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Monday, March 24, 2014

The Arms of Morpheus

The Daily Mail has an article about getting the most from your sleep. For instance, since each stage of the sleep cycle is roughly 90 minutes, plan the amount of your sleep at night around a 90 minute cycle--i.e., that you wake up at the end of a 90-minute cycle.
In other words, if we were to sleep completely naturally, with no alarm clocks or other sleep disturbances, we would wake up, on the average, after a multiple of 90 minutes.
This means that you will feel most refreshed when you awake at the end of a 90-minute sleep cycle because you will be closest to your normal waking state.

To maximise the chances of this happening, work out when you want to wake up, then count back in 90-minute blocks to find a time near to when you want to go to sleep.
Let’s imagine that you want to wake at 8am and wish to go to sleep around midnight.

Counting back in 90-minute segments from 8am would look like this:
8am>6.30>5.00>3.30>2.00>12.30>11pm
 
In this example, you should aim to fall asleep around either 11pm or 12.30am in order to feel especially refreshed in the morning.
The article discusses the importance of napping, and says that a 30-minute afternoon nap at least three times per week can improve memory and alertness. It even has a table showing the ideal time to take a nap based on when you wake up.

Finally, it provides a quick overview of snoring issues:

Roughly 40 per cent of men and a quarter of women are snorers — causing problems both for their partners’ sleep and their own. But there are simple steps that can help minimise the risk of an interrupted night.

First, it is helpful to find out what kind of snorer you are.

The results of this quick test will help us discover whether the problem is with your nose, mouth, and/or tongue.
 
1. Close your mouth. Now shut your left nostril by gently pressing on the side of it. Keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath through your right nostril.

Now repeat the test, but this time close your mouth and right nostril, and then take a deep breathe through your left nostril. Finally, still keeping your mouth closed, take a deep breath through both nostrils. Did you feel like your nostrils were congested, and therefore breathing was difficult, during any of these exercises?
 
2. Open your mouth and try to make a snoring sound. Now close your mouth and try to make the same sound. Are you able to make the same snoring sound with your mouth closed? 
3. If you can make a snoring sound with your mouth closed, stick your tongue slightly out of your mouth and gently grip it with your teeth, ensuring that your lips are sealed around the sides of your tongue. Now try to make the snoring noise again. Is the sound of your snoring reduced? 
If you answered ‘yes’ to question one, then you have a blocked nose. If just one nostril appears blocked then this might be due to a physical abnormality, such as a twisted septum or polyps. You might find it helpful to try using adhesive nasal strips to pull your nostrils apart, and so help prevent them narrowing when you are asleep. 
If both sides of your nose appear blocked, and you don’t have a cold, then you might be suffering from an allergy.

If your nose only tends to become blocked at night, you might be sensitive to the type of allergens produced by the dust mites that tend to inhabit old pillows and mattresses.

If you think this might be the case, try washing your bedding frequently at a temperature of at least 60C, avoid putting old blankets on the bed, and place your pillows and — if possible — your duvets into plastic bags and then put them in your freezer for 24 hours at least once a month, which kills off the mites.
 
If you answered ‘no’ to question two, then there might be an issue with your mouth. If this is the case, then you probably sleep with your mouth open, and often wake up with a dry throat. You may benefit from a ‘chin strip’, which is essentially a strip of tape that runs under your chin and helps stop your mouth falling open while you sleep. 
Finally, if you answered ‘yes’ to question three then your snoring might well be due to your tongue vibrating. Typically, you will have an unusual bite, wherein your lower teeth are behind your upper teeth when you close your mouth. If this is the case, you might want to think about using a ‘mandibular advancement device’. This is a plastic gum shield that is designed to fit into your mouth, help push your jaw forward, and increase the space at the back of your throat. It’s quite possible that you might be one type of snorer, or be a combination of any two, or even all three. 
In addition to these techniques, you might want to try losing weight, stopping smoking, drinking less alcohol, and trying to sleep with your head at a 35-degree elevation by placing a foam wedge under your pillow. Also, it is important to avoid sleeping on your back, as your tongue and soft tissue in the throat are likely to fall backwards and obstruct your airway.
 Read the whole thing (including the side-bar) for some additional tips and tricks, including information on sleep apnea.

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