Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Marijana

She would be a morning person if mornings started at noon. Art historian, taurus, coffee lover, traveler, F1 fan who hates to drive, and well experienced insomniac with one life goal, to sleep like a coala for up to 20 hours per day.

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

 

 

What are all the things you are willing to do to improve your grades? Sure, you have to sit down and study, but what if we tell you that improving your sleep will make everything else fall into place?

Perhaps this sounds too easy, but trust us, it is not. In fact, fixing unhealthy sleep habits may be harder than acing your next big test. Indeed, sleep problems among young adults are a serious concern because they pose a threat not just to academic performance, but also overall health and wellbeing. 

The idea here is that sleep helps us learn, so if you are ready to get to the bottom of the problem and enhance your academic performance, stay tuned because we have all the information, tips, and tricks you need.

What Is Keeping Students Up At Night?

Sure, parties would be pretty much everyone’s first assumption, and sometimes they are the reason why many students are not getting enough sleep. But how many people actually party every single night?

The reality is that many students work after class, do sports, or are members of various university societies and have a rich social life. Many students also stay up late to study. All those activities leave little to no time for a regular sleep schedule.

On the other hand, college life is stressful, and many students do not know how to cope with all the ongoing changes in their life, especially freshmen. Thus, it is not rare that some derived problems like anxiety and depression are behind sleep deprivation in young adults. 

Whether students are trying to catch up on their busy schedules at night, studying late, or just scrolling through Instagram, these habits can very quickly turn into a harmful pattern and disrupt sleep for good. And it all reflects on academic success. 

 

How Important Is Sleep for College Students?

Although it is not always on the top of their priority list, sleep is essential for students. A good night’s sleep allows our brains to reset, and improves our memory and concentration.

Lack of sleep can impact productivity, cause mood swings, irritability, daytime sleepiness, impair memory and cognitive abilities, and lead to anxiety and other mental problems. In addition, poor sleep weakens our immune system and makes us more prone to viruses and inflammations.

As you may have guessed by now, these deleterious effects associated with sleep deprivation and poor sleep quality have a profound impact on students’ ability to focus and to perform at school.

 

So, How Sleep Impacts Grades?

A study conducted during 2007 and 2008 followed sleep habits and GPA results of 1,845 students of one public university, to answer the question whether sleep can influence their academic performance.

The vast majority of students who participated in this survey considered themselves as more “evening” type of people. This is interesting because circadian preference (also known as chronotype) may also impact sleep habits and daily performance.

Regarding sleep disturbances, the results of the study showed that more than 500 students, around 27% of them, were at a higher risk of developing at least one sleep disorder. While the prevalence of nightmares and sleepwalking was low, the rates for insomnia were extremely high. In terms of gender, there were no significant differences in risk for hypersomnia or obstructive sleep apnea. But it turned out that female students were at higher risk for insomnia, nightmares, restless leg syndrome, and affective disorder.

When it comes to sleep duration, on average, students slept for 6,5 hours during workdays, and 9,3 hours during weekends, holidays, or on the days when they do not have classes. Around 40% of them claimed that they do not worry at all about their sleep length, while only 19% of students claimed that they do worry whether they are going to sleep enough or not.

How does all this relate to academic performance? The statistical tests that the authors used used to address the impact of sleep disorders on students’ GPA scores revealed that those who did not report any sleep disorder had higher scores. Interestingly, GPA scores were better among those students who considered themselves early birds, in comparison to night owls.

In most cases, average GPA scores correlated with the number of sleep hours. Those who generally sleep more before school had higher grades. The study also showed that students who were at a higher risk of insomnia or OSA also were at risk of academic probation. 

It seems clear from this and other studies that neglecting sleep is clearly a bad idea if you want to do well in school.

How to Establish a Healthy Sleep Routine

We mentioned before that fixing your sleep might be harder than fixing your grades, but one hardly goes without another, so if you want to perform better, you first have to put your bedtime routine back in order.

How much sleep do I need? According to most scientists, approximately 7-8 hours of proper sleep per night is enough for younger adults. However, getting this much sleep may be hard because, of course, you have places to be and things to do.

However, you have to set your priorities, so let’s see what you can do to start sleeping better and eventually perform better and feeling healthier overall

 

Sleep Tips for College Students

First, and probably the hardest thing. Try going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. Not too late, not too early. Since we all have different schedules, we will leave it up to you to pick the time, just keep in mind that you should sleep for approximately 8 hours.

Plan your meals, and avoid eating late at night or right before bedtime. Also, forget about drinking caffeine in late afternoon hours. Caffeine stays in our system hours after consumption, and it is one of the main sleep disruptors.

Limit your screen time around bedtime. This is a hard one, too, because students spend a lot of time on their laptops and phones. Just try to stay offline and off-screen for at least one hour prior to your bedtime!

If you are not tired around bedtime, try working out, jogging, or walking outside, anything that will make you crave a bit of a snooze. Bear in mind, however, that you should void strong artificial lights around bedtime.

If you live in a college dorm or you have roommates, it is probably noisy all the time. Use earplugs to isolate yourself from the surroundings, and an eye mask to block any source of light. Among essentials are also a comfortable pillow and a mattress for college students.

 

Learning How to Sleep

Kids learn a lot of things at college, but no one teaches them about the importance of sleeping during those “wild” years. So besides learning about literature, physics, or law, students should also learn to follow a regular sleep schedule and avoid the side effects of irregular sleep/wake patterns.

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Dusan

Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

 

 

Stress, mood swings, fatigue, rapid weight gain, headaches, inability to focus, decreased memory, and impaired work performance are just some of the short-term consequences you can experience when you don’t get enough sleep. And long-term sleep deprivation is even worse.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1 in 3 American adults don’t get enough sleep. As a result, every aspect of their lives is impacted.

Are you one of those people? Are you struggling to get enough sleep, but nothing seems to work?

Don’t worry, as we have reviewed a large number of scientific articles to bring you the best possible science-backed tips for getting better sleep.

Watch our video and say goodbye to your sleepless nights!

Why Is Sleep so Important?

Health experts agree that good sleep is one of the foundations for leading a healthy life. Rest is an absolute biological necessity. Regular high-quality, restorative sleep has many benefits, including:

And on the other end of the spectrum, research shows that lack of sleep leads to harmful short-term consequences, including:

And if you don’t improve your sleeping habits, prolonged sleep deprivation can lead to:

As you can see, sleep deprivation is very serious, and you should always aim for better sleep.

So, what can you do to improve your nightly rest?

Science-Based Sleep Tips

Everyone knows that you are supposed to sleep for eight hours every night, but is that really true?

The amount of sleep varies depending on age, and while teens need from 8 to 10 hours, experts suggest that adults should get anywhere between 7 to 9 hours. To make things a bit more complicated, it seems that this isn’t true for everybody.

Moreover, quality of sleep also plays a massive role in how rested you’ll feel the following day. Some studies show that sleep quality may be as equally, if not more important than sleep duration, in the development of many medical conditions.

Although some people are naturally good sleepers and need less resting time to function properly, the chances of this being you are slim. So here is what scientists recommend to improve your sleep and maximize your potential.

Control the Light in Your Environment

You might have heard about the circadian clock that dictates your daily rhythms. This biological clock tells you when it’s time to go to sleep or wake up, and you can adjust it with light exposure.

When we perceive dimmer light in the evening, our brain starts the production of melatonin, which is a hormone responsible for inducing sleep. In the morning, bright light cues the brain that is time to be active, as the production of melatonin stops.

But what happens when you expose yourself to bright light in the evening?

According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, room light exposure before bedtime leads to disruption of melatonin production. In fact, evening room light exposure during regular sleep hours leads to a 50% decrease in melatonin levels.

But that’s not all.

The same study found this light exposure to affect blood pressure, thermoregulation, and glucose homeostasis.

So, make sure to dim the lights once the sun starts setting. You can use smart light bulbs, which can easily be programmed to this automatically. Also, remember that exposing yourself to sunlight during the day is also vital. Besides, studies show that light exposure has positive effects on our mood, alertness, sleep, and overall well-being.

And don’t forget to avoid using all electronics before bed, as screens emit blue light which tricks our brain into thinking it is daytime. Indeed, studies have repeatedly shown the harmful effects of blue light on our nightly rest.

A 2015 study showed that even something as small as swapping your eReader for a good old-fashioned book at night could drastically improve sleep, alertness on the following day, performance, and overall health.

Try to Maintain a Regular Sleeping Schedule

Sleep associations are incredibly strong. Keeping your sleep schedule consistent will teach your nervous system when it is time to eat, rest, and be active, and you will become a more efficient sleeper.

Having an irregular sleep schedule may also lead to disrupted circadian rhythms and melatonin production, as well as poorer academic performance in students.

So, you better follow a sleep schedule and stick to it. Even on weekends!

Limit Alcohol and Caffeine Intake

Sure, you rely on a morning coffee to get you going and keep you productive during the day. But always remember caffeine is a brain stimulant that can mess with your sleep/wake cycle.

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that caffeine consumption has disruptive effects on sleep when consumed less than six hours before bedtime. So keep that in mind the next time you feel like drinking coffee in the afternoon.

And stay away from other sleep-altering substances like alcohol. Although many people think that alcohol helps them sleep, it actually disrupts the production of melatonin and reduces the time spent in deep and REM sleep.

And if your partner has been complaining about your snoring, you should definitely avoid alcohol, as research shows it can make things worse, and may even amplify symptoms of medical conditions such as sleep apnea.

Manage Your Naps

Naps can be your best friend as research shows they can boost wakefulness, productivity, and performance. However, that is if you keep them under 30 minutes only.

When you don’t limit your naps, they can decrease the amount of sleep time during the night, which can disrupt your sleep patterns.

Another common mistake is that people nap too close to bedtime. That makes it harder to fall asleep at night, and it significantly shortens sleep duration.

So next time you feel tired after 4 PM, why don’t you forget about napping and take a short walk outside instead?

Stay Active

There is a good reason why all health experts recommend regular exercise. It is excellent for every aspect of your life!

Among so many health benefits, exercise can also make you a better sleeper.

Research shows a positive correlation between sleep quality and exercise. Regular exercise can decrease sleep onset and increase both sleep duration and time spent in the deepest stages of sleep.

So get that gym membership and start working out.

Consider Taking Melatonin Supplements

Melatonin supplements are a useful treatment option in patients with sleep disorders.

Studies suggest that melatonin has some positive effects in elderly insomnia patients. While receiving melatonin, they exhibited better sleep quality and improved morning alertness, without any withdrawal symptoms after discontinuation of use.

In addition, melatonin supplements can also help people get their circadian rhythms into order. Talk to your healthcare provider, and obtain some information on how you can incorporate these supplements into your evening routine until you get things back on track.

Last Words

Becoming a better sleeper takes some time and persistence, but with these science-based tips, you are off to a good start.

Find things that help you unwind in the evening and stick with your routines.

Did we miss anything?

Is there something that helped you get your sleep to the next level? Let us know in the comment section.

 

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Marijana

She would be a morning person if mornings started at noon. Art historian, taurus, coffee lover, traveler, F1 fan who hates to drive, and well experienced insomniac with one life goal, to sleep like a coala for up to 20 hours per day.

Science-Based Baby Sleep Tips

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

You may have heard the expression: “small kids, small problems”. But if you are the mother or father of a newborn trying to establish a sleep routine, you probably disagree with this. 

During the first months of life, sleep plays a key role in physical and cognitive development. Unfortunately for parents, sleep habits can be quite unpredictable at these ages. After all, babies have shorter sleep cycles and don’t sleep through the night, forcing parents and caregivers to be “on duty” at all times.

Although new parents are aware that many sleepless nights are ahead of them, nothing can prepare them for the consequences of chronic sleep deprivation. In a recent study, parents reported that sleep satisfaction and duration markedly declined in the first months after having their baby. Strikingly, their sleep did not fully recover for up to 6 years after the birth of their first child.

Desperate to get some sleep, parents will try anything to calm down a sleepless, crying baby. Luckily for you, we gathered some of the best tips based on scientific studies.

So, if you want to learn how to sleep train your baby and get some of your sleep back, keep watching this video to see what science has to say about it. 

Adjusting the Internal Clock

Like adults, babies also have biological rhythms (or as we like to call it, the internal clock) for the timing of sleep, temperature, and feeding. As adults, we do not think much about it because our clock is already in sync with the natural outdoor shifts between light and darkness over a circadian, 24-h period.

On the other hand, the internal clock of babies is not fully synchronized or coupled to relevant environmental cues, so it takes a while for babies to adjust to the 24-h sleep-wake rhythm.

In the meantime, you can help your little one differentiate night from day by exposing them to natural daylight during the morning and afternoon hours, and include them in all the daily activities. As the evening falls, it is a good idea to slowly cut off the light, including artificial indoor lighting, and reduce the newborn’s overall activity.

How to Mitigate the Effects of Blue Light

If you start shutting down all indoor sources of light as soon as the sun goes down, you will quickly realize that a total blackout before 10 PM is not a realistic option. Whether you have to work, clean the house, or change the diaper, you still need proper light to move around. Do not panic and do not look for candles because there is a solution.

Parents are often worried about exposing their child to blue light because it can disrupt the baby’s already fragile sleep. But did you know that there are light bulbs that do not emit blue wavelengths? Amber bulbs with low watt can provide enough light, without hindering the baby’s sleep routine.

Another option is to use blue light filters which can be applied to some lamps; by doing so, artificial light is not going to trick your baby’s brain into thinking that it is daytime. 

Bedtime Routine

Sleep associations are very strong. Having a predictable bedtime routine will help your baby to learn when it’s time to doze off.

For a bedtime routine to be successful, it must be extremely consistent and predictable, and should include simple rituals and calming activities that will put your baby in the right mood, every night. The goal here is to make you and your baby feel as relaxed as possible before going to bed. And remember, your baby can sense if you are stressed or not in the best mood; avoid exhibiting negative emotions or signs of stress around bedtime.

Also, consider adjusting your own bedtime routine. Since most babies and toddlers wake up around 6 AM, you could start by going to bed earlier to gain a few hours of extra sleep.

Be Careful With Naps

We all love a good afternoon nap, but babies are absolute champions in daytime napping. Although daytime naps are an essential component of baby sleep, that does not mean that parents should not control their nap schedule.

Parents should spot signs of sleepiness in their children. Babies yawn, fuss, or rub their eyes when they get sleepy, indicating that this would be a good time to nap. If babies are not sleepy around bedtime, that probably means that they are napping longer than they should or that their last nap started late in the afternoon.

You can also try to stretch the baby’s last period of activity during the day as much as possible. Babies will fall asleep much easier (and naps will be longer) when they are tired or have not napped for a while.

Sleep and Let the Baby Sleep, Too

When it comes to taking care of their little darlings, parents can never be too cautious. However, sometimes they tend to quickly react to every sound and movement that their children make.

We all wake up at night sometimes or mumble while sleeping. Partial awakening is common, and babies are not an exception. In the first months of life, babies often struggle to resume their sleep because they have not learned how to soothe themselves yet.

In some cases, babies can make sounds or move in their sleep. When in doubt, you should avoid rushing into your baby since you may disrupt their sweet dreams. So, sometimes it is better to wait a few seconds to hear if the baby will cry or continue to sleep.

Also, allowing babies to overcome these small night waking sleep disruptions on their own will help them learn how to self-settle.

Late Night Meals

Newborns require breastfeeding during the night as well, but it is essential to do so in a manner that will not arouse or wake them up completely.

While breastfeeding at night, parents need to be very gentle and quiet, avoid unnecessary interactions and eye contact with the baby, and keep the room as dark as possible. These tips will make it easier for your baby to go back to sleep.

Sleep Aids and Safety

Sleep-deprived parents will try anything to get their little ones to doze off, so it makes sense that an entire industry is dedicated to developing a variety of sleep aids for babies. From white noise machines to rocking devices, the number of sleep products for babies is numerous, but are they all equally effective or even safe?

You are free to try these aids to improve your baby’s sleep. However, bear in mind that some of these devices may not be safe for the little ones. For example, while white noise machines for babies are becoming highly popular, some of them can produce noise much louder than the recommended noise limits for these ages.

When in doubt, do some research, ask an expert, and never leave your baby around these devices without supervision.

General Safe Sleep Recommendations for the little ones

In the US alone, more than 3,000 infants die from sleep-related deaths every year, including the feared sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations on creating a safe sleep environment include:

Keep Your Expectations Realistic

Parenting is never easy, and it is even harder with babies because there is hardly any feedback from them when you need it the most.

However, new parents quickly learn to identify their childrens’ sleep-wake cycles as they get to know them over time.

The good news is, circadian rhythms and adult-like sleeping patterns will start to develop within the first 2-3 months. In the meantime, you should gain some basic knowledge about your baby’s sleep needs and then try to adhere to the best sleeping schedule. 

And lastly, ask for help!

Sleep is essential for a child’s mental and physical development. But to excel at parenting, you should also pay attention to your own health.

If you need some extra sleep, it is not a bad idea to ask your relatives or close ones to assist with your baby duties. Even a short nap can do wonders for your mind and body.

And remember, you can always talk to your doctor or sleep specialist if you need further advice on how to manage your baby’s sleep routine and take care of your own rest.

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Marijana

She would be a morning person if mornings started at noon. Art historian, taurus, coffee lover, traveler, F1 fan who hates to drive, and well experienced insomniac with one life goal, to sleep like a coala for up to 20 hours per day.

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

 

 

Did a new baby turn your life upside down? Have you become one of those sleep-deprived parents because your baby cannot sleep through the night? Are you looking for a way to put things back in order?

Seek no more, because your sleep problems can be alleviated if you follow our sleep guide. All you need to do to improve you and your baby’s sleep issues is invest a bit of time and effort in sleep training and create a bedtime routine for your little one.

Why is a Bedtime Routine so important?

Babies love routine more than anything. With regard to sleep, a relaxing, consistent bedtime ritual will help your baby understand when it’s time to sleep and will help them doze off more easily.

Newborns can sleep for around 16 hours per day, distributed in shorter sleep bouts throughout the day. By the time they are 3-4 months old, some babies can already connect several hours of sleep, so it is essential that parents start establishing proper bedtime routines so that everyone in the family gets enough sleep.

How to Setup a Routine for a Newborn Baby

The internal clock of babies is not fully synchronized or coupled to relevant environmental or social cues, so it takes a while for them to adjust to the 24-h, circadian sleep-wake rhythm. Also, the sleep-wake cycle will interact with the need for feeding and nurturing. So yes, it will be hard for your newborn baby to follow a strict schedule.

In the meantime, however, you can help your baby differentiate night from day and encourage sleep in the nighttime with the right bedtime rituals.

First and foremost, you should observe their little one’s sleep patterns and learn to identify when they are tired and ready to doze off. Signs of sleepiness include yawning, fussing, or rubbing of the eyes.

During the first weeks, you should let your baby sleep and eat whenever they feel the need, but you can start encouraging nighttime sleep and exposing the baby to bright natural light as soon as the baby wakes up in the morning. Another good idea is to limit playing and arousing activities to the daytime. This will help with the synchronization of their internal biological clocks.

Another important component of establishing a bedtime routine is that babies need to learn how to fall asleep around bedtime alone, and how to soothe themselves if they wake up in the middle of the night. To help them master this important skill, make sure you put the sleepy one down while drowsy -but not asleep-. This way, they will get used to soothe themselves and fall asleep on their own.

And yes, they will definitely complain in the beginning…, so don’t fall for those tears; it’ll get better!

 

0 to 3 Months Old Babies

As your baby gets a bit older, it is good to start making a more detailed bedtime routine, which should include dim lighting in the evening, a warm bath, and feeding.

In the beginning, your baby will probably wake up after a few hours, so do not expect miracles after your first shot.

The goal here is to establish a consistent, soothing bedtime routine. Eventually, babies will start connecting these rituals to bedtime and sleep. When breastfeeding at night, avoid bright light. It is best to use small table lamps or nightlights with blue light filters.                     

And remember, sleep associations are very strong. To guarantee success, make sure your routine has consistent steps, and that it occurs around the same time every day. This will eventually make your baby understand when it is time to doze off.

 

3 to 7 Months

When babies are around three months old, parents can introduce some simple rituals like playing with toys or taking a stroll around the park around bedtime and start introducing a bedtime routine.

However, some babies will still be completely clueless about what their parents are trying to do, so stay patient. At this point, babies can connect five or more hours of sleep, so you have to stick to the routine to ensure that their sleep habits are improving.

By this time, parents will probably be able to recognize some mood changes, and they will know a lot more about the baby’s sleeping and eating habits, so in a way, it will all be at least more predictable.

 

7 to 12 Months

At 7 months, your baby can be sleeping for long stretches at night. Also, your little one should now be ready to adapt and follow a particular eating and sleeping schedule.

By the time they turn one, toddlers are usually able to consolidate the sleep associations established through a bedtime routine. They will understand that after dinner comes bath time, which means that the bedtime is approaching.

However, bear in mind that other challenges like nightmares and resisting going to bed may alter you and your child’s sleeping habits. It is important parents are strict about the established sleep schedule and bedtime routine.

 

Routine Disruptors

Parents beware: Just when you think you have everything under control, some minor impediments may interrupt your carefully curated routine. Children change and grow very rapidly, and their sleep is not an exception. This is why you may need to modify sleep schedule and bedtime routine at different stages of your child’s development.

A family trip, moving houses, unexpected visitors… Many factors can affect your baby’s routine and sleep schedule.

You may not be able to negotiate with your little one just yet, so you may have to wing it and find a new routine that will suit them better.

Once babies are one year or older, they become aware of routines and rules, so they decide to test them. Kids will take every opportunity to test your patience, and if they realize that they can take control of the situation, you are in big trouble.

Vacations and even shorter weekend trips are regular routine disruptors. So when you are traveling, try maintaining the same bedtime routine, and stick to the regular napping and feeding schedules.

Whatever happens, you should not panic if something does not go by plan, or if your bedtime routine gets disrupted once in a while. A few unexpected situations will teach the baby how to be more flexible, adaptive, and tolerant.

 

What is Normal? And What is Not?

You can never be too cautious when raising a baby. However, it is important to know what is and what isn’t healthy in your little one’s behavior.

When it comes to sleep, it is entirely normal for a baby to wake up several times per night. Indeed, nighttime awakenings are common during the first 6 months. Although this may drive most parents crazy… it is what it is!.

As babies and toddlers get older, they may also experience a variety of sleep disturbances, including night terrors, nightmares, or resistance to bedtime. Baby’s behavior and sleep habits tend to vary a lot, so it can be hard to tell whether there is an actual problem.

Sleep is a crucial component of your baby’s mental and physical development. If you suspect that your child may be suffering from sleep problems (like continuously waking up more than three times per night after the first 6 months, or needs more than a half an hour to settle), we encourage you to talk with a pediatrician or sleep specialist about your child’s sleep patterns and habits.

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Dusan

Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

Your baby spends more than half of the first year sleeping. And studies show that this sleep in the first year is crucial for the maturation of the central nervous system (CNS) and future cognitive, psychomotor, and temperament development.

Because sleep is so important for your newborn, it is a good idea to learn what the normal baby cycle looks like so that you can notice if something is off. Early recognition and treatment of sleep problems can do a lot for the future physical and mental health of your child.

So, what does the normal baby sleep cycle look like? How does it change with age?

Watch our video to learn more about the science behind infants’ sleep

What Happens During Sleep Anyway?

It turns out that not all sleep is the same. Indeed, scientists have known for some time know that our sleep is organized in cycles, and each cycle consists of different stages.

In most healthy adults, sleep begins with the so-called non-REM (NREM) sleep, in turn, comprised of several substages. As NREM progresses, our sleep becomes “deeper,” and we become less responsive to external stimulation, being harder and harder for us to wake up. Following NREM sleep is REM sleep, named after the typical “Rapid Eye Movements” that are observed during this stage. In healthy adults, REM takes up to 25% of total sleep, and it is where most of our dreaming activity occurs.

Each part of the sleep cycle is important and plays a unique role in our overall wellbeing. However, it seems that stages complement each other and that sleep continuity is essential for feeling refreshed in the morning.

A complete sleep cycle usually lasts for 90-120 minutes, during which we shift through the different stages we just described. However, the relative time we spend in each stage changes with age and is affected by myriad circumstances; to make things a bit more complicated, the time allocated to each stage is different across sleep cycles as the night goes on…

So, is it the same with babies?

Well, yes. And no.

Babies do experience different sleep stages, but the relative amount of time they spend in REM sleep is a lot higher than what is observed in adults. This fact inspired the hypothesis that REM sleep plays a crucial role in early development.

What Does the Baby’s Sleep Cycle Look Like?

You may have noticed that babies sleep a lot more than adults. In fact, newborns sleep for 16-17 hours a day. That’s twice as much as what most adults are getting.

Another interesting fact about baby sleep is that it is evenly spread across the 24-h day, and they don’t have that extended uninterrupted nightly rest. This is what sleep experts call “fragmented sleep,” and at these ages is a consequence of a still-developing circadian system.

The circadian system dictates (among others) the timing of basic physiological functions, including sleep, temperature regulation, and feeding. Unfortunately for babies, their internal clocks are not fully coupled to relevant environmental cues, most notably external light, so it takes a while for them to adjust to the 24-h sleep-wake rhythm.

The brain structures that regulate the circadian modulation of sleep, including the suprachiasmatic nucleus (or SCN), continue to develop within the first 2-3 months of life. Until the circadian system is fully developed, babies sleep in even patches of 2-3 hours. One of the reasons why they don’t sleep for longer periods is that their frequent feeding needs interfere with the sleep cycle. 

At around 3 months, babies can eat larger amounts of food, which makes them able to sleep at stretches of 5 hours at a time.

Less demanding feeding schedules, along with the progressive maturation of their biological rhythms, allow the average 6-month-old to sleep through most of the night.

 

And what about sleep architecture?

Studies show that babies experience different sleep stages, including NREM and REM. However, newborns spend about 50% of their total time asleep in REM sleep; healthy adults spend only 20% to 25% of their sleeping time in this stage.

Regarding duration, it is also important to note that baby sleep cycles are shorter than in adults, lasting approximately 50 minutes during the first months of life.

 

How Long Do Babies Sleep on Average?

After reviewing the scientific literature, the National Sleep Foundation made age-appropriate sleep guidelines. It goes like this:

But that doesn’t mean you should start your stopwatch anytime your baby goes to sleep and stress about it. If they seem to be functioning well, there is no need to worry if their sleep schedule lightly differs from these guidelines. Look for sudden behavioral and mood changes; these could actually indicate that something is off.

 

What Sleep Stage Is Your Baby in?

Determining your baby’s current sleep stage is extremely important to avoid waking the little one off at the wrong time. For instance, disrupting deep sleep will lead to a fussy, moody baby.

There are some behavioral features that can help you guess what sleep stage your baby is in:

Are you familiar with the feeling of tiredness after a nap that was supposed to help you recharge the batteries? Well, that happens when you wake up from deep sleep, so you may want to avoid waking your baby up in this stage to prevent the usual tantrum.

 

Can You Do Anything to Make Your Baby Sleep Better?

It can sound a little weird, but sleep is actually a skill you learn, and it doesn’t come naturally for everybody. And while some babies may be natural-born good sleepers, others could have some problems learning how to rest efficiently.

Luckily for you, you can help your little one by using some proven tips:

 

Be sure to check our video on the best sleep tips for new parents, where we discuss in-depth how to improve your and your baby’s sleep. In this video, we discuss sleep training techniques that can teach your baby to sleep on its own.

 

Closing Down

Babies spend most of their time sleeping, and it is essential for proper brain and body development.

This is why you want to make sure your newborn gets the best sleep possible. Observe them, watch out for any potential problems, and consult with your pediatrician or sleep specialist if something seems odd.

And if there is anything more you want to know about your baby’s sleep, feel free to post questions in the comment section. We will be happy to answer.

 

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Dusan

Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.

Sleep and Learning

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

 

 

Do you still think that your brain “shuts down” when you sleep?  Contrary to popular belief, scientists have revealed over the past decades that sleep plays a very active role in a variety of physiological processes and supports important cognitive skills such as learning and memory. And that role is even more important than we thought!

A 2013 review looking into the association between sleep, memory, and brain plasticity highlighted how essential sleep is in the process of learning. Indeed, it seems that a lot of the biological processes that are required for learning and remembering new stuff happen during sleep. It also seems to be clear that sleep deprivation severely impacts our memory. 

So, why does sleep affect learning so much? And what’s the science behind it?

Watch this video to learn how your memory works, and how you can become a more efficient learner by prioritizing your sleep.

How Do We Learn Things?

The learning process can be divided into three parts: 

And while acquisition and recall mostly happen during waking hours, consolidation heavily relies on a good night’s sleep. Interestingly, although we thought the acquisition of new memories wasn’t possible during sleep, recent studies suggest that this may not be true after all.  

Different Types of Memory Included in Learning

To understand how new information gets embedded in our brains, we first need to understand that not all information is the same. How we process data depends on the context and our emotional state. And based on this, different parts of our central nervous system (CNS) get involved. 

While our central nervous system is incredibly complex, we can say that the neocortex, cerebellum, hippocampus, and amygdala are key structures involved in learning and storing different types of newly acquired information. 

Memory can be classified into the following types based on the level of awareness required to learn and access the acquired information. In addition, these forms of memory seem to rely on different brain systems:

1. Declarative memory (or “knowing what”) is our ability to learn and recall facts, and it can be further classified into episodic memory and semantic memory. Episodic memory refers to autobiography events and their context (who, what, when, where). For instance, remembering all the details about your wedding would be a good example of this type of memory. On the other hand, semantic memory deals with general knowledge and facts that do not depend on a specific context. These include facts, ideas, or concepts.  A good example is remembering the capitals of different states.

2. Procedural memories (or “knowing how”), also called nondeclarative memories, are all the little things you do without even noticing, like riding a bike, signing a document, or tying shoelaces. These can be obtained and recalled without conscious effort. However, the learning process is slower and requires repetition. 

How Does Memory Consolidation Happen During Sleep?

Our ability to retrieve information we just learned is highly dependent on adequate rest. A study looked into the link between sleep and the ability to recall newly acquired knowledge. Two groups of students were taught a series of paired words and were then tested on them 12 hours later. The “no- sleep” group learned new information in the morning and then had to recall it 12 hours later, with no intervening sleep or naps. Participants in the “sleep” group were taught in the evening and were tested the following morning after a night of sleep.

And the results were amazing. Even though participants in both groups spent the same amount of time learning new information, students who had a chance to doze off before the test showed an increase of approximately 20% in the ability to recall what they’ve learned as compared with the no-sleep group.

The opposite is true, as well. A 2013 study showed that students who experienced sleep deprivation showed impaired ability to recall what they have learned. 

We go through different sleep stages every night, and they are all critical in the process of learning. So, let’s go over how our sleep architecture looks, and how each part helps us learn.

NREM Sleep and Learning

NREM sleep consists of several stages. We experience light sleep in the initial stages of a sleep cycle, and it accounts for 50% to 60% of total sleep time. It is typically followed by a phase of deep restorative sleep which ends the NREM part of the cycle; then, REM occurs.

Light sleep plays a massive role in the consolidation of declarative memories. 

To this end, scientists have proposed several models of how sleep impacts learning; one of them is the so-called the reactivation hypothesis. This mechanism suggests that our nightly rest is a perfect time to strengthen certain memory traces. Our brain can do that by selectively activating neurons involved in different memory circuits. Many scientists believe that the electrophysiological signatures of NREM sleep called sleep spindles are essential for the whole process, with a lot of studies, like this one from 2018, supporting the claim. Researchers believe that sleep spindles support communication between key brain areas involved in the consolidation of memories. Specifically, they represent a transfer of information from the hippocampus where memories are stored temporarily, to the neocortex where they go in long-term storage.

A 2018 study investigated the link between sleep, learning, and improvement of problem-solving skills. Children who spent more time in stage 2 of light sleep sowed a great performance improvement. Sleep spindles also correlated with performance, highlighting their importance in learning.

Since light sleep shows positive effects on the consolidation of declarative memories, napping seems like a natural boost to help you learn.

A new study published in the Sleep journal was aimed to test this hypothesis. Participants had to learn detailed factual information and were tested 30 min and 1 week after learning. In between learning sessions, some participants were allowed to nap, others watched a movie, and the rest were asked to cram for the test. 

Both cramming and napping improved memory recall as compared with watching a movie when participants were tested 30 min after the last study session. Strikingly, when scientists then retested participants after a week, only napping maintained these benefits, while cramming did not. These results indicate the clear benefits of napping on memory retention, and it looks that the effects are long-lasting.

Deep sleep is the third stage of the sleep cycle, and it is the time when our brain repairs itself, so to speak. People who don’t get enough deep sleep feel fatigued and can experience brain fog. Also, deep sleep is vital for memory consolidation and for restoring the brain’s ability to learn efficiently.

REM Sleep and Learning

Rapid-eye-movement (REM) sleep has mostly been linked with nondeclarative, procedural memory. 

However, some other studies show that the REM phase that follows slow-wave sleep plays a significant role in the consolidation of integrative memories such as learning the vocabulary of a new language. The authors suggested that REM sleep is responsible for integrating recently discovered information into already existing memory networks, which is essential to learn new complex concepts. 

Research also finds REM sleep to be essential for processing emotional memories as REM sleep duration, and density are increased after stressful daytime events. Additionally, this sleep stage appears to affect how we react to future emotional stimuli. For instance, people lacking sleep and REM, in particular, are more sensitive to these events.

We know now that sleep affects learning and memory, but is the opposite true? can learning change our sleep architecture? 

A study published in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience looked into the effects of the pursuit rotor task on sleep phenomena and architecture. The pursuit rotor task is a way to test hand-eye coordination by asking the participant to follow a moving object with a cursor. It tests visual and motor abilities and helps measure procedural memory. Interestingly, the learning-dependent changes in sleep microarchitecture were dependent on the initial skill levels of the participant. High-skilled participants experienced higher sleep spindle density in stage 2 of light sleep following the learning of the motor task, while low-skilled individuals showed greater REM sleep density.

This is an excellent example of how complicated the relationship between sleep, memory, and learning really is.

Closing Down

And while scientists are still trying to figure out all the mechanisms connecting sleep and learning, what we do know is that proper night rest is essential for cognitive performance.

The saying goes that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but we say let the dog sleep, and you just might!

You should make a night of sleep your priority, and you’ll see all the benefits on your cognition, health, performance, and overall well-being.

If you are struggling with getting enough sleep regularly, check some of our videos where we bring you the best science-based sleep tips that help you become a better sleeper. If your sleep problems become chronic, you should consult with your doctor, and they may refer you to a sleep specialist.

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Dusan

Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.

Medically reviewed by:

Carlos Del Rio-Bermudez

  

Carlos is a neuroscientist and a medical & science writer  with more than eight years of research experience in  the  field of Neuroscience. Prior to working full time as a  medical writer, he was a postdoctoral researcher at the  University Hospital of Bern (Switzerland). Carlos  obtained  his PhD from the University of Iowa (USA),  supported by the Fulbright Program.

Some of the areas Carlos focuses on are RNA  therapeutics, Rare Diseases, and REMS/RMPs. He has  authored multiple original research papers in top  journals in the field, book chapters, and periodicals.  Carlos has also participated in international scientific  meetings; most notably, he was invited to present his  dissertation research at the 2018 Gordon Research  Conference on Sleep Regulation and Function.

 

 

Night shift workers struggle with bad sleep, fatigue, drowsiness, poor concentration, headaches, and mood swings on a daily basis. Things are so bad that one in three night-shift workers have insomnia, and up to 90% report regular fatigue and drowsiness at the workplace. If you consider that two out of five people work unusual shifts, with more than three million people in the US working only at night, the scale of the problem becomes evident.

We all know that insomnia can turn your life upside down, impacting your ability to complete daily tasks. Importantly, chronic insomnia may lead to more severe consequences such as an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, inflammation, and mental disorders such as anxiety and depression.

Shift work disorder is recognized by the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, and it affects people working in the medical field, police, factory workers, truck and Uber drivers, among others. These people usually need to be highly alert, and when their performance is impaired due to lack of sleep, consequences can be devastating.

So, is there anything a night shift worker can do to protect their health and prevent a disaster in the workplace?

Well, yes.

Watch our video to find out!

We reviewed over 20 articles to bring you the best science-backed information and help you win a battle against insomnia even when you have to do shift work.

Why Is It so Hard to Work Night Shifts?

Even the most flexible sleepers have a hard time adjusting to working at night and sleeping during the day, and there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for that.

You see, people are diurnal, meaning that we are naturally active during the day, and we rest at night. This cycle is dictated by our internal biological clock, also known as the circadian system.

One part of the hypothalamus, the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), is our master clock. Among other important functions, it tells different parts of our brain when it is time to sleep, and when we should get up to be active. It does so by controlling the secretion of certain hormones and important bodily functions such as temperature regulation.

For instance, when the sun goes down, and we experience darkness, the SCN activates a tiny brain region called the pineal gland to produce melatonin, a hormone that reduces alertness and signals sleeping time. In other words, a high level of melatonin in blood makes us sleepy and sends a message that it is time to seek rest. In the morning, melatonin levels drop, while another hormone called cortisol sparks. Cortisol plays a role in being awake and alert, and its levels stay high during the day, to finally drop at night.

And how does a tiny part of our brain know when to start secreting these hormones?

The answer is light.

Light is the primary stimulus that tells our brain it is time to start secreting melatonin in the evening and to stop it in the morning.

Whereas most of us are allowed to doze off at night, soon after melatonin kicks in, night shift workers are “forced” to stay awake when sleep is naturally expected to occur. This leads to sleep and circadian rhythm misalignment, and difficulties working at night.

But once you know how your circadian system functions, it’s a lot easier to take control of it and make your night shifts a lot more tolerable.

Getting in Control of Your Circadian Rhythm System

Let’s be clear: There is no magic trick to adjust to night shifts instantly. However, you can try out different strategies that may alleviate the undesired effects associated with working at night.

Here are some science-backed tips to readjust your circadian clock, and minimize the consequences of night shift work:

Control Your Light Exposure

You’ve learned by now that light is the most significant environmental cue used by your biological clocks to set their time in relation to the day-night cycle and regulate sleep. Thus, controlling light exposure seems like the most logical way of adjusting your inner clock.

However, not all light is the same. It seems that blue light (~460 nm) has the highest potential to suppress melatonin production. So, you can pretty much use it to trick your brain into thinking it’s supposed to be active during the night. You can do that by exposing yourself to bright lights from table lamps, lightboxes, and overhead lamps at the beginning of your wake period and during the night shift. It is also vital to dim the lights at the end of the wake period so that your brain can start producing melatonin and induce sleepiness.

Research has shown that bright light exposure at night can improve the functioning of night shift workers. Their nocturnal alertness was much better, and they also enjoyed more daytime sleep once their shift was over; these effects are thought to be mediated by delayed melatonin secretion.

And it seems that the benefits associated with light therapy are not restricted to continuous exposure. According to one study, shorter intervals of light exposure work just as well as lengthy episodes of exposure. In this study, 25-90 minutes intervals of bright light were almost as effective as constant 5-hour exposure to produce robust phase shifts of the internal clock.

But besides using bright light during the night, you need to find a way to escape sunlight during the day, as it will suppress your melatonin production, and leave you unable to fall asleep once you get home from your night shift.

So, wear sunglasses on your way home, and invest in blackout curtains or a sleep mask to block daylight from entering your bedroom. Keeping your bedroom dark is essential for switching your body into sleep mode.

In summary, controlling light exposure is an efficient way to aligning your inner clock to your new schedule. If your schedule allows it, spend some time in the sunlight after waking up, as it could help you readjust your inner clock to your work/sleep schedule.

 

Caffeinate Wisely

Caffeine is a stimulant many people rely on to increase alertness and productivity. And it can do wonders for night shift workers, but only if used wisely.

Studies show that caffeine is useful for improving performance in night shift workers. However, drinking a high dose of caffeine at the start of your shift might not be the best approach. Research showed that workers who consumed smaller amounts of coffee throughout their shift performed better, and had periods of extended wakefulness. It looks like a steady consumption of smaller amounts of coffee leads to improved alertness, better cognition, as well as fewer accidental naps.

But know when to stop!

A study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine showed that consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime had a significantly disruptive effect on sleep. So, you should have the last sip of coffee more than 6 hours before you plan to go to bed. Thus, it is a good idea to limit your caffeine to the first half of your working shift.

It takes a little planning, but you will surely experience fewer insomnia symptoms and feel more energized if you learn to time and control your caffeine intake during your night shift.

(If Possible) Take Naps during Your Shift

Many people don’t like naps because the sleep inertia takes over after they wake up. They actually feel groggy and worse after taking a nap. Lucky you, there might be a trick to avoid this.

Having a quick 20-minute nap will fuel your batteries and increase alertness without feeling tired afterward. That is because when you limit your sleep to about 20 minutes, you avoid reaching deep stages of sleep, making it easier to wake up.   Research shows that this might be the only way to avoid drowsiness after waking up, as other techniques for battling sleep inertia, like washing your face with cold water, are not sufficient.

Ever heard of “coffee napping”? For most benefits, try combining your coffee with a nap. Since caffeine needs about 20 minutes to kick in, drink coffee before you go for a power nap. Science has demonstrated this to be a hugely effective technique to reduce sleepiness and improve performance and alertness among night workers.

If you are not able to rest during your working hours, remember that even taking a nap before  night shift can improve performance!

Other General Tips

There are other things you can do to manage your sleep and avoid insomnia if you are a night shift worker, such as:

Closing Down

A transfer to night shift may be hard at the beginning, but with proper planning and the use of our science-backed advice, you’ll become a night owl in no time! You will get the best results if you combine all the strategies we’ve covered.

Experienced night shift workers probably have a lot more useful advice on how to beat insomnia and get better sleep.

So, let us know in the comment section what you’ve found particularly useful to maintain your sleep and focus, even when working night shifts for a long time.

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Kelly Bension

Kelly is a Performance Sleep Coach who works with athletes, entrepreneurs, and people looking to optimize their rest for ultimate energy and recovery. With a background in holistic health and wellness, she blends ancient principles with modern sleep science to help her clients overcome insomnia, daytime fatigue, and disturbed sleep.

How to Increase Lean Muscle Mass with Sleep

The formula for gaining lean muscle mass is simple – Train, eat, sleep, repeat. All too often, people focus on the gym and the kitchen to change their body composition, but the truth is, what happens while you sleep matters just as much. Read on to learn more!


The formula for gaining lean muscle mass is simple – Train, eat, sleep, repeat.

All too often, people focus on the gym and the kitchen to change their body composition, but the truth is, what happens while you sleep matters just as much, if not more. 

New research shows that sleep is more effective at increasing lean muscle because of its role in the rest and recovery stage of training. It’s during sleep where the real repair and growth takes place that helps you change your body composition and increase strength once and for all. 

Now you might be thinking, but Kelly, I’m not a good sleeper, so is the opposite happening? The answer is a big fat YES. Being sleep deprived encourages the loss of muscle mass and hinders recovery after a tough workout. If you’re sleep deprived long enough, it can even lead to weight gain and the countless health issues that arise with obesity. 

So if you’re not seeing the results you feel like you should have in the gym, then it’s time to take a close look at your sleep. Otherwise, you could be wasting your time getting in those extra reps. 

So how does the sleep and muscle growth process actually work and what can you do tonight to get those biceps, quads and calves that you’ve been dreaming about?

Learn how pivotal sleep is for muscle growth and what you need to know in order to make the most of your time in bed. 

 If you’re a bodybuilder, athlete, weight lifter or someone simply looking to improve their physique, then this post is for you.

How to Develop Muscle?

To get started, consider what two functions your body needs in order to develop lean muscle. The first is Stimulus and the second is Repair. 

The first phase takes place while you exercise. As you workout your muscles through weight-bearing movements, microscopic tears develop within the muscle fibers. These tears lead to damage of the muscle, which is considered the stimulus required for the body to trigger a response. 

Once the stimulus occurs, your body receives a signal to begin repairing the muscles. The repair stage is when your muscles go through the process of hypertrophy, which involves tissue conditioning & formation of new muscle matrix. Proper repair requires nutrition, hydration, and rest

Although some people may feel that they’re resting by watching Netflix on the couch, the truth is the only real way to let your body truly rest and recover properly is through high-quality sleep. 

Yet not all sleep is created equal, especially when it comes to muscle repair. 

Sleep for Muscle Repair

While you sleep, you cycle through four stages of sleep every 90 minutes or so. No matter what, it’s important that all four stages take place for total mind and body repair, but there’s one stage that’s hyper critical for muscle growth. That stage is slow wave sleep otherwise known as deep sleep. This is the last stage of Non-REM sleep and takes place right before you begin dreaming in REM sleep. 

In a healthy sleeper, slow wave sleep comprises of approximately 40% of total sleep time and the majority of it happens in the first half of the night. During this stage, your blood pressure drops, your breathing becomes deeper and the activity in your brain slows down. By doing so, the blood supply becomes more available to your muscles, bringing with it, extra oxygen and nutrients that facilitate healing and growth.

During slow wave sleep, two critical anabolic hormones are released that aid in the reproduction and generation of cells. These are testosterone and human growth hormone or HGH for short. Both of which are primarily produced while you sleep and then taper off during the day. 

Now these hormones are so important to this conversation, we’re going to do a little deep dive into them. 

First, testosterone. Now testosterone is necessary for protein synthesis, which is what repairs all those little microscopic tears in your muscles from your workout. Although your body does produce testosterone during exercise, sleep helps to keep your levels high and it also provides the longest period of time your body has between meals to really work at synthesizing. 

Likewise, as much as 75% of your human growth hormone is released while you’re resting at night. HGH is the primary compound that stimulates tissue growth during hypertrophy. It does this using the amino acids present in the proteins that we eat, which are being synthesized with the help of testosterone. Even one night of sleep loss will cause a sharp decline in the secretion of HGH, which will not only lead to a loss of muscle mass but also a reduction in exercise capacity. 

So not only will you not get stronger but your current exercise abilities will be reduced if you’re not getting enough deep sleep. 

Now another hormone that sleep influences is cortisol, which is a catabolic or muscle-reducing hormone that counteracts testosterone, stops the production of melatonin and is most associated with feelings of stress. Getting enough sleep keeps your cortisol levels balanced during a 24-hour period leaving you with enough energy for your training sessions and more opportunity for muscle growth. Sleep deprivation, on the other hand, can increase your cortisol levels by up to 45%, which can interfere with tissue repair and growth, while also leaving you feeling unnecessarily stressed or anxious. 

Over time, these hormonal imbalances will prevent an athlete from recovering properly and can open the door to overtraining injuries. 

 Sleep for Mental and Emotional Stability

It should also be mentioned that your mental and emotional stability are both important when training. It is, after all, easier to grind out a workout when you’re enjoying the process and happy to be at the gym. If you’re not getting adequate rest, your mood will suffer and you’ll be less motivated to workout. Your nervous system will also be drained and unable to handle the stress of a heavy workout, leaving you more likely to hang out on the couch making poor life choices. 

So not only should you prioritize sleep to grow your muscles but you should also prioritize sleep so that you’re prepared to grow your muscles. To do so, make sure you’re getting 7-9 hours every night, sticking to a schedule, getting to sleep by 10 to increase deep sleep, reducing stress before bed, sleeping in a cool, dark environment and finishing your last workout and meal at least a few hours before bed. 

The Bottom Line

To recap why, when it comes to increasing lean muscle mass, getting consistent high-quality sleep will do the following:

If you do these things by focusing on sleep, you will change your body composition, increase muscle mass, recover faster, and be better prepared for your next training session or athletic endeavor.

References

  1. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/145/6/1178/4644372
  2. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF00964680
  3. https://academic.oup.com/sleep/article/7/4/339/2750295
  4. https://estudogeral.sib.uc.pt/bitstream/10316/45875/1/cias2016_64.pdf
  5. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00431-018-3124-z
  6. https://europepmc.org/abstract/med/26868641

 

 

 

 

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Kelly Bension

Kelly is a Performance Sleep Coach who works with athletes, entrepreneurs, and people looking to optimize their rest for ultimate energy and recovery. With a background in holistic health and wellness, she blends ancient principles with modern sleep science to help her clients overcome insomnia, daytime fatigue, and disturbed sleep.

Caffeine or Sleep? Which Performance Enhancer Should You Choose?

Caffeine is a powerful performance enhancer that negatively affects sleep when it’s not consumed moderately. Learn more about the relationship between caffeine and sleep.


To caffeine or to sleep, that is the question? 

Hey friends! It’s 2 p.m. somewhere, which means someone is reaching for their 6th cup of coffee right now to try and push through the rest of the day. Hey, we’ve all been there. In fact, it’s estimated that up to 90% of American adults consume some type of caffeine on a daily basis.

And for good reason. Caffeine is a powerful natural substance that improves mental and physical performance. Just one dose can significantly enhance exercise performance, mental focus, fat burning and cognitive output for several hours after ingestion. And in our increasingly busy world where we need to perform at our best from sun rise to sun set, it’s pretty much the easiest thing we can grab to stay functioning. 

Heck, even the US Special Forces uses it to enhance performance and awareness in their troops. 

But do we need to be so dependent on caffeine in order to perform each day? In this video, I’m going to explore this question while discussing the sleep and caffeine cycle, when you might prioritize one over the other and if we even need caffeine the way we think we do. My name is Kelly Benson and I’m a performance sleep specialist and proud coffee lover, so I’m excited to dive in. 

How Does Caffeine Enhance Our Performance?

Caffeine is one of the cheapest, easiest and safest stimulants available. It’s found naturally in over 60 plants including the coffee bean, tea leaf and cacao pods. These days, it’s readily available in almost every form, including drinks, snacks, chews, gels, sprays, gum and pills.

Caffeine works to help us feel more alert and wired in part because of how it’s received by what are called adenosine receptors, which are located in your brain. Adenosine is a central nervous system neuromodulator that has it’s own specific receptors. During the day, it builds up in the bloodstream and bind to its receptors, which then slows down neural activity, causing you to feel sleepy. By the end of the day, enough adenosine has been created that your level of sleepiness will reach a critical peak and you’ll soon find yourself drooling on your pillow. However, caffeine has the ability to bind to the same receptors, but without reducing neural activity. The two of them essentially battle for the same receptors, with caffeine being a little stronger than it’s opponent adenosine. This then increases neural activity when it otherwise would begin slowing down. 

In other words, caffeine prevents your brain from feeling sleepy. 

By activating neural circuits, caffeine also causes the pituitary gland to secrete hormones that cause the adrenal glands to produce more adrenalin. As the fight or flight hormone, this increases your level of attention and gives the whole system a burst of energy. It’s this feeling that many coffee drinkers are so eager for each morning. 

With moderate consumption, it has incredible effects on many cells throughout the body, including muscle cells and brain cells. It’s quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and reaches peak levels within just 30-90 minutes and remains high for 3-4 hours. While it’s in our system, it improves focus and energy, increases alertness and speed, activates muscles and increases thermogensis and helps us feel more positive and happy. 

In other words, caffeine is nature’s most beautiful performance enhancer. 

Now although there is no real nutritional need for caffeine, moderate intake is NOT associated with any recognized health risks and in fact, may have some profound benefits. According to Harvard Health, moderate consumption has been linked to a longer lifespan and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and cirrhosis to name a few. Now when I say moderate, I mean three 8 oz. cups of coffee or 250 milligrams. More than six cups of coffee per day is considered excessive and could have negative health effects, in fact a dose of 500 mg or 600 mg of caffeine can affect you much like a low dose of an amphetamine.

That said, not all individuals respond the same way to caffeine and some may have a more difficult time processing it. It’s also possible to build a tolerance to caffeine, which happens to people who consume it on a daily basis. They’ll find that it’s less effective as a stimulant and may cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, nausea and difficulty sleeping if they don’t take it for 1-2 days.

Which! Brings me to the love-hate relationship between caffeine and sleep. 

Caffeine and Sleep

Although caffeine isn’t necessary Unhealthy, it does have to be consumed strategically and carefully. With a half-life of around 6 hours, your body will still be processing a 9am cup of joe until the late afternoon hours, even if the noticeable effects have worn off. Now for most people who just have one, maybe two cups before noon, this won’t impact their sleep. However, most American adults are now drinking more cups of coffee and consuming them well into the afternoon to get through all of life’s increasing obligations with some semblance of high-performance. 

When you increase your caffeine dose and you consume it later in the day, your sleep is guaranteed to be negatively impacted. The adenosine receptors, which should be helping to make you feel sleepy aren’t able to, because they’re blocked by the caffeine compounds. This will cause you to feel wired and alert, much like someone with insomnia, when you should be getting tired. 

Studies have even shown that caffeine may delay the timing of your internal body clock, which signals to your brain when it’s time to go to bed, leading to a possible circadian rhythm disorder that may stick around even if you stop consuming caffeine. 

To make matters worse, caffeine can also restructure the architecture of your sleep entirely and reduce the amount of deep sleep, which is the phase that’s critical for physical and mental rejuvenation. 

Consuming caffeine 6 hours before bedtime has been shown to reduce total sleep time by at least 1 hour and cause greater micro arousals through the night, leaving you niiiiice and groggy the next day. Now the older or more sensitive to caffeine you are, the stronger these effects will be too. 

By overdoing it on caffeine and not sleeping well, you’ll initiate a painful cycle of caffeine dependency and deteriorating sleep. You’ll begin feeling like you need more in order to function, but then experience worsening sleep and other possible side effects like anxiety, irritability, rapid heart beat, nervousness and more aggressive caffeine crashes. Soon, the caffeine won’t give you the same enjoyable high as before and you’ll develop a caffeine tolerance. 

Around this time, you’ll realize that your performance levels are starting to decline and you may be well on your way to developing a more chronic poor sleep pattern. By not sleeping well, you’ll be susceptible to impaired muscle growth, mental fatigue, slow healing, changes in cognitive function, reduced immune system and a susceptibility to weight gain, to name a few. 

And unfortunately, the answer isn’t in another cup of coffee. But rather, a detox from caffeine and a focus on sleep. Which! brings me to my recommendations.

How to Use Caffeine to Enhance Your Performance?

No matter what, caffeine should never be used as a substitute for sleep or poor sleeping habits. The FDA has even cautioned consumers that products marketed as “energy shots” or “energy drinks” are not alternatives to sleep.

If you haven’t developed a caffeine dependency yet and your sleep is good, then stick to healthy caffeine habits like having your last dose no later than 2 PM and consuming no more than about 250-350 mg per day. If your body doesn’t tolerate caffeine well, then reduce this amount and consume it earlier in the day. 

If you’re interested in strategically taking caffeine purely as a performance enhancer for sporting competitions or fitness, the recommended dose ranges from 1.5 to 4mg per pound of body weight taken one hour before exercise. For a 150 pound person, this corresponds to 225 to 600 mg, which is a big enough range to allow for personal experimentation. 

Now if you’re someone with caffeine dependency and poor sleep, you may benefit from a caffeine detox of a few weeks and then reinstating the habit slowly and carefully. Be warned that withdrawal symptoms will take place and you may feel worse before you feel better, but it’ll help to reset your sleep and health in ways that’ll make you feel better than before. If you’re going to wean yourself off coffee, we recommend doing so under the supervision of a licensed medical professional. 

Lastly, it’s important to know that you do not need caffeine in order to perform optimally. It is a performance enhancer, which means it can only elevate the mind-body performance capabilities you naturally have. By focusing on getting high-quality sleep, eating well and exercising often, you may find that you don’t even need caffeine. 

If that’s you, enjoy not spending $6 on daily double shot lattes and instead go buy yourself a performance-enhancing mattress.

 

Scientifically reviewed by CountingSheep.net Team

Written by

Kelly Bension

Kelly is a Performance Sleep Coach who works with athletes, entrepreneurs, and people looking to optimize their rest for ultimate energy and recovery. With a background in holistic health and wellness, she blends ancient principles with modern sleep science to help her clients overcome insomnia, daytime fatigue, and disturbed sleep.

Time Your Workouts for an Optimal Night’s Sleep

Did you know that the timing of your workout may positively or negatively impact your sleep? Working on a consistent basis will drastically improve your sleep.

Did you know that the timing of your workout may positively or negatively impact your sleep? There are two main reasons you may be interested in knowing more. Either you’re training for something like a race or competition AND you’re not sleeping well. Or you really want to optimize your sleep and are curious to see if shifting the timing of your workout could help.

Regardless of which category you fall into, you’ve probably noticed that you sleep better when you’re working out on a consistent basis. This is because sleep and exercise have a cyclical relationship. Typically, when you work out, you sleep better, and when you sleep better, you have more of an interest in working out. The same is true if you’re not working out, which results in you not sleeping as well and sitting on the couch eating chips while everyone is posting the results of their gym sessions on social media. 

Researchers unanimously agree that movement is good for sleep, but when you move is an interesting factor to consider. So in this article, we’ll dig deeper into the relationship between the quality of your sleep and the timing of your workouts. 

Does the Timing of Your Workouts Really Matter?

The biggest question people have with exercise timing and sleep is whether there are differences between working out in the morning, afternoon and evening. And the short answer is yes. The timing of your workouts does matter when it comes to your sleep, which is helpful to know if you’re a serious or competitive athlete. Yet not everyone is going to follow the same plan because it matters who you are as an individual, as well as your lifestyle and your goals. 

Morning Exercisers

So first up is the morning workout for those early birds out there. If you’re someone who never presses snooze then you’re in for a treat. Research shows that getting aerobic exercise first thing in your day may actually promote deeper, high-quality sleep at night. It’s been shown that people who work out in the morning experience a greater drop of blood pressure at night, which will improve their time in deep sleep. Morning exercisers also fall asleep on average of 11 minutes faster compared to people who work out in the afternoon and 21 minutes faster than people who work out in the evening.

However, morning workouts are only healthy IF you’re getting 7-9 hours of high-quality restful sleep. According to a study conducted by Australian Institute of Sport on swimmers preparing for the 2008 Olympics; early-morning training sessions actually restricted the amount of sleep obtained by the athletes because they didn’t go to sleep any earlier. Since chronic sleep restriction of less than 6 hours per night can impair psychological and physiological functioning, it is possible that early-morning schedules actually limit the effectiveness of training.  

Another thing to be cautious of is that your muscles aren’t as warmed up or efficient in the morning and you’re more prone to injury. This means you’ll need to spend extra time warming up before diving into an intense workout. When push comes to shove, you should always prioritize sleep over working out. This is because the accumulation of sleep debt will only become more destructive to your health, fitness and well-being over time, and working out is not the solution.

The truth is, your body benefits more from sleep than any single workout could provide. So, the rule of thumb is if you haven’t been sleeping well for a few nights and you’re getting less than 8 hours, then choose that extra hour of sleep over a workout. You’ll also probably save yourself a preventable injury and feeling extra crabby at work.

It should also go without saying, if you were up late the night before or have pulled an all-nighter, you 100% need to get rest and not wake up early to place intense physical demands on your body. In general, the words to live by if you’re ever wondering if you should sleep or not? When it doubt, sleep it out. However, if you’ve been sleeping great for the past few nights, you’re getting around 8 hours, then by all means, get up and watch the sunrise for your workout or run.

Evening Exercisers

Now for my friends out there who just love that snooze button, working out in the morning may not be enjoyable enough to make it a sustainable habit unless they’re able to shift their circadian rhythm and get to bed earlier, which is a topic for another video. So for this reason, you may opt for an afternoon workout between the hours of say, 1 and 5pm.

Now you may be saying, but Kelly, the afternoon is when my energy is lowest and all I want to do is run away from work and take a nap.  Okay, I hear you and the afternoon energy slump is completely normal and is actually part of the natural dips in our circadian rhythm. That said, it’s also a good time to work out both from a physiological standpoint as well as to ensure you have enough time for a healthy nightly routine.

You may have heard in the past that your internal body temperature plays a role in how well you’ll sleep, which is true. Yet it also plays a role in how well you work out. This is why rolling out of bed and working out with cold muscles isn’t ideal and why snooze button lovers are not at a total disadvantage. 

Our body’s ability to regulate its own temperature is called thermoregulation and it changes throughout the day. At 5 am, your body temp is lowest at 96.4 degrees. Around 9 am, you’ve reached 97.8 degrees and by late afternoon, you’re somewhere between 99 and 100.4 degrees. Experts recognize that a higher internal body temperature results in more alertness, better memory and improved reaction times, which is why working out in the afternoon is an excellent choice, especially if the workout is intense or requires endurance.

Although we like the fact that working out in the afternoon is better for your workout, the question remains: is working out in the afternoon beneficial for your sleep? As of right now, there’s no compelling research that says working out in the afternoon improves your sleep, but it also doesn’t do any damage to your sleep either. One way it may indirectly improve your sleep is by giving you ample time to eat dinner, socialize and wind down at night. Many people who push their workouts too late into the evening find that they don’t have enough time to fit it all in and end up compromising something, usually their sleep, which is a big no no. 

Night Exercisers

You may have heard in the past that working out at night can negatively affect your sleep because it raises your core body temperature, increases your heart rate and releases adrenaline. Now it is true that a cooler core body temperature and lower heart rate are associated with healthy sleep, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that exercising at night is bad.  In a 2018 study, researchers found that working out at night may improve your rest by helping you get into deep sleep or slow wave sleep faster and stay there longer, which is the stage that helps with tissue and muscle regeneration. The study suggests that by raising your body temperature before bed, you’re actually helping to cool your body down because of the way thermoregulation works.

Similar to when you get out of a warm bath, exercise raises your body’s temperature initially and then allows it to cool off through sweat evaporation on the skin. This cooling off process is relaxing and helps prepare your body for sleep. The one exception is if you engage in really vigorous exercise, like sprints or HIIT within an hour of bedtime, which is stimulating to the brain and releases hormones that keep you alert. Now in addition to peer-reviewed research, I know it can be helpful to hear what real people have to say.

So here it is! In a National Sleep Foundation poll, over 1,000 regular people indicated that exercise improved their sleep no matter what time of day it was. And those who said they consistently exercise before bed said they always sleep better than when they don’t exercise at all. For general best practices of working out at night, do it an hour before bed and be sure you have enough time to lower your heart rate and calm any remaining endorphins through stretching, foam rolling and a calm routine. 

 The Bottom Line

Okay so what’s the verdict here?! At the end of the day, there are compelling reasons to work out in the morning, afternoon and evening. People who work out in the morning may fall asleep faster, those in the afternoon are more energized and have time to wind down, and people who work out at night may experience more deep sleep.

The bottom line is, when it comes to your sleep, the best time to work out is the period that you’ll stick to consistently. As the poll confirmed, working out at any time is better for your sleep than not working out at all, and our body thrives on consistency. The best time should be one that works with your schedule and preferred exercise type, while still saving time for you to have an evening and morning routine and getting 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep.

If you’re unsure when this time is for you, ask yourself, “am I a morning or a night person?” And if you really don’t know which time is best for you or you’re a curious, data-driven person, try experimenting with different work out times. Get a wearable device and start tracking your exercise and your sleep. For one week, try working out in the morning, another week in the afternoon and another week at night. At the end of 3 weeks, see which one gives you the highest sleep score and stick with it. 

For my final tip, if you’re struggling to find the time to work out and get 7-9 hours of sleep, then you should rethink your schedule altogether. Both exercise and sleep are essential to performing your best and with the right approach to your daily schedule, you can make them both happen.