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Can your romantic partner's scent help you sleep?

Feb 21, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

New research at the University of British Columbia has suggested that being exposed to a romantic partner’s scent can help improve sleep quality even when they are not present.
 
For the study, the researchers analysed sleep data from 155 participants who were given two identical-looking t-shirts to use as pillowcases. One t-shirt had been previously worn by their romantic partner, and the other had either been previously worn by a stranger or was clean.
 
They spent two consecutive nights sleeping with each t-shirt. Each morning, they completed a survey about how well-rested they felt. Their sleep quality was also objectively measured using an actigraph sleep watch that monitored their movements throughout the night.
 
Participants reported feeling more well-rested on the nights when they believed they were sleeping with their partner’s scent. Moreover, regardless of their beliefs about scent exposure, data from the sleep watches indicated that objective sleep improved when participants were actually exposed to their partner’s scent.
 
The researchers say the physical presence of a long-term romantic partner is associated with positive health outcomes such as a sense of safety, calm and relaxation, which in turn leads to better sleep. By signalling recent physical proximity, the mere scent of a partner may have similar benefits.
 
The research could pave the way for future work examining the efficacy of simple and effective methods of improving sleep, such as bringing a partner’s shirt the next time you travel alone.
 
To learn more about the study, check out this article from the University of British Columbia: https://news.ubc.ca/2020/02/13/smelling-your-lovers-shirt-could-improve-your-sleep/

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Can sleep clean out the junk from your brain?

Feb 19, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

The exact reason why we sleep has long been one of the greatest mysteries of modern science, but a recent study offers a theory corroborated earlier research that sleep may act as a way for your brain to flush out all the waste that your neurons produce throughout the day.
 
The researchers focused on the movement of fluids between neurons in mice during the awake and sleep states. They found that there was very little movement of fluids during awake states, and that movement rapidly increased during sleep. These fluids act as drainage for toxic waste that the brain is likely too busy to purge during the day.
 
A 2019 study built on this research, showing for the first time that this mechanism is present in humans and that the fluid present in our brains and spinal cords, called cerebrospinal fluid, appears to synchronize with brainwaves to help remove metabolic trash.
 
Maiken Nedergaard, one of the authors of the 2013 study, commented on the implications that these studies may have on shift workers, as the sleep loss that they experience is likely causing long term damage.
 
In the short term, the build-up of proteins and junk can make you feel foggy after one night of sleep loss as the neurons struggle a bit more to connect with each other.
 
But in the long term, this research can shed light on diseases like Alzheimers, as it is toxic protein plaques that play a key role in memory loss and other cognitive impairments experienced by individuals suffering from many neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers don’t yet know if these plaques are a cause or a result of neurodegenerative disease.

You can read the 2019 study ‘coupled electrophysiological, hemodynamic, and cerebrospinal fluid oscillations in human sleep’ in Science here: https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6465/628
 
You can read the 2013 study ‘Sleep drives metabolite clearance from the adult brain, in Science here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24136970

 

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Should you be drinking banana-peel tea?

Feb 14, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

Here at ISS, all kinds of unorthodox methods to help induce sleep come across our desk every week. The most recent of these being banana-peel tea. Supposedly boiling a whole washed banana in a saucepan with water for 10-15 minutes and drinking the liquid is the way to go if you struggle with sleep.

Bananas are a good source of magnesium and potassium, two minerals that have been linked to better sleep quality and length due to their muscle-relaxing properties. They also provide some tryptophan, an amino acid that’s important for producing the sleep-inducing hormones serotonin and melatonin.

Nevertheless, it’s unknown to what extent these nutrients leach into the tea during brewing, making it hard to know whether drinking the tea would have the same potential sleep-promoting effects as eating a banana.

What unconventional sleep aids have you heard of? Do any of them work for you?

 

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New Year’s resolutions: Is sleep the new fitness?

Jan 01, 2020 ISS Comments (0)

 

 

We hope that everyone had a fantastic New Year’s Eve! We are heading into a packed 2020 feeling refreshed and ready to work harder than ever.

Every New Year’s Day, we pledge that this is the year that we get in shape, and we go out in droves to purchase gym memberships and start new diets. Flash forward to a month later, and most of us are back into our packed daily lives with no time to stick to our fitness goals. This year, we’re focusing on our wellbeing by resolving to get a good night’s sleep. In other words, 2020 is the year for sleep to finally become the new fitness!

The world is finally waking up to the fact that when it comes to physical fitness, sleep is just as important as physical exercise and a good diet.
 
Sleep helps you maintain a healthy weight
Just like a good diet and exercise, getting the proper amount of sleep is an essential component of reaching or maintaining a healthy weight. Without sleep, your metabolism could be negatively affected, making it more difficult for you to process insulin. You are also less likely to snack irresponsibly if you are well-rested.
 
Sleep helps you manage stress and anxiety
Stress and anxiety are issues that most people will have to face at some point, but getting sufficient sleep is key in both dealing with and preventing anxiety from negatively affecting your life. Without sleep, you will find that your body will go into a state of stress. The body produces more stress hormones like cortisol, which will make it more difficult to fall asleep in the future.
 
Sleep helps you fight off depression
Studies have shown that depression may both cause and be caused by sleep disorders, so getting your sleeping habits in check is key for managing your mental health. Just as regular exercising helps to increase emotional resilience, proper sleep hygiene contributes to improved mood and resilience.
 
Sleep helps you live longer
All sorts of diseases have been linked to sleep deprivation, including cancer, type 2 diabetes, the worsening of blood pressure and higher levels of cholesterol, all of which are risk factors for heart disease and stroke. The good news is that getting enough sleep is a fantastic first line of defence against these conditions and will promote overall health.
 
Sleep reduces inflammation
Exercising and laying off unhealthy foods won’t be enough to reduce inflammation in isolation; sleeping is also key. If you sleep less than six hours a night, your blood levels of inflammatory proteins may be higher than people who sleep more. Heart disease, stroke, diabetes, arthritis and premature aging all have strong ties to inflammation, so reducing it is essential for overall wellbeing.
 
With all the reasons that sleep is important to a healthy lifestyle, it makes sense to plan around sleep the same way that you would make plans for physical exercise and diet in 2020.

 

 

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Give yourself the gift of sleep this holiday season

Dec 25, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

The holiday season may be a magical time to catch up with old friends, visit with family and enjoy holiday parties, but it can also be a time of significant stress, sleep deprivation, and habits that can damage our health and immune system. It’s important to prioritise staying as well rested and healthy as possible during the festive season.
 
We tend to overindulge on alcohol during this period, whether that be due to of end of year festivities or to deal with our relatives. While it is best to limit alcohol consumption, if you do partake, try to wait a couple of hours before you go to bed to get the best sleep possible.
 
The same can be said for food, as we tend to overstuff ourselves and go for more sweets than usual. If you can, reserve your overeating for specific meals and occasions, rather than falling off the wagon completely and having to work it off as part of your New Year’s resolutions. Eating heavy or sugary meals at night will negatively affect your ability to sleep, so try to leave a significant amount of time between eating and bedtime.
 
Even though you might be dealing with some end-of-year burnout, and even the ability to take naps while you have less work obligations, try to avoid sleeping too much, as it will just make you more tired. If you do feel the need to have an after-lunch food coma nap, try to keep it to 20 minutes or less.
 
It can be a really stressful time, so try to fit in things that provide some relief from all the hustle and bustle. This could be doing some exercise, meditation, or whatever makes you happiest. We hope that you all have a very happy holiday season!

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Can Japan's Kaizen method help you sleep?

Dec 11, 2019 ISS Comments (0)

 

The Japanese word ‘Kaizen’ means change, and it has become a philosophical framework that guides individuals to transform their habits. Using psychological teachings around why we find it difficult to give up bad habits and stick to new challenges, the Kaizen method encourages us to take incremental steps towards achieving identified short and long-term goals. Kaizen techniques can be a great way to alter your sleep habits and adopt a new, healthier bedtime routine. Some of these methods are more evidence-based than others, but even having the intention to change your sleep habits is a great step in the right direction towards better sleep.
 
1. Improve your sleep environment
 
For the best possible sleep, your bedroom should be a calm and clean environment, free of distractions. There are certainly incremental steps you can take that don’t require a minimalist overhaul.
 
- Dedicating time to keeping your room clean throughout the week when you are busy and exhausted can seem like an impossible task, so try setting a timer for a couple of minutes each night to do a quick tidy.
 
- Keeping your room cool, dark, and quiet is ideal for sleep, so try a sleeping mask and earplugs if blackout blinds and soundproofing are too big a step.
 
- Scents like lavender have shown to be calming, using a spray or a diffuser is a no-fuss way to signal to your body that it is time to wind down.

 

 
2. Self-care bedtime rituals
 
Implementing self-care rituals can help you to relax and feel good as you transition towards bedtime.
 
- It may seem unrealistic considering how plugged in we are these days, but attempting a communication blackout and switching off screens as early as possible is one of the best things you can do for yourself. A first step would be trying to keep technology out of the bed.
 
- Doing some yoga or meditation before bed can be really calming and help you get into the right headspace for sleep. Check out our previous blog post on some easy poses for beginners.
 
- Even if it’s just for ten minutes, reading a book is a good way to transition your brain towards sleep.

 

 
3. Utilise a journal
 
 - Doing a ‘brain dump’ and writing down everything that is making your brain spin a million miles an hour can give you some space to let go of everything on your mind.
 
- You can also use a journal to record the length and quality of your sleep and any factors that might have affected you that night. That way you can track your progress and success in implementing new habits, and tweak anything that is not working.
 
 
 
The Kaizen method is all about incrementalism, so even if you can only implement one new thing from this list, you’re on the right track to better sleep.

 

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Sleeping habits around the world

Oct 23, 2019 ISS Comments (0)


While we live in an increasingly globalised world, people still tend to sleep very differently in different countries. The diversity of sleeping habits around the world can reflect attitudes towards health, work-life balance, relationship to the environment, and a myriad of other cultural values. Check out some of the unusual and interesting ways people sleep, it may even introduce you to a new habit to incorporate into your own bedtime routine.

 
Japan
In Japan, the habit of falling asleep in public, whether that is on the train or even in the middle of a meeting, is actually revered. Called inemuri, or ‘sleeping while present,’ it is a sign that people have worked themselves so hard that they have exhausted themselves. It may be praised as a sign of a person’s industriousness.
 
Botswana and Zaire
Members of the !Kung tribe and the Efe tribe, hunter-gatherers from Botswana and Zaire respectively, sleep when they feel tired. This could be at any time of day for any length of time, rather than in recurring blocks. While this system may not be fully compatible with current expectations in Western countries, the act of listening to your body to give it the sleep it needs is a sure-fire way to prevent fatigue.
 
Spain and Latin America
The popularity of the famous siesta has waned in recent years as Spain has become more urbanised. Nevertheless, an afternoon rest break, especially when kept short, can improve productivity. Interestingly, the afternoon power nap has sprung up in Silicon Valley, where employees are encouraged to use sleep pods to help them remain refreshed.
 
Australia
Some Aboriginal peoples practice co-sleeping, where they line up their mattresses or swags in a line called a ‘yunta.’ This practice can maximise the safety of the group, especially by protecting the most vulnerable members sleeping in the centre.

China

 In China, it’s a popular belief that a firm bed supports the alignment of the back, promoting better sleep, a belief shared by many around the world. Some Chinese factories have also been blurring the lines between workplace and bedroom, encouraging employees to utilise in-house sleeping and washing facilities to maximise productivity.

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