Tag: sleep

7 Of The Best Sleep Eye Masks To Help You Nod Off

Forty winks, hitting the hay, having a kip, snoozing – whatever you call it, we’re all agreed: sleep is everything. Not getting enough sleep has been linked to mood swings, poor focus and, of course, fatigue, in the short term. And get…

Morning People ‘40% Less Likely To Develop Breast Cancer’ Than Night Owls

Women who are “larks” and at their best early in the morning are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who are night owls, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Bristol compared data on more than 400,000 women and found those who classed themselves as “morning people” were 40 – 48 per cent less likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer than others. The research also suggested that for women who slept longer than the recommended seven to eight hours per night, the risk of being diagnosed increased by 20 per cent per additional hour slept. 

“We would like to do further work to investigate the mechanisms underpinning these results, as the estimates obtained are based on questions related to morning or evening preference rather than actually whether people get up earlier or later in the day,” said lead scientist Dr Rebecca Richmond, from the University of Bristol.

Dr Richmond continued: “In other words, it may not be the case that changing your habits changes your risk of breast cancer, it may be more complex than that.

“However, the findings of a protective effect of morning preference on breast cancer risk in our study are consistent with previous research highlighting a role for night shift work and exposure to ‘light-at-night’ as risk factors for breast cancer.”

The findings were presented at the 2018 NCRI (National Cancer Research Institute) conference in Glasgow. 

[Read More: 9 things you should be doing to reduce cancer risk, according to experts]

However Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at the charity Breast Cancer Now, said it’s too early to make any recommendations to women about their sleeping patterns based on this research. 

“These intriguing results add to the growing body of evidence that there is some overlap between the genetics of when we’d prefer to sleep and our breast cancer risk, but more research is required to unravel the specifics of this relationship,” he said.

“What we can be certain of is that all women – larks and owls – can reduce their risk of breast cancer by exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and reducing their alcohol intake.”

Can You Put A Price On A Good Night’s Sleep? Bose Has With These £229 Sleepbuds

If you struggle to sleep and counting sheep doesn’t work, Bose has come up with a pricey alternative which claims to help you get some shut eye.

At £229, the Sleepbuds are a costlier than a warm bath and a cup of camomile tea, but with more than half of adults sleeping for less than six hours each night, according to recent research, and sleep problems on the rise – is it a price worth paying?

I’m a fantastically light sleeper which means constant background noises such as air conditioning make it hard for me to drift off and even if there’s even a minor disturbance I’ll almost always wake up and lie wide awake staring at the ceiling. It’s certainly not comparable to other people’s sleeping issues, but it did mean that I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted these earbuds to accomplish.

The Sleepbuds are a pair of wireless noise-masking earphones designed to cancel out disrupting sounds from outside such as traffic and noisy neighbours.

At the heart of the product are two in-ear headphones that play 10 pre-recorded sounds at night. They’re almost medical-looking when you first see them and in some ways that feels deliberate – these aren’t headphones, they’re a tool. They’re also tiny and difficult to find if you lose one in the middle of the night – as I discovered scrambling around my bed at 2am on my first night.

In addition to the fear of losing them, I spent my first night constantly worrying that a) I’d sleep through my alarm or b) I wouldn’t hear if someone broke in to my flat. In fact, it took a conscious effort to actually let them do their job.

Bose has tried to alleviate this alarm anxiety by putting an alarm function into the buds, so that you will wake up when you’re supposed to. But I still spent a good time fretting about being late for work.

Putting them in your ear requires a bit of a knack. You first place the bud in the ear, rotate gently and finally slot the wing inside your ear to keep them in place. Once they’re in you can barely feel them – a key feature if you’re trying to get comfortable in bed. I couldn’t feel them even as I tossed from side to side. 

How they work is quite impressive. The headphones don’t cancel sound, instead they mask it using 10 artificially created sounds. Each one has been layered with sympathetic noises designed to drown out background noise such as traffic, snoring, sirens and, of course, noisy neighbours. The sounds are rather organic (wind rustling leaves, river trickling etc), but if you listen closely enough – as you might when struggling to sleep – you can tell there’s something synthesised about them.

Setting them up is all done through the Bose Sleep app and is as simple as pairing some wireless headphones. The app is incredibly easy to use and tells you the battery life, alarms you’ve set and finally lets you alter the sound and volume.

Do they work? Well, this is the £229 question and honestly I’m not sure I have an answer. On one night I slept like a baby, while on another I tossed and turned a lot. All I do know is that on both nights I couldn’t hear London and more importantly I couldn’t hear the air filtration system that has been my mortal enemy since moving into this flat. 

Interestingly, they were so good at masking the outside world I’ve since used them at work as well to help me focus on writing. Again, it’s a niche use case but for people who work in offices and need to concentrate they’re not just limited to use at night.

They won’t work for everyone though. And £229 is a huge price to ask for a product that will undoubtedly give such mixed results to people depending on why they’re having trouble sleeping.

What’s more, I wouldn’t want to wear them every single night simply because I still don’t know if I can shake off that feeling of anxiousness about cutting myself off from the outside world. I’m sure I’m not alone in that either.

At the moment I just can’t say to someone spend that kind of money on a product like this. So for now my advice would be to wait a bit, read user reviews and try to see if they’re working for people that suffer from the same sleep issues as you. If you’re still unsure it might even be worth waiting for the next generation of Sleepbuds when hopefully, the price will have come down.

Bose Sleepbuds, £229.

What Happens To Your Brain And Body When You Only Get Six Hours Sleep?

More than half of adults in the UK sleep for six hours or less each night, while just 17 per cent of adults enjoy the recommended eight hours, new research suggests. 

The poll of 2,000 people, by health insurer Aviva, found the average adult sleeps for just 6.4 hours each night. Against the NHS recommended eight hours of sleep, this could mean we’re losing a staggering 11 hours of sleep each week.

We’ve all felt groggy after staying up to watch one last episode on Netflix before bed, but sleep deprivation could be having a lasting impact on our physical and mental health. 

According to the NHS, most of us need around eight hours of good quality sleep each night, although some need more and others less. What’s key is finding the amount the makes you feel on your A-game – then getting it.

Unsurprisingly, skipping precious shut-eye (or simply struggling to nod off after a stressful day) can have an impact on how you feel when you wake up.

Sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor, founder of The Sleep Works, tells HuffPost UK that short term impacts of sleep deprivation include “fatigue, lack of focus and concentration, and short temper”.

“While the occasional bad night of sleep makes us feel tired and irritable, it will not affect us long term,” she adds. 

However, it’s when we regularly miss sleep that the real issues surface. Long term impacts of regular sleep deprivation include sleepiness during the day which can cause accidents and injury, reduced memory function, reduced levels of alertness, and reduced skills in reasoning and problem solving, says Taylor. 

“Lack of sleep can also cause increased risk of serious health problems such as heart disease, heart attacks, strokes and high blood pressure,” she adds. 

Chris Miller, research lead for Big Health, which runs online therapy courses for  issues including insomnia, explains that these negative health outcomes are caused by the body not having enough time to repair itself during the night. 

“Sleep drives a whole lot of change in the body and the brain during the nighttime that helps replenish the body, trying to help with the wear and tear of day time functioning,” he tells HuffPost UK. 

 “A lot of organs and physiological processes are being replenished during the night time with hormones during sleep, and it’s thought that if you don’t have access to those hormones and other physiological processes that go in hand with them, particularly during slow wave sleep, that can put someone of risk of illness.”

Both Taylor and Miller point out sleep deprivation, also referred to as sleep restriction, can have a negative impact on mental health, too, with multiple studies linking it to increased instances of depression. 

“With sleep restriction you have emotional regulation impaired,” says Miller. “People who have impaired sleep are having less empathy and so perhaps aren’t having as many interpersonal connections as well during the day. That can create a negative feedback, which can contribute to the emergence of conditions like depression and anxiety.” 

But it is possible to break the cycle and in some cases reverse the negative health outcomes of sleep deprivation. Miller recommends establishing good “sleep hygiene” habits, such as limiting screen time and removing devices from the bedroom before sleep. And if insomnia persists, speak to your GP about accessing behavioural therapy, which can be received in person or online via Sleepio, a digital sleep-improvement programme that is currently available for free via the NHS in London, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, and Oxfordshire, with hopes to extend to other areas in the future. 

Sleep Apnoea Cases In Children Are On The Rise, So How Can Parents Spot It?

Sleep apnoea accounts for nearly nine in every 10 sleep-related hospital admissions for children under 16s since 2012, new analysis has revealed. 

There were a record number of cases recorded between 2017-18, with the overall figures rising every year, with the exception of a one-year dip between 2015 and 16, according to NHS data analysed by The Guardian.

These figures were revealed among a general increase in sleep-related admissions, such as insomnia, nightmares and sleepwalking. Overall sleep-related disorder admissions in children aged 16 and under increased every year.

What is sleep apnoea?

Sleep apnoea is a condition where the walls of the throat relax and narrow during sleep, causing a total blockage of the airway. When the airflow is blocked for 10 seconds or more, it is known as apnoea.

People with the condition experience regular paused breathing episodes over a long period of time while asleep. Sufferers can experience anywhere between five and 100 pauses an hour (the latter is considered very severe). This process of periods of struggling to breathe, followed by waking briefly, may happen many times during the night.

It typically affects men with a collar size of 17 inches or more and early menopausal women who put on weight. It can also be worse in people with big tonsils and adenoids. However, children can also be affected and are at greater risk if they are overweight, have Down’s syndrome or have a family history of the condition. 

How can I spot it in my child?

The first symptom most parents notice is snoring, according to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH). “Snoring is the sound made by the airway vibrating as it opens after it has partially collapsed,” GOSH states. 

In addition to snoring, the British Lung foundation (BLF) urges parents to also look out for gasps, snorts and choking sounds during sleep.

Parents may also notice children sleeping in unusual body positions that make it easier for them to breathe, for example with their head bent backwards. 

The BLF says other symptoms to help spot it, although slightly less common, include bedwetting, sweating and dry mouth. 

Daytime symptoms include early morning headache and general tiredness. Because of interrupted sleep, your child might be more tired during the day. “Younger children who suffer from sleep deprivation may actually be hyperactive or aggressive, whereas older children may feel tired,” GOSH states.

Other daytime symptoms include difficulty concentrating or behaving differently, as well as poor growth and weight gain.

What happens if I think my child has sleep apnoea?

Your child will need to have their sleep monitored, which will require an overnight visit to hospital. During the sleep study, various bodily functions will be monitored, such as breathing pattern and heart rate, to determine the child’s sleep quality and breathing pattern.

If your child does have it, common treatments include nasal inhaled corticosteroid sprays, an adenotonsillectomy (operation to remove tonsils), or using a CPAP or BiPAP – a simple machine that pushes air through a mask worn at night to keep the airway open.

Find out more about child sleep apnoea and how to treat it here

Also on HuffPost

6 Ways To Kick-Start Autumn Mornings When All You Want To Do Is Hibernate

It may happen every year, but the recent change in weather still has us crying out in unison: “What is this fresh hell!?” Compared to the dreamy heatwave of summer 2018, the darkening, cold, autumnal mornings of late feel unbearable.

If, like us, you’re struggling to detach yourself from your duvet before work, help is at hand. We asked experts for their top tips on embracing the change in season and starting the day with a spring in your step. 

1. Begin your routine the night before 🌙

In order to wake up full of beans you need to nail bedtime first, according to sleep consultant Maryanne Taylor, founder of The Sleep Works. 

“Establishing a soothing and consistent bedtime routine around the same time every night contributes significantly to a better night’s sleep, making it easier to wake up feeling more rested the next morning. This goes a long way to helping our body regulate our sleep/wake cycles,” she explains.

“A good routine includes a warm bath or shower around 30 minutes before bed, writing a to-do list, picking out clothes and packing a bag for the next day. Reading or listening to music before going to sleep will help your mind and body wind down (and that doesn’t include checking emails or social media).” 

It’s not too late to start our Scroll Free Challenge – sign up here for daily articles and motivation.

2. Start your morning with an energising breakfast 🍳

Providing your body with energy for the day ahead should be a priority in the morning, according to nutrition consultant Charlotte Stirling-Reed, and this is best achieved by trying to tick off as many food groups as possible.

“For example if you like cereals, fine. It’s a good idea to opt for a low sugar, high fibre (and fortified) cereal. Add some nuts and seeds and some chopped fruit and you’re improving the nutritional profile and fibre content of brekky so simply,” she explains. “You can also do the same with porridge – I mix peanut butter, milled linseeds and then some fresh (or frozen) fruits such as blueberries and raspberries to mine.

“If you like toast then try to top with a nutrient-dense topping such as a nut butter or marmite and serve with a side of fruit too. If you can get in some carbs, proteins and a portion of fruit (or veg) then you’re on to a win for the rest of the day.” 

She adds that the odd tea or coffee isn’t the end of the world, but we should not replace foods with fluids in the morning as caffeine is no substitute for a meal.  

 3. Seek out natural light 🌤

Natural light may be hard to come by if you’ve got an early alarm, but Taylor recommends hunting it down or recreating it as much as possible. 

“Our naturally occurring sleep hormone, melatonin, is directly connected to light and dark. The darker the environment the sleepier we are likely to feel. The presence of natural or artificial light in the morning helps us feel more awake and energised,” she explains.

Depending on what time you wake up (and the proximity of your bedroom window to street lights), she recommends leaving curtains or blinds open overnight so natural light can creep in gradually in the morning. 

“You may also want to consider a natural alarm clock which mimics the light of a rising sun, waking you more gradually and gently,” she says. 

4. Do not hit snooze 😴

Tempting as it is to grab a few extra minutes in bed, avoid starting the day by hitting the snooze button as this can often spiral. 

“When an extra 10 minutes becomes 20, then 30, and you drag yourself out of bed feeling groggy, not to mention running late, you know it’s time to make a change,” Taylor says. 

“Allow yourself the extra 10 minutes indulgence by setting the alarm 10 minutes later and make the snooze button a no-go area. One option is to put the alarm clock on the other side of the room, forcing you to get up and cross the room to turn it off.”

5. Embrace morning exercise 💪

When even walking to the kettle feels like too much effort, morning exercise is probably the last thing on your mind. But switching to a pre-work workout could energise you for the day ahead and leave more time in the evenings for those great autumn/winter TV dramas.  

“Any workout is good in the morning, but sometimes a high intensity interval session can really pump you up for the day ahead, leaving you with endorphins rushing through your veins,” explains personal trainer Dom Thorpe

“The other benefit of working out in the morning is that you’re more likely to perform well as you’ll have had a good night’s rest directly before, whereas training in the evening can be sub-optimal if you’re feeling tired and fatigued.”

Thorpe advises setting your heating to a timer before you wake up and warming up your workout gear on the radiator to help with motivation. 

6. Spruce up your autumn wardrobe 🧣

Call us vain, but when we’re in a new outfit we can’t wait to get out of the door to show it off. If you too are mere mortal, turn your negative attitude towards colder weather into a positive by getting excited about the new style season.

Our guides to the most joyful autumn jumpers, awesome animal prints, must-have midi skirts and stylish skirt suits will set you on your way. If all else fails, dig out your favourite roll neck and hunker down with a giant scarf. 

A Love Letter To Flight Mode: My Daily (And Nightly) Saviour

This September HuffPost UK is challenging readers to back away from their social media feeds for 28 days in order to find new balance in our relationships with technology. Coinciding with the Royal Society For Public Health’s campaign Scroll Free September, we’ll be delivering the tips and motivation you need via a daily email. And the best part? You can sign up to start the challenge at any point in the month. So what are you waiting for?

As a teen, the instruction of switching on flight mode elicited a hard eye-roll every time I was sat on a plane about to take off.

How would I manage a whole three hours without checking Facebook? What about my friends’ regular and completely unimportant SMS updates? What if I missed something on Instagram, Snapchat, email? (It’s safe to say adolescent me needed to get a grip.)

I like to think I’ve come a long way since those days. Flight mode has become a force for good and I’m proud to say I use it without hesitation every single day. And no, my job doesn’t involve lots of travelling.

Flight mode (or aeroplane mode) is a feature on smartphones and other devices which disables signal-transmitting technologies meaning you can’t access Wi-Fi, voice calls, text messages, 3G/4G and Bluetooth – although you can turn Wi-Fi back on manually.

In other words, it means you can’t really use your device to connect with other people. And in a world where we’re increasingly switched on – a recent survey from Better Buy Insurance found 18-24-year-olds use their phones a staggering 81 times per day – flight mode has become a very precious function to me.

Every night when I get into bed, somewhere between moisturising my face and my head hitting the pillow, I swipe my screen up and press the bright orange button with the aeroplane icon. The premise is simple – it stops the temptation of scrolling Twitter or Instagram for hours on end; it deters me from replying to messages on Whatsapp and it prevents me from checking my emails (a bright red notification tells me I currently have 10,368 unread). 

My love affair with the setting doesn’t end there either – I know, I’m too much. Sometimes at the weekend I’ll keep my phone on aeroplane mode for an entire day (providing I don’t have to use Google maps or arrange to meet someone). And guess what? It’s a real treat. 10/10 would do again. 

I decided to make the change about two years ago after interviewing various sleep specialists on what it takes to get a good night’s kip. “Remove your phone from your bedroom altogether,” one told me. “Stop scrolling at night, the blue light will keep you awake,” said another. I didn’t have to be told again.

Blue light emitted from phones is a problem when it comes to getting some shut-eye because it suppresses the hormone melatonin which affects the body’s circadian rhythm. This means your brain becomes stimulated when it should be shutting up shop for the night. A 2017 study found exposure to blue light reduced a person’s duration of sleep by approximately 16 minutes and people were likely to wake up 6-8 times in the night. Not good.

There’s also the issue of phones bleeping once you’ve drifted off, which can make for a disruptive night’s sleep. And, of course, the content of the incoming messages themselves could trigger all kinds of emotions – excitement or anger, you’ll probably feel far more awake.

What is the impact of this? Continued sleep deprivation raises the risk of a number of chronic health problems, according to Harvard Health, such as obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. A study from this year suggests scrolling on your phone late at night could heighten your risk of mood disorders. It was also associated with decreased happiness and health satisfaction, and – ironically – a higher risk of reporting loneliness.

Since switching to a flight mode-filled existence, I have to say my ability to get to sleep in time for a seven to eight-hour snooze has improved dramatically. I was already pretty good at drifting off quickly (it runs in the family) but I’ve definitely noticed a difference between scrolling-Twitter-for-half-an-hour-Tasha and ahoy-there-flight-mode-Tasha: the latter could win the sleep Olympics regularly and she definitely wakes up mid-slumber far less often.

Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I don’t switch straight to flight mode because I’ve seen a notification while setting my morning alarm or I’ve had that uncontrollable urge to check Twitter (I’m only human, after all). But every time this happens my sleep takes a hit – it takes me ages to get to sleep, I drift in and out of slumber throughout the night, and I end up tired and cranky the next day.

So thank you, oh mighty inventor of flight mode, for helping me get a good night’s kip. If you’re feeling up to the scroll-free challenge, try switching on aeroplane mode each night and let me know if it helps.

We Have So Many Questions About Mark Wahlberg’s Daily Routine

Being a Hollywood actor is all red carpets, celebrity parties and paying staff to bring you a bowl of Frosties when you get hungry in the middle of the night, right? Wrong.Actor Mark Wahlberg has shared his daily routine in a Q&A on his Instagram p…

If You Are Sleeping Badly, It Is Probably Killing Your Social Life

You might think leaving the pub early to get home to bed is what’s killing your social life, but scientists have actually found that sleep deprivation is more likely to make you feel lonely and socially isolated. 

The new study from the University of California and Berkeley found sleep-deprived people avoiding close contact with others in much the same way as those with social anxiety do. 

When you are exhausted not only do you want to avoid people, but well-rested people are also more likely to feel lonely themselves after even the briefest of encounters with you – making you subconsciously socially unattractive. 

Researchers found brain scans of sleep-deprived people showed powerful social repulsion activity in neural networks which are typically activated when humans feel their personal space is being invaded.

Sleep loss also blunted activity in brain regions that normally encourage social engagement.

The findings, published today in the journal Nature, are the first to show a two-way relationship between not having enough sleep and becoming socially isolated. 

Given both sleep and loneliness and considered to be an increasing concern in the modern population, these findings shed light on the interplay between them.

Matthew Walker, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Berkeley said: “We humans are a social species. Yet sleep deprivation can turn us into social lepers.”

“The less sleep you get, the less you want to socially interact. In turn, other people perceive you as more socially repulsive, further increasing the grave social-isolation impact of sleep loss,” Walker added. “That vicious cycle may be a significant contributing factor to the public health crisis that is loneliness.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) found that 5% of adults in England reported feeling lonely ‘often’ or ‘always’ between 2016 and 2017.

Surprisingly, younger adults (those aged 16 to 24) were found to experience loneliness more often than those in older age groups; while women, widows, single people, renters and those with poor health were also identified as more susceptible.

But perhaps it is no coincidence that the past few decades have seen a marked increase in loneliness and an equally dramatic decrease in sleep duration. 

From an evolutionary standpoint, the study challenges the assumption that humans are programmed to nurture socially vulnerable members of their tribe for the survival of the species.

Walker said: “There’s no biological or social safety net for sleep deprivation as there is for, say, starvation. That’s why our physical and mental health implodes so quickly even after the loss of just one or two hours of sleep.”

To gauge the social effects of poor sleep, the team used tools like MRI brain imaging, videotaped simulations and surveys. They tested the neural responses of 18 healthy young adults following a normal night and a sleepless night.

Finally, researchers looked at whether just one night of good or bad sleep could influence one’s sense of loneliness the next day.

Sleeping More Than 8 Hours ‘Could Increase Risk Of Early Death’

Sleeping longer than the recommended seven or eight hours a night has been linked with a higher risk of premature death, according to new research.

Researchers looked at data from 74 studies involving more than three million people and found those who slept for 10 hours were 30% more likely to die prematurely than those who slept for eight.

Staying in bed for more than 10 hours was also linked to a 56% increased risk of death from stroke and a 49% increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

Poor sleep quality was associated with a 44% increase in coronary heart disease, according to the study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers said their study suggests abnormal sleep could be “a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk” and said GPs ought to ask questions about sleeping patterns during appointments.

Lead researcher Dr Chun Shing Kwok, of Keele University’s Institute for Science and Technology in Medicine, said: “Abnormal sleep is a marker of elevated cardiovascular risk and greater consideration should be given in exploring both duration and sleep quality during patient consultations.

“There are cultural, social, psychological, behavioural, pathophysiological and environmental influences on our sleep such as the need to care for children or family members, irregular working shift patterns, physical or mental illness, and the 24-hour availability of commodities in modern society.”

The study, which also involved researchers from the universities of Leeds, Manchester and East Anglia, said the research was limited as duration of sleep was self-reported and that underlying mental or physical conditions may have had an impact on “extreme sleep patterns”.

Is It Safe For Babies To Sleep Outside During The Heatwave?

Getting babies off to sleep during the heatwave can be a challenge, so some mums and dads are opting to put their little ones outside for a nap in the fresh air. But is it a good idea?

On Mumsnet, parents have been debating the issue, with some saying they leave their children alone outdoors for short periods of time, while others have raised concerns about insects, heatstroke and foxes. 

Elizabeth Duff, senior policy adviser at children’s charity NCT, tells HuffPost UK it’s okay to let babies sleep outdoors if it is cooler than the house, but you should take precautions. 

“Make sure babies or toddlers are in the shade and kept out of direct sunlight if you’re outdoors,” she says. “Stay with your baby or toddler and check them regularly to make sure they aren’t overheating.”

Maryanne Taylor, child sleep consultant and founder of The Sleep Works agrees parents should keep a continuous eye on babies sleeping outdoors, which will enable you to respond to any potential problems such as wildlife. 

“Even in the shade, use a parasol or sunshade,” she adds. “Make sure they are dressed appropriately with a nappy and just a vest if very hot. If they appear to be looking sweaty or red cheeked, move them inside.”

With older babies, Taylor warns that moving their sleeping location can cause them to sense a change in routine, actually making sleep less likely. 

“One thing to consider for babies from around five months of age is that the quality of their sleep is likely to be better in their cot as they are becoming more mobile and aware of their surroundings at this stage, and sleeping in a buggy outside may become too distracting,” she says.