A lack of sleep leads to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
Just ten minutes of mindfulness helps the mind and body recover from sleep deprivation, new research finds.
Failing to get 7-8 hours sleep per night is linked to memory problems, inability to make plans, poor decision-making and a general brain fog.
But mindfulness has a remarkable restorative effect.
Ten minutes of mindfulness during the day is enough to compensate for 44 minutes of lost sleep at night, the study of entrepreneurs found.
Here are some mindfulness exercises that are easy to fit into your day.
Dr Charles Murnieks, the study’s first author, said:
“You can’t replace sleep with mindfulness exercises, but they might help compensate and provide a degree of relief.
As little as 70 minutes a week, or 10 minutes a day, of mindfulness practice may have the same benefits as an extra 44 minutes of sleep a night.”
The study followed 105 entrepreneurs, 40% of whom were working 50 hours per week or more and sleeping less than six hours a night.
The results showed that entrepreneurs who engaged in more mindfulness were less exhausted.
A second study of a further 329 entrepreneurs also found that mindfulness could offset the damaging effects of sleep deprivation.
However, mindfulness only works in this context when people are low on sleep.
Some people are getting enough sleep, but still feel exhausted.
Dr Murnieks said:
“If you’re feeling stressed and not sleeping, you can compensate with mindfulness exercises to a point.
But when you’re not low on sleep, mindfulness doesn’t improve those feelings of exhaustion.”
Mindfulness helps to reduce stressors before they lead to exhaustion.
For entrepreneurs and others with long working hours, mindfulness can be beneficial.
Dr Murnieks said:
“There are times when you’re launching a new venture that you’re going to have to surge.
Mindfulness exercises may be one way to provide some relief during those tough stretches.”
The study was published in the Journal of Business Venturing (Murnieks et al., 2019).
January 6, 2021
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004.
9 Things Sleep Doctors Would Never Do At Night Before Going To Bed
Experts reveal which bedtime habits to avoid if you want to feel rested in the morning.
“Even though nighttime might seem like the perfect time to catch up on the latest COVID-19 information or the presidential race, we should try to avoid things that can cause anxiety before bed. Unfortunately, nowadays the news is filled with things that can cause worry and other unwanted emotions that you definitely want to avoid if you are hoping to get a good night’s sleep. The news, in some ways, keeps people up late at night the same way that a horror movie can. Images and information regarding violence or fear stimulate your mind preventing you from having a smooth transition into sleep.” — Raj Dasgupta, associate professor of clinical medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine
“With the COVID-19 pandemic, a significant proportion of our population is working from home these days, and as such, your home has become your office. You want to avoid at all costs working from your bed, however, as you want to maintain the relationship with the brain that the bed is only for two things — sleep and sex.
As you do more and more mentally stimulating activities in bed, the brain slowly develops a psychological association of the bed being a place to stay awake rather than sleep. This, in turn, can trigger people to develop sleep-onset insomnia. Your house is already your office, so during these difficult times, use the bed as your sanctuary — a place to relax, escape work and sleep.” ― Ruchir P. Patel, medical director of the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Exercise in the morning or during the daytime can go a long way to helping improve insomnia symptoms at night, but exercise late in the day can be counterproductive. Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.” ― Stacey Gunn, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Try your hardest to avoid a heated conversation with your significant other before bed. As the saying goes, never go to bed angry, or bad feelings will harden into resentment. There is research to support the idea that negative emotional memories are harder to reverse after a night’s sleep.
Plus, anger is a huge turn-off. If you do this repeatedly, it creates an unhealthy pattern, and destroys potential opportunities for sexual intimacy. Confrontations lead to a stress response, which is exactly opposite of what you want if you’re trying to fall asleep easily. It’s important to create a peaceful environment for you and your partner to have a good night’s sleep. Instead of fighting, maybe snuggle up together and watch ‘Love Actually,’ one of my personal favorites.” — Dasgupta
“Avoid drinking any caffeinated drinks past 2 p.m. Caffeinated drinks —including coffee, soda, iced tea, pre-work out drinks or energy drinks — act as a stimulant. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors — and adenosine [plays a role in] sleep homeostasis.” — Anupama Ramalingam, sleep medicine physician at the Insomnia and Sleep Institute of Arizona
“Some people end up self-medicating with a nightcap, because it does help them to fall asleep more easily at the beginning of the night. But I recommend against it because it causes the sleep architecture to be disrupted later on, resulting in poor quality sleep. If I do have a drink in the evening, I try to separate it from bedtime, and give the alcohol a chance to clear out of my system before going to sleep.” ― Gunn
“Many people try to exercise at night with the goal of ‘wearing themselves out,’ but are inadvertently making it harder for themselves to fall asleep.”
7. They don’t use electronic devices (without a blue light filter).
“In sleep and circadian science, we use the term ‘zeitgeber’ — or ‘time giver’ — to describe environmental cues that help us entrain to a 24-hour cycle. Light is the most powerful zeitgeber that signals the brain to stay awake. Prolonged exposure to bright light around bedtime keeps us awake and reduces the amount of sleep we get. Exposure to light at night also suppresses the brain’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that is released in response to darkness and helps us to fall asleep.” ― Anita Shelgikar, clinical associate professor of neurology and director of the sleep medicine fellowship at the University of Michigan
“I was reminded during a fishing trip to the Outer Banks [in North Carolina] with my nephews of the importance of avoiding artificial light before bedtime. We were forced to use propane lanterns on the island each night as there was no electricity available. Several of the parents on the fishing trip remarked that the darkness had improved their sleep so much that they might pitch the idea of ‘Lantern Tuesday’ to their spouses: A night each week dedicated to reducing light exposure and improving sleep sounds like a great idea to me!
Exposure to bright light suppresses melatonin secretion. Plus, alteration of the circadian rhythm (or the daily rhythmic sleep-wake cycle) by nocturnal light exposure may contribute to cardiovascular and metabolic disease. What sort of practical steps can one take to avoid bright light? Dim the lights in the home except for a few lamps several hours before bed.” — William J. Healy, assistant professor of medicine and director of sleep quality improvement at Augusta University.
“Many of our patients will give themselves a 10-hour sleep window but realistically are only asleep for six to eight hours. Please do not spend more time in bed than you really need. All the extra time in bed awake results in your brain starting to develop an association that the bed is a place to be awake and also sleep. But this, in turn, can result in disruption of your sleep drive and thus result in poor sleep efficiency and sleep quality.” — Patel
Well with the forecast in mind, snow, wind, and all the things associated with it, I have to ask: Are you ready for winter?
The ten foot snow banks, the blizzards, the -38 C wind chills, the bad roads and everything else that I’d rather not even think about right now?
Hold on a second.
You might have assumed I was talking about the physical requirements to get through yet another Winnipeg winter, but I wasn’t. We all go through it every year right? Winter clothes are in good shape? Check. The furnace is in good working order? Check. Got the winter tires on? Check.
Sure all those things are necessary to get by in the six month Manitoba deep freeze, but what about mental preparation?
I never used to think about that very much because you just dealt with it, you handled it. You knew what to expect and you managed it accordingly.
However I’ve had a pretty serious bout with mental health fairly recently so I’ve developed a different perspective from the psychological side of things.
Winter can be a daunting foe and if you’re not prepared to get through it mentally, it could lead to some fairly serious issues like depression. I mean really, how uplifting is it to hear the high today is -33 C with the wind chill right?
When you hear the word depression you might think, “well, toughen up buttercup,” but sometimes it’s just not that easy and it could go much deeper than you or anyone else thinks.
Aside from the obvious drawbacks of the long winter season there could be other factors in play for the person (perhaps you or a person close to you) affected, whatever they happen to be.
Job loss, ongoing anxiety issues, relationship break up, death in the family, financial issues etc. they can all enter into it and with one more factor like winter coming into the mix, things could go from bad to worse pretty quickly.
So how can a person mentally prepare for a season?
Well here’s a guy. Richard Wurtman, M.D., is the Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a Professor of Neuroscience in MIT’s Department of Brain & Cognitive Sciences, and of Neuropharmacology in the Harvard – MIT Division of Health Sciences & Technology. (Enough for you?)
Here’s what he says about your winter mood:
“The long hours of darkness and short hours of light affect serotonin, the brain chemical that keeps us in a good mood and turns off our appetite. Serotonin is the body’s natural mood booster, and levels plunge (along with mood) as it gets dark.”
Ok, so what do we do about it?
Well, a Canadian research group headed by Dr. Robert Levitan senior scientist at the Campbell Family mental health research institute in Toronto have discovered that 30 minutes of light therapy daily during the winter months worked just as well as Prozak to ease depression and the symptoms associated with it. Not only that, they found the light therapy started to work faster than the drug regimen, one week vs two to four weeks.
I have a friend who uses one of those “sun lamps” every day in the winter. It just sits on her desk, she turns it on for however long and she claims her mood (along with her office) is much brighter than it’s been in recent years. She swears by it. I was of course skeptical so I started looking into it and yep, she was right.
After all, who am I to dispute the claims of doctors and researchers who’ve worked for years to finally be able to publish results like this?
Experts also suggest, and I know this going to sound cliché, to eat well, exercise, get the proper amount of sleep, do things that make you happy and develop an outlet, whatever it happens to be. Playing a musical instrument, writing in a journal, learning a new language, whatever you can put energy into and get positive results out of.
I will also always say, especially considering recent events in my life, you should always consult with a medical professional if you’re experiencing dark moods and strange changes in behavior. Just getting the reassurance you need about whatever it may be will most likely start to make you feel better.
PS: those sun therapy lamps I was talking about? You can pretty much get them anywhere. Wal-mart, Costco, Bed Bath and Beyond etc or just order one online. They range in price from about $50 to $300 CAD.
- You can “rewire” your brain to be happy by simply recalling 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days.
- Hardest question to answer: “Describe yourself?”
- People who are exposed to bright light early in the morning tend to be more alert throughout the day.
- The difference between caramel and butterscotch is butterscotch contains brown sugar instead of white. Toffee is butterscotch cooked longer.
- Most of the problems in your life are due to two reasons: you act without thinking, or think without acting.
- The mango is the most popular fruit in the world. It also helps against cancer, clears skin and lowers cholesterol.
- Human bones are 31% water.
- Happiness is increased when tangible goals like “making someone smile” are made.
- Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.Crying releases extra stress hormones, which is why you feel better after doing so.
By: Elise Moreau June 4, 2016 Follow Elise at @elisem0reau
Most people are aware of the importance of vitamin D for good health and that it comes from the sun in its natural form. And many know that the light from our electronic devices can mess with their ability to sleep at night. But did you know that your exposure to bright light — perhaps natural or artificial — may even be powerful enough to alter your metabolism?
In a recent study conducted by Northwestern University, 19 adults were exposed to bright, blue-enriched light for three hours each in the morning and in the evening over a four-day period. Hunger, metabolic function and physiological arousal were tracked and the results were compared against the results for exposure to dim light.
All participants were exposed to dim light in their waking hours over the first two days. On the third day, half of the participants were exposed to bright light in the morning while the other half were exposed to bright light in the evening.
What the researchers found was that bright light in both the morning and evening hours increased insulin resistance — the body’s inability to move glucose out of the bloodstream to use for energy. Insulin resistance can cause weight gain and increase the risk of diabetes.
The researchers also found that when the participants were exposed to bright light in the evening, higher peak glucose (blood sugar) levels were detected. And in a related study conducted previously by Northwestern researchers, they had found that people who were exposed to the majority of their light before midday weighed less than people who were exposed to the majority of their light after midday.
This is the first time these results have been seen in humans, although researchers at this point can’t say why light exposure has the impact it does on our bodies. Previous studies conducted on mice that were exposed to light over a consistent period of time showed higher glucose levels and weight gain compared to mice in a control group.
These findings suggest that the amount of light, and what time of day we’re exposed to it, has a direct impact on our health. This would certainly include all the light we surround ourselves with these days that come from our electronic devices — from smartphones and tablets to television monitors and laptops. If you spend all evening around glowing screens, which we already know is bad for your body’s internal sleep clock, it could very well be partially to blame for why you may be having trouble shedding those few extra pounds.
The good news about this and future related research is that we may be able to find out more about how we might be able to use light to manipulate metabolic function. But for now, it’s probably safe to say that altering your morning and evening routines so that exposing yourself to light earlier in the day will be far better for your overall health than exposing yourself to much of it later on in the day.
Findings like these serve as just another good and healthy excuse to ditch the devices in the evening hours and do something a little more productive, enjoyable or just plain relaxing. Your mind and body deserve it.
What is Seasonal Depression?
(Also Called ‘SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder)’, ‘Seasonal Depression’)
Seasonal depression, often called seasonal affective disorder (SAD), is a depression that occurs each year at the same time, usually starting in fall, worsening in winter, and ending in spring. It is more than just “the winter blues” or “cabin fever.” A rare form of SAD, known as “summer depression,” begins in late spring or early summer and ends in fall.
What are the symptoms of seasonal affective disorder?
People who suffer from SAD have many of the common signs of depression, including:
- loss of interest in usual activities
- withdrawal from social activities
- inability to concentrate
- extreme fatigue and lack of energy
- a “leaden” sensation in the limbs
- increased need for sleep
- craving for carbohydrates, and accompanying weight gain.
Symptoms of summer SAD include:
- weight loss
- agitation and restlessness
- trouble sleeping
- decreased appetite
How common is SAD?
Approximately one half million of the U.S. population suffers from winter SAD, while 10 to 20 percent may suffer from a more mild form of winter blues. Three-quarters of the sufferers are women, and the onset typically is early adulthood. SAD also can occur in children and adolescents. Older adults are less likely to experience SAD.
This illness is more commonly seen in people who live in cloudy regions or at high latitudes (geographic locations farther north or south of the equator). Individuals who relocate to higher latitudes are more prone to SAD.
What causes seasonal affective disorder?
The exact cause of this condition is not known, but evidence to date strongly suggests that—for those with an inherent vulnerability—SAD is triggered by changes in the availability of sunlight. One theory is that with decreased exposure to sunlight, the internal biological clock that regulates mood, sleep, and hormones is shifted. Exposure to light may reset the biological clock.
Another theory is that brain chemicals that transmit information between nerves, called neurotransmitters (for example, serotonin), may be altered in individuals with SAD. It is believed that exposure to light can correct these imbalances.
How can I tell if I have seasonal affective disorder?
It is very important that you do not diagnose yourself. If you have symptoms of depression, see your doctor for a thorough assessment. Sometimes physical problems can cause depression. But other times, symptoms of SAD are part of a more complex psychiatric problem. A mental health professional typically can evaluate your pattern of symptoms and identify whether you have SAD or another type of mood disorder.
How is seasonal affective disorder treated?
Research now shows that phototherapy, also known as bright light therapy, is an effective treatment for SAD. Sometimes antidepressant medicine is used alone or in combination with light therapy. Spending time outdoors during the day can be helpful, as well as maximizing the amount of sunlight you’re exposed to at home and in the office.
What is light therapy? Is it safe?
Light therapy, sometimes called phototherapy, is administered by a device that contains white fluorescent light tubes covered with a plastic screen to block ultraviolet rays. The intensity of light emitted (Lux) should be 10,000 Lux. The patient does not need to look directly into the light, but reads or eats while sitting in front of the device at a distance of 2 to 3 feet.
Light therapy is generally safe and well tolerated. However, there are some contraindications (e.g., conditions such as diabetes or retinopathies, certain medications) because of the potential risk of damage to the retina of the eye. Bright light therapy can cause hypomanic or manic symptoms; therefore, individuals with bipolar affective disorder require medical supervision to use light therapy.
Side effects of light therapy include:
- eye strain
At what time of the day and for how long should I use light therapy?
The timing of light therapy appears to affect the treatment response. Recent studies suggest that morning light therapy is more effective than evening treatments. Using this treatment too late in the day may produce insomnia. Many health professionals today prefer to treat SAD with 10,000 Lux for 15 to 30 minutes every morning. Patients often see improvement within two to four days, and reach full benefits within two weeks. The symptoms of SAD return quickly after light therapy is stopped, so light treatment should be continued throughout the entire season of low sunlight.
Even though they generate enough light, tanning beds should not be used to treat SAD. The amount of ultraviolet (UV) rays they produce is harmful to the skin and eyes.
Can I prevent the onset of seasonal affective disorder?
If you think you have symptoms of SAD, see your doctor for a thorough examination. Your doctor will want to make sure that these symptoms are not caused by another psychiatric condition or major medical illness.
If you have been diagnosed with SAD, here are some things you can do to help prevent it from coming back:
- Begin using a light box at the start of the fall season, even before you feel the onset of winter SAD.
- Try to spend some amount of time outside every day, even when it’s very cloudy. The effects of daylight are still beneficial.
- Eat a well-balanced diet and include sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals as recommended by the FDA. This will help you have more energy even though your body is craving starchy and sweet foods.
- Try exercising for 30 minutes a day, three times a week.
- Stay involved with your social circle and regular activities. This can be a tremendous means of support during winter months.
- Consider consulting a mental health professional trained in cognitive behavior therapy, which has been demonstrated as an effective treatment for SAD.
- Talk to your doctor about antidepressant medication if your symptoms are severe or persist despite interventions such as bright light therapy.
If your symptoms become severe and you or someone you know are having thoughts of suicide, call your doctor right away or go to the nearest emergency room.
American Psychiatric Association. Seasonal Affective Disorder Accessed 11/11/2013.
American Academy of Family Physicians. Seasonal Affective Disorder Accessed 11/11/2013.
National Institute of Mental Health. Properly Timed Light, Melatonin Lift Winter Depression by Syncing Rhythms Accessed 11/12/2013.
How to steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap
By Natalie Ruskin, CBC News Posted: May 08, 2015
CBC Health spoke with registered dietitian Cara Rosenbloom and naturopath Hilary Booth.
Choose your lunch wisely
What you eat for lunch directly impacts how you feel later in the afternoon. Many people eat a high carbohydrate lunch but don’t include enough protein. You’ll experience a slump and feel more fatigue later if you’re just eating carbs. Protein is the nutrient that makes you feel fuller longer and also helps carbs break down more slowly so that you feel energized longer.
When you choose your lunch, consider including a good source of protein such as lean chicken, fish or tofu. Try to include a healthy source of fat, like avocado or almonds. And equally important, select complex carbs like brown rice or sweet potatoes to provide sustained energy rather than white rice or refined carbs like pasta or bread.
Plan ahead for snacks
Steer clear of the late afternoon coffee and cookie trap by preparing your snack in anticipation of the slump. We automatically crave sugar when we feel depleted because sugar provides instant energy. For a snack that sustains energy and delivers better nutrition, think along the lines of raisins with almonds, Greek yogurt with fruit, or hummus with vegetables.
Increase your water intake
Hydrate! People often confuse hunger cravings with actual thirst. Staying hydrated helps you avoid that sleepy feeling. Adequate water intake is important for cognitive performance, weight loss and chronic disease prevention among other benefits. Make a cup of tea or enjoy water with cucumber, lemon or mint. Keep the beverage unsweetened.
There is not a single level of water intake that can be recommended for everyone: the amount depends on several factors such as metabolism and environmental conditions. What’s important is to remember your body needs water so don’t neglect this vital fluid.
Get outside and move your body
Sitting indoors all day drains energy. Make sure to get up and stretch every hour — stand up during phone calls or do a few stretches at your desk. Step outside even for five minutes to get some fresh air and take a walk. Fresh air, natural light and movement improves cardiovascular and cognitive function so that when you’re back in the office you’ll be more energized and creative.
What is it about natural light that makes us feel better? Direct sunlight exposure increases vitamin D which improves mood. The Canadian Cancer Society suggests that a “few minutes a day of unprotected sun exposure is usually all some people need to get enough vitamin D.”