News Roundup: Consequences of Sleep Deprivation

The negative effects of sleep deprivation are plentiful. Ranging from grogginess to changes in the stress hormone cortisol, not getting enough sleep takes a toll on the human body. The results of a recent study conducted by UC Berkley show that sleep deprivation can also inhibit our ability to accurately interpret facial expressions. 

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to the consequences of not getting enough sleep.

The Walking Dead. The New Yorker. “While we all suffer from sleep inertia (a general grogginess and lack of mental clarity), the stickiness of that inertia depends largely on the quantity and quality of the sleep that precedes it. If you’re fully rested, sleep inertia dissipates relatively quickly. But, when you’re not, it can last far into the day, with unpleasant and even risky results….The result is a kind of constant jet lag—and one that is exacerbated by sleeping in on the weekends. Executive function and emotional responses get worse, hurting everything from judgment to emotional reactivity. The ability to make good decisions can suffer, and kids can become more prone to act out and get depressed.”

5 Ways An All-Nighter Messes With Your Body — & How To Bounce BackRefinery 29. “In the experiment, 15 participants (all men, unfortunately), all got one full night of sleep and one sleep-deprived night. After staying up all night, the participants' cortisol levels and genetic markers were out of whack, indicating that a single night without snoozing can cause big-level changes.”

The sleep-deprived brain can mistake friends for foes.  Berkley News. “A new UC Berkeley study shows that sleep deprivation dulls our ability to accurately read facial expressions. This deficit can have serious consequences, such as not noticing that a child is sick or in pain, or that a potential mugger or violent predator is approaching.”

A Shocking Number Of Us Are Sleep-Deprived. Here's Why.  Huffington Post. “Recently The Huffington Post teamed up with Parade magazine to find out how many Americans are sleep deprived and the possible habits that could be robbing them of valuable shut-eye. After 15,000 responses rolled in for the collaborative survey, we did the math and found out that more than 95 percent of responses wish they got more sleep -- and more than a third of them are logging five hours or less each night….The good news? The survey also revealed that almost every single participant said that they are somewhat or very willing to make lifestyle changes that would benefit their sleep quantity and quality in the long run.”

 

5 Scientifically Backed Ways that you can Benefit from Mindfulness

May is deemed “Mindful May” in order to bring awareness to mindfulness and the many mental and physical benefits that can be experienced by those who practice it. Simply put, mindfulness is moment-to-moment awareness. It is cultivated by purposefully paying attention to things we ordinarily do on "auto pilot".  Mindfulness is a systematic approach to our own inner capacities for relaxation, paying attention, awareness, and insight. These capacities not only help us change our behavior and habits, but can significantly enhance our quality of life. Let’s take a look at what science tells us.

  1. Mindfulness can improve resilience among active duty soldiers. The results of a University of Miami study demonstrated that just 8 hours of mindfulness training over an 8 week pre-deployment period, was effective at preventing mind-wandering and attentional lapses. The brief mindfulness meditation exercise practices were aimed at staying focused on the present moment. Soldiers who practiced mindfulness before being deployed performed better on attention and cognitive performance tests while downrange. These measures were tested using the Sustained Attention to Response Task (SART), a test that measures attentional lapses and mind wandering. Overall, the data from this study suggests that mindfulness training performed pre-deployment can help active-duty soldiers prepare for combat and improve performance and cognitive resilience.
  2. Mindfulness Meditation can help you fall asleep and stay asleep faster. The results of a University of Southern California study suggests that mindfulness meditation can improve sleep quality for older adults with sleep disturbances, including trouble falling or staying asleep, or feeling sleepy during the day. The study compared two groups.  One group did mindfulness awareness practices for 2 hours each week, for 6 weeks. The other group underwent a sleep hygiene education course for 2 hours each week, for 6 weeks. The results show that the mindfulness group showed significant improvements in their ability to fall and stay asleep relative to the group that underwent the sleep hygiene education course. The group that underwent the mindfulness intervention also experienced reductions in certain sleep-related daytime symptoms of sleep loss, including anxiety, stress, depression, and inflammatory markers often associated with sleep deprivation.
  3. Mindfulness meditation can help slow the signs of cognitive decline related to aging. According to a study from the UCLA Brain Mapping Center, meditation may help preserve gray matter in the brain (the tissue where cognition occurs and memories are stored) in participants ranging from 24-77 years old. The study compared brain scans of two groups of people:  one group who had mediated for an average of 20 years and the other group who did not meditate. The meditating group experience smaller reductions in gray matter than the non-meditating group. Although the correlation between preserved gray matter and meditation does not prove that meditating directly caused the gray matter preservation (other factors such as diet likely also play a role), meditation appears to be one factor that can help slow age related cognitive decline.  
  4. Mindfulness training can help children improve math and social skills. The results of a study done in British Columbia showed that 4th and 5th grade students who practiced mindfulness had 15% better math skills. The study compared two groups of children. One group completed a 4 month mindfulness program. The other group received 4 months of a social responsibility program (the standard for Canadian public schools). Compared to the social responsibility group, the mindfulness program group also showed 24% more social behaviors, were 24% less aggressive, and perceived themselves as 20% more prosocial. The results of this study suggest that mindfulness training can help school age children with cognitive control, stress levels, emotional control, optimism, empathy, mindfulness, and aggression.
  5. Mindful eating can help you reach and maintain a healthy weight. There is ample research on the positive effects of eating mindfully and weight. Research has not only shown that mindful eating can help reduce mindless eating (eating without paying attention), it can also help reduce the occurrence of over eating due to oversized portions. Research has also indicated that mindfulness can help reduce obesity and aid weight losstreat eating disorders, and type II diabetes, to name a few.

If you’re interested in learning more about mindfulness, check out the May edition of Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Arsenal, which is focused on mindfulness and offers more mindfulness resources.

 

News Roundup: Sleep Awareness Week 2015

March 2-8 is Sleep Awareness Week. Sleep week brings to attention the importance of getting enough sleep for both mental and physical health.  Additionally, sleep week  offers many tips for getting both a better quality and quantity of sleep.

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts discussing Sleep Awareness Week 2015.

How to Get on a Sleep Schedule.  Sleep.org.  “You won’t be able to change your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, your body will have an easier time adjusting.”

Improve Sleep to Improve HealthHuffington Post. “Regularly getting a full night's sleep can reap many health benefits, including weight loss and stress management. In contrast, getting too little sleep can cause us to eat more than we normally would and increase our tendency to choose unhealthy, higher calorie foods, according to The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Not surprisingly, this pattern can lead to weight gain.”

The solution to most sleeping problems: mindfulnessQuartz.  “Counter-intuitively, the way that mindfulness may influence sleep is not directly through relaxation—because mindfulness is about waking the body up and becoming more aware. By learning to become more aware of present-moment experiences, we learn not to react to thoughts and worries that can interfere with sleep.”

How Much Sleep Should You Get? New Recommendations ReleasedLiveScience. “Too little sleep has been linked with health problems, including obesity and high blood pressure, as well as decreased productivity and drowsy driving, the NSF says. Too much sleep has been linked with health conditions as well, including heart disease and premature death.”

Your Brain on Sleep

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Sleep is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and the Army Performance Triad. Signs of sleep deficiency such as lack of energy and concentration are usually pretty apparent. However, research has demonstrated the negative effects of sleep loss extend much further than feeling a little tired. Sleep plays a crucial role in both mental and physical performance. Without the proper amount of sleep, the body is prone to injury, fatigue, stress, muscle weakness, and poor focus. In fact, the body declines in physical performance by 25% every 24 hours that it is deprived of sleep. Conversely, a fully rested body can think more clearly, make better decisions, and perform at a physically optimal level.

Sleep and Mental Performance

Memory

During sleep, the brain consolidates long-term memory into storage, removing the short-term memory stores to allow for the absorption of more information. Being well-rested also improves working memory.

Mood

A lack of sleep can increase irritability and mood swings. A general absence of emotion can also result from not getting enough sleep. During sleep, the body releases hormones. Premature waking can disrupt the delivery of these hormones, causing moodiness.

Focus and Concentration

Having a full night of rest increases the brain’s ability to concentrate. Sleep also improves alertness and reaction times.

Multitasking

During sleep, the brain prioritizes information. Sleep is also important in the formation of new ideas and the ability to multitask.

Logical Reasoning

Without sleep, it is harder for the brain to perform higher level cognitive functions, such as mathematical concepts. A well-rested brain is able to reason and think more clearly.

Sleep and Physical Performance

Energy and endurance

Sleep increases energy stores in the body used to fuel physical activity and exercise.  Without enough sleep, insulin resistance and a decrease in glucose tolerance occurs. This means the body cannot readily utilize fuel for physical activity as efficiently as when it gets a full night’s sleep.

Muscle recovery

During sleep, the body is able to recover and repair damaged muscles and bones.

Stress

Sleep reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Without enough sleep, cortisol levels increase, which can lead to slowed healing, increased risk of injury, and poor memory.

Accuracy and reaction time

Sleep can also improve brain function, which helps improve accuracy and reaction time related to focus and athletic performance.

Bottom Line

Sleep loss impairs both mental and physical performance. After 24 hours without sleep, mental and motor skills are impaired at the same level as someone with a blood-alcohol content of 0.10-legally drunk in all 50 states. For those who are struggling with sleep or simply not prioritizing it to the top of their list, start by setting some simple goals tonight!

Try to keep these sleep practices on a regular basis:*

· Create a sleep-conducive environment that is dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool.

· Practice a relaxing bedtime ritual (such as a hot bath).

· Avoid naps, especially in the afternoon.

· Avoid caffeine, alcohol, cigarettes, and heavy meals in the evening.

· Wind down. Spend the last hour before bed doing a calming activity such as reading.

 

*Resource: The National Sleep Foundation

Army H.E.A.L.T.H. and the Performance Triad

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As introduced in a previous Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog post, the fundamental components of the Performance Triad are nutrition, activity, and sleep. Emphasis has been placed on these three elements due to their ability to impact mental and physical performance. Interested Soldiers and their family members can utilize the tools on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. website/mobile app to aide in the practical application of these three essential elements to their lifestyle.

How? Army H.E.A.L.T.H. works in conjunction with the Triad to offer custom nutrition and fitness plans in addition to sleep material specifically designed for military personnel. Whether looking for a new exciting fitness routine, or ideas for healthy, energizing meals, Army H.E.A.L.T.H. is the bridge that connects the Performance Triad to Soldiers and their family members.

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Eating a healthy diet is imperative for maintaining peak physical and mental performance. Soldiers face their own unique set of environmental factors that may either help or discourage healthy eating practices. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers make the right dietary choices. The custom meal planner provides a detailed list of foods tailored for an individual’s specific requirements. For those with specific food preferences or needs, foods can easily be removed or modified.

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Most Soldiers share the common goal of maintaining a high level of physical fitness. However, no two Soldiers have the exact same fitness needs, routines, equipment, etc. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. can help Soldiers achieve their fitness goals by providing a custom made fitness plan according to each person’s individual goals. The fitness plan provides a detailed exercise routine that is made specifically for each individual. Exercises are easily removed or modified to accommodate for injury or lack of equipment. The Army H.E.A.L.T.H. Fitness planner even takes each Soldier’s next scheduled APFT into consideration when creating a new plan.

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Most service members know that it is recommended to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night…a recommendation that is often easier said than done. In the Army, lack of sleep often results from operational requirements or high-operations tempo training. Army H.E.A.L.T.H. provides information regarding how to improve sleep quality and quantity under the most difficult, military specific situations. Resources are also provided for working with commanders and peers to ensure that Soldiers are enabled to get enough sleep and, therefore, function optimally.