine Induced Sleep Disorder. This disorder occurs when caffeine has lengthened the amount of time it takes for one to fall asleep.

What caffeine can be doing to you:
1. Reducing fine motor skills
2. Headaches, nervousness, and dizziness
3. Causing insomnia
4. Rapid heartbeat

Caffeine and Sleep

It’s safe to say that alcohol, caffeine, and sleep do not mix well together. Careful what you choose to drink before bed… Sweet Dreams.

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Sleep More, Achieve More!

As I write this, I’m thinking about my bed and wishing the day was over so I could crawl into bed. However, when the time comes, sleep doesn’t come as easily as I would like. I toss and turn and sometimes count sheep before I finally doze off. Not only does it take a while to fall asleep, there isn’t a night that passes that I don’t wake up to use the bathroom. This drives me crazy. Research has shown direct connections to the importance of sleep and the effect on academic success. In order to get a good night sleep there are certain tips that should be followed.

• Keep a regular sleep schedule
It’s important to go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day, even on the weekends. Try to sleep the same number of hours every day, at the same time. When I sleep for less than 7 hours a night – the next day is awful! I’m rundown, yawning, find myself thinking of bed and in general, I’m not a happy or friendly person. It messes up my day.

• Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Taking a warm bath, listening to soothing music, and reading a book are all examples of a relaxing bedtime routine. Activities that help tell your body it’s time to sleep and reduce stress and anxiety. Whenever I need to unwind, I take a warm bath and relax which ultimately makes me sleepy. Avoid activities like watching TV or homework right before bed because it can keep you awake by stimulating your mind. Even the bright light emitted from the television or computer can wreak havoc with your sleep. Turn off your electronics a couple of hours before bed to ensure they don’t ruin your rest. Give your brain a chance to wind down from the day.

• Get comfy
One thing about college is that controlling your sleep environment is very difficult. However, do your best to get comfortable. If you are in a residence halls with a noisy roommate, who stays up late with the light on, get eye masks and ear plugs. Ensure your side of the room looks appealing and relaxing. Finding comfortable sheets can create a pleasant bedtime experience, too. The room should be dark and you could do this by hanging up a black sheet around your bed or hanging up dark curtains. Keep the temperature down – it should be between 68-70F.

• Limit daytime naps to 10-30 minutes
No matter how tired I am I try avoiding naps during the day and when it’s absolutely necessary, never for more than 30 minutes, and ideally before 3pm. An early afternoon nap may help you get through your day.

• Turn off your electronics at least 30 minutes before falling asleep
There have been numerous studies showing that using a light-emitting device before bed, like a phone, TV, or laptop, stimulates the brain, creating a false alertness and stimulation, making it harder to sleep. I usually try and turn off my phone or put it on silent and put it face down, even if it’s on, so I will not be disturbed by the light.

• Use your bed for sleep and sex only
I know this may be difficult to do especially when you are in the residence halls, but avoid using your bed for homework or other activities especially ones that cause stress and anxiety. This will help strengthen the association between your bed and sleep.

• Avoid caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine before bedtime
I love drinking chocolate drinks, but I try to limit my intake after 4pm. This is because caffeine (found in coffee, tea, soda, and chocolate) is a stimulant and causes your body to be more alert. It can stay in the body for an average of three to five hours. Even if you don’t think caffeine affects you, it is likely to hinder your sleep quality. Although many people use alcohol as a sleep aid, it actually decreases sleep quality by increasing night time awakenings. This leads to a night of lighter sleep that is less restful. Nicotine is a stimulant, which can make it difficult to fall asleep. When tobacco users go to sleep, withdrawal symptoms can also cause poor sleep. Nicotine can also cause problems waking up in the morning and causing nightmares. Avoid nicotine 2 hours before bedtime.

If you want more information, please contact the Health & Wellness Hub on the main floor of the Memorial Union. Enjoy your sleep!

Who Needs Sleep?

As college students we have all seen the impossible triangle of college life.  You might think that you can only pick one or two options between getting enough – sleep, good grades, or an exciting social life – I’m here to tell you that if you find balance in your life you can have all three!  College is not an easy transition for many incoming freshmen and many of them develop mental health issues and have irregular sleep cycles.  In a recent study done at North Dakota State University in 2011- incoming college freshmen had the highest average number of days a week where they woke up feeling unrested. The two main reasons for not getting enough sleep was because of they were studying late into the night (28.8%) or socializing with friends (22.7%).

Definitely, one night of staying up late to study or hang out won’t hurt you in the long run, but the problem lies when it is done repeatedly.  During sleep is your body’s time to rejuvenate itself, and if you don’t give it that time- all aspects of your life can suffer.  Bad sleep habits can link directly to poor grades, energy level, and personal health.  In a study done by Select Comfort, the discovered the mean GPA for college students was a 3.08 with poor sleeping habits, where as it is 3.27 for students who have developed consistent sleep tendencies. 

The one thing that can help you obtain all three corners of “the impossible triangle” is – time management skill.  This is what you can do to sharpen the skill:

  • Find out where you are wasting time. You can do that by tracking your daily activity. Ask yourself “How do I spend my week? How do I spend each day? What time am I actually wasting?” Remember that time management is about changing your behavior and not your time.
  • Determine your goals and plan your time. First, think about what your goals are for the semester. Then, prioritize what needs to be done this month and create a weekly schedule. By having a schedule and actually sticking to it- is a great way to be productive!
  • Use time management tools. You can use a program like Outlook to create your weekly calendar and get updates.

Celebrate for sticking to your schedule. Do not forget to treat yourself for the progress you are making and the schedule that is helping you!  By using these simple techniques you will be surprised have time you have for everything you need-  So is it possible to get enough sleep while having a good time at college and get good grades at the same time? Absolutely, yes!  It is all about having a plan and being committed to accomplishing your goals.

Sleeping Your Way to Skinny

Sounds appealing, right?

Although mixing in a mid-day nap won’t actually make you skinny, recent research studies point out there is a definite correlation between lack of sleep and weight gain. I am sure that many of you are not frequent readers of USA Today or the Annals of Internal Medicine. So, let me share with you what they recently brought to my attention regarding sleep and weight loss.

A single sleep study was performed on seven healthy, lean, young adults and the results are astounding. After just FOUR consecutive days (Finals week ring a bell, anyone?) of being permitted to sleep approximately 4 hours a night, the fat cells’ ability to use insulin properly dropped by 30%! Consequently, the cells became insulin-sensitive, resulting in the formation of less leptin.

What does this mean? TWO KEY WORDS: Insulin and Leptin… do these words mean anything to you? You may be thinking, “Why on Earth would they?” But, what if I switched those two key words to HUNGRY and FULL?! One of insulin’s many jobs is to trigger the release of leptin in your body. Now you may not have realized this until now, but I am telling you leptin is your friend. What that wonderful little hormone does for you is flip that hungry/full switch on and off. Low levels of leptin tell your body it’s starving and increase your appetite, which is why it makes perfect sense that a decrease in leptin has an association with increase in food consumption and weight gain. So, when your stomach is roaring during your test after pulling that all-nighter even though you just treated yourself to Mickey D’s breakfast as a “reward” – it is actually your body saying, “Hey, maybe you should have gotten some sleep last night!”

What’s also important to recognize is that in addition to your body’s inability to accurately sense if you’re full due to those low leptin levels, those who are tired have an increased appetite as well as a slowed metabolism due to their lack of sleep. When combined, these effects are ultimately setting you up for a downward spiral.

So, as finals approach, shoot for 7 to 8 hours of sleep! It will not only help your ability to focus and retain information, but also assist in maintaining healthy weight and prevent you from feeling hungry all the time.

Stay tuned for upcoming tips on how to develop healthy sleeping habits in my next blog!

A “Wake-up Call” for Students: The Importance of Sleep

Ever heard of the phrase, “Sleep is where memories are formed?” Well that is because sleep is quite literally the memory-making machine. For many, college is an exciting and adventurous time of finding out who you are as an individual and becoming the person you’d like to be. College can be a time where some of the most fantastic memories are made… memories that one will want to remember and reminisce of in the future. Getting solid sleep throughout college is extremely important to hold on to those memorable times.

Nowadays, college students are becoming one of the most sleep-deprived populations. Whether it’s the heavy load of course work, sports, extracurricular activities, part-time jobs, or the very active social life, students are getting robbed of some essential shuteye. You probably have heard of the general importance of sleep many times before, but you may not know just how strongly inadequate sleep can impact the learning processes in the brain. According to the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, poor sleep affects all three processes involved in learning: acquisition, consolidation, and recall. This means that not getting a good night’s sleep (7-8 hours) can have a profound effect on the way the brain receives and stores information, stabilizing and makes memories, and retrieve information when necessary.

Pulling an all- nighter to study hard right before a test when you are in a rush may seem like a great idea at the time- but it actually does little to no help for the individual to actually learn something. Studies discussed by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School conclude that if students don’t get enough sleep, the ability to focus and recall old information is slowed. In fact, the brain will be even less likely to retain any information that was crammed into the brain the day and night before the all- nighter.

So, find a way to balance your time so that all- nighters can be avoided so that you can get the right amount of sleep you need to learn new information and retain memories. Remember that you deserve good sleep as a hard-working college student!

Helpful Hints for getting more sleep:

Recommended by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine

1. Go to bed early to get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep.

2. Try doing something relaxing before bed if you are having trouble falling asleep.

3. Keep your naps less than an hour length and take them before 3pm not to disrupt your night sleep.

4. Wake up at the same time on weekends as during the week. Inconsistent sleep schedules may lead to sleepless nights.

5. Limit caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and at nighttime so that it is easier to wind down in the evening.

6. Dim the lights in the evening (to let your body know it is time to sleep) and let in the sunlight in the morning (to promote alertness).

7. Eat light at night. It’s best to eat a light healthy snack before bedtime because a big meal right before bed will give your body excess energy and make it hard to fall asleep.

For more information or to see the facts, visit:

http://healthysleep.med.harvard.edu/need-sleep/whats-in-it-for-you/memory

http://www.aasmnet.org/articles.aspx?id=659

Who Needs Sleep?

As college students we have all seen the impossible triangle of college life. You might think that you can only pick one or two options between getting enough – sleep, good grades, or an exciting social life – I’m here to tell you that if you find balance in your life you can have all three! College is not an easy transition for many incoming freshmen and many of them develop mental health issues and have irregular sleep cycles. In a recent study conducted at North Dakota State University in 2011- incoming college freshmen had the highest average number of days a week where they woke up feeling unrested. The two main reasons for not getting enough sleep were studying late into the night (28.8%) or socializing with friends (22.7%).

Definitely, one night of staying up late to study or hang out won’t hurt you in the long run, but the problem lies when it is done repeatedly. During sleep is your body’s time to rejuvenate itself, and if you don’t give it that time- all aspects of your life can suffer. Bad sleep habits can link directly to poor grades, energy level, and personal health. In a study done by Select Comfort, the mean GPA for college students was a 3.08 with poor sleeping habits, where as it was 3.27 for students who have developed consistent sleep tendencies.

The one thing that can help you obtain all three corners of “the impossible triangle” is time management skill. This is what you can do to sharpen the skill:
• Find out where you are wasting time. You can do that by tracking your daily activity. Ask yourself “How do I spend my week? How do I spend each day? What time am I actually wasting?” Remember that time management is about changing your behavior and not your time.
• Determine your goals and plan your time. First, think about what your goals are for the semester. Then, prioritize what needs to be done this month and create a weekly schedule. By having a schedule and actually sticking to it- is a great way to be productive!
• Use time management tools. You can use a program like Outlook to create your weekly calendar and get updates.
• Celebrate for sticking to your schedule. Do not forget to treat yourself for the progress you are making and the schedule that is helping you!

By using these simple techniques you will be surprised have time you have for everything you need. So is it possible to get enough sleep while having a good time at college and get good grades at the same time? Absolutely, yes! It is all about having a plan and being committed to accomplishing your goals.

the weight of the World

Sometimes I’d love to go back to the good ol’ days… the ones that consisted of t-ball and swimming lessons in the morning, swimming all afternoon, bike riding, a few quick chores, macaroni and hot dogs or spaghettios for lunch, and lots of friend time.

So simple. 

As I get older, I find myself craving simplicity more and more. Now, let’s not get carried away- the ability to drive, set my own bedtime and schedule, and total freedom to eat popcorn for supper are things I don’t know if I could/would trade for anything… but it’s really easy to “get lost” in the shuffle of life: jobs, house/apartment maintenance, volunteer responsibilities, social appointments, etc… sometimes it is just… too much.

If you haven’t figured out by my blogs (or maybe from just knowing me in person), I live out loud. But I’m more of  an introverted extrovert.(wait… what?!)
Sometimes, I love to be the center of attention (I’m a middle child- you gotta FIGHT for that right!). But others, I just want to sit and observe. Close my eyes and take in everything around me with no expectations for a reaction or answer.

I find that my introvert comes out when life starts to feel “beyond my grasp.” And lately… uff da.

I’m having the time of my life discovering new places and people and things, I love my job and where I live, I’m surrounded by a great support system… things are in place for “a good life.” I should be so happy, right?

Yet… lately I’ll admit to feeling like I’m drowning.

In these moments, I do a few things:
cry. A lot. About everything. I’m pretty sure I started crying the other day because I couldn’t decide what flavor of toothpaste to buy. Please don’t even think about asking me what movie to go see.
eat. Few things are safe, although I seem to be really into frozen marshmallows right now. I’m getting so much better at this than I was 11+ years ago, but I’m a work in progress. I’m becoming aware that food doesn’t “make it better.” This is why I keep a lot of vegetables and fruit on hand, and also why I glow in the right light.
walk. I’ve said before how much I LOVE walking. To obnoxious lengths. You get it, right? Good. Walking helps me to clear my head and take deep breaths when I feel like I’m unable. It reminds me that God is watching out for me and I don’t need to “fix” everything in that instant. It slows                    me                        down…
reflect. Sit. Listen. Take it in and process. Do you ever just appreciate the ability to listen? Whether it’s to music, to a conversation with a friend or between passersby, nature, or whatever else may be filling the air with sound waves… sometimes we forget what a blessing that is. And these brokenly beautiful moments remind me.
pray. My reflections lead to a conversation between me and the Big Guy upstairs. I just talk to Him. I tell him what is wrong in my life- sometimes with an angry heart, other times with tears streaming down my face… no matter what, I feel safe saying whatever is on my heart. And when I finish, I’m filled with a crazy sense of peace and calm.
talk to people. Good people. The kind that will listen to what you are willing to share, reserve judgement, and freely offer hugs and wholesome advice. I can only hope I am that person for others when they need it, just as they are to me. And be honest. Are you overwhelmed? Are you hurting? That’s OK. Talk about it.

In the hustle and bustle, I think it’s too easy for life to get away from us.
There are just so.many.things.

 This is the part when you just need to remember:
You are enough. Just do the best you can, appreciate the blessings you have around you, and find peace in knowing that you are not alone and you are equipped for the challenges you are facing.
Most importantly:

STOP

and take time for yourself. Your heart is telling you that it’s time to slow down for a minute. Accept that invitation.

Disconnect. This is SO hard for me. My smartphone seems to be glued to my hand most of the time. Shut it off, leave it at home, put it in the other room. Turn off your computer. Give yourself a break!

Do something that you love. Like paint your toenails… take a bubble bath… ride your bike and sing at the top of your lungs… read a book… write a letter… ahh… I’m feeling better already…

Did I mention sleep? Make that a priority. Your body and mind will thank you.

As I was walking along the glorious Greenway recently, I took a deep breath and smiled. It was like someone finally said, “You’re doing a great job, kiddo. Just keep going.”

Sometimes we just need to remind ourselves of that very thing:
Slow down.
And just keep going
that sun always comes out again.

 

Brick Wall Reminders

Finals are just around the corner, and even though I’ve graduated from college already, I still have nightmares of the last push to Christmas break occasionally.

The truth is, no matter what stage of life we find ourselves in, it’s important to remember that we have limits, and we must act accordingly.

Remember when I told you that I recently moved back for a new job and new adventure?  I still love being back in Grand Forks. And I still love what I get to do at my job every day… but I recently learned that there are moments when I might fall off Cloud 9.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=clouds&hl=en&client=safari&sa=X&rls=en&biw=725&bih=591&tbm=isch&prmd=imvns&tbnid=C-jNqCXv6gYIqM:&imgrefurl=http://www.atpm.com/11.03/clouds/clouds-6.shtml&docid=xSz0GSvKpyu81M&imgurl=http://www.atpm.com/11.03/clouds/images/clouds-6.jpg&w=2240&h=1488&ei=XQzTTsSQA4nj0QHZtrwu&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=195&vpy=263&dur=2493&hovh=131&hovw=198&tx=106&ty=76&sig=101281852028619836808&page=17&tbnh=105&tbnw=157&start=194&ndsp=12&ved=1t:429,r:1,s:194

For the most part, my job keeps me very, very busy. And because I love what I do, I think about it… almost all of the time. And because I’m a very “do it now and get it done” kind of person, I catch myself even sending emails in my sleep. The truth is, it doesn’t bother me… or so I thought.

Ever since my accident, I’ve started a downhill-spiral-caught-in-a-snowball-toward-a-tree kind of thing. It wasn’t necessarily that terrible, horrible, no good, very bad things kept happening to me, I was just extra sensitive to the every day things that just sort of “happen.” Because I was busy reacting, my head was in a fog, and I started to just numbly coast toward Thanksgiving.

I was working out last Monday. A meeting went later than expected, so I missed a class I wanted to attend (another layer on the snowball). I decided to do some running/walking around the track… and the running part felt so good: I was FREE! Eventually I finished and started stretching. When I stopped, my racing mind caught up with me, and… so did the tears. Luckily I was sweating enough that the tears weren’t too noticeable (at least in my own mind). But as soon as I went outside into the fresh air it hit me like a ton of bricks.

http://www.google.com/imgres?q=bricks&hl=en&gbv=2&biw=775&bih=655&tbm=isch&tbnid=fcK1BfKdDs41lM:&imgrefurl=http://www.psd-dude.com/tutorials/resources/beautiful-brick-textures-collection.aspx&docid=FQoqOQc9Ahg7FM&imgurl=http://www.psd-dude.com/tutorials/resources-images/beautiful-brick-textures-collection/bricks.jpg&w=599&h=400&ei=jAvTTubmJeX10gGyv733Dw&zoom=1&iact=hc&vpx=512&vpy=256&dur=1262&hovh=132&hovw=197&tx=117&ty=84&sig=101281852028619836808&page=9&tbnh=130&tbnw=144&start=81&ndsp=11&ved=1t:429,r:10,s:81

I’m not sure what “it” was, but it made breathing difficult. So I did what every daughter in distress does: call home. I talked to my dad about the Sing-Off, the weather, the upcoming vacation, and just about anything else that he could think of to distract me. Eventually that suffocating feeling passed, but sleep was the furthest thing from my mind.

I made it to the long weekend, and “home.” I slept 2-3 times longer than I had in weeks, turned off my phone, and laughed with loved ones. I ate good food (but not until I was sick), made sure I snuck in physical activity at least once a day, helped Christmas puke all over our house come alive through decorations, and enjoyed the simplicity of life for a few days.

As I was driving back at the end of the long weekend, I started to think about what led me to those tears while I was stretching. The truth is, I was trying to do too much. The lack of focus resulted from trying to think of too many things. I was so busy trying to be one step ahead I was tripping over the imaginary hurdles right in front of me.  I hit my brick wall of reality.

WORKINGSPIRIT wrote about the importance of slowing down a few weeks ago, and I just have to say “ditto.” After a few days of slowing down, I feel refreshed and ready for the week ahead- finally.

As you approach the finish line- whether it’s in the form of tests, papers, projects, meetings, tasks, or anything else that is in front of you, make sure that you take care of yourself and pay attention to what you need. Set aside one hour to hit the Wellness Center for some activity; it will leave you feeling refreshed, happier, less stressed, and and sleeping better. Even though you’re surrounded by some pretty amazing(ly rich) foods, enjoy them in moderation; healthier choices  give you energy, make you feel better about yourself, and sleep better too. Sleep enough– 7 to 8 hours at least every night- that means you may have to make a schedule and stick to it. Being tired won’t help your thought process. Know that it’s OK to talk to someone if you need too (being honest with loved ones helps me tremendously).

Although You are pretty darn amazing, it’s good to know your limits and respect yourself by respecting those boundaries.

Best of luck as you enter the week (and the challenges) ahead!

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