How I (Finally!) Learned to Turn My Brain Off Before Bed

Geber86/iStock.com

Geber86/iStock.com

Lately, I’ve been trying to focus on honing habits that aren’t just good for my body, but for my mind, too. And (like many other sleep-deprived Americans), refining my sleep schedule was a main priority on that list.

I know I don’t need to tell you that catching the right amount of zzzz’s per night is super important for maintaining healthy brain and bodily functions, but not everyone realizes how important it is for your mental well-being, too. When I’m sleep deprived, I turn into an emotional, irrational, short-tempered, annoying version of myself who — ask any of my family or friends — is not pleasant to be around. Caution: if you see me out rocking my under-eye bags that day, do yourself a favor and stay away. Far, far away.

Unfortunately, I wear my eye bags (not confidently) wayyy more often than I’d like. You see, sleep is one of the things that pretty much goes out the window when your schedule is packed with classes and work, forcing you to stay up until 2 (or 3 or 4) a.m. plugging away at what seems like a never-ending to-do list.

But recently, even if I DO make it to bed (also known as my favorite place on Earth) at a reasonable hour, I often lie awake for hours on end stressing about what the heck I’m going to do with my life once I graduate school or thinking other unnecessary thoughts about things totally out of my control. Sometimes my brain can really get on my nerves! Am I the only one who wishes this thing had an off switch? Like, seriously, I am trying to catch a REM cycle over here, dude.

Read more »

The Checkup: How to Deal With a Terrible Night’s Sleep Come Morning

• Sometimes I wake up and swear I only slept for 15 minutes and I know a siesta is necessary in my near future unless I’d like to be a miserable human being for the rest of the day. But a sleep expert out of Penn’s Perelman School of Medicine says sleeping in or squeezing a nap in after a crappy night of sleep probably isn’t the best way to deal, actually: according to him, the best way to cope with a lack of sleep isn’t to try to make up for it the next day but to just suck it up throughout the day so you are sleepy enough to get back on track the next night—sleeping in or squeezing in an hours-long afternoon nap could actually backfire on you come bedtime, screwing up your sleep for way longer than one night. [Science of Us] Read more »

The Checkup: Words for All the Emotions You’ve Never Been Able to Explain

• Humans are strange creatures and our brains are filled with all sorts of odd thoughts (“I wonder what Missy Elliot is doing today”) and emotions (“I’m not sad, exactly — my heart just feels like a train ran over it, then reversed back onto it, pressed the brakes and stayed there”), many of which we have a hard time describing. To help us out, the folks over at Science of Us have created a handy list of real words  from around the world — like pronoia and malu — for emotions you never knew how to describe before. Guarantee: The list will have you saying “Ahhhhh-ha!” for a good five minutes. [Science of Us] Read more »

The Checkup: MLK Drive Is Getting a Serious Trail Upgrade 

• Just last week, I was biking along the trail that runs along MLK Drive when I realized just how many bumps and grooves are speckled throughout, many of which could easily send a cyclist flying or trip up a runner. Good news, though: According to the folks over at PlanPhilly, a $500,000 grant — which will be matched by Philadelphia Parks and Recreation — was just approved to fix up four miles of the MLK Drive Trail. Can we get an amen? [PlanPhilly] Read more »

Can’t Sleep? This Is Why, Philly.

Photo by Dan Saelinger | Styling by Dominique Baynes

Photo by Dan Saelinger | Styling by Dominique Baynes

A few months back, there was a story in the Wall Street Journal about the Golden State Warriors’ Stephen Curry. Only it wasn’t about basketball, per se. It was about how the point guard’s remarkable performance this season has caused an East Coast phenomenon known as “Curry insomnia.” As the article explained, those of us in the Eastern time zone tend to fall asleep between 11:30 p.m. and midnight. Half the Warriors’ games don’t even start till 10:30. NBA fans are sacrificing sleep to catch the Curry excitement — and paying for it the next day.

after the jump »

Sleep Week: 10 Common Sleep Myths Put to Bed — Once and For All

It’s Be Well Philly Sleep Week! All week long, we’re celebrating sleep and all the wonderful things good quality shuteye does for your body. We reached out to Philly’s top sleep experts to answer all your sleep questions in one fell swoop. Check back this week for more installments of our ultimate sleep FAQ. And to see them all in one place, pick up a copy of Philadelphia magazine’s May issue, on newsstands now. 

SLEEP MYTH #1: A warm glass of milk before bed will help you sleep.

The theory here hinges on tryptophan—yup, the same sleep-inducing amino acid found in turkey that many believe makes them nod off after a Thanksgiving feast. Although tryptophan is indeed found in protein-rich foods like milk, turkey and even chicken, a 2003 study out of MIT found that the other amino acids present in them actually decrease the ability of tryptophan to reach your brain. And without entering your brain, good ol’ tryptophan can’t work its sleepy-time magic. So while drinking warm milk might be relaxing, the milk itself isn’t going to help you fall asleep faster. Read more »

Sleep Week: Prescription Drugs, OTC Sleep Aids, Supplements — What’s Best for Helping You Sleep?

It’s Be Well Philly Sleep Week! All week long, we’re celebrating sleep and all the wonderful things good quality shuteye does for your body. We reached out to Philly’s top sleep experts to answer all your sleep questions in one fell swoop. Check back this week for more installments of our ultimate sleep FAQ. And to see them all in one place, pick up a copy of Philadelphia magazine’s May issue, on newsstands now. 

» Also in Sleep Week: “Do Wearable Sleep Trackers Actually Work?”

My doctor prescribed sleeping pills, but I’m scared of the side effects. What other options do I have?

If you can’t sleep, you’re in good company. A recent survey showed that 27 percent of U.S. adults have trouble falling or staying asleep most nights, and 68 percent have trouble at least once a week. The problem with older sleeping pills like some benzodiazepines wasn’t just that they were addictive, according to Karl Doghramji of Jefferson: “A tolerance develops, they don’t work as well, and you get ‘rebound insomnia’ when you go off them.” Some newer drugs aren’t addictive. But those taking prescription sleeping pills are still twice as likely to be in auto accidents as non-users, and the FDA has cut the recommended dosage for some pills in half. That’s the bad news. The really bad news is that sleeping pills are shockingly ineffective. The newest, Belsomra, got users to sleep just six minutes faster and for 16 minutes longer per night than placebos in testing by Consumer Reports, and the older ones, like zolpidem and benzos, weren’t much better. The main effect the pills have, some doctors say, is that they make you less likely to remember being awake. Read more »

Sleep Week: Your Wearable Sleep Tracker May Be Wrecking Your Sleep

It’s Be Well Philly Sleep Week! All week long, we’re celebrating sleep and all the wonderful things good quality shuteye does for your body. We reached out to Philly’s top sleep experts to answer all your sleep questions in one fell swoop. Check back this week for more installments of our ultimate sleep FAQ. And to see them all in one place, pick up a copy of Philadelphia magazine’s May issue, on newsstands now. 

» Also in Sleep Week: “How to Help Your Kid Become a Champion Sleeper”

My boyfriend got me a wearable sleep tracker for my birthday. Do these things actually work?

“There haven’t been studies to show these devices do what they promise,” says Richard Schwab, co-director of the Penn Sleep Center. “This is a case of technology outpacing the science.” In fact, a review of sleep trackers in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine last December concluded that “lack of validation studies and FDA approval for many [consumer sleep technologies] is a concern.” The problem, says Schwab, is that most products on the market use an accelerometer to detect movement, then draw conclusions about your sleep patterns based on how much (or little) you move. These devices assume that a lack of big movement indicates sleep and that intermittent micro-movements indicate which stage of sleep you’re in. Unfortunately, there’s no data to show they do this with any sort of accuracy. In fact, Schwab and other sleep experts worry that wearable trackers may actually cause more sleep problems than they solve, if they make noise, are in your way or feel uncomfortable. Says Schwab, “The question becomes: Does the device disturb your sleep more than it’s helping it?” Read more »

Sleep Week: How to Help Your Kid Become a Champion Sleeper

It’s Be Well Philly Sleep Week! All week long, we’re celebrating sleep and all the wonderful things good quality shuteye does for your body. We reached out to Philly’s top sleep experts to answer all your sleep questions in one fell swoop. Check back this week for more installments of our ultimate sleep FAQ. And to see them all in one place, pick up a copy of Philadelphia magazine’s May issue, on newsstands now. 

» Also in Sleep Week: “The Scientific Case for Napping at Work”

My three-year-old’s sleeping habits are all over the map. How do I know if he’s getting enough sleep?

“If a child’s daytime functioning is good, then he’s getting the sleep he needs,” says Jennifer Marriner, an advanced-practice nurse who specializes in sleep at Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children. Unlike adults, who will sometimes push themselves to the limit with too little sleep, kids won’t fight sleep and will get the rest their bodies need one way or another. If your child is alert, attentive, and able to stay awake during his waking hours, his sleeping habits are just fine, even if they seem inconsistent to you. Read more »

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